The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Hebden Bridge to Standedge (Saturday 18 July)

The timely running of trains on Saturday morning saw me arriving in Hebden Bridge just before 9am, which was just ten minutes after Mick, Phil and the girls had left their barn, slightly further north.

Given that my starting point was closer, it was unsurprising that I arrived at Stoodley Pike monument first, but the timing wasn’t too far off and I’d barely read a dozen pages of my book when the others arrived. After the girls (that’s Catherine and Megan; hopefully they’ll forgive me for collectively referring to them as ‘the girls’ - it’s a lot easier to type!) and Mick had popped up to the balcony on the monument and various foodstuffs had been stuffed into mouths, the brisk wind was braved as we headed south along the Pennine Way (seeing no woman in mini-skirt and fishnets, nor any sign of people searching for such a woman).

Once I’d caught up with Mick (verbally that is; I’d not seen him for five days so there was much catching up to do), we stopped being so ignorant and walked variously with all other members of the party. Phil I had briefly met before, but his girls I had not, and by the end of the day they had impressed me immeasurably. Aged 13 and 16, this was their first backpacking trip (which they had entered completely voluntarily) and despite some rather adverse weather and despite cramming the whole of the Pennine Way into 17 days, they were exceptionally cheerful, entirely uncomplaining and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the experience (on balance; they did confess to some low periods during the first few days).

Catching the occasional edges of showers, but with much better weather than forecast we made our way across t’moors until we reached The White House where it seemed a jolly good plan to pause for a cup of tea. The pause turned into a stop as it took 20 minutes to be served said cups of tea, but eventually we did move on, past the Aigin Stone, over the M62, across more moors (of which Mick & I mysteriously had absolutely no recollection despite having walked them last year), and thence to Standedge.

No sooner had we got the tents pitched, than Rosa (Phil’s wife) arrived* with the massive hamper containing fresh-out-of-the-oven lasagne, salad, crispy baguettes, pudding, post-pudding chocolates, wine and pop (not to mention real crockery and real cutlery). What an absolute star! I could get used to that sort of an occurrence when arriving at a campsite after a day walking!

Being party animals, we all managed to stay awake in the pub until gone 9pm whereupon the yawning led us to retire to our respective tents where a little sleep was had before the shouting, screeching, screaming and singing began, but enough has already been said about that.

Sunday morning dawned in a very soggy manner. It had rained heavily from about half past three**, which didn’t help to lift spirits after the poor night’s sleep (which must have been even worse for Phil and the girls in that they were so close to home and knew that there were comfy, warm, dry and quiet beds to be had just a few minutes drive away).

Not relishing walking in such a deluge, and with a relatively short day ahead of them, Phil decided to delay the start of their day in the hope that the worst of the weather would pass, and Mick and I decided to abandon our intended short walk (two sides of a triangle to Marsden station) and instead just take the direct route for an earlier train.

As it went Rosa (who had popped by) very kindly gave us a lift down to Marsden, which gave us time to pop into the excellent Angie’s Kitchen for tea and a bacon bap.

A while later, we made the dash from the platform shelter onto the train in heaving rain, and our mini-outing was over.

As for Phil and the girls, despite being so temptingly close to home in atrocious weather, they did, later in the morning, pack away all of their sopping gear, shoulder their water-logged packs, and make their way down to Crowden. On Monday, they made it to Edale. Apparently they’re already talking about their next adventure…

(*Phil had decided that, for completeness and not feeling like they were cheating, they would camp on Saturday night despite being only a few minutes away from home – hence the logistics of Rosa being able to deliver home-made hot food.

** We awoke on a water bed. The whole of the site is on a slight slope and ordinarily we would have pitched at the top of the slope to get as far away from the road as possible. Given the large tents at the top of the site, which looked like a nocturnal disturbance waiting to happen, we pitched at as far away as we could. In hindsight, the only flat ground, at the bottom of a slope, was perhaps not the wisest choice given the weather forecast!)

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