It’s day two of our Pennine Way perambulation and I am raring to go rovering as we have breakfast at dog-friendly Cobbles and Clay in Haworth but, within a mile or so of stepping out, disaster strikes. A light rain is falling, which I find rather refreshing, but it also forms a few puddles on the path – one of which Jane steps in, revealing a hole in her fashion wellington.
‘Owww,’ she cries as her foot squelches in the water now pooling in her sole. ‘Will I get trench foot?’
I look at my paw pads which are also rather soggy. Will I get trench paw?
The miles of moor ahead of us are desolate and so is Jane’s mood….
‘Do you think you can carry on?’ Apricot asks Jane.
‘I’ll try,’ she says stoically.
And try she does until we reach the higher ground, which is rather boggy – and a bog attacks her fashion wellington and swallows it whole!
I prepare to jump into the bog to retrieve said fashion wellington – an act of considerable bravery and loyalty to Jane on my part as I am, in truth, a little scared of all aquatic endeavours – but Jane pulls me back. The bog might swallow me whole too, she screams. Then we spy the fashion wellington – now black rather than pea green – floating atop the bog. The bog has spat it out….
Jane scoops as much of the mud in the fashion wellington out as possible with a (unused) poo bag, changes her thermal sock and then, after a restorative chunk of Fruit and Nut, we march onwards. The moorland reaches forever and ever up here – as far as the horizon and beyond with nary a squirrel to unsettle it. It is too bleak for those namby-pamby high-tailed city dwellers but I appreciate the moor’s weather-beaten majesty and enjoy the wind and the reeds whipping against me.
Jane however, already diminished by her dual fashion wellington crises, finds the landscape unsettling.
‘How far is the nearest village?’ she nags Apricot, who has the map. I am rather affronted that she doesn’t ask me – with my fine olfactory ability I can smell the nearest habitation, even though it’s five miles hence. A denizen of the village is cooking SAUSAGES and my nose is twitching.
Finally we reach the village of Cowling, where we stop for our sandwiches, and then the landscape becomes more pastoral as we carry on towards Lothersdale. This cheers Jane. She photographs the spring lambs and I assist in her photography by barking at them to ensure they look at the camera. Were I not on the lead I would chase the lambs to oblige Jane with a spring lamb action shot but I am on the lead so this avenue of pleasure is closed to me.
We are walking through a field towards a farm when a man, clad in Lycra, sprints past us.
‘I have run 30-miles since breakfast,’ he announces as he passes before opening a gate and charging through a small paddock of bullocks. Big bullocks. He charges – and the big bullocks charge in his wake. Charging through a paddock of bullocks is not a good idea – even I know that and I am brave. He reaches the end of the paddock and the wooden gate slams. The bullocks are milliseconds behind him.
‘Do we have to walk through that paddock?’ Jane asks Apricot. We do.
We do not charge though – instead Jane lifts me into her arms and we progress through the paddock very, very slowly. The bullocks stare at us, wondering, and we stare back, wondering too. Some dogs may feel demeaned – being carried like a baby through a field of bullocks. But I am not demeaned. I am flattered. Jane has decided to carry me because she is worried that, on paw, I might pull on my lead in the direction of the bullocks and bark. She believes me the most fearless dog on earth. It’s not true – not quite true – but it makes me proud nonetheless. Still, even I know that chasing sheep is one things and chasing bullocks quite another. I do mind the bullocks.
After the paddock of bullocks the path leads upwards – up and up and up. It is only a few miles to Lothersdale but, for Jane in still-squelchy boots, they are hard miles. By the time we reach Lothersdale we will have walked 12-miles and that, Jane decides, is quite enough squelching for one day. There is the trench foot to consider, after all. So Apricot will walk on from Lothersdale to our kip for the night in Gargrave but Jane will climb down from Shanks Pony and find alternative means of conveyance. Being as I am Jane’s dog, it’s my duty to accompany her. I could, of course, carry on paw for hours – all the way to Malham, I reckon, or even Glasgow. But I am loyal.
‘Anyway,’ Jane tells Apricot, ‘Attlee could get Jack Russell leg if he walks too much.’
I am perturbed by this. For one, I am not a Jack Russell – I am a mongrel and proud, far bigger and stronger and sturdier than any Jack Russell I’ve ever met. For two, what on Dog’s green earth is Jack Russell leg? I have never heard of it and I doubt whether any practitioner of veterinary science has heard of it either. Jane has invented this Jack Russell leg condition for her own ends – as a distraction from the fact of the matter, which is that she’s the flagger. I raise an eyebrow – then drop it. Lothersdale is in view and we have decided to repair to The Hare and Hounds for coffee before parting from Apricot.
There is a boot rack at the entrance to The Hare and Hounds for muddy boots and the ladies, grateful, remove theirs. I don’t remove my muddy paws – ridiculous! Then we prevail on the bar maid for coffee and information on buses from Lothersdale to Gargrave.
‘Buses,’ she snorts. ‘We don’t have any buses going through the village.’
I glance at Jane. Maybe we are going to have to walk after all, despite the threat of Jack Russell leg. Then I fall promptly asleep under our table. Not because I’m tired, understand – I could carry on for miles – but because the atmosphere in The Hare and Hounds is very laidback and cosy and enervates me.
And when I wake a plan has been hatched – a taxi is booked to ferry Jane and I the six-or-so miles to Gargrave and Apricot is taking her leave and continuing her walk alone. I am slightly jealous.
‘I reckon I’ll be with you by about 7pm at the latest,’ she tells us.
So we say adieu and, 20-minutes later, our taxi pulls into Gargrave. It’s a very pretty little town or big village – I’m not sure which – with a fine old church and a river running through it and parkland and lawn bordering the main street. I throw myself on to the grass and roll to celebrate having reached journey’s end – never minding that we reached it with a little help from Mr. Cab Driver Esq. Then we check in to our room at The Masons Arms and I am impressed to be greeted by a tribute to my Pennine Way prowess – a medal awaits me in the form of a Bonio. Totes Amaze-Bonios!
Jane and I potter and sleep and then sleep and potter some more, awaiting hardy lone adventuress Apricot’s return. It is 7pm and there is no sign of her; it is 7.30pm and there is no sign of her. Jane and I head to the bar in the Masons Arms and sit at the table reserved for us and Jane drinks a glass of wine but there is still no sign of her. Then Apricot appears – not walking through the door, as we expect, but on the other end of the phone. Alas, she is lost! She has taken a wrong turn somewhere along the path and jumbled up her bearings. She will, she tells Jane, if she is still lost when it grows dark at about 9pm, find a barn and hunker down until dawn.
I shall seek her, I decide. I will be able to pick up her scent in a shake of a lamb’s tail – and there are plenty of them about – and guide her home. Jane concurs but says it’s best she has dinner before setting out as the kitchen closes at 8.30pm and she shares her initials with Jeremy Clarkson. I will, she tells me, be much better placed to assist Apricot if I’ve eaten fish pie first.
There’s a logic to this, especially if I can share the fish pie. So, thus replete, we launch our search party at 8.30pm, marching off as dusk falls in the direction a sign for the Pennine Way just outside the Masons Arms points. But we’ve only gone a hundred yards or so when we hear our names being called.
We turn around and there is Apricot. We’d been marching off in the wrong direction but it doesn’t matter as Apricot is safe – if a little weary – and can sleep the night in a bed in The Masons Arms instead of a byre or a barn. Grrr-HUZZAH.
The following morning, after a hearty English breakfast and SAUSAGES, we take what is supposed to be a gentle stroll beside the canal at Gargrave but turns into a seven-mile tramp as we are all such experienced trampers by now that we just can’t stop. Even the fashion wellingtons have ceased their squelching. Then we trio of Pennine Way perambulators have a final cup of coffee in the dog-friendly Dalesman cafe and go our separate ways – Jane and I on the train to Glasgow, via Carlisle, and Apricot to London, via Leeds.
Happy Birthday Pennine Way and thanks for letting us celebrate with you!
Phileas Phacts: Pennine Way, Haworth to Gargrave
- Cobbles and Clay, 60 Main St, Haworth, Keighley BD22 8DP Tel: 01535 644218; www.cobblesandclay.co.uk
- The Hare and Hounds, Lothersdale, Keighley BD20 8EN Tel:01535 630977
- The Masons Arms, Marton Road, Gargrave, North Yorkshire, BD23 3NL Tel: 01756 749510; www.masonsarmsgargrave.co.uk
- The Dalesman Cafe and Tearooms, 54 High St, Gargrave, North Yorkshire BD23 3LX Tel: 01756 749250
- If you’re planning your dog-friendly Summer holiday, don’t forget your copy of Phileas Doggs’ Guide to Dog-Friendly Holidays in Britain, available on Amazon and in all good bookstores. Grrr-HUZZAH!