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Ancient Feet: 44 - Three Onions

...At lunchtime, we found shelter behind a wall and had a break. As usual, Don produced his Ryvita and cheese spread and, although we were now almost halfway through the journey, I could see that the Ryvitas were still plentiful and almost no impression had been made on the spread. As I watched, Don began to pull from his pack a string bag and...oh, no, it contained two complete onions...

Alan Nolan continues his good-humoured account of a walk with his mates from one side of England to the other.

To purchase a copy of Ancient Feet visit
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ancient-Feet-Alan-Nolan/dp/1906510970/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1258967135&sr=1-1

Signed copies of the book are available from Alan
http://apn.thelea@yahoo.co.uk


Wednesday was the sixth day of our journey and had huge significance.

Our destination was Keld in the Yorkshire Dales, which is not only the halfway point of the Coast to Coast Walk, but also the spot where the Pennine Way dissects the Coast to Coast route. The distance from Kirkby Stephen to Keld is comparatively short at only twelve and three quarter miles, so I was able to restrict my pasty intake at breakfast to just one.

After five days of tough walking, a short day seemed appealing and I was looking forward to a relaxing afternoon sampling the pleasures on offer in Keld. The fact that this would be another day when we would not be able to spend any money during our journey didn't bother me as I knew we would reach Keld early in the afternoon and I would be able to choose between the range of eating houses and have a slap-up meal then.

We met outside the hostel and I soon discovered that there was trouble in the ranks.

'I don't care whether there's a spare bunk at every hostel now that Andy's dropped out,' said Joe, 'you can camp in future.'

'Yes,' Paul concurred, 'it's a bit unfair to keep the rest of us awake.'

'But I can't help snoring,' Don replied defensively.

I wondered why Tom had nothing to say on the matter and it dawned on me that he had kept out of the arguments about Don's snoring throughout the trip. Whatever Tom's reasons, I was able to give myself a pat on the back for avoiding the snorer's blight. Little did I know at the time that I was due a rude awakening, in more ways than one.

After leaving the town of Kirkby Stephen, the route climbed up a tarmacked road past quarries for a considerable distance before joining a bridleway which continued upwards to Nine Standards Rigg at almost 2,200 feet. The summit can be attained in about one and a half hours by a determined walker and no doubt Paul did, as he disappeared into the distance before I could say anaphi ... annafilla ... you know, that sting thing.

Nine Standards Rigg is where the Pennine watershed is attained with all streams from then on making their way towards the North Sea.

'So it's downhill all the way now then, is it Tom?' Joe asked.

'Well, not quite. There are still a few climbs, but we won't be as high as this again.'

This was a day for significant achievements, with Keld being the halfway point, the watershed being passed and no more higher ground, and we soon achieved another as we passed into the Yorkshire Dales National Park soon after leaving Nine Standards

After five days of almost perfect conditions, the weather was beginning to change and we walked on through the sort of light drizzle which leaves you undecided on whether or not to put on waterproofs, and this diminished our enjoyment of what should have been a beautiful walk in delightful countryside.

At lunchtime, we found shelter behind a wall and had a break. As usual, Don produced his Ryvita and cheese spread and, although we were now almost halfway through the journey, I could see that the Ryvitas were still plentiful and almost no impression had been made on the spread. As I watched, Don began to pull from his pack a string bag and...oh, no, it contained two complete onions.

'Bloody hell, Don, you didn't bring three bloody onions, did you?'

'Well, they sell them in these bags of three,' he explained.

'Yes, but you could've cut the bag open and just brought one or two. Even with Joe's help, you've only eaten one in six days.'

'You could be right.'

Tom raised his eyebrows, but couldn't bring himself to comment. He changed the subject.

'Now lads, Keld's a lovely place but I don't want you to expect too much.'

Klaxons sounded, alarm bells rang, sirens shrilled this was classic Tomatalk for 'Keld might be all right if you like sitting looking at drystone walls but, otherwise, it's fuckin' crap and don't blame me if you haven't brought anything to read.'

'But don't worry lads, at least we'll be able to watch England play Northern Ireland in the World Cup qualifying match on the telly at the hostel tonight,' he added in a placatory way.

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