7th October 2019: Middleham to Masham – 11 miles
Breakfast at the Dante Arms was OK, I was on my own in the bar area, which was nice and as I was finishing I got chatting to Emma who runs the place. I think my criticism of the place may be premature, she’s only just taken over so needs some time to get things sorted. That doesn’t change the size of the room of course, or the price being charged for it, but it minimises the other aggravating points somewhat.
The BBC Breakfast weather forecast, even more so than yesterday, suggested I was going to be walking in the rain all day and being blown around by the 40mph winds. Utter rubbish, again. There was a nithering breeze as I left Middleham and at several other parts of the day when I was exposed, but nothing above 12-15mph in my opinion. It drizzled off and on for maybe an hour, but not until after 12 and I arrived in Masham mildy moist with muddy boots, but dry socks. No wading involved today thankfully.
I walked out of town past the castle, stopping to take a couple of photos of it and was joined by a race horse in the next field looking for a sugar lump, or whatever horses crave. Apparently there are more race horses in Middleham than there are people, with several of the country’s best stables located in and around it. The Dante Arms (previously the Black Swan) was renamed after a famous horse and all the room’s have other famous horse names, I was in Arkle! With the horse in the frame I got a photo that sums up Middleham in one image.
I dropped down to the River Cover and was immediately relieved to be out of the wind that had blown right through me on the way up the hill from the castle. The Cover like the Ure yesterday was high and running fast, but at least it was constrained within its banks and the meadows were not flooded. They were instead badly cut up by what looked like a large flock of sheep having been run into the meadow recently. The woodland path beyond the meadow was also badly cut up and I slithered all over the place. Shortly beyond Cover Bridge I rejoined the Ure and followed a wide easy path for the next couple of miles.
Last time I walked this section, I remember watching an old guy walking in the river, trousers rolled up, looking for his dog. Today he’d have been up to his chest, looking to be rescued, the river is very impressive at the moment! I passed Jervaux Abbey, passing up the tea room as it was only 10:30 and I’d only been going for 90 minutes or so, and didn’t want to break my rhythm. Also, sitting down for any length of time results in me stiffening up quickly (and not in a good way 😜). A short section of tarmac followed the Abbey and then an estate track that winds up the side of the hill to Squirrel Bank where I was affectionately accosted by two horses, the horse grapevine had obviously not passed on the fact that I don’t have any sugar lumps!
The path was squeezed between the Ure and a ploughed field for a while which meant muddy boots and plenty of slipping and sliding in the mud. As the Ure bends away and the path crosses fields, I sat on the lip of an old lime kiln and snaffled a couple of Tunnocks Tea Cakes and some of my Oasis. The temperature dropped (or I got cold from sitting stationary) so I donned my hat for the first time. I could almost see the bad weather ahead, grey clouds lowering on the horizon and I decided to push on.
The next couple of miles are OK, but uninspiring; fields and a couple of farms, followed by a short but steep climb up beside a gravel pit. That all ends at High Mains Farm and the view you get as you rejoin the Ure. You go through a gate and the ground drops away ahead of you, the Ure flowing down in the valley below and a wooded slope on the other side. The white water in the river made the view even more impressive and I tried to capture it (probably unsuccessfully) with photos and a video.
On the approach to Masham (you see the steeple of the church long before you get close) I passed a fishing hut/bothy thing, basically a garden shed used by the local fishing club, but left open for walkers to shelter in if needed. I recalled it from my last trip and didn’t need to check all the bottles of whisky to know they were all empty! I saw an Egret here last time, but none today, although I’d caught sight of one earlier in the day flying low along the river.
I was feeling quite foot sore as I entered the village of Masham, one of the great northern brewing centres, home to both Theakstons and Black Sheep. It was only 13:25 as I arrived at the Bay Horse, my pub/hotel for the night. Arrival was supposed to be from 15:00 onwards but I thought I’d chance my arm and give it a go. I was in luck my room hadn’t been used last night so it was ready and I was welcomed in.
What a difference from the Dante Arms. The Bay Horse is £79 for my room, only £4 more than last night, but the room is huge, well appointed, large double bed and huge shower. I’m very impressed. I had a great shower and went down to get a pint of Blackcurrant and Soda and test their WiFi. The former is great, the latter is a bit patchy, but will serve. I uploaded last nights blog, checked emails and posted a couple of photos on Twitter. I’d agreed to do a customer call at 15:00 so went up to my room to do that then came down again to write this up. The food here is great, the first burger of the trip and it was epic! The Theakstons (as you would expect) is also ace, they could probably roll the barrel across from the brewery, no ‘travel’ involved.
I’m not even going to check the weather for tomorrow, what’s the point. I have about 14 miles to Ripon, where the horse-themed accommodation continues with the Unicorn, I don’t have high expectations of that place, as it’s a Wetherspoons, but maybe that’s unfair. Time will tell.
I’m feeling a bit tired, but pleased to still be walking the path, no thoughts of quitting at this point, which is a first for 2019! I have a small blister on my right foot at the wide point, which started on Saturday and got a little worse yesterday. It’s not particularly painful and I don’t feel it until I come to take my socks off at the end of the day. My left hamstring feels tight, behind my knee and my knees in general feel a bit sore. I also have a small hot spot or possibly a rash on the base of my spine, which I’ve never had before. On the whole, I’m really enjoying myself. The weather has been a pleasant surprise for this time of the year.
The pub is filling up, I’m now surrounded by twittering women, so I’m cutting this short and going to try and post it on the spotty WiFi.