Distance: 12.7 miles
Weather: Rain to start then overcast and warm for the rest of the day
We had breakfast at eight o'clock so we could get an early start and we were on our way by nine after a good chat with our landlady, Brenda. We can highly recommend her establishment - she knows how to look after long distance walkers. The first part of today's journey took us along a minor road which we soon left to join a footpath also used by the Coast to Coasters: we saw lots of them as they passed by on their way from Shap to Kirkby Stephen. Amongst them were three 14 year old boys who were camping and they gave us a cheery wave as they tramped past. We also met a group of five Dales High Way walkers who were eating up the miles and keen to soldier on to Appleby.
We crossed Ravenstonedale Moor and then traversed Great Kimmond and the impressive limestone pavements. The guide book had promised excellent views but the low cloud had other ideas. From Great Kimmond we trekked through cow filled meadows which fortunately were congregating a long way from our path and stiles. The farm yard at Clockeld was as mucky as last time but soon a quiet lane led us into Great Asby. The lawnmower goats were in place and we knew the Greyhound pub would be shut so we had brought lunchtime provisions. Then, as we approached the church, we saw a sign and lo, the church was holding an exhibition, 'Knitted Bible Stories' and, more importantly, they were serving tea and cake. We toddled in and enjoyed the delights of knitted figures representing all the major bible stories from the old and new testaments including a splendid depiction of the Last Supper. The church also had the most lovely pew runners made of felt with wool provided by the local sheep. The runners were decorated with images, themes, patterns relating to the village and it is well worth visiting the church to have a look. We enjoyed some homemade cake and a big pot of tea whilst we chatted to the volunteers.
We were soon back on the path and following an alternative route via quiet lanes to Hoff as we knew the official route was extremely boggy. So we walked along minor roads and enjoyed hamlets, farmhouses and delightful woodlands. I was on the look out for Red Squirrels but, alas, they were all hiding. The hamlet of Drybeck included Drybeck Hall, built in 1678, with its chickens, two beautiful horses and a laden plum tree. At Hoff village the pub, which had been closed and sporting a' For Sale' sign on our last visit, was now open for business. We sat outside and enjoyed a drink before heading off on the final stage to Appleby.
The path hugged the banks of Hoff Beck- a neglected path which was muddy and full of nettles, brambles and thistles. The mud was thick, sticky and red - true Eden Valley mud. At Bandley Bridge we crossed the beck and as we did so a dog came running towards us followed by its owner. This turned out to be our saviour from some very frisky cows in the next field. The dog walker lived in Appleby and walks these local paths everyday so we asked her which was the best to use (we had a choice of two). Indeed, we asked which was the least muddy and least cow infested. We were informed that both had cows but the higher path was less muddy and the cows were young milkers so likely to be more placid. Our new friend kindly offered to lead the way and we followed in her wake. Sure enough, the path was relatively mud free and there were cows which trotted over as soon as they spotted us. Our guide talked to the cows which then decided to follow us all the way across the field and it was with great relief that we crossed a stile and left them behind. I shall now call our guide the cow whisperer. Handshakes, thank yous, goodbyes and a short cut into Appleby were shared and we were soon in the middle of town and collecting our certificates from the tourist information office.
Our second Dales High Way was complete and what a joy it had been. The scenery, the villages, the towns, the pubs, the cafes, the fellow walkers, the food, the weather, the cows, the locals, the B&Bs, the guide book - they have all helped make this a walk to remember. Get out there and do it - you will not be disappointed.