The Dales Way – Swarthghyll Farm to Cowgill

Our Swarthghyll Farm hosts John and Freya came over and introduced themselves after their daily chores were done. Although Freya used to work in Los Angeles, they love the life here, and wouldn’t trade it. They purchased the farm as a ruin – no roofs – and have been building it back a bit at a time. Freya had prepared us a lovely pasta casserole for supper (yay! no chips!) that we just had to pop in the oven.

June 14 – It was a treat to cook our own breakfast in our little kitchen this morning, with farm fresh eggs and lots of coffee. We watched the weather closely, as we read that a big storm was due in this area. Not sure how they define a gale, but they name them like hurricanes, so they can’t be good. This one is called Hector.

It looked very windy, with tree limbs thrashing about, but no rain, so we set off. Leaving the farm and walking out onto the moor, the wind gusted so ferociously that it almost knocked me over, and we were pelted by icy rain. My hat and glasses flew off, and I’m shouting, “Help! My glasses!”, but the wind tore the words from my lips. Finding my glasses on the ground, Jim about-faced, and we marched back to our cabin.

Jim went back to the farmhouse to ask John’s advice about whether to wait an hour or so in the hope that the severity of the wind might abate, but John counseled him to go now, as it was supposed to get worse later! We put on our pack covers and rain gear, tightened every strap, and set off again. Remember: we are in the middle of nowhere. There is no phone service and no Uber (not a thing here) or taxi we can call. We can’t stay here another day. We have a reservation in Cowgill. We have to walk.

Okay, do you remember the scene from The Wizard of Oz when Almira Gulch is pedaling her bicycle furiously through the twister? Start there. Add the music if you wish. Then add driving wind that knocks you backward at every step. Gusts of rain like needles on your face. Now trudge uphill, directly into the wind! Don’t forget to climb over every stile, holding on for dear life! The big rocks that we clambered happily over yesterday are now slick and treacherous. The dry gullies are now filled with rushing water. The only blessing is that sheep turds are sufficiently heavy that they do not become airborne, because flying sheep dung in the face would just really be the last straw!

Jim’s pack cover went airborne, and he just managed to grab it. After four miles of this torture, we reached the cairn that our guidebook said was the highest elevation of the entire hike. Of course we stopped for a picture!

In the distance, we saw a truck parked on the other side of the next stone wall. As we approached, a young man rolled down the window and asked if we would like a lift. Just like that. Calm as you please.

David is the forestry manager for this part of the Dales, and was sitting there in his truck as it’s the only place in the entire area that has cellphone reception. He was waiting for a client and had a few minutes to spare, so he drove us down a ways, off the ridge, where the wind was less intense and we could resume our trek. Thank you David – Nice People of England!

The inclement weather continued for the rest of the day, with periods of rain, gusts of wind followed by a moment of sunshine as the clouds blew across the sky. Now that we were off the ridge, it was a fine day as far as I was concerned. We walked along the River Dee, and ate our sandwiches sitting on mossy wet rocks.

We passed by a huge aqueduct, built in the 1800s.

There were pretty flowers, refreshed from the rain.

A farmer’s fence proudly displayed a collection of dead rats.

We arrived at the Sportsman Inn. I like their sign – a chain of one!

They had a carved tree in the back garden.

Now we’ve had a bath (showers are not an option here), hung our clothes to dry, and are feeling much better about the day. We ordered Beef Madras for supper, which was just spicy enough to make my nose run, just the way I like it. Now the sun is out (did I mention that it is still light here after 10pm?).

No WiFi here, so this will have to wait before I can post it. Friend Tom, I can hear you laughing and shaking your head. Don’t we just have the best stories?

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