Pennine Way 2014 – Day Eleven

Sunday 24th August: Dufton to Alston – 20 miles

We were up quite early, as we had another long twenty miles ahead, this time with a lot of climbing involved. It was a beautiful day – the sunlight poured into the hostel dining room. After checking out, we had a short wander around Dufton’s green – it was a spaced-out, open village with a grand row of trees and a curious, rounded stone fountain. And the objects of our day, the tops of the north Pennines, as a handsome backdrop. Neither I nor Mark seemed to be in the mood to hang around, so we started off and walked away.

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Out of Dufton

The start of the day’s walking was a couple of miles through a wooded path that threaded between grazing fields; and some fields of wheat, which was a strange sight after the previous ten days.

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The way eventually ascended towards upland stony farm track before the fields and track ended just before Swindale Beck, which was completely dry.

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Green Fell

The fell climbing began: with a long, steady, grassy climb up to Green Fell. The Pennine Way isn’t loaded with climbing (perhaps other than the Kinder Plateau and Pen Y Ghent) so this is something different to challenge us perhaps.

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The view behind, across the Eden Valley was as good as the evening before.

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It was a long climb up to the top, thirty minutes or so of steady exertion. Just before the summit there was a grand, cubic cairn, with a small more conventional one right at the top. It was still sunny and a little windy, but not in any way disturbing.

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Golf Balls and Erotic Cairns

We continued on, along the top and over the summits. The grassy turf gave way to patches of peat, gravel, scattered rocks and rough moorland (there were flag stones laid) in patches along here. There was even a stretch of tarmac.

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This led up to the golf-ball shaped building atop Great Dun Fell, which housed a radio transmitter.

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We walked on for a further two miles over the wide, flat top, pounding along the flagstones. By this point in the early afternoon, the morning’s climbing had tired me a little and I was rather hungry. My backpack was also beginning to weight heavy on me, so we rested for five minutes on a dry patch of grass.

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The grassy top reached the rocky plateau of Cross Fell, heralded by a splendid cairn, which resembled a phallus much more than most other cairns did.

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Ten minutes later, we were glad to get to the summit cairn and trig point of Cross Fell (at 893m the highest point of the walk). A chap with his own radio transmitter stowed in his backpack and his dog were spending their afternoon lazing around the trig point. The summit cairn was a grand, recent construction, resembling a dry stone spider.

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How Many is a Crowd?

At that point, after hardly encountering a soul on the ascent (or indeed on the descent that followed), most of the world turned up at the summit of Cross Fell (as if out of nowhere). The volume of folk irritated me – I pondered during the afternoon: where did they all come from? Probably up and down from another path.

After walking off the top: a dull descent, especially for tired legs, we stopped to have a look around Greg’s Bothy. This was as uninteresting as most bothys tend to be – they’re not supposed to be listed buildings.

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The remainder of the afternoon was a long and dull affair, marching mile after mile, gradually descending along the track from Cross Fell to Garrigill. We mainly motivated ourselves by measuring ourselves against the clock and judging our progress.

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The monotony was broken up by a Land Rover going backwards and forwards once, some rat traps that were mounted above the ditches and the periodic need to urinate (I found myself having to go quite a lot during the sixteen days). As we got closer to the village, a rough stone wall accompanied us.

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Finally, the long six miles down from Cross Fell were at an end and we walked into Garrigill (in the South Tyne valley).

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A Piss-Up on the Green

Garrigill was a pleasant village, with a triangular green, smaller but more verdant than Dufton’s. There was a village fete/party of some sort going off as we entered. Being outsiders, we passed by and continued 100 yards before having a sit down at the opposite end of the green.

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After a while however, the organiser came across and invited us over for a beer. He explained, that as the village pub shut the year before (landlord trouble), they were having some drinks (with a VW camper full of beers). Me and Mark had a nice chat with them about village life, the Pennine Way etc. It would have been nice to have had a second beer, but the one bottle had already made me feel inebriated (on an empty stomach too) and we still had five miles to walk.

South Tyne Valley

The last stretch along the South Tyne was rather sweet in the summer evening air (it really was that kind of lovely Sunday weather).

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Needing a bit of ballast, I stopped to eat the last of my sandwiches, but the biters were out by the river bank, so we had to flee.

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The last mile or so went above the river plain, to eventually reach the edge of Dufton: the YHA was situated here. It was one of the hostels built in the boom days of the 1970s. Things had changed somewhat: the place resembled the Marie Celeste and at the reception counter the warden had left us a note saying that he was out of the way that evening and to let ourselves in.

Time Team Action (Part One)

Having settled into our dorm, we headed out to the pub for dinner. In the Cumberland we noticed Stewart from Time Team getting a pint at the bar. Whilst eating our pies and chips in the corner, Mark and I listened in to quite an uninteresting fellow engage him in conversation  at the opposite table.

Back at the hostel, we reflect on another long and hard day’s walking. Mark seemed in better shape than he did at Dufton the previous evening. I was starting to feel quite mentally tired though, two-thirds of the way through the walk.

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Pennine Way 2014 – Day Ten

Saturday 23rd August: Middleton-in-Teesdale to Dufton – 20 miles

The breakfast at the Brunswick House (in particular the fruit salad) was excellent. We set off from the B&B around half past nine, stopping along the way for sandwiches at the Co-Op before walking out of Middleton.

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We crossed the Tees and then turned right, to follow its valley westwards towards Cumbria. Initially we followed the edge of the river plain, keeping at distance of a few hundred yards from the river.

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The path was bounded by stone walls and in one short stretch some overgrown bracken. It was a lovely sunny day and before long we stopped at a large, dead tree stump to put some sun cream on.

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After two miles we began to veer over to meet and follow the riverbank. Soon we were on a beautiful riverside walk, the water flowing along calmly to our right, with grassy meadows to the left and further back the Holwick scars.

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There came the first of a series of cataracts. This was a first opportunity to drop my backpack and take photographs of all angles of the Tees.

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Opposite Low Force

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Then Low Force:  a small waterfall around 15 feet high and splendid to see – the best view was on the opposite bank, reached via a small suspension bridge.

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We had 15 minutes sat on the riverbank, enjoying the view.

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Then we continued along the riverbank, the river being broken up by more, smaller falls and cataracts.

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Moving away from the river for a spell, we passed through some open land with bracken vegetation (and where we were advised to use a footbath to prevent tree disease).

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High Force

Halfway through, we made for a stop in a cutting high up the riverbank, which offered us a spectacular viewpoint of High Force, the larger of the two waterfalls (it looked four or five times as high), and a fine place to stop for lunch.

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The fact that we were trying to walk the Pennine Way, twenty miles that day, didn’t allow much time for the contemplation of the natural world, which was a pity as I could have spent all afternoon there looking at the fall.

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After eating some of my lunch and taking some pictures of High Force, Mark and I carried on walking along by the Tees. Not long after High Force, as we went further up, the river widened and became shallower, and the vegetation started to thin out.

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Around Langdon Beck to Cauldron Snout

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There was half an hour or so, around Langdon Beck where the way let the Tees be for a bit, departing away from it over small sheep hills.

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We crossed the Tees, then followed a tributary past a farm and walked over cow fields for a bit, which brought us back to the Tees, this time on the other bank.

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Approaching initially on a track, as our side of the valley came up closer the path traced the meander round, right on the edge. We had to scramble a little over rocks that had fallen from above down to the river – it wasn’t easy making over these.

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We followed round beneath the vertiginous Falcon Clints, before getting around the corner to the wide fall of Cauldron Snout. The beautiful geological features that we saw around here had quite homely, mundane names; nothing really vivid or dramatic.

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On the opposite side a sheep that had fallen off the edge was trapped and exhausting itself in trying to climb up and escape. My heart ached a little at this pathetic sight, but from where I was standing there wasn’t much I could do to help.

The stream above the snout that fed it was equally dramatic, cutting a path through the rock in a zig-zag fashion, with the grim concrete curtain of the Cow Green Dam as a backdrop: man was (and is) quite in charge around here.

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Looking back over the beginning of Teesdale and the fabulous view of the Falcon Clints, the grand free show of geology ended here, at least for the time being.

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Miles 12-16: High Cup Nick

Away from the reservoir we started to ascend slowly up over open moorland, in the direction of the northern Pennines. A mile of old farm track gave over, following a ford crossing, to two and a half miles of freshly laid rock track, that was hard and dull to walk over (particularly after fifteen miles).

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Finally leaving this and picking up a stream, we romp a little over the open country plateau and at 6.15 get to High Cup Nick; and the panoramic vista over its glacially cut valley.

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After eighteen miles, I’m a little too tired to take it all in (the evening sun obscures our view a little too). But it is spectacular – what an amazing place.

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Down into Dufton

It’s a hard walk down into Dufton, not steep descent, but rough tracks. The view over the Cumbrian plain was something I loved though.

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A long day of twenty miles had made us very weary when we got to the YHA around eight – Mark was a quarter dead it seemed. There was just enough time to get a meal at the pub before nine o’clock, and I managed to get some laundry hand-washed in the hostel’s drying room.

A fantastic days walking, not difficult but long and very stimulating – and one that we were far too tired to reflect upon at the time.

‘The Androids of Tara’ (1978) – Thoughts

A very lightweight adventure, but an entertaining and fun one. Similarly to ‘The Ribos Operation’, three stories earlier at the start of season sixteen, it uses a pseudo-medieval kingdom as its setting. Perhaps, at a time of budget restrictions, it was more efficient to design for known, historic settings rather than imagine up alien worlds within a factory corridor.By contrast with the earlier studio-bound story, here there is much sunny location footage of the grounds of Leeds Castle.

‘Androids of Tara’, we soon realise, is an uncomplicated affair that takes the show into swashbuckling adventure and also maybe a little into the neighbouring genres of fairyland tales and pantomine. Certainly the characterisations of the local nobles encourages this: the handsome one-dimensional prince and his beautiful bride-to-be; the earnest and willing swordsman; the credulous priest; the dastardly villain all give off a cartoonish, pantomine air.

David Fisher does include a sliver of social comment in the disinterest of the Taran aristocracy in anything other in chivalry and intrigue, and their dependence on their serfs for their technology. The suffering of Lumia, able and dignified but enslaved and powerless is a more realistic element amongst the silly back and forth sieges and sallying. Tara seems to be less a planet than two neighouring estates (although Genesis of the Daleks has this same issue). This geography facilitates the rather weak cliffhangers, where Count Grendel twice appears and disappears from and into thin air.

The Doctor in this story mainly serves to oil and move the plot along with his customary aplomb. He’s not as vital to the matter at hand as something like ‘Horror of Fang Rock’ – Zadek and Farrar could feasibly have could have foiled the Count, but having the Doctor around to help proves invaluable.

Mary Tamm’s detached, almost-disinterested performance is problematic. It’s not difficult to understand why she didn’t return after her season with the show. Something like ‘Androids of Tara’ really does not complement the characterisation at all: a cool, collected intectual princess figure looking over a pantomime.

Fortunately for the production, an actor as reliably excellent as Peter Jeffrey was cast in the pivotal role of Count Grendel. The script never allows the Count to be anything other than a cartoonish baddie, one step ahead of everyone but the Doctor, but Jeffrey takes this in his stride, convincingly hamming up his villainry and not straying too far into the red zone on the Furstometer. The supporting cast werepretty good too: Paul Lavers was impressive as the young swordsman and Simon Lack as the restrained, sober Zadek.

The Androids of Tara does practically nothing for the season arc: the Key to Time is found in the first five minutes of episode one, and serves merely as the plot device to get the Doctor and Romana into the Count’s web, before it returns to memory towards the end. The use of a stock plot does allow Fisher to climax the story well, with a rather long swordfight between the Doctor and Grendel deciding the day.

After many years of stories tinged in seriousness, a lightweight bit of fluff like Androids of Tara is a bit of a change (certainly since the lightweight stuff that was utilised in the long seasons of the Hartnell era). But it stands up perfectly OK as a enjoyable and fun piece of adventure television.






Pennine Way 2014 – Day Nine

Friday 22nd August: Tan Hill to Middleton-in-Teesdale – 16 ½ miles

I started the day by watching half an episode of Lovejoy in bed (staying in B&Bs over hostels offered the benefits of sleeping in a comfy bed, not a bunk, and having a cup of tea and the remote within reach). We headed down for breakfast – the other guests were a bunch of bikers and a family trio. The young boy was rather upset about something, so while his mother took him outside for a bit of fresh air, we chatted with the father. He had done the Pennine Way six years previously, with a couple of friends, starting in Scotland and heading south to Edale.

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Over Sleightholme Moor

After packing our rucksacks, digesting our breakfasts and taking some valedictory photos of the inn, Mark and I immediately embarked on the north-east crossing of Sleighthome Moor. As soon as we dropped from the plateau of the inn to the flat, wide-open base of the moor, it was apparent that it would be very wet going underfoot.

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Prior to this on the Pennine Way, more or less the whole length of moorland crossings had been laid with flag stones: Featherbed Moss, Black Hill (to give two examples). So encountering very wet ground was a new and unfamiliar challenge (although it was at least waterlogged grass and not mud). I postulated to myself that this stretch of the way was more remote, obscure and less at risk of erosion than those, say, in the Peak District; and wasn’t looked after by a National Park (it was administered by Durham County Council – I’d walked that far north!).

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A couple of miles of trudging over the moor ended at a stream crossing and we moved onto a dusty track. Civilization suddenly appeared in the form of a shooting party (the time of year being August); or rather its means of transport: a long chain of unattended Range Rovers. As we followed the track in the direction of Bowes, on our right tramping along the edge of the moorland was a group of strikingly shabby youths carrying improvised white flags. From their attire we guessed that they weren’t getting handsomely paid for beating the game.

Gods Bridge – Lunch

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We left the moor to cross Sleighthome Beck and then climbed its bank, up to the moor on the other side. The way down over the heather towards Gods Bridge wasn’t entirely straightforward, the footpaths being hard to tell amongst cleared vegetation.

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Gods Bridge was a nice spot to sit and have lunch, sitting on the huge rocks and contemplating the dried up riverbed.

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The A66 looked quite a busy dual-carriageway; with a steady flow of heavy goods traffic crossing over northern England. The dingy foot tunnel beneath roughly marked the half-way point of the Pennine Way.

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Blackton and Grassholme Reservoirs

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Three more miles of uneventful grouse moor followed (nice firm paths under foot though). Stone buildings eventually came into sight and the grass became short and green as we approached farmland once again. We passed by Blackton reservoir, a secluded, quite tranquil spot: trees dotted around, calm water, sheep dozing in the afternoon sun.

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Climbing up away from there, we then encountered a short patch of moor, and then a very sodden grazing field before the second reservoir appeared, Grassholme.

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Here there were more signs of human life: a car park and quite a few anglers on the bank. Mark and I had a rest on a picnic table, taking in some snack bars and biscuits and gabbling to each other.

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Down into Middleton-in-Teesdale

There was one last climb, up away from the reservoir, by a farm and then, over the top a fine view of Middleton and over Teesdale.

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The final stretch, down from the hills into the town was a pleasing ambling descent; with patches of long grass, bracken and clusters of rocks to stroll through; and a splendid view all round.

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Our destination was Brunswick House B&B, a really excellent place to stay and certainly the most comfortable accommodation we had on the walk. After another pub meal we were in bed for 10.30 (we ended up watching a chunk of You Only Live Twice). A longish day, with harder going and some quite monotonous patches; but passing through some nice places.

Pennine Way 2014 – Day Eight

Thursday 21st August: Hawes to Tan Hill – 16.5 miles

Another day where we me and Mark made an effort and got ourselves up and ready to go down for breakfast at 8 o’clock. The reason this time was that the weather forecast was terrible; checking the night before, heavy rain was expected all day. After another YHA full English, we have a sit down in the hostel lounge and chat with a large old fellow, presented with an overbearing aspect (amongst his children and grandchildren) but pleasant enough in conversation. As an active walker in his day, he did the Pennine Way himself around fifty years ago (which would have meant that it hadn’t long been inaugurated).

Great Shunner Fell

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We were out of the hostel at 9.05 (the earliest, I think on the whole trip) in light rain. After stopping at the local Spar for some extra food, we headed through Hawes and then out towards Hardraw. This took us along a short stretch around some bendy roads and then a grassy footpath over the floor of the dale.

Getting to Hardraw, we noticed the pub in front of Hardraw Force, the waterfall hidden behind it. Amusingly the landlord was advertised on a painted board above the door as “innkeeper and waterfall provider”.

It was too early for us to visit – moving onwards out of the village we began the long approach towards Great Shunner Fell; the rain had eased off for now. The track leading up there for the first two miles was splendid: wide and symmetrically bordered by grass and stone walls.

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The climb up the fell was at a steady incline on an easy path: no scrambling, not even any steps to climb up over. One would perhaps think this would be dull, but the surroundings were so amenable even in the rain and mist, that this was a great bit of hiking. The track finished and the walk continued up the hill with stretches of grassy path and flagstones.

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We approached the summit around midday, just as a squall arrived above us. We vainly attempted to shelter at the trig point, having five minutes to get a bite to eat. We marched down off the fell in double time towards Thwaite.

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Tea and Cakes in Thwaite

As the steady rain continued, the walk down was rougher than the ascent: the path was more up and down, more twisty, more staccato. Another farm track brought us to Thwaite. The rain had eased off when we stopped for a rest, on a park bench in the middle of the village. A host of sparrows toddled by whilst we finished off the remainder of our lunch.

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After a good deal of thought, I decided to pop into the village tea room for some tea and cake. As it was a very smart establishment, inside I was obliged to put plastic covers on my boots.

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Whilst I was being served another heavy shower passed outside. Back at the bench I found my brother huddled up, soaked. After eating the tea and cake we set off in the middle of the afternoon, heading towards and climbing sharply up the side of Kisdon. The view back over Thwaite was lovely: the village and the surroundings fields, their dry-stone walls and farm buildings.

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Around Kisdon

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Then as we circled round the hill, the views of Swaledale to our right and then the descending gills opposite us were even lovelier. At this delightful point another heavy rain shower dampened our progress. We found the path that descending down off Kisdon to the stream crossing at the bottom was uncomfortably overgrown and steep.

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By that point it was half past four in the afternoon – we decided to skip detouring into Keld for a look around and carried out. Keld was the northern boundary of the Dales – Mark and me had had 3 ½ days of the most quietly enjoyable hiking.

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For the first time since Sunday tea time (and the gale on Pinhaw Beacon), I was walking over moorland. The last three miles towards Tan Hill were not difficult going, being mainly stone track and paths, but the rain was beginning to blow cross us. By that stage as normal, we were quite tired and ready to finish.

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Tan Hill Inn

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As it came into view in front of us, the Tan Hill Inn was a fantastic sight. A rugged stone mirage: we pushed ourselves forwards towards it. At the end of the track, we crossed over the road, took our boots and packs off in the porch and went in. Before checking into our room,  we enjoyed a delightful pint of ale.

The Tan Hill was a splendid pub, very atmospheric in its remote isolation situation. The interior is suitably spare but homely. Dinner was the customary pub meal plus a couple of pints. The next day was originally intended to have been Mark’s last day on this trip, but we decided to carry on together for another three days: I managed to book three more night’s accommodation using my mobile phone and the pub’s WiFi.

Pennine Way 2014 – Day Seven

Wednesday 20th August: Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Hawes –  14 miles

Horton is a narrow, stretched out village, along a single road. We left the Golden Lion at the southern end heading north (where its other pub, the Crown is), stopping along the way at the Pen-y-Ghent cafe for some sandwiches. Being on this walk, and also the three peaks, it was quite a well fitted out place. I chatted with the proprietors about the Pennine Way: there hadn’t, so they said, been many Pennine Way walkers passing through in recent weeks (which tallied with the total of one that I’d come across so far). I left my details in their Pennine Way book – the first addition for a week.

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Out of Horton, through Ribblesdale

The way out of Horton went along farm tracks, bounded by dry stone walls and enclosed sheep fields. The walking was pleasant rather than strenuous or spectacular – broken clouds made up the sky, allowing the sun to periodically pass through.

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After a while we got a lovely view across Ribblesdale, with the famous viaduct in the distance; a steam engine crossed the landscape towards it and beyond.

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Further away from the village, the track became grassier and began to gently climb a little: the fields became wilder and the stone walls were gone. The going, as we passed within distance of some plantations higher up, turned from stone to gravel. We gently descended back down to the grassy pasture level again, and then reached the effective halfway point, the old bridge at Ling Gill where we stopped for lunch.

Ling Gill


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Ling Gill is a steep limestone gorge, obscured by a mass of trees and vegetation and fenced off (it looked quite dangerous to approach). Just up from it is its bridge, an old packhorse crossing (18th century with a weathered dedication stone) in a lovely spot in the valley hollow. Mark and I dropped our bags and settled down for a long lunch: my sandwiches were notable for the amount of onion that was with the beef.

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From Ling Gill, the track climbed up away from its valley, meeting the Cam High Road at the top. This was a newly laid chalk road for the use of logging wagons running along to a large plantation below to our right.

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This three mile trudge along the lorry track was a monotonous and uninspiring stretch. I babbled to my brother whilst following the trucks making their way around the forest below.

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Beyond this, the walking was alleviated by an open, blank vista beyond of the Cam Houses in the middle distance and Wharfedale far away.

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The West Cam Road

At the end of the road, towards Dodd Fell, we forked to the left. This led to a fine stretch of walking along the West Cam Road, which skirted along the west side of the Fell.

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It was bordered for its whole length by a stone wall, overlooking Widdale. As we rambled along in the middle of the afternoon, we enjoyed the view across the dale, over the plantations and holdings that Snaizedale Beck passed through. This was a very attractive three miles, the highlight of the day.

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Gayle and Hawes

Having rounded Dodd Fell, we left the West Cam Road to descend on a footpath (treacherous in areas but with a splendid vista of Wensleydale) down towards Gayle and Hawes.

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I thought Gayle a charming little village (tightly bunched cottages and country houses). By now however we were hurrying along, keenly wanting to get finished for the day.

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From Gayle, after passing through a modern housing estate and then by the Wensleydale Cheese factory, we got to the YHA at Hawes around six o’clock. It had been a straightforward days0 walking, not demanding too much of us, but we both felt drained by the end – one of those days where finding the hostel at the end was one job too many.

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The hostel itself was a 1960s/70s building that, unlike Malham hadn’t been recently renovated (the washrooms had an old-fashioned ambiance, like an Austin 1100), but was comfortable. For tea we didn’t go for a pub meal but instead went to the fish and chip restaurant in Hawes. After going to the bank ATM for some cash (the next town being several days away) we then finished up with a pint in the pub (the pub TV had football on: Celtic were playing in Slovenia).

The Pirate Planet (1978) – Thoughts

This was a rather good story I thought, the second episode in particular was terrific (a favourite). More than most Doctor Who adventures, The Pirate Planet was totally in thrall to the imagination of its writer and that gave it strengths and weaknesses. 

The main strength is indeed Douglas Adams’ imagination – the ideas and concepts in this story: the weird city with its mineral wealth and numb populace, the telephonic zombie crew from the hills and finally, the truth behind it all were dizzying levels above what we often got from Doctor Who. Pennant Roberts directed with his usual skill: the exterior footage in this one looks fantastically lush (compared to the normal grainy 16mm)

The imagination of the script is something that Tom Baker seemed to appreciate: in the forementioned episode two, his brilliance is more pronounced even than it normally was. Adams uses Romana quite well in the sidekick role, chipping in with discussion and backing her boss up, although towards the climax she drifts away from the action.

The captain is a splendidly berserk character, teamed up with his functionary Fibuli (who must have been some kind of genius, but unfortunately is only ever seen cowering in front of his insane boss). It’s an interesting pairing (and both are played pretty well), although they are presented one-dimensionally thus up until Fibuli’s demise. The Queen alas isn’t much of an effective character, really only existing because Adams perhaps wanted an explanation for the situation and decided that he needed to embody this.

The Zanax natives similarly, aren’t there to provide much beyond a door into the situation and then trail around after the Doctor and K9. They’re personable enough and adequately played.

Besides the subsidiary characters, the other weakness of The Pirate Planet is a consequence of its strength. Adams throws so many balls up into the air with this one, that bringing everything down again in episode four is too difficult: structurally it’s OK, with the first half dealing with the captain and the second half tries to wrap up the physics and the second segment of the Key to Time (which we’ve forgotten about by now), but the only way he can do this is through explanations and resolutions that are way above our heads.

Still, at least for the first half of the story The Pirate Planet should be thought of as a classic adventure