…in which we tramp through baffling bog and mire then banish damp with a log fire.
Tan Hill to Clove Lodge, 10 miles.
For a respite from foul weather at Deep Dale 948 147 (NTG p. 109) the dark-coloured wooden shooters’ hut has a walkers’ shelter that seems reliably open at the southeast end. You could at a pinch sleep in it, although the bottom of the door leaks. There was litter in here last time I passed; please don’t forget to close any shutters you might open and to remove rubbish, including other people’s, while blessing the owners for their kindness.
Since the closure of the youth hostel to walkers, accommodation in Baldersdale has been problematic with the lovely bunkhouse, BnB, meals and informal camping formerly provided by Clove Lodge among very few remaining options. Tragically in May 2016 the primary operator of these facilities, Caroline Carter, passed away, leaving their future unclear. Her husband Chris kindly enabled us to use the barn on this trip and even provided a hot meal but explained that he would shortly be forced to sell up. When I passed by again in October 2016 I was pleased to see a notice on the door of the bunk barn saying that it was still available. However there were no longer options of camping, BnB or meals. This means that unless you’ve packed supplies from Hawes you’ll need to buy food at Tan Hill, something they’ll be happy to help with. The bunk barn is more like a mini-hostel with a shower and kitchenette, also a stove and fan heaters which were essential it was a bit damp.
There used to be May-September camping at Highside Farm on the B6276 near Kirkcarrion but when I spoke to the proprietor in May 2016 he told me this farm too had been sold and they would shortly be leaving. Don’t underestimate the additional distance into Middleton, if Clove Lodge is still available, I’d try to support it. Or there’s always the mysterious Bowes Loop, an option I’ve never tried.
The Way from Tan Hill heads counter-intuitively northeast, not north and there is an alternative even less intuitive route further to the east along Long Causeway, becoming Sleightholme Moor Road. Early or late in the season, or after several days of heavy rain, I’d consider that option. Sleightholme Moor is appallingly boggy, especially the section nearest Tan Hill, and only partially flagstoned. If you’re determined, just follow your compass and then the beck, it’s not that hard. The green bridge at D (NTG p. 107) really is green. If your bridge is any other colour you’ve missed the green one and come too far, but that’s not a disaster as long as you end up on the south side of Sleightholme Beck before it gets too big. You then re-cross to the north side over a more substantial bridge down in the mini-gorge after Kingdom Lodge, which is now a nattily-restored weekend place, by the look of it.
After the A66 the route is a little vague. I’ve never found Ravock Castle but trust your compass and you’ll come down to the Deep Dale shelter and bridge. Race Yate is OK but Cotherstone Moor is boggy, nonetheless the overall route is clear and the bearing consistent; you’ll see West Hare Crag over to your right in decent visibility. The Way enters through the gate at the southwest end of Clove Lodge, the bunk barn is the separate building under the large tree slightly up and in front of you, The Way continues to the left.
After Tan Hill The Way really starts for the first time to whisper into your increasingly heightened subconscious that it might just be leading you off into the unknown. Sleightholme Moor, what kind of place is that? Who might own such bleak and benighted ground, and why? What day is it and what county am I even in? Where is the path? Why are my legs wet?
Much becomes clear when you reach the tarred road: it’s the grouse, stupid. Lines of butts, freshly-painted signs, well-maintained bridges, vehicle access everywhere. It’s the poor, stupid grouse that unwittingly pay the rent up here and on so many other sections of The Way. After the farm, Sleightholme Beck flows into a deepening, narrowing clough. The marshes around the footbridge were teeming with waders, the usual Golden Plovers and Curlews but also Redshank, Snipe and Oystercatchers. Some will tell you these wonderfully noisy and animated birds are only still breeding here because of the grouse. Others believe that’s not quite the full story.
God’s Bridge is an odd bridge indeed. We thought the river must have dried up but in fact as an elderly local in a boilersuit kindly explained it runs permanently underground, having sunk into the limestone as in the dry valley above Malham. There were more of the pretty pansies here, as on Fountains Fell. I assume these are Mountain Pansy Viola lutea as they occur in patches of plain yellow then elsewhere patches of pale violet-blue.
What kind of crazy architect specified that fluorescent lighting should be installed in a pedestrian tunnel under the A66 in the middle of nowhere? Needless to say, it no longer works. The speed and momentum of the huge trucks is terrifying after the peace and simplicity of the moors, simple at least as they appear to creatures that merely cross them as a brief recreation, rather than wresting a year-round living from them.
I’d e-mailed Caroline Carter about the bunk barn and after a delay had received a couple of oddly laconic replies from a different address that turned out to be her husband’s. Somehow and very generously he’d managed to include two random Wayfarers in his priorities incredibly soon after the sudden loss of his wife. When we arrived the barn had obviously been closed up for a while, as it was terribly damp. We got cracking and set up the fan heaters to air the sweet little bedrooms, then I foraged firewood from the nearby copse.
With some coal so soggy it had actually gone mouldy we dried the lovely little place out while enjoying hot showers and multiple mugs of tea. Chris cooked and served us what may have been the last of the famous Clove Lodge chillis, his signature dish that will badly be missed by many Wayfarers. The many tributes in the visitors’ book were a testament to the contribution this peaceful place and its kindly owners have made over years to the life and viability of The Pennine Way. We sat in the evening sun with the two friendly dogs as they gloomily but still alertly watched the moors, waiting for their Mum to come home.