One part holiday: one part scouting mission for the Pennine Way expedition. My beloved and I were in the Dales for two days, the house – and the continued survival of the pets – left confidently with Jessica and Ben.
Everything’s fine. Stop worrying, they texted.
Sadly, the scouting wasn’t going as well.
“Where’s the OS map?” Jane asked as we said a damp goodbye to Hardraw Force and headed further into the wilds.
Oh. That’s why I’d had a nagging, something-left-behind feeling all morning…
“In the bedroom.”
“You’ve left it behind?”
“As it’s not currently hanging round my neck, yes.”
That seemed one of the less attractive aspects of walking. The average walker has more junk round his neck than I had when I was 20 and going through my Thai love beads period.
I pointed the car at the Tan Hill Inn – the highest pub in the country and, as I was eventually to discover, the only one with its own snowplough – and began to get cold feet.
“What is it?” Jane asked as I pulled off the road and stared at an endless succession of hills.
“I’m beginning to feel…”
“Daunted. The words ‘bitten off more than you can chew’ keep going through my head.”
“You said you wanted a physical challenge.”
“I know. I just hadn’t realised it was going to be this physical. Every signpost that says ‘Pennine Way’ points straight up a hill.”
I was also realising that strolling along the beach wondering when I could wear my shorts wasn’t adequate training. And that I’d need a serious pair of walking boots.
“How much?” I said to a man in a shop.
“Hundred and fifty,” he replied cheerfully.
“Gulp,” I said.
But consolation wasn’t far away. We finally made it back to our B&B. I decanted my wife into the shower and went back to the car for the shopping.
“Not going to the pub tonight?” It was Chris, the owner, stealing five minutes with the evening sun.
“No, just bread and cheese in the room.” And a bottle of red wine, obviously. Sadly, one of us had stayed on our diet and self-discipline wagon. One of us hadn’t so much fallen off as jumped willingly.
“Do you like your cheese?” Possibly the easiest question I’ve ever been asked. “One of our regulars is a cheesemaker. He makes this astonishing Stilton. Do you want to try it?”
Well, well, well. Who would have thought it? The Dark Lord himself, sitting quietly outside a B&B in the Yorkshire Dales. And here I was being tempted.
Regular readers will know my answer…
“Yes, please. And could I take some for Jane? She loves Stilton.”
“I can’t possibly eat that much,” the woman who loved Stilton said two minutes later.
“Can’t you, darling?” I said innocently. And downstairs the Dark Lord chuckled and added another one to the lost souls column…
I made up for it the next morning by marching up to Middleham Moor. If it was good enough for Derby winners it was good enough for me. An hour or so striding purposefully across the Moor should burn enough calories for a full English.
Ah. Another problem. Soft going. Wet going to be more precise. My left heel squelched ominously. Swiftly followed by its mate on the right.
“I’ll have to buy those boots,” I said to Jane. “My waterproof shoes are waterproof no longer.”
“Leave them in the hall to dry out. Just don’t forget them.”
I laughed. As if an experienced Dalesman like me would leave his walking shoes behind…
“Oh,” I said when we were 40 miles down the A1.
“What’s the matter?” my wife asked.
“You remember the map…”
We stayed at the Priory in Middleham (the link is above). ‘Home from home’ is something of an overused cliche, but in this case it was true. Chris & Sarah couldn’t have been more welcoming and if you want to spend a couple of days exploring the Dales, it’s an absolutely ideal base. Best room? We stayed in Castle View, where you can lie in the bath and look out over Middleham Castle…