Day five: Withins to Thornton-in-Craven, 13.75 miles
Our hopes of improved weather were dashed as we looked out of the door of the refuge. The sky was grey and glowering. At least staying in the hut meant we could pack dry gear. It wasn’t actually raining as we started, but it didn’t take long. As we walked down to Ponden Hall it began to rain.
Thus started the most miserable day of the whole journey. We trudged over Icornshaw Moor. At least in the morning, when it rains, you can hope that it will clear by the afternoon. However, it felt like one of those days when it will rain forever. We plodded through Icornshaw and navigated our way through fields and farm yards to Lothersdale.
We were concerned about going astray or being attacked by farm dogs on this stretch, but the rain kept the animals at bay and the navigation wasn’t too difficult. Somewhere along this stretch we must have had lunch. I can remember sitting behind a wall in a vain attempt to get out of the rain.
Lothersdale is supposed to be very pretty, but even the most beautiful village looks grim in the rain. By this time we were both soaked to the skin. The first iteration of GoreTex was nowhere near as breathable as current versions. The jacket also had seams that were sealed by rubber tape on which moisture condensed. I remember removing my thumbs from my rucksack straps and cascades of water exiting my sleeves. Neither were the “chaps” particularly effective and I was soaked around the crotch area.
All in all it was a really miserable day. The rain eased slightly as we reached Brown House Farm near Thornton-in-Craven. The farmer allowed us to pitch near the farm road. I peeled off my wet clothing. Fortunately the bin liners had kept the rest of my clothes and sleeping bag dry, although it was impossible in a small tent to prevent some of the damp transferring to formerly dry clothes.
After cooking dinner I got into my sleeping bag to try to find some warmth. I felt as though I was developing a cold. Robert wanted to go to the pub, but I was loathe to get out of my sleeping bag, so he went on his own. This was my lowest point. I felt like giving up. Why was I doing this? It wasn’t very enjoyable.
Day six: Thornton-in-Craven to Malham, 12.25 miles
Virtually everything was either wet or damp from the previous day’s deluge. However, we awoke to a fresh morning, some sunshine and a fresh blustery wind. Both the weather and the prospect of staying at Malham YHA to dry out lightened our spirits. We were also looking forward to the stages beyond Malham to get some real fell walking under our belts. Both us preferred the hills to farm yards.
The walk to Gargrave through fields was pleasant enough. We found the double arched bridge shown by Wainwright. I’m sure we must have re-supplied at Gargrave, but I think we had lunch somewhere along the River Aire. I remember the weather clouding over a bit at lunch time, making us a bit apprehensive about the prospects for the afternoon.
However, the weather was kind to us and cheered up as we followed the River Aire to Airton. As I remember it, the walk to Malham was very picturesque. After the rain of the past few days, the river was flowing fast and Aire Head springs were gushing.
This was a day to restore the spirits and remind ourselves of why we were doing this. A little bit of adversity improves the piquancy of enjoyment of backpacking. We reached the YHA hostel at tea time and booked in. It was a fairly modern hostel with good facilities and we did some washing and cleaning.
I’m fairly sure that we had a meal at the hostel and after our chores we went to the pub for a well earned pint or two. While it is wonderful sleeping in a tent, it does make you appreciate a bed and we slept soundly that night.