Distance: 14 miles
Weather: overcast for first 3 miles then persistent rain for the rest of the day (it rained cats and dogs and cows).
Mrs R kindly drove me to the station to catch my train as today was my first solo day on a long distance trail. I arrived in Skipton at ten past nine and I was on the trail by half past after purchasing a 15p banana from Skipton Market and two Yorkshire Curd Tarts from the bakers. I decided to take the alternative route out of town as it doesn't increase the mileage and, more importantly, it is guaranteed cow free. I was so glad I took this delightful route as it follows the path by the canal and river through Skipton Castle Woods with great views of the castle walls and the general green loveliness of a woodland in high summer. It was a bit convoluted to get back on the official route after the woods but it was well worth the diversion.
A left turn at the Craven Heifer and I headed steadily uphill towards my first goal of the day - Sharp Haw. The sky was full of ominous clouds but I soldiered on to reach the summit. which was windy with fabulous dramatic views and dark clouds heading my way.
After a slight hesitation with my navigation as I wasn't sure which path to descend, I plunged down the other side of Sharp Haw and into another delightful wood. I found Helen's memorial seat and enjoyed one of the delicious Yorkshire Curd Tarts which was a taste sensation and the discovery of the trip. Then the rain started and forgot to stop for the rest of the day.
In the woods the rain was not a problem and I was making good progress and feeling confident on my first solo day and then I found a field of cows with the path running through the middle of a cow meeting. They saw me and all turned to look as though I was late for my presentation. In fact I could not see the path or see where the gate/stile was on the other side so for a moment I stood considering my options. I decided, as always, that discretion was the key and I skirted the field until I found a locked gate further down which I started to climb over (I know - needs must). The cows were still watching me and started to take a keen interest in my next move. After pausing for a moment I clambered over the gate and hot footed it down the field towards a gate with the cows following me. I reached the gate before them and quickly put the gate between me and the cows which all lined up along the gate and watched me walk down the farm track and round the corner...
I entered the hamlet of Flasby where the official path heads across the fields to Hetton. I knew from last time that there would probably be cows in those riverside meadows so I took the road route of two miles down a quiet lane which would have been quite pleasant without the driving rain and wind. My plans for a cup of tea and a slice of cake in The Angel at Hetton were scuppered as I was dripping wet and I do not think they would have liked a sodden hiker steaming by the bar. It was now lunch time and I could not find any shelter in Hetton - no church porch or bus shelter - so I ate my lunch under a dripping tree at the bottom of Moor Lane where the postman gave me a cheery wave as he drove by in his nice, dry van.
Moor Lane was a steady climb towards Weets Top. The rain continued to fall and I was surrounded by the moors shrouded in wet, slow moving clouds. All was going fine and then I saw cows on the path ahead of me - what is it with cows and paths? I retreated and considered my options again. After consulting the map and exploring the possibility of scrambling over walls, I was on the verge of returning to Hetton. I decided to head up the path once more and see if the cows had moved on and, thank heavens, they had. All the cows and their calves had sauntered off down the valley and well away from the path. I walked quickly by them and once again put a gate between me and the bovine beasts. I now had a clear run to Weets Top which I was just going to pass by but I decided to go and bag the trig point. I now headed steeply down hill to Hawthorne Lane and Gordale Scar. It was too wet to go and look today. I plodded on secretly looking forward to a hot cup of tea at the mobile café but it wasn't there! Janet's Foss was next but the path was wet and slippy. Then it was one and half miles into Malham and the Youth Hostel. I made full use of the drying room and had an excellent dinner at the hostel with a fine glass of Rose - cheers.