On Monday Janet, Judy, Claudia and I began an 84-mile walk from Ilkley in the Yorkshire Dales to Bowness-on-Windermere in the English Lake District. Our distance for the day was only 11 miles, and we had glorious weather, perfect for hiking: sunny and cool, with a light breeze.
The path was easy to follow. We just tracked alongside the rushing Wharfe River, high in its banks with recent rains. Oh, there were a few stiles to climb to hoist ourselves over fences or stone walls, and occasionally it took us a bit of puzzling to figure out exactly where the path ran.
But we were shocked….shocked…to realize it took us ALL DAY to reach our night’s accommodation, the Howgill Lodge about a quarter mile east of the river.
For estimating time, the standard hiking pace is usually about 2 miles an hour. You can certainly walk lots faster than that on a treadmill or city streets, but then you’re not pausing to align map and compass readings, climbing over aforementioned stiles, stepping between gnarly tree roots and rock outcrops, trying to find the best vantage spot for the perfect photo, or stopping to exchange pleasantries with every other walker you meet. There are some hardy Brits who can walk over the fells at 3 mph, but that’s not common.
In our group, Claudia and I are the pokey ones, and Janet and Judy the speedsters. But we all dawdled today. At Bolton Abbey, we walked into the upscale Devonshire Arms Brasserie, hoping to buy a Coke as the price for using their bathrooms. But the maitre d’ made us feel so welcome we sat down for lunch instead. (Most restaurants would have not been delighted for a group of sweaty walkers to drag backpacks and poles into their space.)
And then we did stop for popsicles and fudge at a park refreshment stand. We took pictures of the darling cocker spaniel posing on a tree trunk, and of the children crossing the river by jumping from one stepping stone to another (and sometimes splashing in),
and of the soaring Gothic ruins of the Bolton Priory, destroyed in King Henry the VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in the mid-1500s.
So of course it took us eight hours to walk 11 miles. We arrived at Howgill Lodge after five o’clock. But when we sat outside looking over the green fells and ancient stone walls (and eating more ice cream), the day was just right.
(On Tuesday, we redeemed our walking cred, keeping up a steady 2mph.)