Day six of the C2C for us was Kirkby Stephen to Keld in the Yorkshire Dales. Although a short day (at around 13 miles) in terms of mileage, the day starts with a five mile upward slog to over 2,000 feet to the top of Nine Standards Rigg.
Nine Standards Rigg is the summit of Hartley Fell, at 2,172 feet. It is almost on the border of Cumbria and Yorkshire, and sits at a very significant point in The Pennines from where all water landing to the east runs to the North Sea, and all to the west to the Irish Sea. The Nine Standards themselves are a set of large cairns of various shapes which sit in a row right on top of the fell. They can be seen for miles, and we could even see them from our room in Kirkby Stephen.
We had a stunning day for it, the best so far, and it was hot even as we left the town. Kirkby Stephen is a lovely village and I decided I’d love to return one day. We had a lovely Indian meal the previous evening and would have liked to have spent more time wandering around.
It was a hot climb from the off, but bearable, and actually really enjoyable. We saw very few people, and one family of what the lady in the B&B described as ‘the flip flop brigade’. They were playing very loud music, something I can’t stand when out on the fells, and so we walked past and away as quickly as we could. Call me a snob if you want!
One of the other things that characterises Nine Standards Rigg (apart from the stones themselves) is the peat bogs. They are pretty big and pretty serious, and also pretty seriously eroded. Being such a popular walk, the path gets so eroded on the way up that it has been split into three different routes depending upon the time of year and the conditions. The red is apparently the most revered, and the green the easiest and safest in poor conditions, but we were directed to the blue by the signs and so stuck with that. I’m very much a conformist when it comes to National Parks and their regulations.
The views from the top were great, and we soon made our way to the quite memorable trig point pictured below.
The route from here had partly been covered in flagstones which briefly lulled us into a false sense of security as I’d read in Henry Steadman’s fabulous book on the C2C about how bad the bogs would be. But then they ended, abruptly. We then spent the next almost three hours tracking and backtracking, squelching and jumping over bogs, some twenty yards or more across. If you’d just walked in a straight line along the path you’d have ended up either up to your waist or without your boots in the mire in places. It was almost comical. Having both of us suffered blisters from wet feet in the Lakes we were keen to try to avoid the same fate, and so did our best to stay as dry as we could. We sort of managed this, but it was tricky.
Thankfully the path eventually emerged to run higher along the river along more farm like tracks, and whilst still wet and squelchy, were manageable. Eventually after what was approaching 7 hours, a crazy amount of time for a 13 mile walk, we reached the tiny hamlet of Keld. Keld has about 4 houses, two campsites, and a lodge/hotel, where we stayed, the Keld Lodge. The Lodge used to be a youth hostel, and still feels a bit like that, but the hospitality (and I have to say the food) that we had was second to none. It also had a great drying room, very useful when you’ve just tracked for hours through wet peat bogs. Oh they also served the best pint of Black Sheep bitter I’ve ever had.
The main thing to note about Keld though, is the fact that it lies exactly at the half way point of the C2C walk. It is 96 miles in each direction to the sea, and the commemorative photo above will be something for the long term scrapbook that’s for sure.
So here we were, 6 days down, and exactly half way. 92 miles to the North Sea, and tomorrow would take us through lead mining country, see Cow ‘Usses’, and go through the very beautiful Swaledale to the even more beautiful Reeth. The Coast to Coast was delivering everything we thought it would and more :).