Day Seven - Kirkby Stephen to Keld  

    Monday 4th  May 2009

Nine Standards in the mist

At Kirkby Stephen it became obvious that Maggie could not carry on.  The pads on her feet were sore and she was in pain when walking.  She had also managed to pick up a bug.  Ollie, my son, drove up the M6 with Elsie and we swapped dogs.  After tea and scones he took Maggie home. 

This was to be another wet day.

Leaving Kirkby Stephen was uneventful enough.  We crossed Frank's Bridge and waved goodbye to the “girls”.  I quickly decided to put my waterproof top on.

We continued to climb gradually to Nine Standards.  The way followed a farm track which slowly deteriorated from a good metalled road to a rough track.  There was a big quarry on our right and quite regularly we saw farmers (I presume) riding on modified quad bikes.  Eventually we went through a gate onto the moor and after another mile slanted away from the farm track to the Standards.

It was slowly getting wetter and the cloud base lower.  Just before reaching the top we entered the cloud and I had to put my leggings on. This was just as well, because as we reached the ridge the wind really started to blow along with heavy rain.

The next step was to get to Whitsundale.  In the cloud I took a bearing and that lead us along a boggy path - having the compass handy was particularly useful when we had to negotiate a muddy patch and then reorientate ourselves.  We carried on like this for an hour.  In the classic sense it wasn't pleasant, but the never the less I found it exhilarating.  I couldn't help comparing it to Grasmere / Patterdale which had just been miserable.

We finally reached a track leading to a shooting lodge.  It was now gone 1:00 and we wanted to eat lunch, but it was too wet, cold and windy to stop.  Therefore we carried on, passing the farm at Ravenseat.  It was still cold and wet, but after another 10 minutes we decided we had to eat, so we hid from the elements behind a barn and scoffed down our sandwiches.  I hadn't brought any gloves on the trip, my hands were freezing and this made this basic task of feeding myself a slow process.  

Having staved off the hunger we quickly got walking again, past some quite dramatic waterfalls, along occasionally muddy paths and soon we were looking down on Swaledale.  For the final mile we followed a delightful footpath through fields and over stiles along the top of a cliff above the river. 

We rolled up at the Keld Lodge at about 3:30.  Good going.  The manager was smoking his pipe in the porch and quickly, but friendlily, directed us to a hosepipe to wash down the dog.  Then with a clean, but wet Elsie we were shown to a very nice room, which soon had all our wet gear all over it.  We were in room 6, which was a mistake; it should have been room 10, so we had to say room 10 not to confuse the computer.

Unusually we were asked to pre-order our restaurant meals.  Not exactly a hardship but unusual.  It was here I got to enjoy curried banana soup.

It’s strange, but last time I fell in with a number of walkers very quickly and we kept vaguely to the same schedule.  This time there had been the odd encounter but they’d then either fallen behind or scooted on ahead.  Tonight’s folk all had their electronic gizmos for updating blogs, Skype to ring home and PCs for route planning.  All very different from 12 years ago (but only that - different)!

Included on tonight’s guest list was Stuart, a.k.a. Lone Walker.