Day 29 – Beware the Moss, Beware the Moor, Beware of Long Lankin

Keld to Bowes

The mountain rescue teams were out early looking for an 82 year old man who went missing yesterday. It was a sobering reminder of the perils of the moors up here.

The weather took a turn closer to autumn as the wind blew more violently and visibility dropped in places to only a few metres. But it didn’t rain. If it had it wouldn’t really have mattered. My feet were soaked walking through the boggy moors. It’s impossible to keep dry. At first you stop and try to map out a few steps through the bog but once you’re feet are properly wet you give up time wasting. You plough forward simply aiming at anything that appears above the water level. Jump, jump, splash, curse, laugh. Sometimes the moss can be resilient and supports your weight but more often it doesn’t. After 5 minutes nothing much matters.

“Beware the moss, beware the moor, beware of Long Lankin”, sang Steeleye Span. Their music resonates up here. It’s really more about The Cheviots further north. There’s a lot of old English folk music in the air. I tried to load some on my iPhone before I left home but gave up at the sight of the hated iTunes. The music of Steeleye Span lives in my head anyway. It comes from our folk club every Thursday night at college. I’ll tell you more about it if things get desperate as I approach The Cheviots. It will cheer us all up.

I crossed Black Moor which rises from 300m to 568m at Tarn Rigg. There was no warning of the horrors awaiting. It isn’t really cold, I’m only wearing my thin trekking shirt and a thin fleece but I have my waterproof layer which kills the wind. You’d need a lot more in winter. Then it was Stonesdale Moor and I had to tread carefully around Mould Gill Coal Level (dis) and various Pits (dis), Shaft (dis), Quarry (dis) and Colliery (dis). Visibility fell to almost nothing on the high ground but I wasn’t worried because I have CAT3 nav.

Jacquii at the B&B told me not to bother with a flask of coffee because there’s a pub. You wouldn’t imagine a pub in such a desolate place. I counted down the metres as it appeared in the mist, the Tan Hill Inn, the highest isolated pub in England at 528m. I could see all the mountain rescue vehicles parked outside and, as I approached, a RAF helicopter flew over me and landed by a flare.

Inside the pub there were a lot of men checking their equipment, ropes, torches etc. Their heat sensing flyby hadn’t found anything so they were preparing to search the many shafts and pits (dis). A family paced around one of the bars and you could feel the despair hanging in the air.

Someone called in saying they knew the moors very well. They had a team of dogs and could be there in 30 minutes but the rescue team already had their own dogs deployed and they didn’t like to mix them.

I ordered a cappuccino and a twix and set off as quickly as I could.

Conditions deteriorated after that. Bricks Hill Swang and Sleightholme Moor were effectively saturated and so was Washfold Rigg. I caught up with a figure who turned out to be Chris from Oxted in Surrey and we splashed along together for awhile. He kept saying how careful he had to be at his age but he was only 64.

Later, the Pennine Way divides for awhile. The original path turns left into the endless bog while the new softies route turns right towards Bowes where a hot shower awaits. For once, I was glad I booked the softies itinerary.

Keld. My lovely B&B centre left

The great annual sheep migration. Watch out for the crocodiles

14 comments on “Day 29 – Beware the Moss, Beware the Moor, Beware of Long Lankin

  1. David and Celia

    A challenging day Tim! At this very moment we are watching your favourite michael portillo arriving by train to holy lsland and lindisfarne. We know all about the history of it now, so eagerly await your version of it and photos. Well done for being able to make tracks with such poor visibility.

    • Gosh that Portillo, he’s the man. I must get that episode. I had no idea there was a train. What am I thinking about??

  2. Vicky Williamson

    Kia ora, Tim, Love the names of the beers available. Yesterday’s email from Cicerone Press included an article written by someone who had been told that the Pennine Way was boggy and set out to find out if that really was true. The focus of this blog is bogs. What a coincidence! Judging by the number of Blue Butts it must be tupping time in England. I was wrong. I hope the elderly man was found and all is well. Take care. Kia kaha, Vicky

    • Hi Vicky, I like their emails and read it with trepidation. Tim

  3. David Jury

    Your going well Tim. The photos of the moors and your descriptions are so similar to the moors here on Exmoor. Especially on a dank day – when the mist comes down it is so easy to lose your bearings. I remember one day when I trod on mossy ground and found myself knee deep in the boggy terrain. Keep to the well trodden track !

    • Thanks David. It’s fascinating how every moor has its own literary classic. The Brontes, the Baskervilles, little Lorna Doone just for you …

  4. Philippa

    Steeleye Span. We have 11 of their records (& 2 of Maddy Prior’s) 🙂. Of all their songs I think Long Lankin’s the most chilling; probably not one I’d want in my head if I was lost in the mist on an isolated boggy moor. I too hope that the intrepid 82 year old was found safe & well and perhaps able to down a pint of Theakston’s. My 4x great-grandfather (the Askrigg emigrant to Tasmania) John Terry’s mother-in-law was a Theakston. Maybe one day I’ll be able to visit their ancestral home but meanwhile I’m very happy to have your account of life on the moors!

    • Hi Philippa, could you suggest a happy jig to hop, skip and jump over the moors? It might be an interesting experience for you to visit your ancestral home. You’ll see why they sailed away. But you could enjoy a pint of Theakston. Beware the moor.

  5. Tassie Kaz

    As a ‘moors uninitiated’, it sounds like an extraordinary day to me…but seems its actually par for the course. I truly hope there was a positive outcome for the missing man.
    Trust you showed the young whipper-snapper (64 year old) how it’s done…you being his senior by just under 2 years & all!
    As with Vicky, I also saw the Cicerone article. It’s titled “The Pennine Way; is it really a slog through bog?” Might give you a chuckle of resonance…one day.
    Gambatte…& Blue Butts rule! 🤗

    • I read the Cicerone article too. I have their guide book. There maybe nicer walks but none quite so special.

  6. Hi Stuart, are you having a rest after walking across Scotland? I don’t think you’ve missed much on the Bowes Alternative either but the town is interesting. Tim

  7. Your day sounds very tiring and a little depressing. I hope they find the missing gentleman. What a worry. You are doing so well, keep on putting one foot in front of the other.

  8. As I’m sure you know, the ‘missing’ man was contentedly sitting in his tent watching the ‘rescuers’ scurrying about looking for him!

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