Thursday, May 17

Kirkby Stephen to Fremmington

A rainy day and a big hill to climb; was not looking forward to it but in the end it turned out to be the most enjoyable day so far!

At breakfast some of the coast to coast walkers were debating whether to take the 'red route' (risk of waist-deep mud) or to go for the 'green route' (no risk of aforementioned) for the next stage to Keld. Surely a no-brainer on a day like this?

As for me I set off in the light rain for the Tan Hill Inn; after a few miles of gentle undulations the climbing began. I was totally put to shame by the 60-something Norwegian couple I met who whizzed ahead up the hill while I struggled and sweated and comforted myself with the thought that Norway is hellishly hilly while London is very flat.

A welcome fire at the Tan Hill Inn
They were travelling with a couple of friends who were less fit and who brought up the rear as we made our way painfully upwards. The pub is just over the border in Yorkshire and a very hospitable place to find in such a barren location. I stayed for a couple of hours while I dried out, as the place got increasingly busier, then eventually headed off once more towards Reeth.

Crossing into God's own country
The road wound its way over the moors for quite some time, and was practically deserted except for me, the sheep and the wildlife. Lapwings flitted up out of the grass to dip and swerve overhead, giving out their mournful cries, and several times I spotted one or two tiny dappled chicks hunkering down in the grass where the bird had emerged from. Curlews soared overhead, plaintively calling, while the whole scene was played out with skylarks chattering as a backdrop. At one point I passed a pair of grouse in the grass verge, just gazing up at me. I don't know which of us was more surprised! And another place I spotted a bird with a long straight bill sitting stock still on top of a wall; a snipe I think!

Such delights made the climb worthwhile, and there was a number of long, exhilarating downhill stretches to add to this.

To cap the day off, Swaledale and its villages - Reeth, Fremmington and Grinton - turned out to be friendly and delightful, with fine food and ales, great potential river swimming (next time! ) and people playing quoits by the side of the road. What's more the sun did come out eventually!

Traditional quoits (with iron rings not horseshoes)
The Dales Bike Centre, very comfy room for the night


Gareth Gardner said...

What a fantastic write-up about the birds. Sounds like an amazing day's cycling.

Hugh Porter said...

Strange, I was just talking today about the Tan Inn and a glorious day in Arkengarthdale just before getting to Grinton. That's a great ride your getting - I hope you have a good saddle and your ar*e is not too tender. fab.