Seven Shivering Souls in Swaledale



Mel and Sandra Wilkinson, Carol Makin, Hugh Penney, Ray Duffy, Sam Lieberman, Richard Timms.


It was a brave three (M, S & C) who arrived at Usha Gap campsite on Saturday with a dire weather forecast predicted. We had a short walk in the afternoon but as it was so cold we decided to have tea in the pub. We were not the only ones to have that idea, so it was a cosy pub full of other campers, lovely and warm with good cheap food and wonderful Wensleydale beer. Hugh Penney had arrived to share a few pints, hoping for a caving trip the next day.


Sunday morning we awoke with the inevitable patter of rain, so Mel and I decided we could stay safely snug in our sleeping bags until it had passed - so a late breakfast - 10 o’clock! Hugh then left as a caving trip was not on the horizon and of course only fifteen minutes later Richard arrived followed by Ray and Sam - the usual Red Rose co-ordination. That same co-ordination continued as coffee and cakes were enjoyed and the endless searches of Northern Caves as it was leafed through to find a suitable cave to do.

leafed through to find a suitable cave to do.


We (M, S & C) went in the afternoon to Reeth and walked up to Maiden Castle, on the OS map, but actually an iron age fort on the ground. It defences were still impressive and a walk round the surrounding ditch showed the sides of the embankment were over twenty feet high.


Sam and Ray together with Richard had eventually decided on Kisdon Cave for their days entertainment and had decided (wisely) to go afterwards to the pub for their tea. Of course we joined them later - Mel already fortified with the greater part of a bottle of Merlot and the prospects of a few bevvies later - which turned into a fairly lively night. To hear the caving exploits of Sam who had forgot to bring both his helmet and light, so caved in a soft hat and Petzl. - Casteret would have been proud of him.

Monday - The weather was at its best and the Swaledale hay meadows gleamed with golden buttercups. Richard was off to climb in the lakes whilst the rest of us decided on a walk in Arkengarthdale (what a magical name).


We followed the river up, crossed the valley and headed for some lead mine workings and their huge spoil heaps. Here many men must have toiled with pick and shovel just to make the Victorian mine owners very rich. Walking from one working to another and looking for adits, Sam again donned his soft hat and Petzl and descended until it became to wet with a dodgy roof.


I was amazed at how many Mountain Pansy’s carpeted the hillside, wondering if the lead mining had encouraged their proliferation in any way but the find of the day was a gorge - a geological fault, which had limestone on one side and sandstone on the other. As we walked we could see how the sandstone had crumbled and huge blocks had slipped, whilst on the other side of the gorge had many perched boulders - waiting for a push!               


Sam and Ray left that night and it was much quieter in the pub that evening. Tuesday was again dry so we dropped our tents before walking along the valley towards Keld. Carol’s car had a flat battery but the lady at the campsite lent s jump leads and once we had her started - she was off!!


So, we missed the Queens Jubilee celebrations, but Swaledale with its hay meadows, flowers and fantastic landscape together with a great pub - Who cares?


Sandra Wilkinson


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