23rd May 2021: West Burton to Reeth – 14 miles
Well that was an interesting day, something of a roller-coaster (emotionally rather than geographically).
I had an excellent meal in the Street Head Inn – having said that, pretty much any meal would have felt great after 3 or 4 days living on toast. I had set my heart on a steak and ale pie, but the one on their menu has been ruined by adding mushrooms! So I settled on the gammon steak and chips. I swapped the pineapple for an egg of course, as we all know pineapple has no place on a dinner plate! It was really good and the chips were both thick and crispy, which is something many chefs seem to struggle with.
I had a trouble-free night and slept quite well, apart from the now usual post-walk knee pain when I lie on it wrong. Breakfast at the Street Head is from a rather walker-unfriendly 9am, but when asked, the chef had happily agreed to an earlier service at 8am and they’d even agreed to make up a sausage buttie as a packed lunch for me. I had egg on toast and tea came with a large mug, which is another nice touch. Too many places have tiny little cups with a couple of slurps worth of tea in them.
Unfortunately, there was no bill prepared for me when it came time to leave, and I must remember to ring them in a while to settle up, before they call the rozzers and have me arrested!
I was out the door at exactly 8.30, dressed again in Paramo and still didn’t feel especially warm. I kept my soft shell in reserve though, in case I needed another level of warmth later, higher up. I started out in the Tilley too, keeping the beanie for later, as I knew I was going to need it. The forecast had been for cold winds, occasional showers and a heavy rain front later in the day. I hoped to be finished before then though.
The first couple of miles were through the fields of Bishopdale, lots of stiles and gates but easy going. I tried to make up some time on the flat by increasing the pace a little bit. The ‘take it easy and look after yourself’ approach of yesterday went right out of the window. I really am an idiot.
Beyond the very pretty village of West Burton, climbing a hill on the way to Aysgarth I felt the muscle in my left calf go all tight – just like it did around this time last year, as I was descending past Edale Rcoks. To avoid any chance of making it worse, I settled on just figuratively kicking myself! I limped on for a few more yards and on the next upward bit it got worse, going from only slightly painful to ‘being poked with a sharp stick’ level. To add insult to injury, I slipped down a grassy bank and landed on my right knee (the sore one). It was at that point that I considered my options for getting home!
I at least needed to reach Aysgarth though, so I took some Paracetamol and a double dose of Ibuprofen and struggled on along the path. The flat sections weren’t too bad, I was limping but the pain was OK, the downhill sections gave me no pain at all, it was just uphill that was hard work.
I got to Aysgarth and decided that quitting wasn’t an option. I wasn’t going to drag my son or brother out on a Sunday to rescue me. I would have to reach Reeth, where my car was waiting for me, and make decisions there. I decided to take what I thought would be an easier route to Reeth. I know the paths around here quite well, it’s Herriot Way country and rather than go into Redmire and over Redmire Moor, as the route does, I thought going via Castle Bolton and Greets Hill would be an easier path for me. I switched to auto-pilot and limped into Castle Bolton.
I found a bench outside the castle and reviewed the map. Given that uphill was the problem, it looked like Greets Hill was a mistake – although it would be shorter it’s 60m higher than the route over Redmire Moor! I changed plans again, my resolve hardened and I reverted to the original route. My fannying about had actually cost me 1/2 a mile, but so be it.
From either Castle Bolton or Redmire, the path onto Redmire Moor is somewhat hampered by the long, disused, no official access area of Redmire Quarry. I’ve crossed it before and it’s not a physical problem, there’s a footpath that leads right up to it from the south, and another leading away from it from the north. There are ramps from the edges of the quarry so you can drop in and get out easily enough, but there is a very short section of what is essentially a trespass.
I struggled up the steep grassy slopes leading to the edge of the quarry and was soon looking down into and along it. It has changed quite a lot since I was last here! At the western end there were maybe 20 vehicles parked up, and a large tent erected beside them. The sound of shotgun reports was almost constant, so I assumed there was a shooting party going on. There’s no live bird shooting at this time of year, so this would be clay shooting. They were too far away to cause me any problems, I could cross the quarry and exit the other side long before I got close to them. Of more concern however, were the number of shooting stands down the whole length of the quarry, close to the north side and pointing to the south side. If any of these were in use it would prevent any use of the quarry for my guide book purposes! That was a problem for another day though, I was here now, so needed to map the route – time to just get on with it.
Across the quarry I headed for the chimney of Cobscar Mill and then followed its flue down to the ruined mine buildings. The next couple of miles were along a 4WD shooting track, with a cold wind at my back and beginning to feel it bite, even through the Paramo. After lunch number one an hour or so ago, sitting on the step of a stile, I was now looking for somewhere sheltered for lunch number 2. There are a couple of buildings off from the path along here, but I was reluctant to make the diversion and find them locked as they probably would be, so I just plodded on.
Either the painkiller cocktail had worked, or I’d walked into the muscle strain as even the uphill sections weren’t particularly painful now. I could still feel the pull, but it was much reduced and I wasn’t even limping any more. I was glad I’d pushed on and it gives me hope for tomorrow. As my good friend Chris said, when we spoke later, a couple of years ago I’d have sacked this off already and taken whatever exit route I could. My resolve has improved obviously!
I reached the point where I bad farewell to the track and headed off across the moor. I wasn’t expecting much of track and that’s exactly what I got. It was very wet, eroded from quad bike usage and wandered around somewhat until it reached the wall at the summit of the moor. It was all downhill from here and I never really felt the calf muscle again from this point.
The moor summit at the wall, is marked on the map as Snowden Man, a boundary stone, but I couldn’t find anything that obviously deserved such a mention.
Beyond the wall the path is no better right now, but when it’s not been pissing it down for weeks it will be lovely. A thin path through the heather and marsh grass which looks down onto Grinton Moor and Reeth in the distance, a cluster of buildings and hundreds of cars sitting in the dale, surrounded by high heather moorland.
As I approached the preserved mine buildings of Grinton Smelting Mill, the path becomes much firmer, wider and drier. I still hadn’t found anywhere to sit, and it got the point where I just decided to push on and finish my lunch in my room, after a shower. The buildings at Grinton Mill look good, but they’re not suitable for sitting down in, they’re heavily used by livestock, the floors are badly churned and abused.
I switched to auto-pilot again from here, crossing the new bridge over Cogden Beck and passing Grinton Youth Hostel, the pub in Grinton and then across the fields and into Reeth. The sun was shining wanly through thin clouds and I did briefly consider stopping for an ice cream, but that would mean sitting outside to eat it and despite the apparent warmth, I was still cold to the core, so I headed straight for the Black Bull to check-in.
The shower is appalling. Of all the amenities in a B&B, one of the most influencial (when it comes to me considering it a good place) is a decent shower. That means a good strong flow of water, at a consistent and selectable temperature, in a stall which I can bend down in to collect a fallen soap. This had none of these features. The flow was miserable and the shower head kept wilting to point at the floor, so I had to keep adjusting it. The temp selector is a rotary dial of about 270 degrees. The first 269 of which produce cold water, and the final degree generates molten lava. The stall is so small I almost removed my right nipple squeezing into it! If I drop the soap, I’ll have to get out of the shower to retrieve it and risk another mastectomy getting back in. 1 out of 10 for the shower experience! I somehow manged to find a temp setting that didn’t involve either hypothermia or losing my skin and felt somewhat refreshed (and incredibly frustrated) at the end of it.
My room is deep in the bowels of this ancient building and the WiFi signal in my room is as good now, as it was when the place was built. So I headed down to the bar to find a better signal. I wanted to watch City’s final game of the season. I’d brought my tablet for just this purpose and I found a stool at the back and fired up Sky Go and watched the game kick off. Over the next few minutes, I moved towards the front of the bar, closer to the fire and the comfy seats, as folk got up and left. I was soon in prime position, right beside the fire, in a comfy bench seat, not far from the router. I used the WiFi to post last night’s report, watch the game (a fantastic 5-0 win over Everton, where Sergio came off the bench to score twice and sneak ahead of Rooney’s scoring record!)
I’ve had a fairly passable steak and ale pie, into which they seem to have sneaked some kidney, but not mentioned it on the menu – and a pint of Old Peculier (the first in a long time).
I’m back in my room now, finishing this report, so it may not get posted today, unless I can use the weak mobile data signal I have. Its pissing down outside, so the weather forecast was pretty accurate and I had the best of the day. I’m hoping the calf strain doesn’t get any worse tomorrow. I’m going to try and walk to Richmond as I’d originally planned, but the first mile or two is straight uphill, so it should be interesting to see how I get on.