Day Nine - Nenthead to Allendale Town, 11 miles.

Total ascent, 325m.
Monday, 28th July.

If I were a superhero (I did say 'if'), I would be Directionman. I do have an uncanny sense of direction, certainly in comparison to my sense in any other department. Actually I've undersold myself there, I am also quite good at knowing the time without a watch, and the outdoor temperature without a thermometer (my watch must therefore be a back up). As Directionman I could send victims in the direction of safe havens in the hills ("Relax, I have a modular degree in Cartography."), whilst directing villains straight to the relevant authorities. As Directionman I could locate and save lost people, explaining to them their precise location using six figure coordinates. I therefore suspect that Nenthead is home to an evil, conflicting power ("oh no, not Directionlessman"), as it has sapped my inbuilt compass energy. I still don't know where I am!

Thank goodness then for Google Maps and Wikipedia, from which I have gleaned both where I am in a national context and what Nenthead is. I now know that I am a bit nearer Carlisle than Newcastle and a bit lower down than both. I also know that Nenthead was an important lead mining village but now isn't. And it's high, 438m high to be precise, making the Miners Arms (hmm, there was a clue in the name, yet again!) the ninth highest pub in England.

The Miners Arms also hosted a fight last night. I can't say I'm remotely surprised, there were at least 20 people legless when I arrived, so by 9:30 things had deteriorated considerably. When one of the younger lads lifted the end of the pool table up and dropped it, a bloke at the bar took offence, telling the lad how the table had been professionally levelled.

Fists were thrown and there was much grappling and shouting. I didn't understand a word from this moment on as the shouting was all in Geordie. Before long everyone in the pub except me (and the tiny, mild mannered landlady who left them to it as soon as they started) was in a standing scrum / huddle type thing which was gradually making its way round the bar. I was just wondering whether this was a local custom and if I should join in, when it broke and the younger contingent left. The older lot then spent an hour going on about what a bunch of tossers the younger ones were, before the younger ones returned and everyone hugged each other. Same again tonight I reckon.

I have to say though that I did like Nenthead. I had a wander round what there was to see this morning, which in most cases was evidence of what had been. It wasn't an attractive village but I could tell that it had a good community spirit (a fighting spirit no less!) and there were lots of people about and things going on.

Looking back to Alstondale. Fighting in Nenthead just to left of picture.

So off I went, the Dales Way complete, my day on the Pennine Way over. I was free to ramble, to roam, to go anywhere I pleased. Instead I followed a path called Isaac's Tea Trail to Allendale Town in the next valley. This doesn't sound very dramatic admittedly, but rather than wander from tea room to tea room it actually followed the route taken by local legend (and tea seller) Isaac Holden. He couldn't have sold an awful lot because after 36 miles he'd gone round in a circle and was back where he'd started. He did though traipse over a rather fine piece of moorland, which had not and still hasn't been paved. It was as good a moorland walk as I'd done so far, despite finding absolutely nobody who might want to buy some tea.

I did though find grouse. Many, many grouse. The problem with grouse is that they hide really well, then panic when you're about six feet away and clumsily flap themselves off the ground making an absolute racket. If they could just hold their nerve they wouldn't get shot and could all have a good snigger as the grouse beaters passed by. As it was I jumped a mile every time one took off, which was every few seconds.

Big, fluffy clouds.

The long moorland walk led to a long riverside walk. I was back to lovely weather and fluffy clouds, so hoped the riverbank wouldn't be hot and irritating. It had its moments, but I did see a few moles having a daylight dig and by 3 o'clock was in Allendale Town for a late lunch at the Allendale Forge and Gallery Tea Rooms. The place is way too small to be a town but is very pretty, with a several shops and three pubs. I had a superb ploughman's lunch in the gallery, as good as any food I'd had yet.

A slightly camp ploughman's lunch?

And it's just as well I did, because I am sitting in the market square at 7:30 having a pint outside the Golden Lion. From here I can see the King's Head, the Allendale Inn, the gallery, the co-op and the tea rooms. And nowhere is serving food. This is because it's Monday evening, and the people of Allendale only eat crisps and scampi fries on Monday evening. So I've had a crisp starter and a scampi fries main course, with a big decision to make for dessert.

While I'm deciding I am experiencing a déjà vu situation, as I watch a large group of very drunk Geordies on the next two tables. They look less likely to start a fight than last night's bunch, but they have started singing. Badly. So far we've had 'Suspicious minds', '24 hours from Tulsa' and, of all things, 'No limits' by 2 Unlimited. To be fair '24 hours...' was pretty good, and the atmosphere (at the moment!) is great. They've just started a Queen medley, in the absence of food I may well be joining them soon.

Oddly enough I was singing 'No limits' to myself on the moor earlier. I have no idea why, as my singing (and yes it is sometimes out loud!) is usually triggered by something I see or something that happens. For example when I get to the top of a high mountain I nearly always start singing 'Top of the world' by the Carpenters! Recently I've been singing 'Big yellow taxi' by Joni Mitchell based on the state of the Pennine Way ("they paved paradise..." Yes I do know it's essential but...). I've brought a quite decent tiny speaker with me as a luxury item (the iPhone speaker is appalling) but have barely used it. When I have I've only played The Fall. This appears to be an addiction on a par with my previous addiction to lucozade. I have vowed to play the Cocteau Twins later.

It's 8:12 and they are singing "Hey Jude", led by a woman who looks like Ann Widdecombe. Five minutes ago she fell flat on her back on the cobbles. I fear they have peaked far too early.

-- Posted from Kev's iPhone

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