Published: 31 July 2017
It was a late start but I didn't fret. Both Rahel and the Boy were happy to come. The walk started right outside the door and we' had already covered about a a third of it on an evening stroll the day before, yes, thats it, I thought, might even have said, just a stroll, barely a walk, certainly not a hike.
The family was a bit short on gear but the forecast was fine until 6 and as this was a 2-3 hour gentle perambulation I wasn't worried. Starting at 11.30 we'd be back home by 2.30 latest and wondering what to do with the rest of the day.
My plan was to start straight across Grewelthorpe Moor and then swing south to Langworth Ridge taking a circular diversion back to Sandy Hill.
The track we were on was wide, hard and stoney. When we turned off toward Langworth ridge the terrain was immediately water shed, soft peat and heather with shallow channels. Within 3 or 4 minutes the lad had soaking wet feet and it was clearly going to be an unnecessary struggle. Oh well, we would be back nearer the 2 hour mark than the 3, but better that than sore wet tired feet on the first walk out.
Back on the track we made good progress, there was a strong wind but the sky was blue and the sun shining. I was experimenting with the OS map on my phone. These OS maps are stunning. Clear, accurate and detailed, so much easier to read than the paper map. Turn "Location" on on the mobile and your position is pinpointed on the map. Amazing stuff but does it take some of the fun, some of the challenge, out of hill walking? Well yes I suppose it does but for a walk like this, which was designed to win friends and influence people, it could be very useful in ensuring that there were no mistakes. The disadvantage is that you only see a small section of the map at a time, so you don't get that overview of where you've been and where your heading. But I'd got the paper version too and a compass, so what could go wrong?
Unfortunately at this stage of the walk I was looking at the phone version, not the paper map. I could see High Langwith Cross and the junction at Sandy Hill for which I knew we were heading... except we were weren't, or rather we were, but we shouldn't have been, or then again we should have been but only if we had taken the Langwith Ridge diversion and then we should have been passing it heading just north of east, not south of west. I know this now, some 20 hours later but then I didn't have an inkling.
We walked on, took the very obvious track North toward White Lodge Crags and headed for the Roundhall Reservoir. No alarm bell rang. Sitting here writing this, I do remember that when I studied the map on Sunday morning I rejected the route around the reservoir as it was just too far for a first walk, although it would take in part of the Nidderdale Way, which I did find enticing, but no, too far for all of us, I thought.
We were taking our time, the graphics project was coming on in leaps and bounds, everyone was enjoying themselves and the CF card was filling up fast. We hadn't really got the makings for a packed lunch in the morning but we were only going to be out for 2 or 3 hours so it didn't matter. We had one bottle of water between us, I'd got a couple of egg rolls, because ever since the old pancreatitis the motor wont run for more than a couple of hours without refuelling. T'others weren't bothered but I'd packed a cheese roll for J and a salad one for Rahel, just in case and stuck four or five mini energy bars in my top pocket. I'd also put some sugar fizz strings in a pocket somewhere for me, as sugar and goo get me out of hole pretty quickly when the pancreas is letting me down, but at the time I needed them, the memory of the stash evaporated.
Cutting a long story short, some 5 hours later we were climbing the hill out of Leighton toward Druid's Temple, all pretty knackered. Questions were starting to be raised about just how long this walk was, and when it might end. There was a tea shop at High Knowle but although both Rahel and I wanted to stop for half an hour, recuperate, hydrate and even possibly refuel, we were over ruled by the boy who glanced at the map and declared that we were just going to get on with it and get back to Warren Barn. Well perhaps he was right, how much farther could it be? I checked the map. I was puzzled that I could be so far out in my time estimate, I'd allowed for quite a large margin, two to three hours but here we were and five hours had elapsed already, still the mood was generally positive and I was good for maybe another hour.
Up through Ilton and then a choice, should we head west and then finish the walk by going west across Grewelthorpe Moor to the junction with our outbound track or head south across a scrap of marsh, a couple of field systems and then finish on the roads. A lot of um'ing and ah'ing but we were all three pretty tired, didn't want to have to retrace any of our steps and thought the sensible course was to stick with the road route.
A very minor error which took us to Galloper rather than Grouse Butts but what did that matter it was just a scrap of marsh land. OMG. This was the worst terrain I'd faced since, since, since, I'm not sure.73, 74, trying to find a route down from Ben Nevis, or was it going waist deep in peak bogs on Bleak Low, or White Head Moss?. Deep heather (I think, it wasn't in flower) tussocks, close packed and soft under foot. You had to raise your foot, eight to twelve inches with every step. The track was invisible although the digital map said we were bang on the button. I ran out of steam and fell. Where I landed was soft warm and comfortable, I didn't want to get up. The family started panicking although I did my best to reassure then from my prone position. Once up J took the dog and the pathfinder role. As we approached the top of the hill we could see post way markers stretching into the distance. How the hell could such a small area be so big and so bleak? J fell 5 times. Only Rahel kept her feet throughout. We were on the level now and the sun was still shining. A stiff breeze sprang up but we were surely close to home, six, six and a half hours, how could I have estimated so badly? Still we laughed about the terrain and the falls. The boundary fence was in view now and then surely the walking should be easy
Then the sky went dark and the rain began. We laughed, the forecast had predicted rain from 6, uncannily accurate. I put on a waterproof jacket, getting cold and wet when this tired could be a serious error. Rahel didn't. J was was already wearing a lightweight shower-proof. Then the heavens opened. Torrential rain and hail, the sky was black, The digital map became unusable. The road wasn't where we expected it to be but the compass showed it going south and that was good enough for me. The coats made no difference, we were all soaked to the skin. The rain ran down our legs and filled our boots waterproof or not. Rahel was cantering along with the dog some 3, 4 hundred yards ahead while me and J squelched along behind, speculating on what we might do if this turned out to be the wrong road.
It was seven and a half hours before we finally staggered up the track back to Warren Barn, I could barely put one foot forward in front of the other. J hit the shower, I collapsed on the sofa, it was a good 30 minutes before had the energy to take my hat off. Rahel cooked the tea, damn my wife has both strength and strength of character when it's needed.
I knew by now of course I'd made a pretty serious error at some stage, but finding out just where it went wrong could wait, so fighting the cramp in both legs and down the right side of my back I headed for bed.