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  • Writer's pictureJames

Pinhaw Beacon Wild Camp

September 2020

Malham Cove to Pinhaw Beacon. 14 miles

Once upon a time, on an evening on Pinhaw Beacon, there were the nice people and there were the not so nice people. The nice, were a group of five who, upon a full moon, arrive at the Pinhaw Beacon trig point armed with drums and warm clothes and beverages, and proceed to bang and dance and chant, and celebrate. I imagine, they are celebrating life. Then, there are the not so nice, the people who see a solitary wild camper, in his tent with no fire, no music, no rubbish or waste. Simply surviving in his tent, keeping warm for the night - or as warm as can be. And upon seeing that person, they decide to report him to whatever authorities that need to be contacted. Not a word is said from the not no nice people to the solitary wild camper, they simply (probably) tut tut in his general direction and, from their probable comfy home and their probable comfy bed, they inform whoever the authorities are about the naughty person in the warmish tent on the coldish moor. However, the probable nice or not so nice ranger, when he appears, speaks to the nice people, still banging their drums, and asks if they’ve seen anyone camping nearby. Because the solitary wild camper has already made friends with the nice people, they say they haven’t, and the nice or not so nice ranger disappears into the night, leaving the solitary camper to nervously bed in, wondering if he will be asked to move on, in cold temperatures and in the pitch black of night.

Sadly, all the above events are not a figment of anyones imagination, least of all mine, but a true account of the final few, bizarre, hours of a long day. Which started in Malham, and started well. With a glorious sunrise, and a crossing of the cove. At 8:00 in the morning, which I almost but not quite had to myself. But it didn’t matter. The views were great, but they were better still from up high, where I’d spent the night. I arrived in Malham village to find the Old Barn Cafe just about to open, and a cooked breakfast followed. Discounting a scone that lunchtime in Gargrave, my last “indoor” meal for five days.

The walk to Gargrave is one of my favourites. Once down at ground level from the hills outside of Malham, there are several miles along the gentle River Aire. On a sunny day, with trees and grass reflecting in the calm water, there aren’t many better walks. Woodland, fields, flowers. Greenery. Even the cows were in a docile and good mood, letting me pass through them with barely a suspicious glimpse cast in my direction. It’s goodbye to the river, and then off to traverse the green green hills to Gargrave. The limestone hills left behind were cast in shadow. The fields were left too early, a wrong turning, but it didn’t matter - I wasn’t walking the Pennine Way, I was following it as closely and as loosely as possible, in order to camp at great places on the Pennine Way. The wrong turn led onto the sheltered but pleasant path that led straight on to the road and into Gargrave.

For a treat, I headed to the Dalesman cafe, busy at lunchtime. The kindly old people at the table near the door informed me they were about to leave. A pleasant conversation followed and then off they went but before exiting the cafe, the kind man placed a leaflet into my hand, which when I sat down to read it, I read what God might think of Covid19. Even He would no doubt enjoy my fruit scone with all the trimmings. The energy needed to deal with not only the lope across the fields thereafter to the Leeds to Liverpool canal, but also to withstand the extra weight that soon found its way into my pack, from the nearby Co-op, in the form of two days worth of supplies.

An uneventful afternoon beyond the canal, and to the farmland either side of Thornton-in-Craven. My walk halted by a procession of cows, 120 in fact. Telling the three farmers of my previous encounters with them, their reactions were a mix of laughter, concern and understandable ambivalence. The cows safely home, and then a slow and steep climb to the Beacon. Thankfully flagstoned and freshly gated en-route. Pinhaw Beacon reached in the sunshine at 6:30. The tent up near the trig, and then the midges descended. Refuge sought inside, the all-clear siren raised eventually by my new friends, the Full Mooners. It’s always beneficial to find new friends, you never know when they may come in handy. Certainly so, when nice or not so nice rangers appear. I still don’t know how my tent wasn’t visible to him.


James' Walks & Wild Camps

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