Kathryn Harries - Soprano

Friday, June 02, 2006

Relief. Blessed relief.

I’m getting used to dry weather remarkably quickly. Lorna picked me up and we drove back to Dove Holes where she took a photo of me by the Jag for Guy Salmon back in Thames Ditton.
While she returned to Buxton to do various jobs, I set off towards Chapel-en-le-Frith, which is certainly a name to conjure with.
There was a pavement or footpath all the way which was a real treat, and I skirted the centre of the village and headed for Glossop.
I’m aware of quizzical glances as I walk through built-up areas because I stride out much more energetically than, say, people doing their shopping; and the blue leggings are certainly a questionable fashion statement!
As I entered Chapel Milton, I began to tackle real hills; a wonderful viaduct straddles the village and, with its lofty blackened brick, it looked like invitation to travel.
On the long, steep hill that climbs out of Chapel Milton, I felt an ominous stirring in my tummy that meant ‘facilities’ would soon be required.
I slogged on and on, hoping that said facilities would hove into sight, and just as I was beginning to think that a mad dash into a nearby (and rather exposed) field would have to suffice, fate stepped in and I came upon the Lamb Inn.
I hurried across to the entrance, praying it would be open, and having ordered a coffee, did a barely disguised, cross-legged shuffle to the Ladies.
Relief. Blessed relief.
And when I returned to the bar, my Rambout’s coffee was waiting. It was just the job and when I came to pay, the lady behind the bar made the grave mistake of asking me where I was walking…
She took it bravely on the chin when I replied ‘Leeds’ and we had a very entertaining chat for ten minutes.
I can recommend the Lamb Inn for the friendliness of the people running it, the elegant comfort of the bars, the delicious coffee and, of course, the ladies facilities.
They don’t do bed and breakfast, sadly, because one day I’d like to come up to Derbyshire and walk across country rather than dicing with death on the roads.
From this point on there were no pavements worth speaking of; I had some grass verges for a while and then it was into the road and head on into traffic. Every hill climb was rewarded with a spectacular view, but I had to stand still to see it or fall over my feet under a car or container lorry. I’ll have to write a book called ‘Katie and the Juggernauts’ after the legend of Jason and his Argonauts. Maybe I’ll make a fortune – hmm.
On one particularly dangerous stretch, where what passed for a pavement was six inches wide, I climbed a dry-stone wall onto the grassy strip between the wall and the adjoining field and walked along above the traffic. I continued in like fashion for a mile or two, jumping down onto the road when the grassy, elevated ground petered out and climbing more walls to get above the roadway whenever I could.
There were patches of ‘access’ land which enabled walkers to cut across seriously dangerous bends – well done County Council and farmers alike – but at one point I had no option but to run down the road when it was clear, then jump onto the minute kerb and flatten myself against the wall to avoid being run over. I ran about a mile this way, mercifully downhill; I ran when I was little, but I hate the way all your bits jiggle when you run as an adult.
Eventually, Glossop appeared like a distant mirage before me; there was yet more unpleasant road to negotiate, so I cut across country on footpaths until I reached the town. It was longer but infinitely preferable.
One nice moment – Lorna and I briefly met in a lay-by, a postman drove in from the other direction. As he got out of his van, he did a double-take and said, ‘you’re that girl who’s walking and singing’ etc,etc. (I thought ‘girl’ was an especially nice touch.)
It turned out he listened to Classic FM and was a great fan of the lovely Jane Jones – so thanks Jane for spreading the good word. And thanks to Colin the postman for his encouraging words and even more encouraging advice on off-road options to Glossop.
Lorna went off to check out the roads ahead and I sat in the sunshine on a wall in Glossop having a chat with Johnny Graham Hall on my mobile. The dismal dampness of the past couple of weeks seemed a distant memory in the midday warmth and, while we discussed concert programmes for the forthcoming weekend, I could rest and enjoy the glow of survival-yet again.
Then onwards through Glossop and out on a very pleasant B road which carried little heavy traffic. My stick broke, which was ludicrously like losing an old friend – dear, dear. And it’s now laid to rest in a Derbyshire hedgerow.
Lorna and I met in a pub car park for lunch and she filled me in on the state of the roads to come.
I set off after a very short break and, making the most of access land, either paralleled or walked along the winding B road. I had one wonderfully surreal moment when, faced with an oncoming motorcyclist, I stumbled on the verge and landed flat on my face in front of him. He very kindly slowed, and drove around me – and I put yet another hole in my leggings and my knee. What a pillock.
To my left were a series of dams/reservoirs and with the sun blazing down they sparkled and shimmered invitingly.
I spotted a long pathway beside the water and legged it down a steep field until I reached it. Yipee! It was the Trans Pennine Trail and I was able to follow it eastwards beside the reservoirs and within sight of the road.
I had plans to cut up north towards Holmfirth, but Lorna’s scouting ahead unfortunately failed. My B road joined with an A road after which there was a mile before the turning I wanted; I needed to know whether it was fit to walk on and Lorna wasn’t sure how much pavement there was. So I opted to stay on the other side of the water until I could cross, which I couldn’t, it transpired.
I walked miles beyond my turning, catching a glimpse of the road I wanted winding away into the hills across the broad expanse of water. So I looked at the map and decided on another cunning plan. I met Lorna to replenish my water supplies and then spent a very pleasant hour and a half walking the TPT in an easterly direction. My only companions were sheep with fat lambs and cattle standing guard over their calves. The climb was ferocious but looking back over the tiers of reservoirs was magic; the sun had turned the water to silver and the black silhouette of hills rising into a clear blue sky was breathtakingly beautiful. Shame about the pylons that march across this glorious countryside like an army of metal giants. Wouldn’t it be great if all those wires could be piped underground.
Eventually Lorna and I met at Dunford Bridge and she drove me back to Buxton, where I was going to have dinner with friends of Jane.
First, we stopped at the bed and breakfast place where Jill and our great friend, Pam Potter, were staying. I won’t name it, other than to say it was Fawlty Towers revisited and expensive to boot.
I only had my walking clothes so I retrieved a clean Opera Walk T-shirt from the roped-down luggage box on the roof rack. The key jammed in the lock on day two and hasn’t been fixed yet, so a few girl-guide knots later it was roped down again and Lorna went home to Stoke.
Jill let me shower in her bathroom, and the tape that held the shower together immediately unravelled, so the showerheads bounced around the bath until I could retrieve it. See what I mean about Fawlty Towers.
And then, clean and wearing Pam’s black trousers as my leggings had quietly and finally disintegrated, the girls dropped me off at a typically lovely Buxton stone house and I had a great evening in great company.
I really look like an overdone chip now after all the sun today. My arms are rather red and I look more and more like a gypsy; I haven’t worn my shorts yet, however. I think I’ll save that for another day when I’m not walking through any towns! 23 miles.

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