24th May 2021: Reeth to Richmond – 12 miles
Well that was another interesting day, something of a roller-coaster (geographically rather than emotionally thankfully today).
At the start of this walk, I’d parked my car in Reeth, which meant I had options today. As I’m in the Black Bull again tonight I decided to drive out to Richmond, park the car there and get the Little White Bus back to Reeth. I would then walk the selected route to Richmond and drive back to Reeth. I’ve always preferred to get the public transport bit out of the way first and walk back to my car, rather than have an uncertain wait at the end of the walk. If I’m going to be let down by public transport, better it happens when I’m close to the car, than not!
Breakfast was not going to be available until 8am, and the bus leaves Richmond at 9am, so I skipped the hotel breakfast, drove the scenic road to Richmond and got a bacon roll in Greggs while I was waiting for the bus. I also grabbed a couple of sausage rolls for lunch. Being in the hotel for two nights meant I could leave the bulk of my gear and just walk with the bare essentials. Unlike a couple of the walks I did in 2019, when the pack felt like it was trying to plant me in the ground, the same pack weight this year hasn’t really bothered me. It does help that I’ve lost 15kg since those walks, and worked on my fitness to an extent, so things do feel a bit easier this year.
I was the only passenger on the bus and I was chatting to the driver, who seemed to be a decision maker in the company, so I suggested they extend the route out from Keld, to reach Kirkby Stephen. He had plenty of reasons why it would pay its way and I understand, but I thought it was worth a try. He told me they are probably going to start running a Bank Holiday service this year, which will be good.
Back in Reeth and the sunshine and blue sky I’d had when I left here 90 mins ago was now marred by masses of white clouds and some darker clouds looming menacingly in the distance to the south. The forecast had been for sunny showers all day, so I had my fingers crossed. I’d mostly dodged the showers on Saturday, only getting wet for about 5 mins and yesterday the heavens had opened only once I was in the hotel, so I was feeling lucky.
The nerves of yesterday evening about my calf muscle and the immediate steep climb of the morning were mostly unfounded. The calf feels tight, but not painful and as I walked out of the village, down the bridge over the Swale, I couldn’t really feel it at all.
I followed a guy walking his dog along the fields beside the river, he was quite slow and even with my ‘taking it easy’ pace, I was gaining on him. I passed him at the foot of the steep climb up to Fremington Edge, he was swapping off his shell for a fleece and I did suggest this was a bit premature and was probably the sign for the rain to start. We took different paths up the hill, one zig-zags and goes straight up, I took the former and he the latter. Within 2 mins of leaving him, the rain began to spit. I wanted to shout across and tell him ‘I told you so’ but I couldn’t see him now.
The rain stopped, but I carried on. The slope was steep, but I took it slow and steady and the zig-zag helped. I reached the gate at the top of the field well before the other guy, and cut left, up a less steep section of the hill, along a 4WD track. The sun was mostly shining and it was warming up nicely, but I decided to stick with the Paramo for the time being. It would be tempting fate to switch to the soft shell this soon. I’d left the Tilley in the hotel, but the warm beanie was needed as I got to the gate at the top of the climb.
Today’s route was the only one of the four that I’d been uncertain about. The one I’ve chosen is not the finest route between Reeth and Richmond, mainly because I’ve already used that (and the second best) in two other guide books. In an attempt to keep things fresh, I’d chosen what I thought would be the third best, without relying completely on the Coast To Coast route, which would be busy with walkers and involves no moorland walking at all. I’ve chosen to use Marrick Moor and Skelton Moor and connect them with the best local footpaths I could find, but those are quite agricultural and will not be up to the quality of the past few days. Beyond Marske I have no choice but to ut to use the C2C route, but hopefully the long walk-in will put me behind the maddening crowds!
I set off down the wrong track beyond the gate at the top of Fremington Edge, but spotted my error quickly enough and went back to the gate and took the correct track. The 4WD track across Marrick Moor is fine, with good views ahead, but nothing like long enough and I was soon dropping down to the farmland below. That seemed to set the theme for the day. Climb, descend, climb, descend, repeated at least 4 times, but my legs coped well with it and I’m loving this feeling of fitness – not something I’ve been used to for the past few years! Even at the end of each day I’ve not felt heavy legged, or done in. Long may it last!
I was scared shitless by what initially appeared to be a savage dog, intent on ripping my throat out, at Owlands Farm, but was in fact just an over-friendly mutt who felt the need to bark ferociously and come rushing out to me as I approached. I let him sniff my hand and he seemed to calm down, but the nasty little Jack Russel that chased me to the exit gate nearly got drop-kicked back into the yard. There was no-one around of course to control them and the fact they’re out loose in the yard suggests they haven’t bitten anyone yet!
The small section of Open Access land beyond the farm was one of the nicest sections of the day, it’s grass and heather and had grouse chicks running back and forth across the thin track. It was downhill (both actually and metaphorically) from there though and the wet slog across the pasture land to the edge of Skelton Moor was not great. Probably better than the alternative though, which was along a road. I climbed up to the trig point on Skelton Moor and followed the track down again, into a lovely picturesque valley through which runs the charming Marske Beck. I found a flat bit of ground behind a dry stone wall that shielded me from the worst of the cold wind and had my first lunch stop. One of the Gregg’s sausage rolls and a bottle of squash went down nicely. I saved the second one for later.
Beyond Telfit Farm, the map suggested the path ran through someone’s front garden, but as is often the case, they have refused to display any RoW signs, so you feel a bit nervous. But I brazenly walked past their front window and was happy to argue my case, but no-one said anything.
At the bottom of the hill beyond the house, I found a lovely little packhorse bridge and on the other side, half the hillside had slid down into the river, so I had to divert up and over it to continue along the path. The path from here, into Marske was excellent. It’s quite diverse, very scenic, easy on the feet and runs through a lovely section of woodland. The locals obviously think so too, because I met more people on this 1/2 mile section than I’ve seen outside the villages on this whole walk.
From Marske, it was all a bit average. I remember walking this in 2006 when I was doing the C2C and thinking then that it was a bit dull. The problem is there isn’t much choice from here to Richmond. I met a few walkers along this section, doing the C2C I guessed, but I couldn’t be bothered asking.
At the top of the final climb of the day, as I reached the foot of Applegarth Scar, from Paddy’s Bridge, I stopped and had a second lunch. I didn’t fancy the other sausage roll, so settled for a couple of Tunnocks Caramel Wafers and another bottle of squash. It was getting warm now and I toyed with the idea of switching the Paramo for the soft shell. Not just yet though.
I plodded along the path, the scenery to the right, looking down on the River Swale, and the green valley beyond, kept my spirits up. I’d have rather been over there, on the first best path into Richmond, looking across to here though. My calf had not bothered me at all today. The despondency I felt yesterday morning when I pulled the muscle, compared to how I felt now – the change is remarkable!
About 2 miles outside Richmond I finally made the change to the soft shell. I worked on the basis that even if that was a cue for it to start raining, I’d be back at the car soon and it wouldn’t matter that much.
To avoid the final dull tarmac section into Richmond, I’d seen a footpath that dropped down through fields to reach the same point. I’d not had much expectation of it being any good, else it would be used for the C2C surely? Well it was lovely! Soft green grass, a clear path, no stiles or gates and no tarmac! A good choice!
I eventually arrived back at the car, got my wet boots off and headed back to Reeth. The drive was quiet and I arrived back about 3pm. I had the ice cream I’d thought about yesterday, and made it a big one! Three scoops of ice cream; one salted caramel, sandwiched by two of mint choc chip! It took me about 10 minutes of furious licking to finish it off, sitting in the sun on one of the benches on the village green.
Back in my room I endured another pitiful shower and enjoyed a little snooze, and was down in the bar area for something to eat by 5.30pm. There’s only a couple of comfortable tables in the Black Bull, and they were both taken, so I hovered on a stool nearby and waited, and as soon as one was vacated I pounced. Like an old, fat lion I plonked myself into the table by the fire.
They got my tea order wrong! But the Old Peculier is still on tap, so I don’t care and I’m now almost finished with this report, so I can wrap up and go and watch some downloaded comedy shows on my tablet.
One final word, about breakfast in the Black Bull. I missed this experience yesterday when I was out early, and got a bacon roll in Gregg’s. It turns out that was a much better breakfast experience than the one I had this morning! The Black Bull operate a properly lazy breakfast service. Self-service toast in a regular 4 slot toaster and self-service tea and coffee from a pump action thermos flask filled with hot water. There are also the usual cereals, pastries, yogurt and fruit, etc. The problem is all these items are located on one small table, so all the guests (who are nearly all walkers who want an early start) have to mill about at the same time or hover around (trying in vain to maintain a comfortable social distance) waiting to get to it. There are two staff taking cooked breakfast orders, but they only took one order at a time and they seemed to spend most of their time chatting in the kitchen. Overall, it was a frustrating experience and I was glad to be out of there.
Always nice to finish a walk report with a moan!