Monday, August 05, 2013

The prettiest place in the world

Perhaps you have visited the glorious Italian Lakes. You may have been to Sausalito, across the Bay from San Francisco, from where you can see this beautiful city in all its glory, especially on a summer evening.  If you are very lucky you might have traversed the Merced River, in Yosemite.  Or the magnificent Sydney harbour.  The utterly delightful South African Cape. The mighty Victoria Falls after the rainy season, when the water thunders over the gorge, creating a cloud of spray you can see ten miles away.

However, I doubt you have ever come across anything quite so charmingly pretty as the Swale River valley in Yorkshire. This is idyllic, a honey drop of heaven, hidden between Keld and Reeth.

You can easily miss it. If, as many do when walking the Coast to Coast, you take the more challenging (and hence to many, irresistible) high route, the prettiness will be lost to distance, as you gaze down from 2,000 feet or more.

However, I am delighted to have been rewarded for my laziness.

As one leaves Keld, you cross a beck or two and encounter a lovely waterfall; not particularly tall or wide, but pretty both to the eye and the ear.  This is just a sign of things to come.  Descending into the valley you see that Swale Beck has broadened into a river, similar to the Merced in some ways. Green pastures frame it, and rocks line the edges as well as making islands in the river from time to time.  The water chuckles over these stones and rocks, the loudest sound for miles as there are no roads nearby. You might find cows for company but nothing else other than the passing hiker, often Australian.

The feeling of peace is palpable. If I could have heaven on earth, it would be a quiet day spent here, the sound of running water soothing the ears, a view "where every prospect pleases".

This has been the highlight of the Coast to Coast so far.  So much of what we have discovered have been beautiful parts of England which you cannot reach by car, or would bypass at speed.  This is not particularly profound, but the discovery of rural beauty in Cumbria and Yorkshire has been a revelation.

I am glad I am not carrying 10 - 15 pounds of camera gear, but I hope to return with it soon.

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