Muker to Keld Loop

Muker to Keld Loop

Today we learn about risk mitigation and that the lower route is not always the easier route. We also find it impossible to tire a springer spaniel.

A Few Words on Planning and Risks.

This week I received a message on the YorkshireRamblings.com site asking if the walks that we do are risky and it left me in a contemplative mood thinking about what we do to mitigate any risks. There are at least three Georges in the group and sometimes there are more. ‘Tracker George’ who usually creates the physical map, ‘Planner George’ who keeps us all in order and ensures we all turn up on time and return when we’re meant to and me, I usually create a similar plan to Tracker George in an app called Outdooractive based on British OS Maps with ‘get out of jail’ points and GPS for when we need it. I have to say that our planning stage is quite robust and falling back on to GPS facilities on my phone is usually to identify our current position or to get us back on track should we have gone ‘off piste’ and whilst this sounds reckless there are times when the ‘public footpaths’ are not well maintained and we have to struggle through heather or bracken before a beaten or maintained track reappears. There is also the potential to follow a sheep or animal path in mistake for the mapped track although when this happens it’s usual to recognise the mistake within a few metres. I also have a family app that can be monitored by my daughter that shows my current position 24/7 so there are lots of belts and braces. On the tops we also adopt a policy of no stragglers so if someone is struggling or just generally taking things a little slower than normal then we take turns to be with them. It could be any one of us that is having an ‘off day’ and there has been more than one occasion when that has been me. These are the physical risks, there are others such as the weather and whilst we walk in rain and snow we do modify the route or on occasion abandon the walk if there is a threat of lightning; being on the tops in a thunderstorm is not comfortable and so far, we have managed to avoid it.

Back to the walk…

Swaledale is probably more famous for its sheep and cheese but its craggy escarpment, flowing rivers, woods and field-barns draw us here today. It’s sunny but it’s also eighteen degrees which makes it ideal walking weather. The sun is still strong enough to create deep shadows behind anything that stops the last few metres of the light’s progress having just spent the last 8 minutes 20 seconds travelling the 93 million miles from the sun. The result is a dry-stone patchwork of fields decorated with trees and rivers and topped off with craggy hills. I’m dreaming all this as we wind our way through the dale. Postman Pat could be having a ‘Walking Day with Jess’ and I’m driving his van along the winding roads. Our Jess will be Lilly, an 18-month springer spaniel with more energy than Duracell and fully appreciative of a ‘proper’ walk.

We arrive at Muker and I’m in luck as the lay-by outside the car park has a space free. Within a few minutes, we’re ready and Lily is chomping at the bit to ‘get on with it’ so we’re off through the village and with a minor false start begin the haul out of Muker to the 400 metre (1300 feet) contour that we’ll hug around this offshoot to Swaledale.

The lower route turns out to be challenging as the narrow path wends its way through ferns strewn with rocks that are programmed with one task, to twist the ankle of a passing rambler who has momentarily dropped their guard. The views though are spectacular so the temptation to take my eye off the rocks to steal a glance along the dale across to Black Hill or later to Crackpot is great and I succumb to the inevitable ankle-challenge with innumerable “thank you’s” to whoever guided me to don boots rather than trail shoes on this occasion.

Keld is a tiny hamlet with a huge history. The name derives from the Viking word Kelda meaning a spring and the village was once called Appletre Kelde – the spring near the apple trees. It’s also a crossroads of the Coast-to-Coast Path (west/east) and the Pennine Way (north/south) ish. It has a cottage renovated and owned by the United Reform Church which rents it as a holiday cottage and uses the proceeds for good in the village. They have a visitors centre and a tranquil ‘Well Being Garden’. It also has a lovely tea room, toilets, an honesty car park and a camping site. Keld is warm and welcoming and I love it.

So we sit in the sunlit if breezy garden and eat various locally produced foods and meet other walkers all with a smile and a wave when we leave. “Enjoy your walk” echoes around the garden and we’re back on the trail towards the gorgeous Kisdon Force. Lily’s glad to be moving again and wags her way along the path sniffing at anything that needs sniffing and leaving a trail of wees for other pooches to contemplate as they pass this way.

The bridge over the river and the waterfall tributary are both lit up by the sun creating a leafy glade that would thrill and inspire Constable or Hockney. We’re captivated for a few minutes as Dave uses the considerable force of the waterfall to wash the poo off the bottom of his walking stick – ah well, some pictures can be too perfect.