“Never thee stop believin’ in th’ Big Good Thing an’ knowin’ th’ world’s full of it – and call it what tha’ likes.” – Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Earby hostel turned out to be a little jewel. It has only been open since April and Matt who runs it welcomed us into his immaculate establishment with the offer of a cup of coffee or tea. From that moment onwards we were in the lap of luxury and waited on hand and foot. The interior has been creatively and characterfully decorated throughout, and the outdoor space is full of interesting features like willow shelters and seating areas with grass and wildflower roofs. Our supper was a stonking shepherd’s pie with a bottle of wine, and breakfast was a huge bowl of porridge and fresh fruit, with bright yellow scrambled eggs from their own hens and huge hunks of tiger bread toast. And fresh coffee. A superior hostel indeed.
The Pennine Way continued with its immaculate signage and quality of footpaths, a joy to walk on.
Spring has definitely advanced. Here the lambs were fat and hawthorns were in their extravagantly full flush of flower.
Lines of flowering rowan trees promised autumn colour and berries for the birds. Hedgerows were full of twitterings, cows were lazily chewing the cud, and each little brook was thickening up with clumps of flowering waterplants. Field after hillside grazing field rippled in the breeze. Farmers were taking cuts of silage already.
We briefly intersected with the Leeds–Liverpool canal and walked a section of the towpath. A pair of swans glided over with their four cygnets hoping for some crumbs.
The sun sparkling on the water, the green of riverbanks studded with hawthorns and cheerful conversations with with the folk on the boats… there is nothing half so nice as messing about in boats, or walking along the towpath on a sunny day in Yorkshire. In fact, it was so idyllic that we missed our turning off and had to re-trace our steps. No hardship.
After coming off the towpath it was an easy walk to Gargrave and the Dalesman café for a coffee and a cake. Stephen chose the Yorkshire fruit cake with a generous slice of Wensleydale cheese.
We picked up a few food supplies for the next two days and continued on our way feeling rather as though we were holidaying instead of doing an endurance challenge. Cloud forms were endlessly interesting. Sun glowed through the little pink ears of lambs. Cows continued to ruminate. We were as happy as larks.
The Pennine Way picks up the River Aire after Gargrave at the intriguingly-named Eel Ark Hill, and follows the river valley nearly all the way to Malham. The river was full of small fish and we disturbed two heron in the process of trying to catch them, who flapped their huge bodies into the air and away upriver.
At this point coming over the fields we saw Stephen’s good old friend and climbing partner Peter, who had walked towards us from Malham as we set out from Gargrave. We walked up Badger Hill into the Malham valley together, noticing where the millstone dry-stone walls changed to limestone as we crested the hill. We were definitively now out of Moorland and into the Western Dales. A lovely day’s walking: wall-to-wall sunshine, glorious grass paths, hardly any distance (21.5km) and hardly any climb up and down (720m total). Unsurprisingly we clocked our fastest ever average moving speed over the day (4.9km/hr).
We pitched the tent in the campsite under the famous Cove, our first port of call on tomorrow’s walk. Peter and his wife Sue then picked us up (in an actual car!) and treated us to a huge pub supper in Malham. Lovely to see you both! Thanks for a super evening.