Another late start, after a disastrous night which ended up with both children sleeping in our bed. For those wondering, a caravan bed intended for two doesn’t really sleep two six foot adults plus two children anywhere near comfortably, and we were all more than a bit tired and grumpy as a result. We eventually made it to the drop-off point at around 10am, and the day’s planned walk of another 20 odd miles was already looking a bit ambitious. I didn’t want to have another very late finish, so was hoping that the walk would be fairly easy and I could make up time.
The walk started well – an easy bit by the canal, then up into some farmland. But then it all went horribly wrong. I have noticed that waymarking on the Pennine Way is haphazard at best – when you don’t need a waymark (such as when there’s only one way to go, or an obvious series of gates) there are several on each post, but when you need to navigate over open country or across large fields there is frequently nothing to guide you. More annoyingly there are often no marks on gateposts, so it’s difficult in a field with several gates to judge where the route goes. It probably doesn’t help that my guidebook was published in 2003, and field layouts on this section had obviously changed considerably (lots of nature reserve hedgerows appearing where my map said there should only be fields), but in any event I realised quite quickly and with a sinking heart that I was horribly lost. I spent about an hour and a half (precious time that I could not afford to lose) walking round the perimeters of large fields looking for the (invisible) path.
When I eventually found the path after some detailed map and compass work I was so tired and frustrated that I sat on a stile and had a bit of a weep. By this time it was about 11.30 and it was becoming obvious that I wasn’t going to make it to Horton in Ribblesdale that day, and I trudged into Gargrave in a very bad mood. However, Gargrave is lovely and a sandwich and a strong pot of tea in the sweetshop-cum-tearoom helped to improve my mood; I decided just to make it as far as I could that day and hope for the best. (Incidentally, I’ve noticed that the tea is getting stronger, and comes in larger servings, the further north I go; I highly approve).
The afternoon was spent heading across pasture, then alongside the River Aire – pleasant (if a bit dull), and easy walking, but not fast enough to allow me to make up for the time lost earlier that day. I made it into Malham at about 4.30, in a light drizzle, with just enough cash to have an excellent Yorkshire cream tea (never really thought clotted cream and scones were a Yorkshire thing, but what do I know?) at the pub.
Highlights: Massive and unreasoning frustration with poor waymarks; riverside pastures with sleepy cows and sparkling water; the restorative power of strong tea and a hot crumbly scone with clotted cream; time to read the informative notices about karst and gritstone at the national park centre.