Category: Coast to coast walk

This was the day. Do or Die. If we didn’t make it to our target, Ingleby Cross, today, then we really had blown it. We had read in the spare time we had the night before, in the guide book, that the entire days walk was completely flat, in fact there were no contour lines on any of the maps, not out of omission, but simply because all day the ground was between such a small range of heights, that it never crossed a contour. For this reason it is suggested that people do a few extra miles who need to catch up, also it is suggested because Wainwright himself doesn’t like flat areas, not finding their beauty in the same way that he does the hills and mountains of the Lake District.

Anyway, by now you are probably getting used to the same start: hot day, left at half eight, made our way down a road until we could find a footpath. Same thing, different day. The weather, although still as sunny, was not as hot as it had been yesterday. We made good use of the cool breeze when it came and powered through the first few miles. Infact the first three miles were passed in less than an hour. This put us in a good frame of mind and we continued well for some time.

I must say that I disagree with Wainwright. Just because the natural scenery isn’t a thousand feet tall and covered in pointy boulders that can kill and maim, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. On a day like it was, it was lovely to walk through the fields with no distractions of scrambling over rocks, or clinging for dear life to an outcropping. Just to walk through the fields, listen to the birds, and the babbling rivers and brooks. Seeing the swifts fly past and the lambs skipping about; and not from a thousand feet up. right there in front of you. Butterflies dance past, bees scurry around in flower beds. You can see it all and it is just as nice, just as interesting and just as fun to walk through. I’m not saying that I don’t like the Lake’s; I do. Their breathtaking, wild, mysterious, and awe inspiring panoramas from the top of a high point literally take your breath away at times, I just don’t get why there wasn’t the room in Wainwright’s book to comment on the nice and pleasant parts of England, not just the aggressive.

We walked until lunchtime, along some lovely country roads and through fields which were all very nice. Until one got back at Jonny, as he was climbing over a style, his bag got caught on a fence post and jarred his shoulder. Now he had two bad shoulders. This was the start of things to come with Jonny, although I did not notice it at first. When we arrived at our lunchtime halt, Danby Wiske, and its village green pub; the white swan. We had a large drink in here because the sun was starting to get to us a bit now. Along with that we had some lunch. Sitting on the green out in the sun were several different characters which we had already met along the route. A father and daughter duo, we had met in Reeth, a troupe of cyclists, a man who was walking solo, and a couple of different groups of slightly less young groups, one of which had given me the blister packs the day before.

We carried on after about forty minutes. We could have stayed there all day, when not walking the weather is most agreeable, and sitting in the sun with a glass of ice cold cola was heavenly. I did feel a bit jealous of the father-daughter pair, who were staying in the pub that night. Nothing else to do but sit in the sun. Most of the others who were sitting on the green had all left by the time we decided to go. It was just gone two o’clock. Really there is not much to say about the next few miles; more sun, more fields, more heat. We passed through field after field of sheep and tractors and the like.

A bit later we passed trough one gate which was slightly disturbing, we knew it was coming, it was in the guide but still to find a gate adorned with skulls, rats and owls, even on the brightest and sunniest of days was slightly grim. I wondered what this place had to do with death, not one hundred yards further on I got my answer, this was where we had to cross a railway, no bridges, no tunnels, no footpaths. Just a gate on either side of the tracks, and this wasn’t some pokey little branch line either, this had plenty of traffic going up and down. What had this place to do with death? I asked myself, I had my answer. Of course I haven’t uploaded this blog via a seance so you realise both Jonny and myself managed to cross the tracks unscathed. When we got to the other side, Jonny commented on how weird it was to have a footpath crossing the railway in such a manner. We’re all taught at school that the railways are dangerous places and that we should stay clear, here we’re told to cross, with nothing to stop you tripping on the tracks, no warning lights and no aids. Just a sight saying “Stop, look and listen”. More of this feeling was to follow.

The path, we could see on the map, meandered up and down, for miles. From the railway to Ingleby Cross should only have been a few miles as the crow flies, but were were walking for many miles more than that. We were starting to grow a little weary, I was certainly. I knew that when we reached a large overhead power cable we were only a few miles away. When we did finally pass the cable, I secretly celebrated the landmark with a dextro tablet. This probably was all that kept me going until the next hurdle.

The next hurdle was the A19. A very busy dual carriageway, the main way in and out of Middlesbrough, and we had to cross it… at evening rush hour. It was around half past five. We had to pick our moment carefully and go for it, otherwise we would be waiting for a big gap in the traffic until it had gotten dark. Again, you must have realised that we’re not dead. We got across unscathed, well, mostly unscathed. Running across the road I jarred my knee, which was aggravating. From this side of the A19, we had only one small hill and about 15 minutes of walking to do. Here I’d like to be dramatic and say it felt like hours and it was torture, but it seamed to take about 15 minutes, and although I was bushed it hadn’t been any more difficult than any other day.

We arrived at the Blue Bell pub, where there were people sitting outside enjoying there beer. They recognised a fellow walker, and the usual encouraging well done’s were made before we went inside. We booked a table for dinner (it was steak night) and had a quick drink, before we went back to pitch out tent. Tent pitched we enjoyed a beer and a steak the likes of which I haven’t had for a long time (seriously, I had forgotten steak could be that good). During dinner we talked to the two gentlemen who were drinking their pints when we arrived, one of them had come all the way from Australia to do the Coast-to-Coast walk. He was saying how it is one the best things he had ever done. I think I have to agree with him. Like he said, “better than pissing away your money at a bar in Bali”. After they left we were joined by the man we had seen earlier that day at the White Swan, we talked with him for a while about walking in the Lake District, and fishing in Milton Keynes before we settled our bar bill and turned in for the night.

I genuinely thought that today we would make some headway in catching up with our target. We were still about half a days walk behind where we had planned to be. I thought, you see, that because we had no tent to pack away, and the facilities were better, and we’d have had a a better nights sleep, that we would get going a bit earlier and make better progress during the day. When the alarm went off the first thing that happened was the television went on. Instead of making a quick getaway in the early hours we instead sat and watched the weather report… twice. It was quite nice to see the penguins at the zoo in background of the report, not really helpful in getting ready though.

We did eventually get our act together and ended up leaving at about the same time as usual. It was probably the hottest day of the entire walk, there were no clouds at all that I could see and the sun was beating down with a lot of heat right from the get go.

Leaving Reeth, we walked along the side of the main road and soon took the side road for Marrick Priory. This was supposedly a quiet road, that lead only to a farm and an old building, now an educational centre. On the way down this road we were met by many other walkers, we had to move to the side to allow loads of traffic to pass, a heard of cows blocked the road for a while, and a group of squaddies marched through, putting all the walkers to shame. Quite a busy little road for something no more than about a mile long and a dead end.

At the end of the road, by the priory, a new path lead up hill. In the heat the hill was mercifully covered by trees. I was glad of a little bit of shade. The path lead to the top of the hill and the village of Marrick. Here the path levelled out a bit, it undulated, but wasn’t steep in any way. Both Jonny and myself made good progress here while the ground was soft underfoot.

As we walked along the path towards the next village, I found myself slowing down. It was not only the heat of the day, which was getting more and more intense as the morning sun moved towards its mid day high, but also the sweat was causing some rubbing, which was very irritating. Jonny stopped in the village of Marske and we had a break on the bench in the middle of the village. Another group of walkers passed us and made a joke about waiting for a bus and that we were cheating, we took it as the joke that it was meant to be, even though the Marske isn’t on a bus route.

When we set off again that is when the rubbing began to really take its toll. I think this was probably the slowest I walked throughout the trip. Jonny was having to wait for me to catch up so much that he probably spent more of his time waiting than he did walking. A further group of walkers passed us on a country road. They could see that I wasn’t really enjoying myself and asked it I was OK. I blamed my sorry face on blisters, not wanting to go into detail about the other intimate rubbing issues with old ladies. They were very kind and gave me a pack of blister patches. I now had the dilemma of stopping to put patches on in front of  these people, onto a blister that doesn’t exist. I said I would put the patches on when I got into Richmond. I said my thank-you’s to them and tried to show my appreciation but I could tell that their guide was not impressed. He strongly advised me again to sort my feet out NOW. After which, he, and his group left me alone to waddle on by myself (I say waddle because that is genuinely what I was reduced to).

We passed the group (with the insistent leader) while on the top of the last major hill before Richmond. They had stopped for some lunch, while Jonny and I had said we would have lunch in town, and then carry on, trying to get as far as we could on the other side of Richmond before nightfall. Inevitably, after they finished their food, the group now behind us, caught up again and passed in a small wood, which was nicely sheltered. Their leader let the group carry on while he had a private word with me, trying to tell me that I really should put the patches on. By now I had had enough, I realised that they were all trying to be nice and I just didn’t want to make a fuss about such matters, in the end though as it was just him there I said that the rubbing “wasn’t going on in my boots”. He got the hint straight away, he obviously has done a lot of walking and it has happened to him before in the past as well. He told me that there is nothing that can be done for that problem, gave me a good old fashioned “stiff upper lip” pep talk, and then walked ahead to catch up with his group.When I caught up with Jonny, he told me that the leader of the group had told him that “He had seen it so many times before. People giving in and not continuing with the walk, all because they didn’t use blister patches.” Of course he still didn’t know where my problems were. I can’t really blame him, he was only trying to give what would normally be good advice. As the day went on, clearly there was a bit of hillside gossip going on. At one point I was stopped by someone going the other way. “Are you the one with the blisters?” He asked. I confirmed the rumour, still not wanting to broadcast where my injuries were. The man then helpfully gave me directions to the Boots Chemist in town.

Once he had gone off ahead, I caught up with Jonny, who himself was slowing down a little now. We both walked into Richmond at about the same time. Here, we found a supermarket and filled up with supplies, I also got some sun cream, so I didn’t have to keep on borrowing Jonny’s (which was better than nothing but only factor 15, and my hands were going a sort of copper-bronze colour). After having some lunch (a packet of cola bottles for me), we carried on through Richmond and its wonderful olde worlde charming buildings. If I had had more time I would have said we should stay in Richmond for a day or two, explore the town and try a few of what looked like rather excellent pubs.

The road out of town meant climbing a hill, which we just couldn’t be bothered with. Once we had got to the top I knew I really just wanted to rest, let the rubbing heal up a bit. I suggested to Jonny that we take the next camp site that we could find. I think Jonny was beginning to feel the strain on his shoulders. We walked to Brompton-on-Swale, where there is a camping and caravanning park. We pitched our tent by the river, it was still fairly early. We just sat there for a while, before we did anything else. We were still near enough to Richmond and we sat on our phones, checking emails, calling people, sending txt messages. The novelty of having reception kept us busy for some time. Eventually, we made some food, had a wash, I sorted out my wounds as best I could and had an early night (and that’s early by the trip’s standards, probably wasn’t even half past eight!).

We woke to grey skies, Jonny, after opening the tent door, immediately asked where the sun from last night had gone? He started asking a higher power for the sun to come back. By the time we had the tent packed away, Jonny had got his wish. The sun had broken through the haze and looked like it was going to make for a glorious day.

We set off, made out way through Keld village itself. A friendly vicar said hello while he was sorting out the posters on his church, I did wonder how such a small village could fill a church so large. On the other side of the village we cross the river and start to ascend up the side of the valley again. From here the path went round a hill, still climbing, along a path which was very tricky to negotiate. There were several points where there was a near sheer drop to the valley floor and into the river at the bottom. A few times standing on loose stones left my heart in my mouth, slipping quite close to the edge. There was one moment after I slipped where a rock did go over the edge, followed by nothing, no sound of it hitting the bottom at all, like a cheap moment in a bad action film set in the mountains.

The path merged with another about a mile from Keld, and this allowed the path to widen. Also the path moved away from the edge of the cliff face. Moving from the edge meant that we were more sheltered from the little breeze that there was that morning, I soon began to suffer the heat. I slowed down a lot and ended up struggling up the side of the valley on to the moorland above. Half way up I heard voices behind me, a group of (how to put this nicely?), less youthful people, were approaching me fast. I decided that I should move to the side to let them pass. As they passed they were all very friendly, well mannered and the like. I was not impressed with one bloke though, who thought he should rub in the embarrassment of being overtaken by coffin dodgers by telling me “I’ve got a tin knee, ya know?”. Thanks mate.

Making it to the top we had a quick stop and carried on. We went over the moorland above the valley for a while. This was better, the wind was blowing over the moors more, and there was some intermittent cloud cover. The moors gave way to another valley quickly, back in the shade, out of the wind. This valley was very short we were down one side and climbing up the other within what seemed like only a few minutes. We stopped for a quick breath at the bottom of the valley amongst the ruins of an old farm. The climb up the other side, seemed to take hours. In all the time that we were climbing we saw no one, and we had no confirmation that we were going the right way up the valley. The path was not very distinct and I was worried that we were going to reach the top and find we had climbed up the wrong part of the valley. The valley disappeared completely before we reached the top. We ended up trudging over heather and bracken, trying to find a path which alluded us until we had actually gotten to the top. From here all we had to do was follow the track, which was easily big enough for a car to pass down, to the road at the end. At this point we can’t really call it moor land, that seams to nice. It was more a baron waste land, with no plant life at all, just rocks as far as the eye can see. I said to Jonny at the time that if it wasn’t for the track, and the occasional fence, I would have no reason to presume I was even on on earth. It could easily have been the set of a science fiction film. It was a place which left me cold, there was no beauty here at all. I think I would have been more sympathetic to it if the weather matched its mood, but the weather was quite cheery, and the landscape, dull.

The heather returend a lile or so later and was joined by a more industrail scene. Here the remains of an old lead mine tower above the track. I saw the buildings, with the wide track from the road and thought to myself that here is a place which could easily be turned into a youth hostel, much in the same way as Black Sail hut had been in the youth hostel. Then it hit me, water supplies; lead mines, probably not the best mix.

Looking on the map it seemed like we would be on this path for some time, it was many miles to travel until we crossed the road, the first sign of civilisation since we left the Keld. However, it was all downhill, on a large, even track and we were at the bottom very soon. We had a quick stop at the road, where we decided to detour again from the prescribed route, again favouring the route which followed a road meant for all traffic. This was another road, much like yesterday afternoon. The first section had very little in the way of any life, the second, as we began to approach Reeth, began to fill out with farms and villages.

We eventually reached Keld at around four o’clock. We hung around in the village centre for a short while, enjoying a can of fizzy pop, going into the local supermarket and getting dinner for the following day. We didn’t buy much because we knew we would get more tomorrow. We then went down the road to our camp site on the other side of the village. We knocked on the door where we were met by a slightly over friendly man. He told us that he was doing a special offer for all those on the coast to coast walk: a caravan for the same price as a tent pitch. Naturally we didn’t argue. It wasn’t the best caravan I’ve ever seen. There was no plumbing and we still had to use the campers toilets, but these weren’t far away. On the upside, we didn’t have to pitch or take down our tent, we had a TV and a charging point for our phones. We also had a bed each, which was more comfortable than the floor.

On the moors I found myself bored with no beauty to look at or occupy my mind. I decided to think up names for my blisters. Having a caravan made it a lot easier to burst Rebecca and Jemima because I could sit on the door step. Bertha, wasn’t so much an issue today, but the colour of what came out of Lindsay was disgusting, a sort of baby food brown.

Seeming as we had a luxury caravan, and had finished at the luxury hour of four o’clock, we decided to finish off the day with a luxury pint and steak pie at the local pub. A nice way to finish off a day which all in all I didn’t enjoy that much.