C2C 2006: Day Eight

7th May 2006 – Reeth to Richmond – 11 miles

It rained in the night, I could hear it hammering on my little window, in fact it rained nearly all night. I thought this would probably mean that by morning it would be clear, but no such luck. Although it had reduced to a fine drizzle, it hadn’t stopped by the time I started walking and it remained dull and overcast all day with only intermittent dry intervals.

This meant I would be walking in waterproofs all day again. I could probably have foregone the waterproof overtrousers, but I had discovered a flaw in my planning. I was carrying three pairs of walking trousers, each was intended to be worn for four days before being packed away in the bin liner I carry for washing. On day five unfortunately I found that the trousers I changed into rubbed me raw in a rather delicate place, I spent all day adjusting myself and feeling very uncomfortable. As such I had decided that no matter how smelly or rotten they became, I was going to stick with the pair I had worn for the first four days. Therefore I needed to try and keep them dry so that I would be able to wear them again tomorrow (and the next day and the next….). It’s not like I’d bought trousers without wearing them. I’d tested every piece of kit I had bought for the C2C on at least one day walk, but for some reason, the clean trousers had escaped the quality control testing. So I might be smelly, but at least I wouldn’t be walking like John Wayne.

I was down to breakfast at 08:00 and as I hadn’t placed a reduced order the night before I ended up with a heaped plate full of bacon, eggs, sausages, fried bread, tomatoes and mushrooms. After having mentioned, the night before, that I had put the Blue Riband into my pack for a walking snack, I found two more next to my plate to take away with me. Now that’s service for you. You just don’t get that sort of personal attention in an hotel.

As I had eaten quite early the night before, I hadn’t actually met up with G&D as we had loosely planned. I had figured they would probably be glad of a break from me anyway, after all they didn’t come on the walk to be accompanied by someone else all the time. As much as I had been enjoying walking alone, it made a nice change to walk with good company and people of a like mind. We like early starts and try to avoid the crowds, we especially don’t want to follow a bunch of other people along a path. We also walk at almost the same pace and take the same length breaks, making them almost perfect walking companions. However I was sure they didn’t want me along as a permanent fixture, so decided to give their own space for the day.

I set out at 08:40 and walked out of Reeth on the road that crosses Arkle Beck and leads to Grinton. Almost immediately after the bridge the path heads out across fields and meadows towards the cluster of buildings that make up High Fremington. The valley looked lush and green, unlike the brown hues that had been ever present through the Lakes and up into the Pennines.

I had decided to try and count the pinch stiles today, the narrow little gaps in the dry stone walls with the annoying spring-loaded gates attached. I soon lost count, but I reckon I must have been through close to 100 by the end of these two days. G&D would have had a great time today, stopping every 100 yards or so for a kiss.

The path roughly followed the course of the Swale, albeit somewhat distant from it, as far as Marrick Abbey. This is a rather incongruous building with an ancient tower sticking out above much more modern buildings surrounding it. The path at this point heads north east towards moorland, leaving the Swale to continue eastwards before the two meet again later in the day. For some reason I managed to miss the path up through Steps Wood, named for the hundreds of stone steps used by the nun’s from the long since ruined Benedictine Priory. As I approached Wood House I realised my mistake and although I could have used the footpath next to this house to regain the correct path, I retraced my steps to use the Nun’s Steps through the wood. I’m glad I did as well, because this is an enchanting section of the walk. The wild garlic was prolific up this path and the rain had eased for me too, so although I slipped and skidded my way up the path, taking two steps forward and one back, I enjoyed the long steady climb to the meadow above the wood.

The path continues to climb, beyond the wood and into the little village of Marrick. I call it a village, but it has no shop, no tea room, no pub, it’s just a cluster of houses around an intersection of two very minor roads. If there had been any sort of shop or tea room here I would have stopped, even though I’d only been going for an hour the rain was now hammering down and I would have been glad of the shelter. The only thing of interest at Marrick was a strange breed of sheep that looked like little bears.

I was starting to feel a hot spot growing on the outside of my left heel, I put this down to having something trapped between my socks. I wear a double skinned liner sock and then a thick woollen walking sock over that. I took the boot off and inspected it and my socks, but I could find nothing that might be causing the problem. My feet had been great until now, with only the mild problems mentioned after the first couple of days.

The rain was incessant, sometimes battering down on me and other times just drizzling, but with rare gaps in between. This doesn’t make for great walking, I tend to just put my head down and get on with it, so the two miles between Marrick and Marske are something of a blur. I’m sure it’s all very nice, but I didn’t see much of it apart from the path and my feet. Oh yes and a group of amorous young cows who wanted to inspect me much more closely than I was happy with, at which point I drew my pole (Highlander style) from over my shoulder and prepared to clout them on their noses if they got too close.

At Markse I had been hoping for some sort of tea room, despite no record of such an establishment being mentioned by Stedman. I took 10 minutes out of the rain in the phone box and left it in a very steamy state but at least the rain had stopped while I was sheltering in there. The route follows the road for a short while after Marske before it cuts across fields towards a white cairn perched on the hill side almost a mile ahead. The cairn marks the path that runs below Applegarth Scar and can be seen all the way from the road.

Between the road and the cairn, crossing a tributary of the Swale is a small bridge, called Paddy’s Bridge. The path down to this was very slippery and caused my second and final fall of the trip. At least this time I just landed on my arse and didn’t skid half way down the hill. From Paddy’s Bridge the path climbs up to the cairn from where you can see all the way back to the Marske road.

The path now progresses in the shadow of Applegarth Scar and Whitcliffe Scar (where can be found Willance Leap). Passing through Whitecliffe Wood the path turns into a metalled road for the final mile and a bit to the outskirts of Richmond. Wainwright waxes lyrical about the view into Richmond and of the castle from this road, but with the weather I was experiencing today I think I was lucky to be able to see the tower of the castle peeping through the cloud and mist.

I arrived in Richmond at 12:23 and walked through the town and found the B&B, I didn’t knock at this point, I just wanted to know where it was for reference. I trudged back into town and looked for somewhere quiet and smoke-free to sit for a while and try and dry out. There are a number of pubs on the square in Richmond and I chose the Town Hall Hotel simply because it was half empty. I ordered a Diet Coke and managed to strip off my wet outer layer and used my little travel towel to dry my hair and face. The pub soon got busy and smoky and this prompted me to abandon the place and seek elsewhere. There is a brilliant chippy in Richmond and I sat in their little cafe seating for a while with a huge tray of sausage and chips. I also stopped at the Somerfield supermarket and picked up some water and apples for the next day.

I knocked on the B&B at 14:45, pushing my luck I thought, but the landlady must be used to people turning up early, it is only 11 miles from Reeth after all. Although the greeting was perfunctory rather than ebullient, I was shown to my room and managed to bang my head on the low ceiling on the way up. It was an en-suite room, the first for a while, and it was also a good size with plenty of room to hang up my wet stuff to dry. It was soon steaming like a Chinese laundry.

My left heel was now sporting my first ever blister, not a big one I admit, but something I hadn’t been expecting. It was about the size of a 5p piece (perhaps a bit smaller) and I decided to use one of the Compeed’s I had been carrying round for the past 12-15 months. I pierced the blister and used the scissors in my first aid kit to remove the skin and applied the Compeed. I must admit I wasn’t expecting very much from this very expensive plaster, but the foot gave me no more problems for the rest of the walk, and the Compeed was still firmly attached 7 days later when I removed it and found the skin healing nicely.

Once I was showered and clean I found that the sun had come out and the rain had stopped, so I took the opportunity to wander down through the town to see the falls on the Swale and to try and find one of the dog toilet’s that Wainwright mentions. The falls were quite impressive, probably something to do with all the water they had received that day, but the level of the Swale was very low here too. I walked north east along the river as far as Station Bridge and there I found one of the dog toilets, obviously no longer employed in that purpose and probably only still standing due to their mention in Wainwright’s book.

I returned at 16:30 and rang G&D on their mobile to see if they wanted to have dinner together and we arranged to meet at a nearby Tandoori, where they were also meeting Neil and Winifred, who they had caught up with during the day. It was to be the last time we would see N&W as they were stopping at Danby Wiske tomorrow, whereas we were going on to Ingleby Cross (for me) and Ellerbeck (for G&D). I’m not a huge fan of Indian food, but company counts for more, so I had one of the tasteless English options from the menu. We finished the evening at a nearby pub where the Flowers was excellent.

Tonight’s Accommodation

Willance House

Not the usual friendly welcome I had become used to from B&B’s on the C2C, this was more in line with the pub accommodation, rather business-like and official. I was looking forward to a refreshing shower after walking in rain for 4 hours, but the pathetic dribble from the en-suite unit was useless and produced either boiling hot or ice cold water. The electric shredder in the en-suite toilet meant that quiet toiletry in the middle of the night was out of the question.

Room was large enough to hang wet stuff up to dry though, so that was in its favour. TV, tea and coffee, two single beds pushed together to look like a double, wardrobe, dresser, table, two chairs and bedside table. Plenty of plug sockets. Breakfast was of a good standard and served early enough to allow a good start for the 23 miles to Ingleby Cross.

PS. It turns out that Willance House changed hands about three or four weeks after my visit, which may go some way to explain part of my experience. The new management are extremely keen to provide the best possible experience for Coast to Coaster’s, as Journeyman can attest to. Hopefully, this means better times ahead for people staying here.