Thursday, November 8, 2012

Warland Reservoir to Hebden Bridge

Our night on Warland Reservoir was a nightmare, even though there were no actual dark horses in sight.  The wind howled all night, and it started to rain not long after we settled down in our bags. Worse still, condensation inside the tent started dripping in more than one place.  As we had been sound asleep before the dripping started, it took us a while to figure out what to do.  Well, to be fair, I contributed essentially nothing to this problem-solving endeavour.  Chuck, meanwhile, (in his bare feet, I note) put our hiking poles to creative use and propped them between the tent and the fly to try to keep the two from touching.  This was also to allow more cooling air into the tent in a hope to reduce the condensation.  He then spent the rest of the night wiping up drips inside the tent and wringing the towels outside the tent.  He told me I should try to sleep if I could but that he was unlikely to.  I felt a little guilty considering sleep, but I was so exhausted that I could only gratefully accept the advice.

We started early the next day. In fact, we couldn't wait to get out of the soggy tent and back up on our feet. It had been a long night.  As soon as I awoke, Chuck was ready to get moving and we immediately started the packing up process.  We were so sick of our campsite that we didn't even pause to refill our water bottles despite obviously being right next to a large source of water.  

The wind was waiting to blow us along, and we were right back onto the moors (and into the mud) pretty quickly. Almost immediately, we could see Stoodley Pike off in the distance. Even from afar, it looked massive.  One guidebook described it as needle-shaped, and the other compared it to the fortress of Isengard (Tolkein reference, for those who don't recognize it).  I'm not sure I really agreed with either description.  Regardless, it was our target for the first half of the day, and although we could see it from the start, it seemed to stay the same distance away despite our attempts to reach it.

Of course, our morning's haste would come to plague me in the form of thirst.  We were out of water, and only half way to Stoodley Pike (which didn't offer any water either).  Fortunately for us, we had four things going our way.  1. We were on top of a hill.  2. There were no sheep in sight.  3. There were some large boulders near the path.  4. It had definitely rained last night. So, Chuck suggested that I could drink from the water pooling in the depressions on top of boulders.  I was a little nervous (he had, after all, spent quite a bit of time making sure I was aware of the perils of drinking unfiltered water), but he said there was no chance of sheep poop in the water, so I just lowered my head and drank directly from the little pool. 

The views on the way up to Stoodley Pike were lovely - beautiful little villages or towns clustered in the valleys between the hills.  We were going to get to the town of Hebden Bridge this afternoon, and if it were anything like these places, I couldn't wait.
Idyllic views
We were now finally approaching the top.  The site of Stoodley Pike has a lot of history.  There was an ancient burial cairn there at one time, and it was used as part of the beacon system in Elizabethan times to warn of the approach of the Spanish Armada.  The area where Stoodley Pike now stands was the link between Beacon Hill in Halifax and Pendle Hill near Clitheroe.  I love English history, and the Elizabethan Era has long been a favorite.  More than anything we'd seen so far, I felt a sense of wonder standing where people had been keeping watch for the feared Spaniards over 400 years ago. 

But, this is not the end of historical significance for Stoodley Pike. After all, the monument hadn't even been built yet. The work to build Stoodley Pike started in 1814 to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon (prior to his escape from Elba, which immediately stopped construction efforts). But after Waterloo, it was completed.  Almost 40 years later, it collapsed as the English went off to fight in the Crimean War (which was seen as a bad omen).  It was rebuilt again and is still standing today though it's been struck by lightning a number of times. 
Stoodley Pike withstands the winds
Although the views were magnificent, the wind was not.  It was the strongest wind we'd experienced so far, and very, very frigid.  One would think that some shelter could be found at the base of the monument, but it was cold and windy everywhere we tried. We decided to move on.  Thankfully, we had not gone far before the hill finally offered us the respite we were hoping for.
A warmer and less wind-swept view of Stoodley Pike
We left the muddy moors gratefully and now headed across a farmer's field.  The sheep stared at us, but unlike many of the others we've seen, they didn't run or startle even though we passed quite close.  These were definitely worry-free sheep, and we were in a similar mood.
Is it a sheep with two bodies?
Once we passed through the field and said hello to the farmer who owned it, we entered the prettiest little lane.  For the first time since Torside, there were actually trees.  Considering it was November, the hillsides were remarkably green, and most of the trees still had their leaves.
As we meandered through the trees, we soon re-encountered the farmer bringing his cows home from an area below. We had to stand aside to watch the procession (Note how far up the cows' legs the mud appears).  "How do they get out of the mud?" we wondered.
A parade of cows

Finally we made it down the valley and to the canal and towpath which led to Hebden Bridge.  Chuck was very excited, and it was now that we started talking about our next adventure - to paddle the canals of England.  But, before we could get too far along in our plans, we met a man and his dog who were walking along the towpath.  He (the man, not the dog) and Chuck struck up a conversation about hiking, boats, canals, etc.  The dog and I decided to leave them to it, sometimes walking ahead of them and sometimes lagging behind.

I knew Chuck was dying to take pictures but also didn't want to miss the chance to talk with someone local about canals.  It turns out that our new acquaintance not only lived in one of the long boats that moors along the canal, but he also builds boats, and his daughter worked behind the bar at the pub we were staying in that night.  So, they chatted away and I snapped away as we walked. 
The Rochdale canal

The ducks and geese swim in harmony

Deep in conversation about all things "canal"
Finally, we left our new friend talking to someone else he knew, and Chuck and I continued on into Hebden Bridge. What a pretty little town! 
The River Calder

Tired but happy to be in Hebden
We wandered contentedly for a bit, hoping we were heading in the right direction to reach our bed for the night.  After some assistance from a local resident, we finally found the White Lion and were shown into a very large room (from an English hotel perspective anyway).  We gratefully spread our wet things all over the room and settled in for a well-deserved bit of relaxation.

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