Coast to Coast Day 7 – Keld to Reeth

Day 7 of the C2C saw us begin the second half of the overall walk, quite literally, as we had just reached the half way point (mile 96) last night. After also some excellent beef stew and sponge pudding last night we were set up for another full on day, even if this one would be the shortest so far in terms of distance covered. In fact it would be just 12 miles that took us to Reeth, also in the Swaledale valley.

Leaving behind Keld Lodge and heading down into Keld itself…..
…..which is basically a hamlet, but a very lovely one at that.
The start of the Swale River, which we would follow for the next three days (and indeed had done yesterday too).
Looking down at the Swale from the start of our high route.

Swaledale is one of the smaller, and I think the most northerly of the main dales (valleys). It runs east to west and is punctuated by much limestone and of course many many sheep. It is the first time either of us have been here and it is an absolute delight. The end of the day in fact was to reveal for me what I think is the highlight of the trip so far in the shape of Reeth.

The journey to Reeth can be taken by either a high route or a low route. The low route passes many pretty Swaledale villages like Muker, but we were told at the Lodge that it would be very busy with tourists, so we avoided it and took the high route. This route takes in two climbs up to around 2,000 feet, but is generally it has to be said not very scenic in the main, although it has many redeeming features.

The walk across the top of the Dales at around 2,000 feet up is a bit featureless….

……but then dips into very attractive ruins of old lead mining plants.

The area round here was in bygone times the capital of the lead-mining world, and used to apparently produce over half of the world’s lead. We saw much evidence of old lead mines along the route, including smelting chimneys and some old machinery from the mines. The two climbs weren’t difficult, but took their toll on tired legs, and we had a fair old headwind at times too. The weather was also a bit cool at times – while the rest of the country is apparently basking in a heatwave at around 35 degrees, we had around 16 or 17 degrees, and my fleece stayed on for most of the day.

Starting on the descent now towards Reeth.

Another lead smelting relic.

Nearly in Reeth now, a lovely day and a really great walk for any day out.

We got into Reeth early at around 3pm. Reeth Apparently hails itself as the capital of Swaledale, and was formerly the mainstay of the lead mining industry. You wouldn’t know that today though – it is a very pretty natural amphitheatre with a large green in the middle and surrounded by the local hills. Apparently the old TV show All Creatures Great and Small was filed here. We both loved it. It has the feel of being very welcoming, and it very much is exactly that.

Wee stopped in for a beer at the Kings Arms Hotel, where we had also booked for dinner. A good place and very much recommended, even if the sticky toffee pudding was a bit weird and covered in wayyyyyyy too much custard, but there’s a first world problem if ever there was one!

The green at Reeth…..
…….and the very lovely Ivy Cottage at one end of it.

Our accommodation, Ivy Cottage, also serves as a tea room. The hosts were (as everyone has been on this trip) extremely welcoming, and the room had a view of the green and the surroundings and a lovely little window seat where you could have sat for hours. It was a fantastic spot, and I would love to revisit. The breakfast and indeed everything about it was perfect. In fact we both agreed afterwards when ranking (as you do) all 13 B&Bs that we stayed in on this trip, that this was number one. That’ll be a 5 star Tripadvisor rating from me then 🙂

So 108 or so miles done now, and tomorrow would see us again head along the Swale Valley to Richmond, the largest town on the C2C, for another fairly short day. The weather was again set fair, and we looked forward to all that Richmond would bring.

Coast to Coast Day 6 – Kirkby Stephen to Keld.

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.

Setting off from the town go Kirkby Stephen, the local church in the background.

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.

About to cross the river and set off for Nine Standards Rigg – a beautiful day.

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!

My vlog entry for the day 🙂

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.

Approaching the top of Hartley Fell, with the Nine Standards clearly visible.
On the very top of the Pennines!

The trig point from which all water flows west or east in England.

The views from the top were great, and we soon made our way to the quite memorable trig point pictured below.

The views and waypoints on a clear day (which we had) were all marked out in detail here.

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.

the flagstone section before the bogs took over!

We took the blue route, but I think most of them are pretty similar in length and difficulty – it is all about managing the erosion.

The peat bogs stretch on for what seems like forever – at least we could see where we were going!

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 :).