6th October 2019: Askrigg to Middleham – 14 miles
The rain never arrived! Despite what looked like an unequivocal forecast last night, 70-80% chance of heavy rain in every hour slot of the day and in the end I got nothing. Well, the last 10 minutes into Middleham were a bit drizzly, but not proper rain. Within 10 minutes of arrival it was hammering down though and now, an hour or so later and its just steady. I expect the front arrived late, so it’ll probably hammer down all night, or maybe tomorrow instead.
As I left Thornsgill it looked like it was just about raining, so I set out in my Paramo Velez with my long sleeved base layer beneath, fully expecting to need the waterproofing any second, but as I progressed down to the Ure I got warmer and warmer and the weather looked like it was improving if anything. Within 25 minutes the bloody sun had come out and I was sweating cobs. I stopped and shed my Paramo and put on my soft shell. I was still too warm. I rolled the sleeves up, unzipped completely and unzipped my baselayer too. I looked a right sight and I was still running in sweat.
I’d planned to walk a higher, new route (to me) from Askrigg this morning, but the weather had put me off and if I’m honest the thought of gaining 500 feet in the first mile or so of the day didn’t appeal too much, so I’d headed down to the River Ure and the traditional Yoredale Way route. I hadn’t considered how much water would be lying in the fields though and I was soon trying to dodge large flooded sections of the pastures. The Ure was higher than I’ve ever seen it, running deep, wide and slow with lots of white water where the high level was breaking over submerged obstacles.
At one point the path follows the dry stone wall and drops right down next to the river, the stile I needed to use was surrounded by what looked like quite deep water. It was still relatively early and I didn’t fancy wading into it and spending the rest of the day with wet feet. Fortunately I found a handy section of wall where the stones were sticking out enough for me to step over it, with only a slight grazing of the family jewels!
The day was warming up nicely, at least it would have been nice if I wasn’t inappropriately over dressed. I wasn’t expecting warm and muggy in October! I don’t think I stopped sweating all day – partly due to my lack of fitness but mainly due to the weather. As I walked, I listened to the rest of The Wall and felt somewhat dissatisfied at the ending, it’s not a bad book, it’s just not a great book in my opinion.
The next book in the queue began autoplaying and I’m now listening to the sixth Bond book, Dr. No by Ian Fleming. I’ve listened to the first five before this and this is the best one so far, it’s almost as if he’s getting better the more books he writes. The anachronisms in the writing (they were written in the 1950‘s) are incredible; women have a place (a d faint sometimes!), and there’s so much stereotyping of ethnic minorities I find myself constantly wincing internally, but if you can get past that, they’re great books!
The Ure was impressive all day, sliding by for the most part, much wider than it should be of course and I took dozens of photos and little videos of the white water. The stepping stones across the tiny beck that runs down into the Ure, on the approach to Aysgarth were completely covered with raging water and I had to divert upstream to cross at the little bridge. Without that, I’d have been stuck I think, the water was running too fast and deep to safely wade.
I reached Aysgarth around 11am and stopped in to the Falls Coffee Shop to say hello to the proprietor. I didn’t stop long though, just enough to see they’ve got the new edition of the Herriot Way on their shelves 😁
Aysgarth Falls were impressive as hell as you can probably imagine. I’m walking on the south side of the river which has no access to the Upper or Middle falls, I couldn’t see them but I could certainly hear them, a deafening roar of water cascading over the falls. I did get access to the Lower force though, these are my favourites and I wasn’t disappointed. The water was high, very high, covering all the usual access points, and there was very little bank to stand on, but I managed to get some photos and video of the incredible display.
Beyond the falls, the path takes to fields high above the river and although I could still hear it, views were limited. I could look across to Bolton Castle though and the fells beyond, now clear of the clouds that had been covering them this morning.
I took the low level alternative which follows the Ure, rather than climbing up to Penhill and the high route over the top and down through the gallops (Middleham is a hotspot for horse racing stables). That was a bad choice as it turned out, but my legs aren’t up to a big climb, so I blissfully puffed along the low route, heading for the unknown trouble.
In some sections the bank has eroded and I was forced to crawl under an electric fence at one point to enter an adjacent field. My feet were mostly still dry at this point, the waterproofing capabilities of the Roclites having coped with all the splashing through flooded meadows and the miles of wet grass. This didn’t last though and as I approached Middleham I crossed another flooded meadow to find my path completely cut off by a deep stream where there shouldn’t have been a stream.
It looked deep, too deep I thought to cross safely, so I scouted along the edge of the field looking for a break in the barrier. There was none. The river had broken its banks and chosen the lowest point in the meadow, the far edge, which separated me from my desired track. After walking (wading in some places) back and forth across the meadow I decided to just go for it. Now my feet were pretty soaked anyway, my boots being over topped more than once during my explorations, so wading couldn’t make things much worse. I started across the narrowest section and my suspicions were immediately confirmed, when two steps in I was knee deep in cold, fast flowing water. I backed out. I eventually found a much wider crossing point, but one that was only mid-calf deep. I slogged the last couple of miles into town with squelching boots. The cold water soon warmed up of course and if anything this seemed to ease the discomfort I’d been feeling in my feet before the wading!
I stopped in to the shop in town, I didn’t know what I wanted, but I was hungry and they say you shouldn’t go shopping in that condition and they could be right. I didn’t know what I wanted, so I bought it all. Tunnocks tea cakes and caramel wafers, a Yorkie, KitKat, jelly babies and a couple of fingers of fudge! The only non-chocolate items were a couple of bottles of Oasis for my room later.
I’m staying in the Dante Arms in Middleham and at £75 it’s not cheap, it’s also not great, not just not great for £75 but not great full stop. The room is tiny, no chair, no free surface to place anything on, rickety bed with a wrought iron foot board (a pet hate for anyone over 6 foot tall I imagine), no WiFi in the room. I was offered breakfast at 9am! 9am! I almost laughed in her face, but caught myself in time. I countered with 8am and after a bit of haggling she agreed on 8am 😁
I went down into the bar, to see if WiFi was available there and found out they don’t even do food in the evening. It’s a pub, with rooms, that doesn’t do food! I found out later that the new management only took over a month ago and they’re still looking for staff. I think in the meantime they need to drop their prices. £75 a night sets a certain level of expectation that is not currently being met.
I had to go out, into the rain, in my wet boots to find another pub that does food. However, I carry large sandwich bags for times like this. I put my feet into the bags and then into the wet boots, thus protecting my dry socks and saving me carrying shoes for the evening. I found a pub two doors down that was packed (unlike the Dante which had two lads playing pool in it) and serving food. I had a fantastic Steak Pie and a great pint of Black Sheep. The place was too rowdy for me though so I baled as soon as I’d finished and came back to my tiny little room, which stinks of all my wet gear drying on the radiator 😕
I feel an early night coming on. Autocorrect is working too hard because I’m tired and can’t seem to control my thumbs properly. I have a couple of films to watch on my tablet. I’ll have to post this tomorrow night I think, I’m not going back down to the bar to use the WiFi.