One Man and his Dog -  and Others

After the Christmas holidays, many years ago, a certain member and a lad named Gary decided that they would spend the Whitsun holiday walking the Pennine Way., or at least the Southern half. Over the intervening months plans were made, maps purchased, lists of requirements drawn up, and many hours were spent talking about the venture.
As Whitsun approached, the country suffered a drought, not one of your two day affairs, but it lasted weeks.. The Pennines were reported to be burning. Would we be able to walk the route?

Trusting in providence we continued our preparations, and through Gary a third person was to join us, he was to be met at Edale. We decided to take French leave on Friday and travel to Edale by train. Gary was to hire a two man tent. On the Friday morning we met, and proceeded to pack our rucksacks. Having done this we attempted to lift them, plans were revised, rucksacks were unpacked and half their contents discarded. Then ‘Where’s the tent?” “Ah well“, said Gary, “I was promised a lightweight tent, but when I went to pick it up, it was a great heavy thing, no good, so I’m afraid we haven’t got one.” What were we to do? Gary pointed out that we had our survival bags, and they would have to do., A great start. So off we set, Gary, his dog ‘a Doberman and yours truly. The sun shone and we were on our way.

As we passed through Manchester our al fresco costume seemed to cause some amusement, can’t think why., We experienced some difficulty ascertaining from the natives, the departure point of our train, but eventually, more in hope of travelling than of arriving we boarded a train., Wonders to relate we arrived at Edale, here we met Bill, we were on our way, Pennine Way here we come.

 Now, Bill had walked the Way before, twice. We explained that we had no tent and he said not to worry he had a one man tent. As we began walking the sun shone, though there was a fair amount of cloud about. Up Kinder Scout we struggled, then as we reached the top., sweating - the sun disappeared, the cloud came down. I took out my trusty talisman, my compass along with the map, just like yer supposed to do, and took a bearing.
“Eh” said Bill “I don’t understand them things. Just follow me.” Well he had done the thing twice before. So we headed off into the mist, a gentle fail of rain accompanying us. On we went, with the occasional surreptitious glance at the compass, then “We go down there”, from Bill as he pointed to a steep grassy slope with no visible signs that anybody had trod that way before. We held a conference, it was decided to maintain our present height. Besides the rain a wind had sprung up, nothing serious you understand, Just another niggle. I glanced at my compass, “Oh no.,” we had done it we were heading back the way we came. I was getting thirsty really fancied a drink, nobody had filled their water bottle, great. By now the light was beginning to fade, it would be getting dark soon.

We decided to take the first path down that we came to, we soon found one and descended - on the Edale side. As we approached the valley we passed through a forest of signs “Water unfit for drinking” and “No camping”, wonderful area. Eventually we found civilization, some bodies outward bound type center, we received permission to camp and were given a welcome cup of tea. Now to camp, we were to attempt the highest number of sleepers in a one men tent. It was dark, the wind was blowing, it was lashing it down. Bill brought out his tent, as soon as we started to pitch it the guy ropes started to snap. Out came a collection of spare bootlaces and other odds and ends of After some time the tent was erected. The Doberman was the first man in, seeing my chance I followed, then Bill. We were Ok. Gary wormed his way in at the end, after various contortions we were in our bags. In between listening to the wind and rain, we occasionally slept. Towards dawn the weather eased, but it was with some relief we emerged from the tent; provided ourselves with breakfast, and packed the tent away. Out came the map, I determined that if we followed a nearby road we could rejoin the Pennine Way.

Off we set and we found our way and spent the day traversing an unappetizing upland moorland; bleak, black peat banks broken by deep silver sanded gullies in which we walked. I wonder where the name Bleaklow Head came from? Eventually we dropped down into Crowden, we found a camp site and after pitching the tent enjoyed a meal and the luxury of a hot shower. We also enjoyed a good nights sleep.

The next morning after feeding, we packed away the tent, as soon as the thing was in it’s  bag the rain began. Nothing daunted we set off, as we gained height the wind hit us, now we had a light driving rain. Past Laddow Rocks and across the peat and sand. We notice a strange effect, the sand remained dry, the water running straight off it’s surface. On we continued, there’s not really much else that you can do. Some distance before we met the Holmfirth road we became unsure of our way on. As Gary and I were having a confab Bill disappeared, then came a shout, we looked around and found Bill and another body. When we joined them the other body appeared to be confident about the way ahead.

We had solved the mystery of Bill’s route finding. The dog did not enjoy the day, it spent it’s time running ahead until it found a clump of vegetation which it crouched behind, out of the wind, until we caught it up, then off again for the next cover.
The Black Moss area was smoldering as we crossed it, the remains of our burning Pennines. At last we reached the A62, we found accommodation and a meal. After we had eaten we settled down with our backs against a storage heater, we remained thus f or a couple of hours, before we approached something like a normal temperature.
The next morning we inspected our clothes which had spent the night in a drying room - they were still soaking - warm but soaking. Bill dressed and stated his intention of continuing. Gary and I decided to spend a further day where we were and to continue the next day. Bill departed.

Later looking out of the window we saw that it was raining. We looked at one another: “Sod it”. enough was enough. A bus to Manchester, the train home. Back on home ground beer cheered. Marvelous to relate, the weather improved and during the rest of the week we enjoyed walks in the Lakes. The morals of this tale seem to be:
a) Believe everything you have ever heard about the Southern end of the Pennine Way.
b) Put not your trust in them that’s done it before.


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