Stage Twenty - Horton to Dent

I wake up early in the grim and cramped bunkhouse. It is a gorgeous morning. Lambent light makes the cloud round Pen-Y-Ghent into a glowing halo. Nothing to keep me here. No inclusive breakfast, and no means of making tea. I need water though and am wondering if the bathroom water is potable when I remember that there is a campsite almost next door to the pub. So I set off and make a quick detour. Sure enough the campsite has a water tap so I refil my plastic bottles. Off again munching a museli bar. Not much of a breakfast but the shop is still shut so it will have to do. I don't mind too much. The morning light is too delicious to mourn lost sausages for long.

My route takes me through the village and then, almost at once, up a little trackway lined with dry stone walls. This traverses up the hillside for a while, lifting me above the Ribble Valley and the Settle-Carlisle railway and giving me better views with every step. I am in a bit of a hurry because I am going to Barrow-in-Furness tonight to see my friends, Rob and Denny. Even with the railway on my route today the timetabling is unhelpful and I have to get a train at two if I am to get to Barrow at a reasonable time. I am hoping I might make it to Garsdale but if not, Dent will do.

Indeed, since last night that has become my motto. No, make that my mantra. I chant it to myself as I walk on up the stony lane. Dent will do. Dent will do. Don't push your luck to hard. Remember; Dent will do!

This track is great. Well, until it turns into a mass of loose rocks which are very hard to walk on. What is it? An old drove road? My guess is that it is the old road through the valley before the coming of the turnpikes. It is long and straight and in places the drystone walls beside it are very well made.

Everywhere I am used to walking on hillsides there would be streams or rivers tumbling down every few meters. Here there are hardly any. It has been very dry but there are not even dry beds. Most of the water must be underground somewhere I think. But if there are few streams there are plenty of pot holes and sink holes marked on the map. A strange and fascinating place to walk through.

I'm on the Pennine Way again. Eventually we both leave the track for a footpath down to a farm called Old Ing where we pick up another track to a wooded chasm called Ling Gill.  In truth there is not much to see because this is a deep gorge choked with trees. But there are grey wagtails on the nearly dry river before it runs into the gill.

More open country now with good views, including the Ribble Head viaduct which carries the railway off to my right, in front of the Ingleborough, another one of the three peaks. At Cam End I desert the Pennine Way and take another track down towards the viaduct. According to the map I am on access land and the route of this track goes a long way round. The ground does not look that rough though I cannot quite see how to get on to the road.

But even if Dent will do, Garsdale would be better and I decide to risk the short cut. The going is harder than it looked. Isn't it always? I tack across, meaning to meet the road after a patch of non-access land. But when I get there there is a no obvious way over the wall. I cross the very low Gayle Beck, stone by stone, but then have to cross back again. Eventually I find a way out by a ruined house.

The rough ground has, predictably, upset my knee, and it looks to me as if the fastest thing to do is hit the road for a spell. So I do. The hazy cloud is burning off now and I stump up the road as fast as I can so am soon sweating. It is not much fun. The road is not busy but quite fast and I have to keep hopping off to let cars and lorries past. Once I reach the side road to Dent it is much better. I stop for food, water and ibruprofin and to give my knee a rest.

There is a choice here. A track goes off towards Garsdale but then finishes according to the map. It goes onto access land but not even a path is marked. That looks the quickest way but who knows what sort of ground I will meet if I take it. And time is getting on if I am going to meet the train.

Dent will do. I say it one more time. I ignore the tempting track off towards Garsdale and limp off down the road to Dent, or rather to Dent station because it is a peculiarity of this line that the stations are often miles from the villages whose name they take. Dent seems to be about five miles from its own station!

The road goes down hill and soon I get views of Dentdale and beyond it to the north. I pass an old chap enjoying the view and we exchange greetings. Then to my surpise I meet a couple of walkers, labouring up the hill. The road goes under and by a viaduct before finally dropping down to the valley bottom. Wooded, with barns and scattered houses, and plenty of welcome shade.

There is almost no traffic still and it is as lovely as a road walk ever is. Oddest is the river I am walking beside. The bed is limestone and in places it looks like poured concrete. No pebbles just a flat bed of rock, shelving sometimes too so that there are proto caves beneath one shelf. It is almost dry due to the weather but that just makes the limestone river bed more dramatic.

My knee is hurting quite badly and I think that going for Dent I have plenty of time so I sit for some water at a handy bench. There are chickens foraging around and when I sit down they come nearer, and then nearer, and to my astonishment one jumps on the bench beside me.

A woman comes down the lane holding an egg box. She looks at me and the chickens.
"Have they mugged you for your sandwiches yet?" she asks, and walks on.

Cowgill, land of the chicken muggers. It gets stranger because as I walk on down the lane, realising belatedly that I have lingered too long and time is now against me, I hear the sound of bagpipes. Badly played bagpipes but definately bagpipes. As I reach the junction with the road up to the station I catch a glimpse of a man practicing. There is a festival today in Dent village so I wonder if he is planning to perform. There is a sign on the house saying something about instruments too so maybe he was just testing a repair.

I leave him to his efforts and start off up the hill. I really don't have much time now and the day is very hot. And, as it turns out, the hill is very, very steep. I grind my way up it, gasping like a kipper, stepping aside to let a lorry past. It is a coal truck which is not something you see much these days and it strikes me as stranger than the bagpipes or the chicken muggers because this little lane is called The Coal Road, according to the map.

It is the only vehical that passes me and I cannot remember the last time that I saw a coal delivery lorry. So this encounter has to go down as very strange indeed.

Perspiring like a pig doing aerobics I finally make it to the station, with about ten minutes to spare. There are a couple waiting who I recognise from the pub last night. They have a Jack Russell which was OK in the bar but it takes exception to me snarling and barking as I pass. They don't apologise or reassure me, but look blandly on, just tutting at it mildly. Dogfuckwits! Why is this country so infested with them?

Fortunately there is another bench far enough down the platform for the dog to lose interest in me. And I have time to enjoy the afternoon sun before the train pulls in and takes me down to Settle. Back the way I walked, and I can see much of my route as we pass over the great viaduct. Which is about the perfect way to end the day.



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