Sunday, February 18, 2007

Day 30 : Hebden Bridge to Skipton

Tuesday 13th February 2007

Distance Walked: 24.6 miles
Start Time: 8:37
End Time: 17:06
Elapsed Time: 8:29
Weather: Gloomy but dry.
Distance walked so far: 583.8 miles

The road pulls steeply out of Hebden Bridge on the way up to Heptonstall. Here the houses huddle together, hugging the hillside, and as the sun cracks the glowering sky, the blackened town glistens in the valley below. In its way, it’s as beautiful as anything I’ve seen so far. As pretty as Bath. As inspirational as Dovedale. Following the road above Hardcastle Crags, I rejoin the Way to wander through yet more reservoirs before the higher ground and dark peat bogs again take over.

This is Bronte country, and out on the wild windy moor I encounter two Japanese women, taking photos of a small, ruined farmhouse.

“Excuse me”, says one “Where is Top Withens?”
“You’re standing in front of it”
“Oh. Really?” she says, disappointed. “And waterfall? Where is that? It’s very important”
“It’s down the valley, just follow the signs” I say, and leave them, clicking.

For indeed the signs here are uniquely in both English and Japanese. Quite why that nation have taken so strongly to these tales is hard to fathom for, if I recall, “Wuthering Heights” is the story of a murdering psychopath and one woman’s inexplicable love for him. Maybe there’s something in the expression of repressed unfulfilled passion that corresponds with the Japanese psyche, but it is as unrepresentative of Britain then as Bridget Jones, Notting Hill and Eastenders are now.

Free from snow and ice, and with good visibility, the walking over the moors is fun and easy going. I sing “Tiny Dancer” to the wind and eat my third Snickers of the day. In most places the winding stone pavement plots a safe passage through the perilous blackness beneath and I’m soon back into fields and into the fringes of the Yorkshire Dales. Standing on the hill above Lothersdale, I confidently phone ahead to the B&B there, only to find that they no longer provide that service. Oh well. I try the B&B in the next town on the route, Thornton-in-Craven, and get the same reply. Ah. And the place in East Marton is full. Bugger.

Time for some hasty replanning. When in doubt, head for the biggest town on the map, so I leave the Pennine Way and scurry north-east, through Carleton-in-Craven (where I’m forced to help with some furniture removal in return for useless directions), before reaching Skipton just before nightfall. Chancing upon a row a B&Bs, I pick the one with the least tawdry fa├žade and spend the evening planning a route back towards the recommended destination. The Pennine Way doesn’t seem to be doing me any favours so far though, and the urge to abandon it is strong.

Song of the day:

“Don’t Panic”

Bones sinking like stones /
All that we've fought for /
All these places we've grown /
All of us are done for
And we live in a beautiful world /
Yeah we do, yeah we do /
We live in a beautiful world

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