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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

Day 52 - Malham to Horton in Ribblesdale

I started and ended the day today in odd pubs. This morning’s breakfast was served monosyllabically, and when my tea was presented it was tepid. I asked for another pot, which was brought at the same temperature, and the comment that ‘that should be a lot better for you’. It wasn’t, but I decided against a third attempt. Louise and I met, fully togged up as it was raining. Her husband Digby took a ‘before’ photo and we headed towards Malham Cove.

Malham has been by far the busiest place since starting the Pennine Way. It’s at the centre of many natural wonders, with Malham Cove being a very dramatic one. Once, it was a waterfall. Since then, freezing water and rain have continued the process of creating a sheer limestone cliff face. It’s extraordinary, and was probably formed about 50,000 years ago.

At the top of the cliff is a section of limestone pavement formed by the same glaciers that created the Cove. The Pennine Way climbs up the side, with a large number of steps. It was a strong start to the day, but worth it to be at the top, despite the views being increasingly hidden in the drizzly clouds.

At this point I created extra unnecessary steps and altitude by leading us up the final summit of Raven Scar instead of round the side of the hill. Louise was very forgiving. The way was trickier here, with boulders to traverse instead of steps, and our foray off the path meant we were met with a biggish drop. Going down on our bottoms was the least elegant but most practical solution. They made us hardy in 1962.

We then headed north towards Malham Tarn, enjoying some sheep who looked like they had run in the wash.

Even though the skies were low and dark, and the drizzle unrelenting, it was clear that Malham Tarn is a lovely place. We perched by a wall and had a hasty drink and snack by some ducks who were loving the weather much more than us.

We followed the Pennine Way past the field centre, amused by the inconvenience of the closed convenience, and alarmed by the sight of the giant hare in the distance.

But then we decided to leave the Way and continue by road. The rain was set in for the day, and the mist was well below the tops of the hills. Walking up there would certainly not be exhilarating and fun, more an endurance test. Which is not what I am doing. If there’s a more sensible shorter route than the one planned then I am keen to do that.

Fortunately Louise was also happy with this plan, and I hastily rerouted. The first two or three miles were quicker walking, heads down against the rain. We took short breaks to admire wild raspberries and to have a snack. At one of these I realised that we had walked about half of the day’s route. And that meant that I was half way through my enormous journey. It was wet and grey, but the moment needed recording. Rather wildly, it appears.

It feels odd to be over half way. From now on I have fewer days ahead of me than behind me. It currently still feels a lot of walking to do, which oddly seems especially daunting as I write this tonight. But I’m sure these days will accelerate as I get nearer to the goal. The weather momentarily brightened as we got going again, there were some lovely views behind that curtain of murk.

The road took us across the edge of Malham Moor, and then we took a bridle path to continue. It’s always a relief coming off road walking as the ground is more uneven, allowing the legs and feet to get out of the identical repetitive rhythm that makes them sore. This path was part of the Ribble Way, a 73 mile route that follows the Ribble from its mouth to the source. The most obvious feature as we approached Horton was the large quarry. It was interesting how reminiscent the human endeavour was to the work of that glacier back in Malham.

I picked a glamorous spot by the side of the road next to a slag heap and a broken caravan for another break in the rain. Literally soaking up the atmosphere with a lovely sandwich restored our energies somewhat. We were reminiscing about our camping trips as teenagers with our friend Alison and how wet we got then. And also how young we were to be driven to a campsite in Beddgelert, left to our own devices. It was fun though, even in our terrible old tent pitched on a slope.

We soon met the river, and hopped backwards and forwards over it on the way to Horton.

Unusually I’m not staying where I’ve walked to tonight. None of the accommodations in Horton would accept a single night booking over the weekend, so I’m staying a twenty minute drive away in Halton Gill. Whilst waiting for my transport we went into the Crown in Horton. This was the second unusual pub experience of the day. Given the village is in the centre of many walking routes, and therefore it is full of people coming thirsty and hungry off the hills ready to spend their money, one would imagine that walkers might be given a warm welcome. Not really the case. I’ve never been in a pub before where all the chairs were covered in plastic bags to protect them from walkers.

A delight was the arrival of Alison, the third member of our teenage camping trips. She had been due to walk with us today, but Covid had other ideas. Although recovered, she was not yet up to a big walk, especially in the rain. But she made the journey over to see us anyway. It was great to see her, and her husband Anthony, and we took the opportunity to see how little we’d all changed in 45 years.

Tonight I’m staying in a fabulous bed and breakfast run by Amelia and Edward. Amelia cooks brilliantly, and was ready with a cup of tea and home made cake as I arrived. Later we ate a fantastic dinner together with their other guests, Steffen, Daniela and Jona from Germany, accompanied by Lucca who lives at the B and B too. It was a fun evening, talking about who plays cricket in Germany, the etymological roots of the word ‘sage’, avoiding talking about politics, discussing working conditions in kitchens. Amelia and I have coincidental familial connections too, a strangely small world.

Another walk on the moors tomorrow. The forecast is damp in the morning but drier later on. Fingers crossed, I really don’t want another wet day.


Distance travelled: 13.2 miles

Total ascent: 1476 feet

Calories burned: 2016

Local tipple- home made elderflower cordial

Dinner at Amelia’s kitchen - fantastic

Bruschetta with broad beans

Gnocchi with two sorts of topping, sage butter and tomato and basil. Tomato salad and fennel salad

Chocolate torte with strawberries with basil and balsamic

Video of the day

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