Yesterday, I had planned to go to Cumbria to bag a Birkett or two, but it was on the TV that over in Cumbria, they were still cleaning up from this month’s flooding, and there was the issue about the stupidly high parking fees over there, so, instead, I went to Thwaite in Swaledale with a loose plan to bag a light blue triangle (if it’s light blue it’s unbagged!) that’s appeared on www.hill-bagging.co.uk – a Sub-Dewey (no, really, there is such a thing…) right next to the Pennine Way on Great Shunner Fell and then to get back to the start with an exploration of Great Sleddale, a place I like to visit once every 38 years – it was 38 years ago when I last wandered down this little dale.
I told the dog. He was happy about the plan, so, armed with a fresh cheese butty and a new banana we pointed the knipemobile in the appropriate direction and set off.
Not too long later, we were huffing and dripping sweatily up the Pennine Way towards Derbyshire. It was a dark and humid kind of day. But, on the moor, the larks and pipits were singing way up in the grey and the D of E kids were heaving their packs Northwards. I said “hello” to the first four in the group – none of them replied. I told number five that I wasn’t going to speak to him. They’re not supposed to talk to strange men, y’know.. they have strict warnings from their mums and D of E organisers.
We quickly bagged Stony Band and then, a bit less quickly, blundered off to the top of Shunner Fell where there’s a cross shelter and some old banana skins.
A couple at the summit of Shunner fell were chatty, though and their little dog, one Monty, a double of Peewiglet’s Piglet if ever I saw one, was very friendly and was enthusiastic about meeting Bruno. I think they said they were going to go back down to Thwaite the way they’d come up – by the Pennine Way.
We lunched briefly. A Pennine way walker stopped for a chat (they’re allowed to communicate with others too). I told him the weather forecast (warm and wet) and he suspected thunder and lightening. Always look on the bright side…
After lunch, me and superdawg lead off down the steep slope into the upper parts of Great Sleddale, following a nice little limestone gorge for a bit and then tracks by the beck to the abandoned farm and fields lower down. This hasn’t changed much at all in 38 years, if my memory serves me..er… thingy..
A plodge through a deep ford provided wet socks for additional excitement, followed by a nice riverside ramble and a second sweaty, dripping huffanpuff over a moor, during which I met the same DofE group again. the first one said hello. The next three looked into space when I said “hello”. I told the last one that I wasn’t going to speak to him.
The forecast had said rain, starting in the early afternoon, but it didn’t start till I was within yards of the shelter of the car. It had, though, been a very warm and humid sort of day suitable for baselayers only with rolled-up sleeves and something to keep the stinging salty stuff out of your eyes.
It was ten of your Earth miles. I enjoyed it. Bruno enjoyed it. Monty seemed to be enjoying it. The Pennine wayfarer enjoyed the feeling of doom. I don’t think the DofE kids enjoyed it. I think they’re just after the line in the CV. At some point, though, they’re going to have to start talking to other people. They should put something about this in the training, really, otherwise there’ll be little point in having a CV entry with “Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award” in it if they can’t speak to an interviewer. Or anybody.
Here’s a map for anybody intent on visiting Sleddale- which I would recommend for it’s remote feel. You can’t take dogs there, though cos it’s a grouse moor (koff). I only found out about the dog thing at the foot of Sleddale, which was too late by then. No ground-nesting birds or sheep were harmed, though.
Swaledale’s very nice at the moment, too. The meadows are blooming. It’s a good time to go. And parking near the junction with the Buttertubs road is free, leaving funds available for a cuppa at the tea room at Thwaite.