Standedge to Hebden Bridge
At 27km, today’s walk was the longest of the Pennine Way stages but also one of the least hilly. Officially it’s stage 3 and that probably means no free beer if I make it to the end.
Despite the assurances from Contours that I wouldn’t be left to starve, that’s what happened last night. So dinner was an emergency cereal bar. And this morning’s taxi transfer to the trail also failed. I had to direct the driver and break the news that I wouldn’t pay him. Nil points to Contours so far although my bag transfer worked well so perhaps one point.
Anyway I stopped the cab at Standedge which is a ghastly, desolate place in the middle of nowhere and slammed the car door. There was a nip in the air. The signpost said “Pennine Way” and pointed north.
“Are you the Pennine Way?”, I asked. “You sound like one of those southern softies” he said, “where’re you from?”
“I knew it. How much did that jacket cost you? You could have got one just as good from Mountain Warehouse for £19.99 reduced from £29.99. Good northern brand. That Mike Ashley knows what he’s about”.
“Are you coming with me?”
“Not likely. You’re on your own now, laddie. Keep off the moors”.
I set off, wondering how I’d survive the long trek to Hadrian’s Wall without even the path for company. I need to rely on my inner turmoil.
I soon passed a couple who were emerging from their tent which they’d erected in the shelter of a dry stone wall. I envied them. They were happy, that elusive state of being human. Soon the fell runners and mountain bikers raced past me. Men with 100 etched on their running tops. There were day walkers too. I passed another young couple with a child in a backpack carrier. “He’ll be too heavy for that soon”, I said and she replied “He is now”.
I was wearing my new Pennine Way boots, British built for British paths. My day sac weighed nothing even with the packed lunch from the B&B. I paid £5 and received two “tea cakes” with a slice of ham, an apple and a two finger KitKat. I’m normally a 4 finger KitKat man. That’s what it takes to knock up a quick PowerPoint status report and it’s what is needed to get through a day on the Pennine Way.
The boots were perfect and my old boots which took me all around Shikoku are now resting in my bag. However, the going was easy. Every damp stretch was paved with large granite paving slabs so progress was fast. And you couldn’t get lost because the path was lined with numerous footprints. They estimate that 3500 people walk the Pennine Way every year and many more tackle short stages. The question is, how many are walking it this year?
I’m staying two nights in a 500 year old pub in Hebden Bridge and will have a rest day tomorrow. It’s a typical local pub. Hebden Bridge was voted the fourth funkiest town on the planet by British Airways. Perhaps it is or perhaps it was one of those surveys they hand out after you’ve drunk all their wine and you’re horribly jet lagged. I’ll find out tomorrow. If it is, I’ll write a blog; if not I’ll read my book instead.