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Friday, 2 September 2016

The Dales High Way - The Return, August 2016, Day 4

Saturday 20th August - Malham to Stainforth
Distance:  10.3miles
Weather:  light rain to start followed by steady, continuous rain

Malham Youth Hostel was greatly improved since my last visit in 2011.  A decent night's sleep and a good breakfast set me up for the day.  I was on the trail by half past eight and it was dry for the first twenty minutes.  There was nobody about except a few hardy campers.  I sat on a rock and contemplated the cove in all its glory.  It is a magnificent place with the sound of the busy beck and the twittering birds.  I girded my loins with a couple of jelly babies and then I was off up the stone steps to the limestone pavement.  I took my time and admired the view frequently whilst plodding behind a pair of chattering blokes in matching shorts. I skirted round the back of the limestone pavement as I knew the limestone would be tricksy with all the rain.  I met lots of sheep who looked at me quizzically and I soon arrived at the stile leading into the dry valley (one of the highlights of the walk last time). 
The heavens opened at this point and then I saw the Highland cattle scattered along the path ahead.  At that moment I spotted a lady from my room at the Youth Hostel and knew she and her husband were heading the same way as me this morning.  They kindly walked with me past the cattle and safely up the limestone valley which, in the rain, was quite silent and empty.  Of course the Highland Cows did not even look up as we passed them - totally chilled.  The rain stopped as we reached the top of the rocky 'staircase' and we parted company.  I did not miss the turning this time as Mrs C and I did 5 years ago. 

The next stage was across the moors of Langscar and Nappa Cross.  There were lots of cattle but they were scattered across the hillsides and so I did not give them a second glance.    I followed the Pennine Bridleway down to Stockdale Farm surrounded by soggy sheep.  I reached the gate leading to Attermire Scar and the caves.  A sign had been pinned to the gate inviting the curious to visit an archaeological dig high on the hill side below the caves.  I decided to give it a miss as the rain was falling in earnest and the dig site was up a steep path.  After a snack and a drink and then my rucksack falling onto a muddy path, I set off for Settle through the driving rain which sheeted across the fields.  I passed some stoic Highland Cattle and Swaledale Sheep who stood rock still enduring the weather. 
Eventually, I reached the bright lights of the town.  I had planned a visit to the Naked Man Café for tea and cake but, as I was once more dripping wet,  I gave it a miss.  Instead I now had three major priorities; find a toilet, find somewhere to eat my lunch out of the weather and buy food for the next day's walk.  After a visit to the tourist information office to locate the public loos I sorted the first priority.  A visit to the parish church sorted out the second - I ate my lunch perched on a step in the  porch and watched the rain persisting down under a memorial to the workers who died building the Settle to Dent section of the great railway.  A visit to the Co-op sorted out the third priority.  It had a handy bench just inside the entrance so I was able to sort out my purchases which included a copy of the Craven Herald for stuffing into my wet boots later.  I then sat for a while contemplating the falling rain before I set off on the walk to Stainforth.   A gentleman said hello and an old lady wearily sat next to me as she sorted out her shopping.  I asked her if she was alright and she said that yes she was fine just old.

So I set off for the final stage of the day - three miles to Stainforth.  Over the bridge and along a footpath past the Settle United Football Ground.  Settle were playing in the pouring rain which did not look like much fun.  There were no spectators apart from the manager and the linesmen.  I left the river and walked along a quiet road where I met the gentleman from the Co-op.  He was heading back to his campervan which was set up at Little Stainforth Campsite.  We had a good chat about walking - he leads a group from Liverpool and takes them walking once a month.  We shook hands and wished each other well and then I turned right for the river and the bridge above Stainforth Force.  A couple were stood on the bridge and asked me where the waterfall was so I pointed them in the right direction.  I followed them down to have a look at the Force but not before a dozen cyclists came hurtling down the hill, over the bridge and up the other side.  The lovely pack horse bridge had a hole in it where a motorist had driven into the parapet recently.

The rain now decided to start pouring hard again.  It was half past three and I could not go the B&B early, and I was dripping, wet so I retired to the pub, The Craven Heifer.  It was full of the cyclists who had just passed me on the bridge and they were all sinking pints like it was the last time they would ever drink.  And, joys of joys, the fire was lit and glowing warmly so I put all my wet stuff around the fire along with the cyclists' gear. 

I ordered a gin and tonic and sat by the fire and gently steamed along with my gear.  The cyclists were interested in what I was doing so we had a good chat.  One chap told me about his job as a restorer of our wonderful peat bogs and moors - what a fantastic job.  Another chap was a ranger on the Malham estate for seventeen years and he told me that the wall which descends down the middle of the dry valley above Malham Cove divides the lands of 2 monasteries - Fountains and Rivaulx. 

Eventually the cyclists wobbled off into the rain and I gathered my stuff, booked my dinner at the pub and headed for my B&B, Holly House B&B.  The owner was lovely.  I stuffed my sodden boots with the Craven Herald and retreated to my room which had a lovely view of the garden and the church beyond.

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