8th October 2019: Masham to Ripon – 13.5 miles

After having been bitterly disappointed at the quality of the BBC weather for the last two days (albeit being quite happy with the weather itself!), I decided to carry out my own weather forecast this morning. I looked out of my bedroom window, which faces my direction of travel for the first couple of hours this morning. The sun was rising beautifully over the tops of the houses and I decided it wasn’t going to rain at all today 😁

Morning sunrise over Masham

I had an OK breakfast in the Bay Horse which is an excellent place to stay and I’d stay again in future without any hesitation. In fact the only thing I’d criticse is the fried eggs, which were a bit crispy round the edges, otherwise 10/10.

I was out of the door by 8:45 and heading down to meet the Ure and I’d stick to it for several miles. I remember particularly enjoying most of today’s walk from when I did the research for the book a couple of years ago. I walked this leg with @PilgrimChris so maybe that has something to do with the fond memory too.

This section of the Yoredale Way follows the same route as the Ripon Rowel Walk and that’s well signed, so there was no concern about navigation today. I picked up the Ure beside the fields at the bottom of the village. I was walking behind an old lady walking her dog and she kept stopping and looking back at me. As I got close she stopped again and waited for me, I assumed she wanted a chat, so I said hello and mentioned the weather. She muttered something non-committally and so I told her where I was going and asked her where she was walking to. “I’m not going anywhere” she said, “I’m waiting for you to go past”. I don’t think I’ve ever read a situation more badly than that. She wasn’t rude about it, she just didn’t want to talk or to be followed. I said goodbye quickly and hurried off.

The river is still running high and wide and I’ve been enjoying the proximity of the path to the water, something you get plenty of on the Yoredale Way, more so than the Swale Way I think. I saw many faces of the river today, plenty of white water and an absolute torrent at Tanfield Weir.

Walking beside the Ure
Tanfield Weir

Once you’ve skirted a few field boundaries there is plenty of woodland walking this morning, first through Nutwith Cote and then through the spectacular Hackfall woods. At the start of the path through Hackfall you climb up to a viewpoint and can look back along the Ure, stretched out below, guiding your eye back to the spire of the church in Masham, it’s quite special.

If you get a chance Hackfall woods are well worth a visit. There’s a car park and several scenic walks around the woods, with little signs pointing the way around. I’d go in the summer though, that way you won’t be slithering and sliding all over the show like I was, in the mud. So much mud! Best part of two miles of almost constant mud. Deep mud, slippery mud, sucking mud, cloying and clogging mud. If the Eskimos have 32 different words for snow, the folk at Hackfall must have almost as many for mud! Despite the mud, it’s a beautiful section of the path and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Hackfall woods
Sandy beach beside the Ure in Hackfall woods
View down the Ure from Hackfall woods
Lovely woodland path in Hackfall woods

On the way through I found some of that thick sturdy grass that you can use to whistle with. I’ve not done it for years, so had a play. It sounded impressively loud and unusual in the reverberating confines of the woodland, and I got some answering cries from some crows nearby. I had hoped to spark the interest of anyone ahead of me, heading my way. “Did you hear that dreadful scream earlier?”, and I’d reply “Oh, that was probably the Hackfall Horror, they say he roams the woods this time of year looking for victims!”

The dying art of grass whistling 😂

I managed to clean most of the mud from my boots in the meadows that followed the woods, sliding them through the wet grass and knowing that the waterproofing would keep my feet dry. It’s been a while since I’ve had any boots where I can say that! I spotted a Kingfisher whizzing along the river but he was too fast for a photo and a little further along I disturbed a Heron and he squawked loudly and flapped languidly off down the river for a quieter spot. About 10 minutes later I spooked a pair of pheasants hidden in tall grass beside the path, they shot straight up in front of me, cackling at full volume and I almost expired on the path right there and then! I uttered a foul expletive at them as they shot off across the river, but I doubt they heard me!

I arrived at West Tanfield and won a little battle I’d been having with myself about whether I could be bothered to stop here or not. There’s a pub and a shop, but as it was only 11:25 I guessed the pub would be shut and as I didn’t really feel like lunch yet I was debating just carrying on and avoiding the 150-200 yards of diversion. In the end, the promise of a cool drink and an ice cream won out. I was warm, the sun was shining and I though a Magnum would go down nicely, if they had the white chocolate ones, even better! I was in luck, and a white magnum, a cold bottle of Vimto and a Double Decker went down without any problems.

Just outside the village, back beside the Ure and I passed through the caravan holiday park at Sleningford Mill and offered my best wishes and good luck to a guy preparing to launch his canoe into the white water rapids! He reckoned it was “a good level, maybe a bit bumpy, but should be good”, I told him I’d rather walk beside it, and carried on to do just that.

The sky was blue by now, the sun was strong and there were Little Fluffy Clouds everywhere. I selected the song on my internal jukebox and hummed along to it. You can find it here if you’ve never come across it.

Little Fluffy Clouds

I passed through North Stainley and in memory of the day Chris and I huddled in the bus shelter here, in the middle of a shocking downpour, I stopped again and finished the rest of my Vimto and the last of my Tunnocks Tea Cakes.

On the way out of the village, beside their picturesque village pond I found my first conker of the year. I’m still young enough to love the feel of, and old enough to remember the emotions associated with collecting, stringing and playing conkers.

The next 3 or 4 miles are pretty uninspiring, it’s nearly all tarmac. Not a road as such, its a gravel quarry access road to begin and then farm access tracks, so no traffic to worry about, but it’s still tarmac and the views don’t really make up for it either. I sang along to myself, went into a little trance for a while until I’d done the miles and was heading down past South Park Farm (honest), through stubbled fields, to meet the Ure again.

Final meadows before entering Ripon

Within 10 minutes I was in the outskirts of Ripon, following the map to find my hotel for the evening. To say my expectations were low for the Wetherspoons Unicorn in Ripon would be unfair, I was convinced it would be a shit hole, especially at £49 for a double en-suite. As such, it was difficult to imagine a situation where I would be disappointed with my stay. Being asked to pay on arrival was a surprise and it was at that point that I began to suspect it would be as bad as expectation.

I must admit, it’s actually not bad. Miles better than I’d feared. Good size room, chair, plenty of surfaces, place to hang clothes and a good shower. Well, I say good shower, it’s the most powerful power shower I’ve ever been in. I felt like Rambo in the cells when he’s getting hosed down by the asshole Galt. Power showers are great and a rare find in B&B accommodation normally, but this one has all its power concentrated into a single jet, rather than spreading it across several dozen. I’m scoured clean now, ready for County Jail 😢

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