Ride 13: Thick Fog and Dick Turpin’s Bridge

Friday, 22nd May, Street to Garsdale, 11.45 miles

Last night, as a party of us were coming back from supper at the Kings Head in Ravenstonedale, looking up at Wild Boar Fell where I am due to be heading off tomorrow morning, Alison says to me, you’ll be fine as long as it’s not foggy……if it is foggy, you will be in big trouble!

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Did she have a premonition or was it one of those fluke coincidences, but lo and behold, I wake up, look out of the window and I can’t even see the fell through the drizzle and thick fog. I’m told these conditions are rare and only happen a couple of times a year, but that’s not much comfort for me at this moment, plus the fact this is our Ride number 13!  I make sure I’ve downloaded all the maps I need on the ViewRanger App on my phone. If I don’t run out of a signal, I will, at least, be able to locate where I am. Hopefully.

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At the last minute, Alison decides to escort us up to the gate on the shoulder of Wild Boar Fell and together, we head off into the fog.  Apart from being delighted to have the company, this also happens to be a very fortuitous decision, for me.   (It seems 13 is already lucky for me today).  In my search for the top of the Pennine Bridleway last year, I had imagined setting off along the obvious track leading off to the right after going through the first gate onto the fell. This, apparently, would have immediately sent us along the wrong path and into the grip of a notoriously treacherous bog.  We are going to have to keep our wits about us. I make a mental note to double check our bearings and all visible markers at all times, where I can see them.

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A few hundred metres along the track, Alison’s lovely mare, Posh, decides she can go no further and stops dead in her tracks. No amount of gentle coaxing will persuade her to budge forwards and Alison decides she must take her home. She is an old and faithful mare and speaking to Alison later, she thinks, sadly, that might even be her last ride out. I wave farewell to the pair as they turn to walk back home together and we continue on into the mist.

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At least the track is clear for a few yards in front of us and remembering all Alison’s instructions, we go up and down a couple more times, ford a few streams, go through the double gates and start our descent after turning left through the gate at the top, with the incline on my right and the decline on my left, just as Alison had described. Then we come to a lumpy patch of ground (pillow mounds I think) where there is no discernible path and our way is defined by markers. One, two, three, yes just visible in the gloom, but I miss the next one and wander off course. Hoping I have a signal on my phone before getting my compass out, I consult the app to try and get a bearing. Thankfully it is working and I can immediately see where we need to be but it means crossing a boggy patch of land. I lead Tommy across carefully and rejoin the path which, thankfully, by now is clearly defined.

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We drop down out of the fog into the lush, green Mallerstang valley and head up the other side along the High Way, an old pack-horse route that traverses the valley edge.

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This is about as close as Tommy is happy to be to this strange split stone beast.

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With fog still lingering over the fells above the valley,

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we stop for a lunch break (a ham roll that Alison has kindly made for me) at Hell Gill bridge which I discover later reading my leaflet about the Pennine Bridleway that this is where the highwayman, Dick Turpin, supposedly jumped on his horse, Black Bess, to escape from his pursuers. Also that the isolated crumbling building we passed high on the fell once used to be an Inn.

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Finally, we descend back down out of the fog into the valley to Garsdale where we are staying the night.

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Tommy sharing a handkerchief patch of land with lots of docks and a few chickens, and me in very comfortable bed in a B&B. I can see him from my bedroom window and watch the chickens scratching around between his feet.

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The sun comes out soon after we arrive at our destination and burns off all the fog.  (Clear blue skies after our journey seems to be a recurring theme for us).   Fine and sunny weather is forecast for us tomorrow and I am hoping it is true as we have a long ride to Selside.   I am also hoping Tommy will make it on his meagre rations. If I had felt a little braver, I would have done a ‘Dick Turpin’ and stolen the bag of granola off the breakfast tray for his breakfast.

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