Or should that be Kettlehell as the temperature soared yesterday to a searing 26 degrees C?
This was my first – not my last, walk with Southport Ramblers and by golly – walking in a group is a world of difference than going solo – this fat goat walks on his own and takes his time, an herd of a slimmer species move together en-masse and never stop for very long. The walk itself was a lovely stomp through the countryside at Kettlewell by the side of a river that as of yet I cannot name! All was going well on the flat – it has been commented on by others that I fair put the pedal to the metal (sic) when on the flat in fact I did most of the flat sections right up alongside of the
race walk leader – a chap named Trevor who’s fitness I can only ever hope to aspire to as oppose to emulate!
The first big climb was…how can I word this without swearing? It was that bad. Over the space of a few hundred yards we climbed the best side of a thousand feet in blistering sun – then dappled shade, then back into blistering sun on a limestone infused path that although bone-dry was so narrow in places that it was a job in itself not to stand upon the heels of the person in front. This latter problem was self-eradicated when my pace began to drop owing to my mid-back problem (which dates back to April 29th at Horden Stoops) and the fact that I am just not fit! After a few hundred yards the path levelled out somewhat – then it took a violent upswing for about twenty feet and then we were onto open moorland of the Yorkshire type – a more micro-undulating field I have yet to see! Walking uphill is hard, walking downhill is not that hard but when one has to alternate between the two over the space of two strides – that’s really (expletive deleted) hard! Having led the field on the flat, I was the last to ascend the final push of the first climb and although not bitterly disappointed it was with some resolve that I sat down to eat my lunch and swear that on the second and final climb I would fair better.
Twenty five minutes later saw us go over the crest of the hill and start the enormous descent into Littondale. Gravity seemed to take over as I hurtled down the hill at a pace that is simply not familiar to me – I seemed to be on a mission that I didn’t want to be engaged in as I was merely taking in glimpses of scenery as opposed to absorbing it. I managed to take about eight photographs (to be uploaded later) but to be honest the pace was so fast that to take any more would have held progress up. Our ascent had taken about and a half – the descent was thirty five minutes – but we would end up waiting quite some time for stragglers in Littondale – not that I am at all condemning the folk for whom we were waiting, after all they had all been courteous enough to wait for me on the ascent and this did give me the chance to take in the distant views of a couple of old friends – Whernside and Ingleborough!
Walking along side the river Skirfare was a joy as the miles seemed to fly by – in truth there were probably not many miles but I digress, as we passed a myriad of other hills I was once again found lacking in my knowledge of the area, I believe that we may have passed Crag Hill, Green Hill and Gragareth – I did see a summit with a number of cairns atop – but this may have just been any old hill! The next point on the walk involved crossing an elegant little wooden bridge spanning across the river and immediately upon reaching the other bank the terrain and the incline began to change.
By now what had initially been a compact cluster of some eighteen walkers had become a disparate trail of weary soles – the gaps between each sub group now no longer measured in yards – now we were separated by minutes. My group was now down to just three members. The second and final climb was not as severe as the first but was much more of a long slog with a few false summits thrown in for added cruelty! Parts of this climb really did remind me of my last walk up Great Hill with great stretches of slight incline interspersed with random patches of a more punishing gradient. At one point our path had a minor fork to the left but we headed on right as per the instructions we had received from Trevor – maybe we should have been listening with more attention for as we ultimately reached what we believed to be the start of the descent we were presented with nothing short of a dead end!
This was sole-devastating! Although the path that we should have taken was just a matter of going back down the hillside none of us fancied that approach. A less well defined path lay atop the crest of this particular hill and the apex of this path converged with the one that our fellow walkers had taken seemingly many minutes earlier. From being first (or at least in the first group) I was now the last of the Southport Ramblers to begin the proper final drop down into Kettlewell. The path was just awful! Although the limestone pavements of North Yorkshire are one of our national treasures – the paths are tricky as hell to walk on. Cobble after cobble led to a number of stumbles – or at least deviations in the vertical plane – and not just from yours truly! I noticed a number of my fellow walkers suddenly dip then re-emerge to full height. Finally I arrived (last) back at Kettlewell with sore feet which felt at least ten times there normal width. We had set off on the walk at roughly 11.30, it was now 17.20 which meant almost six hours en route – minus the lunch break and catchup times totalling in all roughly three quarters on an hour I had been walking for five hours and five minutes thus equalling the length of time that I usually take on a good Belmont round trip. To add to this we had ascended about in-between 1200 – 1500 feet over roughly eight miles. All in all not a bad first outing, and I was very relieved to have not attempted the Great Whernside category “A” walk.
The Southport Ramblers will next be walking in a fortnight’s time at Ludlow in Shropshire, a walk that I am not attending, however the walk after this (a month yesterday) will be at Clitheroe – how could I not return once moor to the shadow of the mighty Pendle Hill? If we do ascend Pendle it will be interesting to see if my performance improves on more familiar terrain.[mappress mapid=”1″]