Keld to Reeth (12.4 miles / 108.3miles)
It was a cold night last night with the clear skies of the evening going on long in to the early hours and beyond, resulting in temperatures dropping to just below the comfort level of my two season sleeping bag. A couple of times I had to wake up and put an extra layer on, which isn’t at all easy, in the dark in a one man tent. By morning the dip in temperature had meant the tent had suffered from condensation for the first time which meant, once again, it was packed whilst being slightly on the damp side.
In breakfast news, today I was on the menu: a feast for the local midge population. Not to worry though, the campsite had all kinds of repellent and chemical warfare to combat such dangerous beasts and I covered myself in Smidge (yes a real product) and sprayed half a can of Raid around the inner section of my tent before zipping it up. I think it is going to reveal quite a massacre when I pitch again this evening.
For my early morning sustenance, I went for another HUGE roll of bacon and egg. The portions up here are amazing, but I suppose when you’re burning 4000-5000 calories each day, it really doesn’t matter what you eat (short of grazing on tubs of lard). Breakfast once more involved a route discussion with us deciding the slightly longer walk along the River Swale as opposed to the higher route across the former lead mining landscape of the moors.
And then day eight of the walk was upon us, and we, well I, literally set of with a song. Mine was Stop Right Now by the Spice Girls, complete with dance which was particularly appreciated from afar by Mark and Hugh as we approached the main campsite in Keld. A treat I afforded the whole of their family when we reached our rest stop at the Ghyllfoot Tea Room, Gunnersdale.
It was at this point we left the River Swale for a few miles feeling a little uneasy at not being able to see it, never quite knowing whether we were heading in the right direction and constantly repeating the phrase ‘well there’s no possible other path we could be on’. Reassurances by helpful farmers confirmed the accuracy of our navigation and eventually we re-joined the river a couple of miles outside Reeth. It wasn’t long before we reached the Buck Hotel and met up with Michelle, Andy and Di who, at one point we were ahead of, so we assumed they must have passed us while we were enduring our teas and coffees. It was now, over a pint, that I had the task of finding somewhere to stay for the night. With no room camping at the YHA where Alicia and Linda were staying, I had to take my chances at the Orchard Camping and Caravan Park. The trouble is, I had arrived in the town the weekend it was host to around 1000 mountain bikers.
So, the important task of consuming my pint finished, we headed down to the campsite where we were greeted by Peter, the proprietor and one of Reeth’s great characters. Not only did he squeeze me in, he gave Andy and Di one of his Coast to Coast Caravans for the same price as pitching a tent and rang ahead to the Black Bull to ensure we had a meal if we got there by six. The guy was amazing.
With Andy and Di letting me sleep on their sofa for the night, I only pitched up to dry the tent out and remove the million dead midges: if this was a true story of survival, I would be frying these up or making soup out of them. It isn’t: I didn’t. Instead I headed off to the pub with the Germans, who we discovered were called Thobi and Tim; Sam and Stephen; Andy, Di and Molly and Michelle where we foraged out such quarry as toad in the hole. Pints drunk; food eaten; jokes shared and Facebook friends and memories made. Hours seemed to only take minutes before we headed back and took our rest for the night.