The Journey Begins

 

I always get to where I’m going, by walking away from where I’ve been.

~Winnie the Pooh

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The Dales Way, located in northern England, crosses between West Yorkshire and Cumbria Counties.  For almost 80 miles it winds its way along a river and through two stunningly beautiful national parks, the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Lake District National Park.   And Michelle and I plan to walk the whole thing.

You might wonder why we would choose to walk 80 miles (a lot of it likely in the rain, too). I fell in love with the Yorkshire countryside when my hubby and I walked two different lengths of the Dales Way last winter and I was inspired to go back and walk the whole distance.  Michelle got roped into this adventure because she and I had been planning a girls’ weekend for August (we try to have one such weekend getaway together each year).  Somehow, though, two days in NYC at a 5-star hotel with mani-pedi’s, craft cocktails, and access to Uber, turned into 10 days in England with rain gear and backpacks…walking. I don’t pretend to know how this happened, but suffice it to say, I’m glad it did.

I have visited England many times, and Michelle and I have visited England together once before as well.  It was 10 years ago when we split a week between the excitement and energy of London’s theaters and restaurants and the idyllic, fairy-tale thatched cottages and sheep-studded pastures of the Cotswolds.  We enjoyed the tourist’s life.  But this time will be different.  This trip is not about seeing historic sites (though we will see some along the way), nor is it about getting through an itemized daily agenda.  Instead, the walk is the trip.  And unlike any vacation either of us has ever taken before, Michelle and I will be getting to know a place not through its tourist sites, but rather through its landscape, its weather, and the kindness of strangers (if when we need to ask directions if when we lose our way on the trail).  We are consciously choosing to set off on this adventure being open to anything, and getting lost is at the top of the list, because what’s an adventure without a little surprise or two?

In total the trip will be 10 days long, allowing two days for travel and eight consecutive days for walking.  We will arrive in the UK on Thursday morning, 8/23/18, and begin our walk on Friday, 8/24. Our only agenda is that we plan to walk an average of 10 miles per day.  Most evenings we will stay at a different hotel, B&B, or inn.  We have arranged to have our luggage transported via a travel service from hotel to hotel, so that all we will have to carry with us are our daypacks, which will be filled with essentials like chocolate, a good book, and an abundant supply of blister pads. Oh, and water.

We’ve been preparing for this trip for a few months now, not only logging miles and breaking in our hiking boots, but also saving up on gossip, random ideas, questions, and complaints to ensure that we have something to talk about for 10 days.  Though truth be told, we have never in 40+ years of friendship been at a loss for conversation, so I can’t imagine we’d start now.

I don’t know how this is going to pan out, but I can’t wait for us to get started. Thanks for joining us on our journey!

~Lisa and Michelle

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Day 1: Ilkley to Barden Bridge

Total Miles Planned:  9.5

Actual Miles Walked:  13.5 (including distance to the start of the trail, one wrong turn, and one longer than expected walk to a tea room for lunch)

Weather:  upper 50’s (fahrenheit); pouring rain, sunny warmth, drizzling rain, cold wind, and pouring rain (basically, all the seasons, but without snow.  Or, as another Dales Way walker said, “a proper British summer”).

Pints of beer consumed at the end of the day:  1 ½ for Lisa; undetermined for Michelle

 

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Day One of our walk was all we expected and more.  We woke to bright sunshine and dressed accordingly.  But one minute into our walk to the trail, the sky darkened and it started to pour rain.  Once on the trail, the weather didn’t look like it would clear, so we pulled over and put on our water-proof pants and back-pack covers. Unfortunately, by that time, our boots were already covered in cow poop, so putting on another layer of pants was a bit of a challenge.

IMG_0085.jpg cow poop INSIDE my waterproof pants! Sigh

Once we were properly kitted out and looking the part, we walked through the most beautiful scenery, including rolling hills and dales, and dense forest paths.  We walked through farm fields, shared with herds of sheep and cattle, and climbed stiles and steps over Yorkshire dry stone walls.

IMG_0052.jpg Michelle tackles the first stile!

 

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When I stopped to take a selfie with a cow, I was treated to a surprise cow kiss! (I think Michelle was a little jealous of the affection that was bestowed on me).

IMG_0050.jpg              MWAH!

At mile 6, we came upon Bolton Abbey. Set amid 30,000 acres of countryside, the property contains, among other things, the Priory Church and the beautiful ruins of an Augustinian Priory.  The priory church is still active, and has been holding worship service since…wait for it…the year 1154.  Yowza!

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And although we still had three miles to go, we took some time out to explore the ruins and have some lunch at the tea room.  There are also many forest trails on the property, including one called “The Valley of Desolation”, which we avoided, having believed we might have already “visited” if you know what I mean…

IMG_0074.jpg Um…no

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Re-energized from a delicious sandwich and a sugary ice cream cone, we set off on the final three-mile stretch to Barden Tower.  Another glorious ruin, Barden Tower dates back to the 15th Century (practically modern compared to the Priory!) and also hosts weddings, corporate functions, and private parties at the Priest’s House restaurant on the property. We were delighted to see a beautifully dressed bride and her wedding party, with women wearing fascinators and men in tuxedo tails, celebrating their special day.  Two antique Yorkshire buses served as the party’s transportation.

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Although public transport bus back to Ilkley is not regularly scheduled to stop at Barden Tower on Fridays, we were nonetheless able to catch a bus by flagging down the driver as he went past.  Back at our hotel, we popped into the pub for a rewarding pint.  What a joy to meet new friends, who treated us to a bit of “Yorkshire hospitality” by buying us each a pint.

IMG_0090.jpg A bit of Yorkshire hospitality

We were sorry to leave them, but our tired bodies demanded we get some rest for Day Two of the Dales Way.  Without a doubt, Day One was both challenging and satisfying.  A success all around!

Day 2: Barden Bridge to Grassington

 

Total Miles Planned:  7.0

Actual Miles Walked:  7.9 (includes a mile’s worth of shopping in Grassington Village)

Weather:  A gift! 60 degrees fahrenheit, sunny warmth and striking blue skies

Pints of beer consumed at the end of the day:  1 ½ for Lisa; Michelle crossed over to G&T’s.

IMG_1543.jpg Day 2.0

Day Two of our walk was a complete joy.  Surprisingly, we each woke to minimal aches and pains (or at least that’s what we told one another…). The weather was glorious–warm and sunny, which was a gift.  We started the trail with our jackets on, but soon took them off and put them in our backpacks, where we had also stowed our rain pants, just in case.  We had planned a short day today, just seven miles (to which we felt smugly confident, given that we walked twice that yesterday). The trail today was mostly riverside, through vast sheep pastures with hills and dales as far as the eye could see.  And the hills were the most vivid green, a color which I cannot adequately describe with words.  Truly a landscape I will never tire of.

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IMG_0098.jpgFour miles into the walk, we came upon the little village of Burnsall, where they were setting up a small outdoor festival.  The pub was grilling out of doors, and people were laying out picnics on the green.  Many of the 17th Century York stone buildings were adorned with union jack buntings and Yorkshire rose flags and it felt very festive and gave us the feeling that we had been transported back through time.IMG_0110.jpg

We continued on our way and crossed the wobbly Hebden Swing Bridge.

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Before we knew it, we newly seasoned walkers/athletes were in the home stretch.  The last mile began with a mostly uphill climb along a single-track farm path between two Yorkshire dry stone walls, with Michelle asking aloud to no one in particular ‘Why is the end of every walk uphill?’  As I felt it was a rhetorical question, I didn’t respond.

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But then, the track opened up to a panoramic view of the largest green sheep pasture, with the Village of Grassington in the distance.  And what a lovely village it is!  We stopped for lunch at a cozy tea room and ate outside on the patio.  Afterward, we added another mile to our boots by going in and out of the little shops.

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Our hotel is located right in the village and since we had pre-arranged to have our luggage transported by a local travel company, it was already waiting for us in our room.  I have to say, this hotel is pretty swanky, with two floors of living space and a large, soaking tub, which was a most welcome surprise.  It didn’t take long for each of us to take a turn soaking our weary feet and tired muscles.

Tonight, as we strolled to the village pub, a large group of young men were stood outside of it, cheering on their friend who was running up the village lane completely naked.  Not a stitch of clothing was on that young man’s body as his friends held up their iPhones and buckled over laughing.  I am afraid I have no photographic evidence of this event, but I assure you, it happened.  And I dare say we cannot unsee it.

Inside the safety of the pub, we enjoyed a delicious meal and a crisp, refreshing pint (or two?), along with some Yorkshire Hospitality by the members of the Eskdale Cricket Club, who bought us a pint and became our Facebook friends, all in one fell swoop (you can find them on FB as the Eskdale Crisket Club.  Yes, it IS spelled wrong on Facebook).  We wished them luck at their match tomorrow, though we suspect it will be rained out.  Indeed, we joined the locals in that great British tradition of talk of the weather.  We couldn’t help but notice that small talk today in the village shops and restaurants was about the weather, specifically how glorious it was today and about how it will all be “going pear-shaped” tomorrow (for our American friends, that means “going south”, “taking a turn for the worst” and “sh*#%@ing the bed”), as it is forecasted to pour rain.  But we are not deterred. Memories of this gift of a day will keep up buoyed for whatever tomorrow brings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3: Grassington to Buckden

Day 3:  Grassington to Buckden

Total Miles Planned:  10.2

Actual Miles Walked:  12.6 (includes an epic wrong turn and a walk to the B&B)

Weather:  Brooding skies, which opened up to pouring rain

Pints of beer consumed at the end of the day: We mixed it up today.  It’s not worth mentioning, really.

 

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Day Three of our walk was the most physically challenging so far (steep uphill climbs and driving rain), but it was also the most social, as we met several new friends along the way.

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Immediately upon starting out this morning, the guidebook stated that we could take the marked trail, or divert onto “a stone track”, which would be “easier” and “people have been doing it for 40 years”, blah blah blah.  Well, let me tell you.  The diversion that people have “been doing for forty years” was not the diversion we took.  You know all those pictures of Yorkshire dry stone walls that I’ve been posting?  Well, we got ourselves trapped in a paddock, surrounded on 3 sides by them. We weren’t alone, though, as there was a flock of sheep in the same paddock who, I beleive, were totally judging us. Alone on the moors, with the cold rain coming down, I began to imagine a farmer finding our remains the following spring, our bones picked clean by vultures, when Michelle said, “Wait, did you hear someone?”  You can only imagine how glad we were to see some other hikers (forever more to be known as “our rescuers”) in the distance! They were on a trail parallel to us, but of course, we were trapped in the stone paddock.  Rather than retrace our steps, which would have likely added a couple of miles distance to our walk, we found a low spot in the dry stone wall and hoisted ourselves over it, then cut across another pasture to meet up with the other walkers. But, no sooner did we reach them when we realized we were separated from them (and the Dales Way trail) by a barbed wire fence.  Undeterred, we shimmied our way under the wire, popping out under the fence just as our fellow hikers walked by.  They greeted us with a “Good morning!” and asked if we’d like to do that again so they could get a picture.  We declined.

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Our rescuers, Mic and Jo, are retired military and were walking the entire Dales Way as well, but they were doing it in five days, as compared to our eight.  Embarrassing!  We took photos of one another by Conistone Pie (not to be confused with cow pie, which was also present) and chatted about our families, jobs, etc.

IMG_1615.jpg Lisa on Conistone Pie

Cold and soaking wet at mile 6 ½, Michelle and I stopped in the charming village of Kettlewell (with a name like that, how could it be anything other than charming?) for a warm drink and some lunch.  We ate at Zarina’s Tea Room, which was the setting for the Calendar Girls movie.  Suprisingly, the tea room was busy with other walkers and cyclists, cold and dripping wet, but also optimistic.  Apparently, there are lots of other people who would choose to set off an outdoor adventure in awful weather!  As one new friend put it, “if you don’t want to do anything because it’s raining, you’ll end up not doing anything at all.”

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IMG_1625.jpg  She’s still trying for that kiss…..

Michelle and I walk at a fairly moderate pace, and within a mile or two some folks from the tea room had met up with us.  These three friends were locals and were doing the whole of the Dales Way together as well, section by section and on different weekends as work and family schedules allowed.  We appreciated that they didn’t let the rain stop them, either.  Robin, one of the three guys, confessed that his friends were much too fast for him, so he joined us for the last stretch.  He said he liked to chat with people while on long-distance walks, as it helped pass the time.  And indeed, it did.  We three chatted about our families, kids, work, and my least favorite topic, the POTUS.

Our walk ended at the Buck Inn, a pub in Buckden (alliteraton!) where we shared a half pint and went on our way.  At the Inn, Michelle and I tried to login to the wifi, to get the address of our next B&B, but the pub’s wifi was down and the bartender didn’t know the directions to the B&B, either.  We asked a fellow patron at the bar if he knew the address, but he was from Oregon, which meant he had as much an idea where our B&B was as we did.

On late Sunday afternoon in a rural village, the only other option was to ask at the B&B across the street.  We didn’t immediately see where the main entrance was, so Michelle opened a somewhat hidden Dutch door into what appeared to be someone’s living room.  It was very dark inside, smelled of burning incense, and had a most interesting décor and exotic music playing throughout.  We found it somewhat discomforting, as it had the air of a place where one might find themselves if they were to be sacrificed to the pagan gods or else have their organs harvested on the black market.  Fortunately for us, first impressions can be deceiving, and the inn guests who were sitting in the living room logged into their wifi and gave us directions to our B&B.

IMG_1638.jpg  view from our B&B window

Vital organs intact, we walked the ¼ mile to our B&B, which is quite unique, as it is on a working farm (yes, more sheep!).  We were greeted by barking sheep dogs and a flock of geese.  Inside the house, the innkeeper immediately asked, “Right. Hot showers or tea first?” She kindly made us a pot of tea while we dried off, then made us a dinner reservation at a local pub.  She even drove us there.  Inside the pub, the fire was lit and the food was comforting.  Michelle discovered the health benefits of the great British sticky toffee pudding (the benefit being it is so delicious that you can’t help but feel happy).  All in all, the perfect ending.

Day 4: Buckden to Gearstones

Day 4:  Buckden to Gearstones

Total Miles Planned:  12.5

Actual Miles Walked:  14.0 (includes an unexpected 1 ½ mile walk to the inn where we planned to have dinner and spend the night)

Weather:  Icy wind, dark skies, mostly drizzling rain with bouts of pouring downfalls (aka “summer”)

Pints of beer consumed at the end of the day:  too tired to care

 

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Day Four of our walk totally beats yesterday as the most challenging. While the rain was tolerable, the distance was our longest yet, and the steep climb intense.  Essentially, the majority of the trail was one long diagonal ascent to 1700 feet, the highest point in the Dales.  Almost expected at this point, we met some other friendly walkers along the way, which made the day more special.

Our inn keeper had kindly dried our wet gear overnight by the heat of the big Aga stove in her kitchen, and when we went downstairs for breakfast, our things were dried, folded, and lined up by the front door for us.  She was also kind enough to remind us that there were no real stops on this particular stretch of the Dales Way, so she encouraged us to make jam sandwiches with the left-overs from breakfast, because we “would need the calories”, which is a sentence that I don’t hear often enough my life.  She also made a fresh pot of tea, so we were able to fill our thermoses.  Off we went, out into the rain.

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Not long on the trail, we ran into a herd of cows, and well, you know what’s next….

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Soon after, we met Jane and Dave and their dog Ollie.  They were walking to Gearstones as well, and planned to stay at the same inn later.  They walked at a faster pace than we did, so they went on ahead, but we unexpectedly met up with them later at mile six when we were walking past a large country house.  Suddenly, the door opened and Jane stuck her head out and called to us, “There’s tea and a fire! Come in!”  So we did.  Nethergill Farm is a private home, however, they have a small learning center attached to it, and on certain days and times, they open the learning center to Dales Way walkers, where they provide tea, coffee, and snacks, all on an honor system.  Michelle and I put some money in the “honor basket” and enjoyed a hot cup of tea with our jam sandwiches as we chatted with our new friends. Unfortunately, though, Jane had put her wet socks on top of the wood stove to dry, and so when we smelled something burning, we saw that her socks had melted!

IMG_1680.jpg Nethergill House

IMG_0238.jpg the wood stove, “before” the melted socks incident

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Michelle didn’t hesitate to offer Jane the spare pair of socks that she had in her backpack.  Jane was so grateful, and promised to wash them and give them back to Michelle later, at the inn.  We left our new friends to finish their tea and Michelle and I hit the trail.

A mile or so down the lane, we were congratulating ourselves for taking on this challenge, especially considering our middle-age.  After all, we were walking 80 miles!  But then we looked down and saw that Ollie had cheerfully caught up to us, his humans right behind him.  Jane and Dave walked fast, but Ollie had more energy than any of us, and at 11 dog years old he is the equivalent of 77 human years.  Now that’s impressive!

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At about mile nine, Michelle and I began to lag.  The muddy and slick ascent was getting harder and harder to navigate and the wind had really picked up. Michelle took a misstep and ended up ankle-deep in the mud and we each of us lost our footing several time.

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A few minutes later, we stopped to take some photos of the ruins of an old barn, but when I reached into my jacket pocket for my iPhone, it was gone.  By then, we had just started another long ascent, but I didn’t have a choice—I had to backtrack to the last spot I had taken a photo.  Fortunately, it wasn’t very far away and after only 5 minutes or so, I easily spotted my bright red phone in the long grass.  Whew!

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Back on the ascent over the squidgy, wet moors, we came upon the Cam Houses, which the Dales Way guide refers to as “one of the wildest and remotes farms on the Yorkshire Dales.” I thought it was beautiful, albeit a bit off the beaten path.

IMG_1701.jpg Cam Houses Farm

We took a moment to take in our surroundings, and while we were not quite yet at the top of the Dales, a 360-degree view showed no signs of civilization.

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Besides the remote Cam Houses, there was nothing as far as the eye could see, just the rolling hills and moors.  It was breath-taking.  But the remoteness was also a bit disorienting and caused us to start second-guess ourselves.  We began to ask one another “are you sure we are on the trail, still?” and “is this the right way?”.  But just then, I looked down at the slick mud around my boots and saw Ollie’s paw print–confirmation that we were indeed on the right path.

We slowly made our way to the top of the moor and the highest point on the Dales Way, which was marked by a cairn at the base of the Dales Way signpost.

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IMG_1704.jpg exhausetd, at the top!

IMG_0260.jpg enjoying the view at the top

The wind was spectacularly icy and strong up there, but thankfully, the route was an easy, slow descent.  When we reached the end of today’s trail, we were not entirely sure of the location of the inn where we planned to have dinner and spend the night.  We asked a farmer who drove past us on his 4×4.  He told us that the inn was “1 ½ miles down the road.”  If you could have seen Michelle’s face at that moment, you wouldn’t have soon forgotten it.  I know I won’t.

We walked along a very busy road to the inn and when we arrived, we were warmly greeted.  When Michelle asked for the wifi password, the inn-keeper/bartender looked at her funny and said that they didn’t have wifi.  Or internet.  He did however direct us to the train station, which was across the street and up a lane (up!) where we could get free wifi in the waiting room.  He said that while no one would be there at this time of night, “if you open the door, a light will go on.”  When Michelle hopped into the shower, I ran walked limped over to the station and made a quick call and sent some texts so that our families would know that we were OK (albeit tired, sore, and removed from the conveniences of modern, civilized society).

This evening in the pub, we shared a drink with our new friends, some table scraps with Ollie, and got Michelle’s clean socks back.  It is now 8pm and Michelle is already asleep and I am on my way to doing the same.  I will dream of Day 5 and a visit with friends in one of my favorite places, Dent Village.

Day 5: Gearstones to Dent

Day 5:  Gearstones to Dent

Total Miles Planned:  9.5

Actual Miles Walked:  12 (includes a 1 ½ mile walk to from the inn to the trailhead and one wrong turn)

Weather:  cloudy skies, warm breeze and NO RAIN!  An ideal walking day.

Pints of beer and gin and tonics consumed at the end of the day:  3?

 

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Day Five on the Dales Way started off with a breakfast that was not for champions; we had bananas and spread Nutella on toast.  It may not have been for champions, but it was kind of delicious nonetheless.  Several other walkers were at the inn and like us they were each heading to Dent Village today, but they were heading out in different directions and veering from the Dales Way trail.  We were invited to tag along with each of them, but Michelle and I decided to stick to our plan, so we grumpily walked the 1 ½ miles down the busy road to get back to the trailhead.

As soon as we stepped onto the trail, we were met by another American walker, who was finishing up her morning walk.  Vicky was from Connecticut and told us that she was 75 years old and that she has been walking long-distance trails in the UK since June.  I don’t remember anything else she said because I was too distracted by how ultra-skinny she was; I allowed myself to imagine that Michelle and I will look similarly lithe by week’s end.

IMG_1716.jpgThe Ribblehead Viaduct outside of Gearstones

Not too far onto the trail today, we met up with Guy and Matt, who we briefly saw when we left the Nethergill House Learning Center the day before.  We exchanged “hellos” and greeted one another, and Matt reminded us that we hadn’t just seen them yesterday; rather, they were the walkers who saw us shimmying under the barbed wire fence two days before!  Matt went on to say that they were just talking about it in the pub last night, which made me suddenly realize that Michelle and I are LEGENDS of the Dales Way.  Legends!  He also mentioned that there was a large party of Americans from Colorado about five miles ahead of us.  Because he said no more about them, one can only assume that they are much less charming, charismatic, and legendary.

We stopped for lunch around mile six at a pub that advertised that is was open for lunch from 12-2pm.  But when we arrived at 1:10pm, we were told that lunch was over and the food had already been put away.  Michelle had no problem implementing Plan B, which was sitting down at a table and eating from a bag of nuts she found at the bottom of her backpack.  My lunch consisted of one Alpen bar and two cheese sticks I lifted from the inn’s breakfast buffet that morning.

The walk took us over gentle hills and dales today, as well as riverside paths.

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Unfortunately for you, readers, the cows we passed today were too far in the distance for us to take selfies with, but Michelle did manage to get this stunning portrait, which we like to call:  Oreo with Milk

IMG_1732.jpg Oreo with Milk

So while there were no cows to greet us, we did have the opportunity to share some love with some sweet horses.  A few nice chin scratches were all it took for us to win their affections so that we could move them aside and get through the farm gate.

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Another section of the trail took us through a deforested hillside, rich with blackberry brambles and wild flowers which had now gone to seed.  The air was filled with cottony poofs from the seed pods, and it gave a magical air to the walk. None of the photos can quite capture it, and I can only describe it as feeling like we were in a story book.  We half imagined that we would soon come upon a clearing in which there would be a thatched-roof cottage filled with seven little men….but then we came to our senses and realized that would totally stink, so we picked up our pace to get out of there as quickly as possible.

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A good deal of the path today was on a roadside.  The views never cease to amaze.

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After 12 miles, we arrived in the lovely village of Dent, where my hubby and I had visited last winter. I was so excited to share this lovely place with Michelle.

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In Dent, we were greeted with a pot of tea by our new/old friends who run a wonderful and warm B&B.  Allison threw a load of wash in for us, too, which after wearing and re-wearing our hiking socks was possibly the most thoughtful thing anyone has ever done in the history of the world.   Our room is so cozy and warm and it felt heavenly to take a long hot shower, wash my hair, and wrap myself in a giant fluffy towel. I’m pretty sure Michelle felt similarly, as I thought I overheard her crying in the shower.

My friend Bob lives in Dent Village.  My hubby and I met him last winter and we struck up a friendship.  We email every couple of weeks and chat about whatever is happening at the moment.  We planned to meet at the Sun Inn pub at 7pm on August 28, and so we did.  What a delight to chat with him again, and to share a pint (or two).  We even bought one another a birthday pint, as we learned last Spring that we share the same birthday (May 2).  I gave Bob a Boston Red Sox cap as a gift from America (Michelle, a lifelong Yankee fan, turned a blind eye to my choice).

IMG_1768.jpg Lisa and Bob

Not long after our first pint, fellow walkers Matt and Guy arrived at the pub and we all shared some lovely conversation.  Though I have to admit that I was disappointed to learn that Matt’s Fitbit calculated that he was burning upwards of 3000 calories a day, whereas my fitness app told me that after 12 miles today, I had burned a measly 800.  Just to add insult to injury, Matt alerted me during dinner that he had just burned another few hundred calories from the effort of feeding himself dessert!  Grrrr…..

IMG_1769.jpg with Matt and Guy

Today’s walk was lovely and the conversation and friendship at the pub was perfect.  I am glad we are staying in this lovely village for another night and even more glad that our new/old friends will be joining us tomorrow here as well.

 

Day 6: Dent to Lincoln’s Inn Bridge

Day 6: Dent to Lincoln’s Inn Bridge

Total Miles Planned:  9.0

Actual Miles Walked:  9.5

Weather:  overcast and drizzly to start, but within an hour the sun came out and a blue sky with fluffy clouds lasted the whole day.  Glorious!

Pints of beer and gin and tonics consumed at the end of the day:  Do we really need to be counting these?

Day Six began with a delicious homemade breakfast at the Stone Close Inn. We put on our waterproofs and headed out, but the drizzle and clouds didn’t last very long and in no time we shed the waterproofs and spent the rest of the day in short sleeves.  I even broke out my sunglasses, which haven’t seen active duty for days.

Not long onto the trail, as we walked along a paved path, we were fortunate enough to see a beautiful fox when he crossed the lane ahead of us.  He looked graceful and elegant and he paused to look right at us before scurrying off into the trees.  It was one of those moments when you feel a real connection to nature.  But then we saw a pack of hounds come running down the hillside, howling and barking, noses to the ground.  Our money was on Mr. Fox.

Today’s walk presented a slight logistical challenge, as the guidebook we are following is built around a 7-day walk and we are doing it in 8.  This is partly because I wanted us to stay for two days in lovely Dent Village, but also because….8.  Don’t judge us.  So today we walked five miles into Sedbergh, hopped on a bus for 3 1/2 miles to Lincoln’s Inn Bridge, and then walked back from Lincoln’s Inn Bridge to Sedbergh.  Did you follow all that?  It was a bit weird to walk in the opposite direction than is outlined in the guidebook, but since we are legendary and fearless expeditioners, we didn’t concern ourselves with such minor details.  Did I mention that yesterday we found “North” by using the iPhone compass app? Astonishing!

It’s hard to imagine, but the views today were even better than expected.  We are continuously surprised and awed by this beautiful landscape.

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…though it may be slightly less beautiful in one spot.  You know those Yorkshire dry stone walls that are everywhere?  They are obviously strong as they have been standing for hundreds of years, even though people sometimes climb over them (or so I’ve heard). Well, today Michelle and I opened a gate onto a field and as it swung around, a large stone fell out of the wall that was supporting it.  Oddly, it was the second to last stone up from the bottom.  Have you ever played Jenga?  Just as we were pondering the physics of the wall’s remaining integrity, the dry stone wall came crashing down! Thankfully, no one got hurt.  I’ve since contacted the Dalesway Association to alert them to the site.  Update:  As of September, the wall has been repaired

We had another scary monment today, when we were walking up a narrow stone farm-track that was bordered on both sides by yes…wait for it…Yorkshire dry stone walls.  Halfway to the top we heard a tractor in the distance.  And then it seemed like the sound was getting closer and closer.  And then we saw two giant tractors coming right for us. There was nowhere for us to step aside and by the speed at which they were driving, the farmers didn’t seem concerned.  We pressed ourselves up against the wall, sucked in our stomachs, and prayed for forgiveness.  A close call!

IMG_1785.jpg Yikes!

IMG_1786.jpg What just happened??

Still in one piece (well, two peices actually, being that we are two people) and now almost to Sedbergh to have lunch, we saw fellow walker Matt’s van parked on the side of the road (he and Guy were camping and moving their 2nd car ahead for the end of each day’s walk).  Michelle, always prepared, wrote “Lisa and Michelle were here :-)” on a Post-it note and placed it on his windshield.  What fun we are!

IMG_1783.jpg Us, being fun!

We had a lovely late lunch at a cafe and spent some time in one of the larger bookshops.  After all, Sedbergh is,”England’s book town”.

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Most of the other shops closed early, so we were ready to get back to Dent.  We had planned to call for a taxi, but when we phoned the three local companies, we got the following responses:

  1. I’m not working today
  2. Sorry, I’m too far away
  3. just a weird sound coming out of my cellphone

Michelle Facebook-messaged fellow walker Matt, and he and Guy picked us up and drove us back to Dent, where they were also staying again.

Dent is such a special place, and tonight the pub was warm and celebratory.  My friend Bob joined us again, as did innkeepers and friends Andy and Allison, and our chauffeurs, Matt and Guy.  We shared a pint or two and had a lot of laughs.  What a great joy to make the kinds of new friends who quickly become old friends. And how blessed I am to have both.