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  • Writer's pictureJane Smith

Day 55 - Keld to Bowes

The thing I’ve learnt today is how much my walking is affected by a lack of sleep. The woman in the room next to mine had an en-suite that backed onto the wall behind my bed. Unfortunately at 1.30am she was afflicted with a very nasty bout of what sounded like food poisoning, and these attacks continued at intervals all through the night. I was obviously very sorry for her, but as the night went on, increasingly sorry for myself too. I set off feeling very much under par, and my dodgy leg started to hurt correspondingly quickly. It’s not an excruciating pain, more a dull discomfort that is very draining, and with lack of sleep I have less energy to cope with it.

After talking to the very jovial landlord about how his local MP, Rishi Sunak needs to sort the mobile signal out round here, ‘not as if he’s going to have anything else to do in a couple of weeks!’ I set off into the weather that was better than expected. Despite this I decided to take the road route for the first few miles as the skies were low. This day’s walk is described as boggy and wet, and I frankly felt I didn’t have the resources to deal with that all day. The water was rushing off the hill again in a torrent, the little waterfall in the distance a rusty orange.

The road up to Tan Hill was very quiet, not much more than a tarmacked bridal path. I was glad of the easy walking, whilst also able to look at the hamlet of Stonesdale as I went past.

The sound of my footsteps set off frantic barking from inside a group of little sheds not much bigger than chicken hutches. Inside were a number of sheepdogs. I know that they are working animals, not pets, but having seen them doing their job yesterday with such skill it felt hard to see them shut up in such cramped conditions.

Continuing up the hill I didn’t feel I was missing anything being on the road instead of the path. I wasn’t having to cross stiles or bog, and could make good speed on the even ground. The views were a bit bleak. I was very glad I don’t make my living as a shepherd and have to camp in a hut on the moor in lambing time.

As I got nearer to the top the weather started to rev up. A bit of rain, but mainly the wind. At one point it almost blew my pole out of my hand, and then it started to gust to my side. The cloud descended down to my feet and the visibility deteriorated. To my relief I could see Tan Hill pub in the brow of the hill. I’d read that it wasn’t open till 12, but thought I could at least use the building as some sort of shelter until this squall passed and I could see where I was going. To my delight, the front door opened.

Not a moment too soon. As I crashed in with the wind behind me, the rain lashed down and soon I could see almost nothing outside the building. Being served a cappuccino after what I’d just walked through seemed a bit incongruous but extremely welcome.

Tan Hill Inn is the highest pub in the UK, at 1732 feet above sea level. It’s a popular place for walkers, and was a great example of hospitality compared to some of the pubs I’ve seen on this trip. It’s been used for a location for film and TV on many occasions, quite understandably as it is extraordinarily remote. Talking of TV, I was interested to see Clive and Reuben Owen on the next table - from Our Yorkshire Farm. I reckoned they wouldn’t want disturbing, so didn’t let them know I’d recognised them, but Clive came over to talk to me after his meeting, and was full of congratulations at what I was doing: ‘good lass!’ Yorkshire praise indeed. I was chuffed.

Through the window I could see the skies lifting, so decided to make a move. Mark and Heather from yesterday were also here, and we set off at the same time, piggybacking leading down the path for the next few miles. It was still pretty breezy, but the rain had stopped. Although the visibility had improved, they’re not exactly heart lifting views here, the outlook is much more dour and exposed.

The path over Sleightholme Moor was clear enough, with tall poles indicating where to head to. But the ground was certainly the most challenging of the Pennine Way, with lots of boggy sections. My poles were invaluable, both for testing the surface for stability and then for spreading my weight over four points instead of two. Slow progress, but not impossible, and it was helpful having the others tackling the same path ahead of me at times.

Eventually I overtook the others and set off on the path towards Bowes. They were taking the other loop to Middleton in Teesdale. Mine was a gravelled path with lots of evidence of grouse shooting, both the actual birds and the hides. I’d read yesterday that grouse shooting is in trouble post Brexit and Covid, and that game keepers are being laid off all over the country. It looked like it was all going ahead here.

I was really flagging. I stopped for regular breaks, but my leg was hurting and I felt that I had little energy. It all felt a bit too much, and that it’s a very long time till day 103. Such a different feel to yesterday’s lovely walk. I went to my go to distractions, listening to my new Audible book - Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, and my friends’ playlist. I talked on the phone when I got some signal, and mainly just put my head down and trudged on.

It was great to see Bowes on the horizon, especially a castle that I wasn’t expecting. It was built within a Roman fort with the excellent name of Lavatrae (for all the toilet humour fans), and was rebuilt in the twelfth century before falling into disrepair in the Civil War.

Another significant feature of Bowes is that in the churchyard is buried William Shaw, who is thought to be the model for Wackford Squeers, the headmaster in ‘Nicholas Nickelby’. Also buried there is George Ashton Taylor, who died whilst a boarder at Shaw’s academy. He was the inspiration for the character ‘Smike’ in the same book. I couldn’t pass that by. The musical ‘Smike’ was the first I did at Seer Green school, and the joy and success of that event was one of the things that convinced me to retrain from secondary school teaching to primary. I searched out his grave.

But the best thing about Bowes was who was waiting for me down the road. David has driven to meet me again, and is going to stay for a few days. Just as when he was here at the heat wave, I felt I really needed back up today, and I couldn’t have been happier to see him.

We are staying in Barnard Castle for two nights, with a very well timed and necessary rest day tomorrow. I’m planning to do as little as possible, rest my leg and hope I get my mojo back with a good sleep. We had a little look at the town before checking in to our accommodation. Obviously I was delighted that one of the first shops I saw there was an optician…..


Distance travelled: 13 miles

Total ascent: 1470

Calories burned: 1920

Local tipple - tin of gin and tonic

Dinner - a picnic from Morrisons eaten in our bedroom, just right.

New song of the day:

Days Like These - Low

This really didn’t do much for me, there was too much repetition of the riff. But to be fair, I was probably not in the best frame of mind….

Video of the day:

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Aug 03, 2022

Gruelling, Jane. Your post sounds so positive, though, despite the lows. Lovely to see David’s smiling face waiting for you! Xxxxxx


Aug 03, 2022

I did initially read your opening line as being how much your walking is affected by a lack of sheep. Possibly need a trip to Barnard Castle myself.

Jane Smith
Jane Smith
Aug 03, 2022
Replying to



Unknown member
Aug 02, 2022

That was lovely of Clive to wish you well! My go to cheer up/feel good programmes are re-runs of Our Yorkshire Farm and Downton Abbey. Glad you've got David with you now. Have a good rest!


Aug 02, 2022

How exciting to see Clive & Reuben! And of course David - who will no doubt lift your spirits. I’m trying to remember what rain feels like because there’s none here and none forecast. Keep going ... good lass indeed. Hugs xxx


Aug 02, 2022

Love the idea of a bridal path - did you see many?😂

Aah - Lovely David! What a tonic!

An optician?! Proof of the explanation indeed! 🤓

Jane Smith
Jane Smith
Aug 02, 2022
Replying to

Ah, shows I’m tired when my in built spell check has switched off! 😉

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