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On the edges of human connection - The Herriot Way


Me taking a rest at a wind shelter on Great Shunner Fell on The Herriot Way
Shelter at the summit of Great Shunner Fell - Herriot Way

It’s interesting to notice how places that are new to me become part of my everyday vocabulary while travelling. Before this trip I hadn’t heard of places like Thwaite and Muker, but now they reel off my tongue as if familiar even though I’ve only passed through or briefly dropped in. These places are already marked in my memory by the experiences I had in them. The quiet streets and rushing water when I entered Hawes. The chip butty and Yorkshire tea that warmed me after walking in the wind and rain for hours over Great Shunner Fell. The church bell that was ringing as I entered Muker through sheep-grazing fields.


The day started beautifully this morning, then the road diversion threw me a bit. At first I thought I’d need to turn back all the way to Hawes. Just as I was assessing how I might jump into a nettle-ridden ditch and then over a high wall to get past it, two cyclists turned up and they weren’t messing about. The man got straight off his bike and briefly dismantled one of the huge metal gates to let us all through and over the bridge. He took a much easier option than what I had been considering! It was slightly more complicated on the other side, but they persevered and got us all out. I felt so lucky that they had turned up and found us a way through with such determination. I didn’t have a scratch on me. Thank god for determined cyclists!


Walking along a section of the Pennine Way up and down Great Shunner Fell was quite hard going today. The wind was relentless! Then the rain came in hard. I’m glad the forecasted thunder didn’t happen though. A lot of the flagstones were underwater, my boots got soaked! I’ll put them in the dry room tonight.


Looking out to the view from my tent at a campsite near The Herriot Way
Writing in my tent at Usha Gap Campsite - Herriot Way

It’s really pleasant here at Usha Gap campsite. At first I thought it might be too busy with groups and big families. I have tucked my tent into a corner away from the crowds, where I can listen to the river. I’m sitting here now with the door open. There are kids playing, people sat around firepits and low chatter. I’m noticing that although I’m alone here and surrounded by families, friendship groups and couples, I don’t feel lonely. I’m appreciating this space to think, to observe, to be on the edges of human connection. There are other lone travellers here too. I met a man who is walking the Coast to Coast, his second attempt after a snake bit his dog in June and he had to take it home to recover. He was in the communal area and asked if I was walking the same route. I’m enjoying the invitations to chat to new people, as well as the wide empty spaces to be with myself.


I think it takes courage to be alone, and also to be seen alone. Other people are often curious about it, some exclaim it and others admire it. I do feel vulnerable, but not in a way that may be presumed as feeling unsafe or incapable. I’m vulnerable to my own thoughts and emotions as they rise up inside me, and I welcome the opportunity to explore them without distraction while I walk and then relax in my tent. I’m vulnerable to making my own decisions and mistakes too, so I’m paying close attention and learning to respond to my needs. Sometimes I’m asking for help too, and there is certainly vulnerability in that.


References


A lovely pit stop after a wet and windy walk over Great Shunner Fell. I dried off my waterproofs, ate a chip butty and drank a pot of tea with a lovely ginger biscuit. Lovely spacious and welcoming cafe. From here it was a short and pretty walk to the campsite.


I had pre-booked this campsite and received an email with everything I needed to know in advance. On arrival I was warmly welcomed by Louise who said I could choose my pitch on any of the three fields. The campsite was very clean and well equipped. There were charging lockers in the communal area and plenty of shower cubicles and toilets. It has a small shop on site and you can buy a coffee and pastries in the morning. There's a very nice footpath that takes you on a dreamy walk to the nearby village of Muker, passing through fields and by cow houses. In Muker there is a beautiful church, a pub (which was closed at the time and up for sale), and a small shop.

 

This is part two of a series of blog posts about my Herriot Way walk in August 2023. You can read part one here. Subscribe to my newsletter to receive my posts to your inbox, or follow me on Twitter and Instagram. If you have any comments or questions please email me: sarah@sarahventurer.com or send me a message on social media.

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