Day 25 Tues 24-05-2005
Diggle to Ponden
In the morning Mrs Rhodes packed me off to get the bus, after feeding me an excellent breakfast, and she had made me some sandwiches - what a star!
The bus was bang on time at 7:45, and I saved myself a steep walk back to the Pennine Way. I started out along the bleak hillside of Close Moss, heading north east, and the rain and visibility closed in. I wasn't too concerned about navigation, as my route was crossed frequently by major roads.
"Morning sheep!!" - there weren't many other animals around to greet, but lots of wooly shapes in the mist around me. I was still superstitious, and was convinced that any bad luck would be down to forgetting to greet my fellow animals.
The M62 crossed my path, but first I reached the A672 from Oldham. As the road came into view through the mist and rain, I saw a mirage - a burger van! It turned out to be real, and the proprietor, Brian, was chatting to a few motorists and truckers gathered under his awning.
"Here's someone enjoying himself!" Brian said, the truckers sniggering at my dripping waterproofs.
"Where are you headed?" they ask, and I tell them, proudly.
"Bloody hell, you must be mad!"
To cheer me up, Brian produces a sign, propped up at the back of the bar:
"We reserve the right to refuse to serve all walkers and cyclists."
Having had his fun, Brian relents and gets me a coffee.
"Do you know I'm famous?" asked Brian
It turns out that Brian's burger bar has been here for many years, and has featured in many travel books - including (he claims) Wainwright. Bearing in mind Alfred Wainwright died in 1991 aged 84, I took that with a pinch of salt. However, Brian produced a well thumbed book, opened it, and handed it to me to read.
It turned out to be Mark Wallington's excellent "Pennine Walkies," a humorous account of the author's trek along the Pennine Way with his dog, Boogie. I had read this book some time ago and was amazed to meet someone featured in it. Sure enough, there are two pages devoted to Brian, and his excellent fruit pasties. Still full of breakfast, I was disappointed not to try one.
I plodded on into the mist, with Brian's cheery goodbyes ringing in my ears - "It's a bloody long way to John O'Groats!!" I crossed the M62 on a slender footbridge, went past Dick Slack (it's on the map - honest!), crossed the A58 and walked alongside Blackstone edge reservoir. Presumably, Mancunians are able to brew cups of tea whenever they like due to the many reservoirs found on these bleak hills. Maybe on a sunny day, the water would look inviting, but with rain being driven by a fierce crosswind, and visibility down to a couple of hundred metres, these bodies of water looked plain frightening. Eventually, I descended from the moorland and walked along the Rochdale Canal into Hebden Bridge.
These days, Hebden Bridge has a reputation as a centre for the arts, but all I wanted was some fruit, maps and a pint. I got the fruit in the supermarket, was unlucky with maps as every suitable shop was closed (on a Tuesday?!?!), and found a nice little pub full of locals for a pint. Two old guys sitting near me chatted, one sucked on his pipe and delivered these words of Yorkshire wisdom: "Aye lad, round here, it's either rainin', bin rainin', or just abaat to rain." I bid them farewell, exited the pub, and headed towards Ponden Reservoir, thankful that it had "bin rainin'."
The moors I was crossing now were prime Bronte country. It was strange to see signs in English, and Japanese. Apparently, the three sisters were BIG in Japan, and this area received lots of tourists on the Bronte trail. Not today, though. Lots of sheep to say hello to, but very few humans.
By about six in the evening I reached Ponden Reservoir, where there was a B&B with a campsite. Mrs B&B tells me there are no rooms, but she has lots of space at her campsite a couple of hundred metres downhill from her house, and she will cook me breakfast! I climbed down a steep hillside, and found a lovely field next to a stream, and only one other tent with a couple of walkers.
Tent up, Mrs Rhodes' sandwiches, Archers on t'radio, write my diary, try to sleep. Everything is a bit damp, but could be much worse!