Keld to Reeth-Wednesday 26

Finally, the weather is turning: it is cold this morning, but the sun is shining. I don't know why there are no pictures today. I'm not in charge of pictures. But it is a pity, because these little valleys and the mottled greens and purples of the heather-covered hillsides are some of my favorites. And the day starts off through the tiny picturesque village of Keld, and then past a thundering waterfall. The water is the color of beer, and I don't mean Budweiser. I mean tea colored, a good copper ale. We speculate whether this is iron, or leached from the peat, or whether that is the same thing.

We're into the Dales proper, but we don't stick to the Swaledale valley floor. Instead the route takes side trips up the deep gills that feed the main river. Claudia's mad because this adds miles to the day, but it provides yet another completely different landscape. Ancient lead mine workings are everywhere.

We stop for lunch because the weather finally permits it, and are joined by two sheep who apparently check out all the lunch spots (another coast-to-coast family come past bringing the sheep with them, explaining that they were pestered, too). Claudia fixes the problem by trying to grab the sheep by the horns. He's extremely unimpressed (and surprised) by this move, and he and his companion move off in search of less troublesome customers.

We cross another peat-topped moor, but to everyone's relief we're on a track and so do not need to do battle with the mud. In fact, the going is as fast as it has ever been. Claudia and I are probably a mile behind the leaders.

The younger generation have become expert scatologists--they now argue about how long it is since this sample was dropped instead of who dropped it. Meanwhile, the adults have also noticed that every one of the 500 gates we have opened and closed has its own unique way of being fastened. My favorite type is the auto-shutting variety, which is in itself achieved in a miraculous number of ways from the simple (lean the gate post so you have to push the gate up as well as out) to the ingenious (a rock on the end of a chain--opening the gate lifts the rock).

There are so many grouse up here that even I can see them. It must not be hunting season, because the grouse butts (three sided hides the hunters stand in waiting for the beaters to put the birds up) are all empty. And the birds are so bold they strut across the road just twenty feet in front of us, giving us a great view of their distinctive white leggings. We ponder what kind of hunter you can call yourself if you just stand there drinking coffee and brandy until someone else drives the game up into the air in front of you. "British hunters" is Wayne's conclusion.

We hurry into Reeth because Wayne has discovered that there is a fair on. Turns out to be an agricultural fair. We have a tough last climb out of town to the old hunting lodge that is the Youth Hostel. Particularly tough because it is not on the route. Claudia is tired and not impressed. We've brought draft beer from a pub in town, and are forced to drink it quickly because the pickle jugs the beer's been poured into still clearly smell of pickle. Even with the beer in them. Another evening's worth of drinking in half an hour. This time Adam is there to help.