Distance: 13.5 miles
I enjoyed breakfast, sharing experiences with several, new hiking friends at this B&B, Hackney House. I then noticed the weather was ominous, which would require raingear – for the seventh of the nine days I had been hiking. Yesterday, the C2C’s path had entered the stunning Yorkshire Dales and today the beauty of this area would be around every bend of the trail – if the rain allowed me to see it.
Almost immediately I came upon the Reeth Swingbridge. There is a story behind this curious name. Many years ago, children became quite successful at grouping together and running from side to side of the bridge to generate a significant swing motion, hence the name. That particular bridge has been replaced, but the name stuck.
The path lead me along the River Swale and through lush woods.
This path to the village of Keld split into an upper path (though the hills) and a lower path (along the river) and I stayed on the lower path due to the forecasted rain. Somehow after leaving Healaugh, however, I began to climb until I had a clear view of Swaledale. I tried to retrace my steps, but that trail ended in a sheep pasture. Returning to the higher trail, I asked a local postman for directions and was told that I was on the “correct” path. By then, the weather turned, with rain and hail followed by bitter cold. Hindered by the gloves covering my fingers and by my general unfamiliarity (first use!) with the GPS device, I could not use it to find my way. Fortunately, I met a couple hikers who pointed me toward the town of Gunnerside, back on the trail to Keld.
Finally, a sign to Gunnerside appeared and I followed it. Gunnerside is a small village but contained the all-important tea house, the Ghyllfoot Tearooms, where I took time for hot tea and lunch while my gear (and my clothes) dried out.
After tea, the dark clouds had moved on and I returned to the path in sunshine. The trail crossed through a number of stone walls, each with their own interesting, unique gate.
The scenery was so lovely that any destruction left by the area’s commitment to lead mining 160 years ago was no longer visible. However, many cottage ruins dating from the 18th- and 19th-centuries had been the homes of these miners and their families.
The River Swale was a constant companion as the path continued up the dale where rabbits and pheasant were often seen.
I took a small side trip to see the hamlet of Muker. This involved walking over a foot bridge across the river and then along a flagstone path into the village.
In this attractive village I was greeted by the “Village Store and Tea Room,” near a local craft shop and a wool shop. I enjoyed a cup of tea while sitting on The Village Store patio chatting with other walkers.
Just off of the main street of Muker is the local church built during the reign of Elizabeth I in 1580.
Returning to the C2C path, I finally caught up to the three Vermont hikers I had been hearing about the past several days from other hikers (via the trail “gossip”). These three Vermonters, the mother (Deb) and her two teenage daughters (Kait and Hannah), had decided on a whim just a couple days earlier to vacation in England and hike this trail. We easily fell into conversation as we walked together for a time toward Keld alongside the River Swale.
In the heart of lead mining territory, we came upon the ruins of a smelting mill in Swinner Gill.
Steadily gaining elevation as we neared Keld, our view back down Swaledale revealed the River Swale snaking its way through the valley.
We walked by beautiful waterfalls as the trail wound uphill.
Keld is a small village of gray stone buildings. My B&B for the evening, the Park Lodge, was one of the first buildings that we encountered as we entered. The Vermonters – now fast friends – were staying in the B&B’s campground.
After settling into the Park Lodge, I walked up into the tiny town to see where I would find dinner. Keld Lodge appeared to be the perfect place. Everyone in the bar was discussing the recent filming of a TV series with Julia Bradbury who was walking the Coast to Coast Path. The couple that had provided me with directions near Gunnerside were dining there and began to describe for me tomorrow’s challenge, using such words as steep, extremely windy, deep bogs, lost and dangerous and with a fascinating man-made formation known as the Nine Standards, about which little is known. The owner of the Keld Lodge, Tony, kept us all smiling with funny tidbits. As I finished dinner, the Vermont girls came in off the trail and we decided that we would tackle the Nine Standards together the next day.