Pennine Way 2014 – Day Four

Sunday 17th August: Haworth to Earby – 16 Miles

First thing in the morning (after breakfast), I decide to get a lift in and not to return the 3 miles back to Ponden reservoir on foot; by now I have little interest in making thing too hard for myself – I have my swollen ankle to pay attention to, and my Achilles is beginning to ratchet a little.

Waiting for the Bus

The warden at the hostel (a chap with a grey perm and a relaxed command) informed me that the only bus running past the reservoir was a special Sunday service that used old buses run by volunteers. Looking at the timetable leaflet I noted that it seemed to be a run designed to take punters past the Bronte parsonage up to a pine furniture showroom in the valley.

The first bus wasn’t until 1107, so I had to kill an hour standing around outside the SPAR supermarket across from the heritage railway. I fixed myself up with sandwiches and waited for the bus (no wandering around with a 90 litre backpack).

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After alighting at Ponden, the first part of the day’s walk was a steep but short ramp up a grassy field to a higher road at Crag Bottom; then after following the road past a short row of cottages, a right turn onto a farm track incline bordered by a long run of drystone wall and reeds; and eventually out onto Ickornshaw Moor.

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Across Ickornshaw Moor

The way across the moor was at first clear and steady walking. However on the far side the going turned from grass to heather bog and was rather rough: clusters of rocks and puddles, frequent switches of direction. I was fatigued enough by it (and by the weather too: it was very windy again) to stop right in the middle of the moor, to have my lunch.

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Resuming, I pass by a stone shepherd’s hut and at the end of the moor, follow the fence round a wet field border. Off the moor, I moved down though the higher farmland past derelict farm buildings and reached Cowling. Having lunched I didn’t look round here, but continued along a stretch of grassy climbs broken up by country lanes towards Lothersdale.

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Lost around Lothersdale

A mile before Lothersdale I find myself lost for twenty minutes. Misjudging a diagonal field crossing and thinking that the path kept high towards a wood (instead of descending towards the opposite corner), I headed over towards a quagmire. After spending much time tiptoeing through the mud looking for a gate or stile that never appears, I finally survey my surroundings and find a way out (after becoming hot and bothered to distraction).

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Eventually I got to Lothersdale for 4.30, a little out of sorts (I was also confused at the complex of farm buildings above the muddy field). I didn’t really appreciate the village and its location hidden in the valley – it struck me more as a settlement on a through road.

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I stopped off for a pint at the Hare and Hounds: another country pub, thick carpet, painted wood and brass. It’s rather plush though and I didn’t fancy sitting inside, so I sat down outside on a picnic table and pondered the world standing still on a Sunday afternoon. The pint (Theakstons’s Grouse Beater) was aromatic to excess but more than welcome as I massaged the soles of my feet into the pavement. This is what I’d been missing all day – bliss!

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Pinhaw Beacon to Earby

I finished up my pint, put my boots back on and left Lothersdale up a pleasant grassy hill. The sun was out, my spirit was back and the country was pleasing me. After a mile I’d climbed above the sheep fields, past the higher farms and onto the next moor, towards Pinhaw Beacon.

Here the wind was up to (what felt to me like) a gale force headwind. I struggled to make headway against it (I had to react sharply when the cover blew off my backpack) and got across the top as best I could – no chance for any sightseeing here.

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It was still fairly exposed coming off the beacon and along the road above Earby. I turned off towards it, passing some dog walkers around Thornton Moor, a common marked with wet areas and criss-crossed by paths. A mile of farm track led into Earby. The YHA here is a charming (to say the least) trio of cottages tucked away in the residential streets in a corner of the town.

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The volunteer warden, a fellow called Stephen, had only been there a night and was finding his way around. I chatted with him for an interesting hour or so, about the Shetland Islands (he’d lived there for a few years), the YHA and the hostels he’d previously been warden in (places like Woody’s Top in Lincolnshire and one in Surrey – Hindhead?). After eight the local gastro pub had shut (it being Sunday), so I ended up dining at the local Indian restaurant on the main street in Earby, which was decent (and the smartest place I dined at during my journey).

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