Green in all possible forms
Green, green and green. In all kinds of shades. The color green is everywhere. The meadows, the trees and sometimes even the sheep. Yes? It's true. The sheep have all kinds of colors. The farmers can recognize their rightful sheep by coloring them. Sheep are plentiful. Walking for an hour without seeing a sheep is a rarity. While walking the Dales Way my thoughts wandered off regularly. I thought of the nature that had to give way to all these sheep. And indirectly for our consumption. I noticed that I was really curious what it would have been like without the sheep. On the other hand, the meadows, with the typical walls and the sheep are also a beautiful sight.
Where does all that green come from? Rain. How could it be different? The rain is not a rarity in England. The cloud fields are rapidly moving across the landscape. I think it's a beautiful sight. It makes the landscape so much more dynamic. And then the sun breaks through the clouds. Amazing. And suddenly dark clouds on the horizon again. The weather is unpredictable. I certainly like it. For me, the wet climate is not a problem. Although I recommend a good rain suit. You will definitely need it!
In general, the route follows a number of meandering rivers. Being a 'river-man' it got me really excited. Every river has its own character and beauty. I particularly liked the part of the route along the river Lune. The Lune is crystal clear. When the sun illuminated the riverbed, it's color turned to gold. The rocks, sometimes rough and sometimes softened by the water, completed the picture. Life along the rivers is exuberant. From otters to weasels and of course the beautifully colored kingfishers. What a beautiful bird. There is a lot of wildlife along the entire route. Seeing wild animals always gives me a feeling of happiness.
Friendly fellow hiker
I regularly met a fellow hiker on the route. Often it was a local Englishman. Just enjoying his surroundings. The English people seem to go outdoors a lot. Rain or shine. Young, but also a lot of vital elderly people. Very nice to see. I love to have a chat with the fellow hiker. Sometimes it was a shot chat. Other were longer. Short or long, it does give me a lot of energy for the further walk. This happened fairly regularly. Despite these encounters, the route wasn't too crowded. Apart from a few places (Bolton Abbey). For me, this was certainly not disturbing. In addition, there are enough quiet stretches to get right with yourself. Of course only if you want to!
Cordiality and hospitality
The local population is very friendly and welcoming. Everywhere I went, people are curious about who you are and for what reason you came to England. The English like to tell about their country and its history. Often passionate and proud. With respect for the other and not in a morally superior way. Filling up my water bottle was no problem whatsoever. Often they were delighted to do so. With a smile, my wish was fulfilled. Always friendly and helpful. It really struck me how welcoming the English were.
This is also very true when I speak of Ed. The owner of the George Inn. After a restless and wet night in the tent, I arrived at his Inn in Hubberholme around 10 am on Sunday morning. Too early, the doors would open at 12 o'clock. Yet he gave me a cup of coffee and asked me if I wanted to take part in the Sunday Roast. There was not a single doubt in my mind. I'm in. I also could leave my backpack with him while I was visiting the small village of Hubberholme. I have to admit it was worth it. The highlight was the beautiful church with a historical story. At midday, I reported back at the George Inn. The Sunday Roast was amazing. I was not disappointed in my expectations. The tastiest meal I have in England. The Yorkshire pudding was the crown. It was delicious!
If you are near to Hubberholme on a Sunday, do not hesitate to attend to the Sunday Roast from the George Inn!
Satisfied, I continued my journey. Before this trip I decided not to buy a map of the Dales Way and try my luck with Google Maps. Wrong choice. Often there was no telephone signal. It ment no map. This was not convenient. Especially because of the fact that the signposting was regularly insufficient or unclear. I remember walking in Oughtershaw and having had no signal on my telephone for days. What now? I was about to enter the famous 'moorlands'. I absolutely did not want to go into the 'moor' without a route description! I could not trust the signposting. Dilemma.
It was pouring rain. It made the misery complete. It didn't look like it was going to end anytime soon. A big white mass. I decided to take a rest and think of a plan. I just passed a shelter and went for it. I only was there for about 10 seconds and the door opened. "Do you want coffee?" I could not say no to that offer! "Yes, please!" It was a blessing in disguise. And this was not the only happy thing that happened to me! More about this in a later blog.
The moral of the story? Be sure to take a physical or digital map with you while walking the Dales Way. This will give you direction when there is doubt.
Expert at opening and closing fences
Fences. Something that you are certainly confronted with while walking the Dales Way. Small, big, ugly and beautiful. Half broke to extremely advanced. Intended to keep the cattle within the predetermined fencing. For the change they make you climb over a wall. Also nice! I graduated on opening and closing fences during the walking of the route. In England, there is a law which is called the right of way. A right where you can walk over someone else's land, only if you stay on the designated paths. This sometimes gives special insights and chance for fun encounters when you walk over the property of the English. I found this an added value while walking in England.
Step by step
The route was also the scene of an important lesson that I learned. Although only future will tell if I really learned it. I suspect that I will struggle with it more often. What am I talking about? The art of not wanting to be somewhere you are not. In the first days, I was too busy with where I wanted to be. The final goal. The walking was heavy. While walking I could hardly enjoy the beauty around me. Nature, people, animals and the sun. Prior to this adventure, it was my intention that I could enjoy this. It is why I do all this. I have to do something. How can I turn this around?
At home I said to myself, I will walk until my body says stop. Or if I arrive on a beautiful spot. I was aware of the fact I wasn't sticking to this plan. Slowly I could let go of my goal. I succeeded time to time. I noticed that walking became lighter. I enjoyed the walk and everything around me a lot more. The walk is a metaphor for my journey. The journey can be a metaphor for life. This process occurs in all these layers. Letting go. If you already want to be somewhere, the road becomes difficult and heavy. You won't enjoy much of it. If you choose to walk the journey or the process step by step, you will also get there. With the difference that you also enjoyed and learned lessons on the way. An interesting subject, which I will certainly write more about.
Because I had a tent with me, it was possible for me to stop where I wanted. In beautiful places or if my legs could not carry me any further. Although it is not officially allowed in England, it is often overlooked. I have camped wild in several places. In addition to freedom, it also gives me the chance to photograph beautiful places while the sun is rising or setting. This often gives a warmer and softer light, which makes the environment even more beautiful. On 'common ground' and above the highest wall, you can camp freely. The local people often give tips on beautiful places where you can pitch your tent, but only if you asked them. At the Bolton Abbey Estate, wild camping is strictly forbidden. I have had no problems with wild camping along the Dales Way. I pitch the tent at dusk and I pack early. And always leave the place as you found it.
Everything comes to an end
The end of the Dales Way is kinda weird. There is almost nothing. It ends with a beautiful tree. Underneath there is a big stone. It carries the same inscription as the stone at the beginning of the walk. 'For those who walk The Dales Way'. Being there I actually was very happy to close the walk in this way. In peace. A moment to think about my achievement and the space to reflect on the journey. All the wonderful moments that occurred on the route. It made me a happy person.
After this moment of peace and reflection, I continued in the direction of Windermere. The rain was pouring down again. However, this was no reason for a number of local children to give their entrepreneurial spirit a platform. Brave and fearless, they stood along the road to sell the delicacies they had baked themselves to the exhausted walker. Again, in the pouring rain. All decked out in a full regent. I asked: "And do you expect to sell a lot today?" They replied: "You are probably the only one. But that is okay." I found it special. I left with a smile on my face. The cake was delicious.
Back in the civilized world
I was ready to immerse myself in the hectic pace of urban life. Bowness-on-Windermere was the end point of my trip. A tourist stronghold. The contrast couldn't have been bigger. People everywhere. I was happy the walk ended right under that tree. There would hardly have been an opportunity for it. The Dales Way is an absolute recommendation. Variety of landscapes, the English cordiality, enough accommodations in the vicinity, the delicious English cuisine and of course the countless sheep.