THE PAIN AND THE GLORY
The Victorian’s were very fond of big pointy things. So fond, in fact, that they have littered the English countryside with them. Not content with the hills around them the Victorians made many of them higher by sticking a pointy thing on top of them. Often they made them memorials to some war or other but that’s not the real reason they are there. The Victorians built them just because they could. Often it was the landed gentry who put them there. Mainly so that, after dinner during brandy and cigars, they could gesture across the landscape and explain that they were responsible for pointy thing on the horizon.
My legs are startled. They have just walked two, consecutive long days, and fancy a lie in and a read of the papers. Unfortunately, that’s not what they get, they are woken, rather rudely, and forced into boots again. Soon they are climbing the little path that leads out of the village of Mankinholes and up to Stoodly Pike where Martin and I staggered from the Pennine way late last night. The path up from the valley is quite unlike anything I’ve seen before. It is paved and the paving stones gently curve into each other so they have a kind of natural fit. It’s almost pleasant to walk on and doesn’t jar with the landscape as so many paved paths do.
As Martin and I crest the ridge the wind meets us head on. It’s been waiting for us all night and now tries, with all its vigour, to push us back to Edale. Soon we are sheltering in one of the little alcoves in the memorial at the top of Stoodly Pike. The memorial is one of the pointy things I mentioned before. It is possible to climb the steps inside it and gain an even higher elevation but neither Martin nor I feel like adding unnecessary ascent as we already have a great deal of climbing ahead of us. The memorial was built in 1814 by public subscription. About thirty years later wind, rain and a fair clout of lightening demolished it. The Victorian’s, nothing if not determined, built it back up again only this time they had the bright idea of putting a lightening conductor in it and so it stands here today.
From there we trek across the paved moorland as the wind whips the rolling grass into a frenzy. We are lucky with the weather. The wind is tiring and a nuisance, but it is no more that. Both Martin and I know from bitter experience how wet this place can be and we are both grateful that we are not having to force our way through clouds of rain. As we descend towards the small bridge in the hamlet of Callis, near Hebden Bridge, I begin to be aware of a painful rubbing sensation at the back of my heels.
By the time we stop beside the little canal it’s clear I am developing the scourge of all long disctance walkers, blisters. I’m a regular walker and have been for years and I haven’t experienced these annoyingly painful injuries for many years. There must be something in the walking we are doing that is different from the Highland hill walking I’m used to.#
The path leaving the canal bridge is closer to a rock climb than a walk and both Martin and I can feel the ache in our legs as we wind our way up through picturesque stone cottages that seem to grow out of the hillside. Eventually the climb subsides and we emerge on to farmland, at an easier gradient.
‘There’s a shop just here,’ Martin announces.
At first I think he’s imagining things as all I can see is rolling fields but soon a sign appears to a shop oddly called Aladdin’s Cave
This little oasis offers us pies, tea and ice cream and an opportunity to cool off my feet and try and ward off the inevitable bleeding feet.
After this little respite we head over moorland as the farmland gives way to the moorland which is typical of the country covered by the way. We cross miles of flagged path ways, circumvent a reservoir and eventually find ourselves at Top Withens.
This is a ruin situated high on the exposed moorlands. It’s a windy place, where a few stone walls still stand against the pitiless weather, made famous by the fact that it is allegedly the inspiration for the Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. I had a quick look around but Heathcliff wasn’t in, all though he must be a hardy soul if he can stand to live in this place. Perhaps he’d just popped out to the shops which would take a little while from here. I doubt if Tesco would deliver.
Eventually we pass over yet another hill and descend towards the tiny village of Cowling where we will camp for the night. There is a friendly campsite there, Squirrel Wood.
By this time my heels have disintegrated and my ability to walk further on the Pennine Way is in doubt. All I can do is limp to my tent, curl up in my sleeping bag and see if my heels can stand another day.
Then: Forty years ago we descended late, it was after 9.00 pm before we had our make-shift tent erected in a farmer’s field. Martin, whose has an ability to sniff out a café in the most unlikely places, spotted a sign at the farm house. It read ‘Evening Meals.’ and drew him to it like a magnet. A little later we are sitting in the farm kitchen, the farmer sleeping at the fire, his dog at his feet, as his wife cooked us sausage and chips. In a scene from the Famous Five Go Mad on the Pennine Way, she brought us endless plates of jam sandwiches which we devoured gratefully.
Endless Health and Safety regulations would have prevented such reckless behaviour today. The very thought of cooking a meal with a dog asleep in the kitchen would be enough to send the men from the Ministry into apoplexy. That evening it was sent by god and it was one of the few days when we managed to get an evening meal.
The route of this section passes close to the village of Hebden Bridge which is a useful stopping off place for people who want http://www.hebdenbridge.co.uk/