The Yorkshire Dales had vanished overnight. In its place had been left a ghostly world of damp swirling mist and heavy dew laden grass. It was not the most pleasant of experiences pulling on damp clothes and sodden footwear. My dry tent clothes were carefully wrapped and packed away, I was already looking forward to getting changed later than evening.
The track named Gilbert Lane runs north for several miles across open moorland, almost due north to Wensleydale. It was deathly silent as we made our way through the mist, bar the odd cry of a Curlew.
The miles were quick to the large village of Bainbridge where we made a beeline to the nearest cafe. Unfortunately cafes in tourist places turn out to be tea rooms, which mean smaller portions for high prices. We bagged a table and had lunch number one whilst my feet steamed with socks failing to dry.
Rain was threatening again as we set off back into the hills. To get to the evenings planned camp we had to cross the moors that separate Wensleydale from Swaledale. A walled track led us steadily upwards before it deposited us in the middle of a field full of cattle.
The bridleway then became the figment of a cartographers imagination so we left the invisible line and climbed steep slopes up into the cloud.
It became wet once more so in full waterproofs we trudged through the mist towards the top of Oxnop common, where we found a ruined mine building to shelter in for a while. It was pretty damp and miserable on the summit.
It was with some relief that we descended below the clouds at exactly the spot where I had planned. That was more down to technology than skill to be honest. Waterproofs came off and were quickly put on again, it was a real chore wearing them whilst so warm and humid.
We squelched through the hamlet of Ivelet and found a well hidden pitch on the moors above. To be honest we could have pitched anywhere and remained invisible in the mist and low cloud. It was another unpleasantly warm and humid night, the tent quickly getting wet with condensation. I was very thankful for those dry clothes.
With no wind the only noise on the moors the next morning were the birds, including the strange drumming sound of a snipe. We were up and packed early again, heading for the landrover track that contours high above the River Swale. The sun was gradually winning its battle with the clouds, the scenery finally revealing itself.
The view along upper Swaledale to Keld and beyond is an impressive one. Nine Standards filled the horizon and we knew that we would have to climb over its high shoulder before we could descend to Kirkby Stephen and journeys end.
Whilst descending Swinner Gill we faced the tide of Coast to Coasters who must have set off from Keld that morning. It was a real international procession.
As we reached the outskirts of Keld, a familiar figure with two dogs waved at us from the hillside above. It turned out to be Chrissie’s husband Geoff, who I am disappointed to report did not have ice-cold cans of pop or any form of treat to share with us. I just got my face licked by a labrador instead.
The remote farm of Ravenseat in Whitsun Dale was a hive of activity, with Coast to Coasters streaming in and out. The baggage transfer companies must be making a fortune as most only sported small day sacks. We shared a table with a couple of Americans whilst Chrissie demolished a cream tea with much vigour. The farm has been on the telly box a lot recently with the shepherdess saying the word ‘ewe’ numerous times in an exaggerated Yorkshire accent.
With rumbles of thunder in the distance we made our way along the Coast to Coast path up onto the plateau of Nine Standards. After spotting a funnel cloud we were ready to leg it to lower ground if the storm got any closer. It was a long and very boggy trudge.
We missed out the summit itself, instead picking up a track over Hartley Fell and down to Ladthwaite. The rain finally put in an appearance and after walking through wet waist-high meadows there was no point in putting on waterproof trousers. The only memorable moment on the navigational challenging field paths to Nateby was a near death experience with a herd of frisky cows. They came charging at us at full pelt whilst we were far away from the safety of a fence. We stood our ground and shouted whilst waving our hiking poles, thankfully they changed course at the last moment.
It was all worth it though when we finally reached the best tea van in Yorkshire for a large slice of much-needed cake.