Friday 2 May - OK, so Lav has a little confession to make... When planning the route and booking our overnight stays, she had tried to break the walking into relatively even, manageable chunks. However, when Steve came to look at today's walk, he became somewhat alarmed to find the route traversing about 3 sides of Ordnance Survey map. It transpired that a slight miscalculation over distances had resulted in a surprisingly 'short' walk of 11 miles yesterday, and a surprisingly 'very long' walk of 23 miles today (Oooppss!). One wonders what further surprises lay in store as the itinerary unfolds...
In itself, 23 miles is not unreasonable, but once you factor in the countless muddy valleys to climb into and out of, the endless stiles to mount, the frequent fords to cross, and the numerous and sizeable hills to ascend (Crag Top, Thornton Hill, Old Bess Hill, The Sea, Cat Stone Hill, Eller Hill, Low Stubbing, High Stubbing (and probably Middle Stubbing), Pinhaw Beacon, Low Hill, Hare Hill, Fence Hill, Town Hill, Langber Hill, Scaleber Hill, Harrows Hill, Eel Ark Hill and Windy Pike to name but a few...) this becomes an extremely long walk. Whilst tackling the steep
climbs we were pleased to be leaving the bogs of the previous days (where we had been going in up to ankle deep!), but this was replaced with a new challenge, the rise of the first May midges - yes, the biting midges! We had hoped that they would not make an appearance until nearer to Scotland (where we have encountered them in plentiful 'biting' proportions over the years).
However the midges were not our only encounter - we had something much more worrying than a plague of midges to be concerned about. We had been warned in Thornton-in-Craven by a local man that some farmers had put their bullocks out into the fields and they could be a bit aggressive. He said he'd walked to Malham a few days prior and experienced problems with some bullocks - at the time we were not overly concerned. However with just 3 miles to go before reaching Malham, we came across a field of 'seven' aggressive bullocks - they stood right by the stile we needed to climb to enter a field to continue following the Pennine Way - it was very unnerving! They stared at us and breathing heavily -
showing us their dominance. Steve used the tactic of running at them - this made them bolt. Steve then calmly said to Lav, "okay, stick very close to me; we must walk by the fence (which had barbed wire on it) so we can use it as an escape route." Steve seemed confident with the plan, Lav was shaking in her boots - we had crossed numerous fields in our years of walking together with bulls, but normally this was 'one' bull and not 'seven' bullocks aggressively staring at us and stamping the ground! We tried to stride 'confidently' across the field, but the bullocks decided to stride 'confidently' behind us - Steve had to reach for a plank of wood for protection. The next stile, across what now seemed to be a 'huge' field was finally in sight and just as well, because the bullocks were quickening their pace behind us. We managed to climb over the stile in time, which was a massive relief - Lavinia was left a little scared after the experience.
Even though Lavinia was frightened by her experience with the bullocks - she still thinks she is a bit of a Dr Dolittle.
Earlier in the day she tried to engage with three rather large and muddy pigs - however one of the pigs decided to try and shake off some thick brown smelly mud from his snout and back - which resulted in both Lav and 'our' camera getting covered in mud! The pig's mud splattered all over her face - nice. Luckily both Lav and the camera lens survived this muddy encounter!
Despite Lavinia's little miscalculation of adding the 'extra' miles to the walk; today was probably the best and most enjoyable day of hiking that we've had so far. The weather was kind to us - only a few spits of rain (it wouldn't be the Pennine Way without at least some rain every day!) briefly infringing expansive blue skies and what was otherwise a splendid sunny and warm spring day - in fact the weather was glorious. We passed through stunningly beautiful countryside, with simply breathtaking vistas and landscapes littering the route...despite the long journey and tired legs, we simply didn't want it to end it was that good. Following the gently flowing and meandering river past the picturesque villages of Gargrave, Airton and Hanlith down into Malham,
past lush green pastures was a real unforgettable treat.
We had started at 8.30am that morning, and it wasn't until 8.30pm, that we finally staggered down (Lav had another very good acrobatic slip in the mud, falling onto her front this time - her hands were completely covered in mud...Steve nearly lost his balance too!) into the pretty village of Malham, nestled beneath the impressive limestone escarpments of Malham Cove and Gordale Scar above. The wood smoke from the chimneys of the stone houses and Inns was a welcome sight, as were thoughts of dinner and a warm cosy bed. It had been an epic day of walking, and to be honest we really didn't need that bottle South African red with dinner to send us to sleep.... Only 192 miles to go! (More photos/videos to follow)
If you would like to donate towards our fundraising effort, please go to www.ectopic.org.uk/fundraising/?p=46. Thank you very much for your support. Lavinia and Steve
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