Blow up the balloons and hang out the bunting, pups, for the Pennine Way is 50 years old – 350 in dog years which is ancient! Our friend Apricot is ancient too (in dog years, that is – she’s still a mere slip of a girl in human years) and she shares her birthday – April 24th – with the Pennine Way. And that’s why Jane and I are on a train to Leeds – to celebrate both events by walking the Pennine Way with Apricot.
The augurs for our expedition, however, are not good.
Augur #1 – the walking boots Jane has purchased from eBay have not arrived by the time we set out for our train to Leeds. This makes Jane very fretful as she isn’t sure that her fashion wellingtons will be up to the task of marching across moorland for 12-miles a day. Poor humans – all this fretting over footwear while my paw pads are sturdy and strong be I bouncing across the beach or hot pawing it along the pavement. Many’s the time I have questioned Dog as to why humans are so poorly designed but he has yet to provide an answer.
Augur #2 – rain is forecast. Apricot has been checking her phone every day and her phone has checked with the people who control the weather and reported back to her that it will rain. Heavily – and especially heavily on April 24th. The people who control the weather are clearly not friends of Apricot or of the Pennine Way – not fair-weather friends anyway.
So it is up to me to keep Jane’s spirits up as we change trains at Leeds to continue our journey to Hebden Bridge, where we are staying for the first night of our trek. I try to amuse her by cavorting in the aisle, creating grand disruption for other passengers. But she is not amused.
‘I will not be able to walk 12-miles a day in fashion wellingtons with this rucksack on my back in a torrential downpour,’ she cries. ‘I don’t know why I have agreed to this trip.’
So forlorn, is she, I wonder whether she will ever recover. Then, upon arrival in Hebden Bridge, we are greeted with this sight and her spirits are revived.
A dog sticking its head out of a cat flap! All my charisma and my talents – writing, squirrel chasing, being the fastest dog in the park – are as nothing compared to this mutt peering through a hole in a door. I could be rather hurt but I am the bigger dog and I let it go. At least Jane is chirpy again.
She chirps up even more when we meet Sharon, who runs Garnett B&B, our residence for the night in the centre of Hebden Bridge. Sharon is chirpy and Jane is chirpy and the two of them chirp on for half an hour at least. I’m so bored by their nattering I consider seeking out cat flap dog for some intelligent conversation…..
At last Jane and Sharon – old friends, now – have run through their life stories with each other and Jane and I head out in search of repast. Sadly the dog-friendly Lamp Post cafe (featured in our best-selling book) is closed as it’s 7pm so we head to The Old Gate pub. Jane is reassured by the fact that the bar serves white rioja and I am reassured by the fact she orders chicken burger and chips. Scraparama!
Back in our room we study the maps to plot our route for the following day although really our efforts in this quarter are redundant as Apricot, who arrives at 10pm, is chief navigator, and I don’t require maps – I always just follow my nose and end up in exactly the right place. Amaze-bones!
Day One: Hebden Bridge to Haworth
Fido Felicitations to Apricot and the Pennine Way – the grand day, April 24th, has arrived and they are both, officially, ancient! The celebrations start with a slap-up breakfast courtesy of Sharon (and some slap-up sausages for me, courtesy of Jane slipping them under the table) and then we are OFF! Well, our OFF is set back rather by the fact the chap in the cafe where we buy sandwiches spends rather a long time preparing them – half an hour, which seems a bit excessive a timeframe to put some brie and tomatoes between two slices of bread – but then we are OFF! Jane glances at her fashion wellingtons trepidatiously; Apricot stamps her hiking boots and I click my heels together. Twelve country miles – bring it on!
And what joys those 12-miles bring. There are sheep to bark at and there’s fresh grass to roll in; nesting birds inhabit the scrub of the moors and then, waggiest of wonders, there are reeds with little rodent-like residents.
‘Voles,’ Jane says, catching sight of one of the critters scurrying down a hole to escape my attentions. I have never heard of a vole in all my born days but, now I’m aware they exist, I am obsessed by them. VOLES! Forget squirrels and bring me VOLES!
Because of the sheep and the nesting birds and voles I am LEAD ON but I will not allow this small fact to tarnish my merriment – not a bit of it. Who does that ram think he’s staring at? I will bark at him and show him who’s boss! Why is Jane walking so slowly up this hill? I will surge forward and drag the old girl up. I am King of the Pennine Way although, I must admit, by the time we stop for lunch next to a bridge over a stream I am rather out of breath and can’t even muster the energy to bark at the geese flying overhead.
‘We’ve walked eight miles at least,’ Jane sighs, satisfied, as she bites into the sandwich that took half an hour to create.
‘No,’ Apricot counters, examining the map. ‘We’ve only done five!’
‘Five,’ Jane cries aghast, staring at her fashion wellingtons. ‘Another seven to go?’
But the rain holds off – the sun even shines at points – and onwards we tramp. Chunks of Dairy Milk and Jelly Babies sustain Jane and Apricot; I have a bag of Amitage Good Boy Chocolate Drops to keep my energy levels up. The treats work a treat – oh, I have so much energy to bark at sheep.
‘Attlee – stop,’ Jane shouts, yanking my lead to show she means business. Then we turn a corner – and terror strikes our hearts……
Oh my Dog! I’m sorry, officer – I know I’ve been behaving in a rather unruly fashion what with barking at sheep and voles but I have realised the error of my ways and will desist immediately.
‘Do you think a farmer’s called the police about Attlee barking at the sheep?’ Jane hisses, stopping in her tracks.
Even Apricot appears slightly alarmed.
‘Let me off this lead Jane, so I can run and hide in the moors. I will be a fugitive rather than spend the rest of my days behind bars!’ I cry.
‘It can’t be anything to do with us,’ Apricot declares boldly. ‘Let’s walk past.’
So we do and the officer in the parked car smiles at us. Nothing to see here; move on your way, folks.
False alarm – still, I do quiet my barking for the afternoon. I don’t much fancy being apprehended by the Canine Unit.
The experience has fritted us all and, as the moor grows bleaker as we climb uphill, we are sombre and reflective. Then we spot, in the distance, an abandoned farmhouse and Jane and Apricot’s pace quickens. This is, apparently, Top Withins, the inspiration behind the Earnshaws’ house in Wuthering Heights and a place of worship for Bronte fans – tortured teenage girls and maudlin middle-aged spinsters among them.
I’d much rather be snouting for voles than bookishly brooding but I’m a sport about it all and think of Emily Bronte’s canine companion Keeper who tramped the moors by her side every day. Emily must have been a fine sort of human to have a dog as her best friend so I allow Jane and Apricot their reverie and even accommodate their rendition of a Kate Bush classic with equanimity.
And Top Withins does have a majesty about it – as we descend the hill it stands atop we keep turning to gaze back at it, forlorn and alone yet somehow majestic and splendid in its isolation.
Jane, however, is flagging now – we are only three miles from our dog-friendly digs for the night but the ten-miles we have completed are telling on her fashion wellingtons rather. I still have great stores of energy in reserve and push bravely on – I am the leader of this small pack and will not falter. And, when we arrive at Westfield Lodge, I am justly rewarded as a bucket of straight-from-the-butchers bones has been left at reception to welcome me. This truly is AMAZE-BONES!
Apricot and Jane complain about their aching muscles. Aching muscles, I think, as I chomp and they bathe (although without the benefit of soap as there there isn’t a bar of it in our self-catering apartment) – why, I could walk another 12-miles this very minute.
Still, when Jane opts to call a cab rather than Shanks’ pony to convey us the mile into Haworth for dinner I don’t grumble and, as we sit down in The Stirrup Eating House on the main street, my eyelids grow heavy. Then the chef emerges from the kitchens brandishing – grrrhuzzah – a sausage and I am wide awake.
Well the Stirrup is a fine establishment and no mistaking and this day one of the best I’ve ever had, if we leave out the brush with the long paw of the Law. Voles, sheep, bones-straight-from-the-butchers and now a sausage presented to me before the girls have even ordered their glasses of Prosecco. I truly am the King of the Pennine Way and I wonder what treats tomorrow, when we tramp on to Gargrave, can offer to compete with this.
Phileas Phacts: Hebden Bridge to Haworth
- Garnett B&B, 2 Garnett Street, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 6AL Tel: 07594 080556; www.hebdenbridge.biz
- Jane, Attlee, and Apricot paid £65 for a large twin room, breakfast included.
- The Lamppost Cafe, 13-15 Bridgegate, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 8EX Tel: 01422 845745; www.thelamppostcafe.co.uk
- The Old Gate, 1-5 Old Gate, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 8JP Tel: 01422 843993; www.oldgatehebden.co.uk
- Westfield Lodge, New Westfield Farm, Upper Marsh Lane, Oxenhope, Keighley, West Yorkshire, BD22 9RH Tel: 01535 646900; www.westfield-lodge.co.uk
- Jane, Attlee and Apricot paid £90 for a one bedroom self-catering apartment.
- The Stirrup Eating House, 103 Main Street, Haworth, West Yorkshire, BD22 8DP Tel: 01535 642007; www.thestirrup.co.uk