Stats for leg 4: miles traveled, 66.63; total accumulated miles, 315.65; average miles per day, 13.32. Thursday, 4th – Tuesday, 9th June, going nowhere, for longer than planned.
These rest stops give me a chance to give my tack a good going over for repairs and cleaning.
I delve into one of the pockets of my panniers and get out my small screwdriver to tighten the screws that have come loose that hold the knee pads in place on my saddle and begin to make a list of things that need replacing as and when, such as a new set of reins, a new pair of waterproof trousers, etc. As luck would have it, there is a store called, Jolly Jods, within walking distance and I head off to see if I can tick a few items off my list. A good result: a new pair of waterproof trousers and some new reins with a very old label. They are shorter than my current ones but hope they will do.
However, there are a couple of issues that are causing me some anxiety at the moment. The bar in the Diggle Hotel becomes my temporary office, as Internet connection at my B&B is very patchy at best. (I suspect it is actually turned off during the day). Although there are sunny spells, it has turned cold and windy again and the log fires in the bar make it a welcome retreat to catch up with some blogging though this is a frustratingly slow process while I wait for my photos to download to my iPad via the iCloud as well as try to put some plans into action. At this moment, I have to admit to feeling at a low point, and prone to tears. In terms of seemingly insurmountable difficulties to overcome, this outweighs anything we have experienced along the trail so far. I have no-one to jolly me out of my present mood and my problems at the moment seems bigger than they probably are in reality.
My most immediate concern is the fact that the Pennine Bridleway runs out before our next stop where it turns into a cycle route that goes along major A and B roads through the urban sprawl that merges into Manchester. Bikes don’t spook at heavy lorries thundering past them at close quarters. I had thought that I might find a way through the back roads but I have experienced enough of the crazy traffic on the roads up here to know I don’t want any part of it. This is compounded by the fact that I only have a Harvey’s map of the Pennine Bridleway South and not an OS map which would have given me a much clearer view of the bigger picture.
I had always known this area was going to be a question mark but I thought I would wait until we got here before making a decision as to what to do. Now that I’m here, there is no way that I can see of getting us safely past this area around Glossop. So, I have come to the difficult decision to break our ride, my only option to try to find someone to give us a lift to our next stop in some sort of transport where we can rejoin the next section of the Pennine Bridleway. Over breakfast I meet two local walkers who are not horsey at all, but they confirm my assumptions about the route through this area as not being suitable for horses, even though they are aware work is under way to fill in the gap and connect the two parts of the PB here.
Another pressing concern is finding accommodation for Tommy and myself on the Sabrina Way which is coming up soon on our route as we will reach the bottom of the Pennine Bridleway and start the Sabrina Way in the next few days. All my energies are directed into trying to set the ball rolling to try and secure some overnight stops along this unfamiliar route. It doesn’t help that I can’t visualise the landscape. It feels like I am entering into a void. I root around for possible contacts and ask everyone I know if they can help in any way, sending out a list of places along the route through the Staffordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire areas. (A huge thank you to all who rallied to my call and made suggestions). Hoping my blue ribbon, (below, drying in the sun) will bring me some luck.
Then a remarkable piece of serendipity. One of the contacts I was given turns out to be Katie and her husband, Christopher, whom I discover, we have already met! They were driving over the causeway on their first visit to Lindisfarne the very day I began this pilgrimage and met Tommy and I in the murk heading over to the mainland on that fateful day in May. They stopped, lowered their window and asked where we were heading. I had told them Cornwall and Katie said they were so flabbergasted they didn’t know what else to say. But she had often thought of us and told her friends of our meeting. Now I’m on the phone asking her for accommodation. How bizarre is that? She tells me she and her husband have been committed long distance riders. It is a ray of light in an otherwise very stressful day not knowing how it’s all going to pan out.
Meanwhile, my search for some transport stretches into day two. I pursue several avenues which all lead to dead ends. As the day draws on, things are looking up. I am beginning to make some useful contacts along the Sabrina Way. But still no transport for tomorrow. Meanwhile Tommy is getting fat in the field.
Then, in desperation, it is obvious we are going to have to stay another night and after contacting friends in the RDA, I decide to also call the Oldham Mountain Rescue Team who both kindly put my plight on their respective Facebook pages.
The stick men hurrying about their business in the L.S.Lowry prints in my B&B room add to my sense of gloom. Feeling stuck and very emotional. Meanwhile, Tommy is totally oblivious to my dilemma and continues the chilling out process, lying down for an early morning doze in the sunshine. Here he is doing what he loves doing most, other than eating, having a roll.