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  • Writer's pictureJames

A Rainy Camp in Heptonstall

September 2020

Pinhaw Beacon to Mays Shop. 16 miles

The nice or not so nice ranger made no appearance, and I escaped from Pinhaw Beacon at 5:45am a free man. Under still dark skies, the full moon allowed me to just about make out the path that led off the moor, and through the fields in the direction of Lothersdale. The early start also a virtue as heavy rain forecast made today a race against time, and a race against the weather. The target, to be pitched up at Mays Shop in Heptonstall before the first drop fell. Alas, this was a race I lost.

The dawn, though, a beauty. My favourite so far. I timed my arrival up the hill on the south side of Lothersdale well, just as the sun emerged. The walk through the fields to Cowling, a warm one and the low sun in my eyes led to an almost zen like feeling. Enhanced, that the field I heroically escaped from last year, after several cows took exception to my presence, was empty. The fields a mile later, outside of Cowling, were complete bogs. Ickornshore Moor was open, exposed, wild and windy. The crossing of the moor a slow one, exacerbated - happily so - when meeting the odd northbound Pennine wayfarer. Pete, a seventy-something self confessed hobo, who’d arrived on foot from the south west. Tim, a retiree who’d walked up from Weybridge, heading to Holy Island inside six weeks.

Ickornshore Moor; my favourite moor, a highlight of the Pennine Way. The sheer vastness of it, the feeling of complete isolation, and loneliness, I find invigorating. It lifts my spirits, clears my mind. How often can you feel as though you’re the only person for miles around? The path cuts through long grasses and heather, a landscape cast almost in permanent autumn.

Pleasant, but nondescript Ponden reached an hour later. It’s central reservoir in between steep hills. The climb up from the village in increasingly moody conditions; wild and wuthering and blowing a gale. Top Withens on the horizon underneath greying skies that I knew would empty their load sooner rather than later. Though, it stayed dry long enough to boil up some noodles, sheltered as good as I could from the wind besides the dilapidated house that was mercifully tourist-free.

The first speck of rain was felt on the approach down to the Walshaw Dean Reservoirs. The flagstoned path sandwiched between encroaching heather, dancing away in the wind that was biting my arms, and a hoody was called for. The waterproof was donned once the three reservoirs had been left behind. By the time Graining Water was reached, the rain was teeming down. Mays shop couldn’t come fast enough. Typically, when in adverse conditions, the time dragged, ever so slowly. Each footstep a wet one, even the cows blocking the turn on to Heptonstall moor looked melancholy.

The moor; grey, muddy, desolate. The mood a glum one, knowing only a tent on soggy grassland would follow these last few soaking miles, rather than a warm room, soft towels and a hot bath. Mount Pleasant Farm in the far distance looked anything but pleasant, and looked far far away. I arrived at Mays at 2:30, by 3:00 I’d changed out of my wet clothes and was horizontal in the akto, surrounded by snacks and warm pastries, the prospect of which from Mays amazing Aladdins Cave, was what kept me going. The rain continued all day and most of the night, unabated.


James' Walks & Wild Camps

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