9th October 2019: Ripon to Boroughbridge to Home – 8 miles
Interim report, until I get some time and calm down a bit….. A great day’s walk, with another lovely day’s weather. Completely overshadowed by the shit show of a public transport system we have! Neither of the trains I’ve taken so far today has arrived on time. The one I’m waiting for is now expected to be 20 minutes late and that’s been increasing by a minute every two minutes! How the hell do people use this ridiculous system every day? I should have just walked home, I wouldn’t have been that much later!Stuart Greig, Crewe station waiting room, about 15 minutes before they cancelled my train home!
I used the Wetherspoon mobile phone app to order my evening meal. I came across this last year when I was in a Wetherspoons pub in Kendal and I love it. It allows you to go and find a table and then order food and drink from the app, without any human interaction whatsoever, which suits me down to the ground! I had some chicken strips with a side order of sad looking, badly warmed over chips. As the place began to fill up I left and went next door to the Sainsbury’s to buy some milk and brioche for a breakfast in bed! I fancied a lazy morning and although the breakfast menu in the Unicorn looked OK and you could have it any time between 7am and noon, I thought breakfast in bed may be nice.
As I was settling off for the night I became aware of a rattling and thought it was a door somewhere, but it turned out to be a loose fitting sash window in my room. I hunted around for something to wedge it closed and eventually settled on the coffee and sugar sachets that were in the tea/coffee facilities beside the kettle. They seemed to work and I had a pretty good night’s sleep.
The morning looked promising as I opened the curtains and I found I had a view of the cathedral across the roof tops to my left. The sky was mostly clear with some scattered clouds. I was out and walking by 8.45. I only had 8 miles to do today and as long as I arrived before 1.30pm I would be fine. My pace so far this week had been relaxed and I was still averaging more than 2 mph, so I figured I’d have plenty of time. I never felt like I was rushing or felt like I was pressed for time, which has often been the case in the past when I’ve been walking to a deadline.
I walked out of the city past the cathedral although I took a couple of photos I didn’t really stop. Ecclesiastical buildings don’t hold much interest for me, but I had to admit that Ripon cathedral is quite a pretty building, the tall stained glass windows at the front are particularly impressive. I found my way down to the canal from memory. The canal is the closest thing to riverside walking that’s possible, being that there’s no useful footpaths useful beside the Ure for a while. However, it’s peaceful and easy going and I only met a couple of dog walkers and a pair of old guys fishing.
Beyond Ox Close lock, the canal joins the Ure and the path is now along the edge of meadows and through a short section of very pretty woodland. The weather was still fine, no sign of rain yet but the wind was gusting at times. It wasn’t exactly warm, and although I was chilly I didn’t need my Paramo, I pulled the hood of my soft shell up to keep warm when I needed to. The path opposite Newby Hall is lovely, wide and clear with only a couple of stiles and not at all sloppy. The river had certainly overtopped the embankment at some point as the sheep in the fields were wading in places.
Beyond Newby Hall the Ure bends away to the left for a while and we follow a short section of canal, called the Westwick Cut. it’s a frustrating section as you can hear the din of a weir on the other side of the island, but can’t get access to it. I suppose I’ve not been short of impressive water on this trip though, so missing out on one of them isn’t a hardship. I reached the final lock and a ridiculously narrow gate/passage affair that was impossible to negotiate with my pack on! I ended up climbing over it in the end.
I knew, from my previous walk along this section, that the easy walking was mostly finished now, until the approach into Boroughbridge. I’d walked this section in the height of the summer of 2017 and even then the path beyond this final lock was a bit hard going. At the time it was heavily overgrown and I’d found the stiles to be in bad repair. Things hadn’t improved and although the undergrowth wasn’t the biggest problem in October, the path was still overgrown and very, very wet. The first stile was surrounded by deep water and I had to climb over the fence to bypass it. The woods beyond were very slippery and it’s a minor miracle I didn’t actually fall over. I emerged, boots and ankles clawped with mud to be greeted by an incredible sight – a huge contraption that seemed to be ready to float out onto the river.
As I passed the behemoth as young guy stepped down out of the landward side of it. I said hello and asked the obvious question, “what the heck is this?”. He dodged my question, which was interesting. He said “it’s a project I’ve been working on recently”, I said “it looks like it’s designed to float, where are you going?”. Again he was evasive and just said he needed it to be flood-proof, in case the river level rose too high. I said my farewells, feeling somewhat disappointed, but not wishing to push him too hard.
Another section of really, really muddy riverbank was negotiated without falling on my arse and I was immensely proud of myself for going five whole days without a single fall – not managed that for a while! Once out of this final section of muddy woods it was easy going all the way along the bank to Roecliffe. It was time to say farewell to the Ure, my almost constant companion for the last 60 miles or so. It felt a lot more emotional than the last time I walked this route, but then I guess the river had been ‘epic’ this time with all its watery might, rather than just ‘there’ as it had been in the summer.
I walked through Roecliffe and across a couple of back gardens (on the right of way) and out into the rough lane that avoids the road walk into Boroughbridge. The last time I’d walked this part I hadn’t been aware of the change in the right of way at the Reed Boardall factory, mainly because the OS map hadn’t been updated (and still hasn’t) and the markers on the ground are no better. I’d hacked my down a dreadfully overgrown track to emerge at a huge locked gate and had to backtrack a mile or so and walk back along the road.
This time I knew about the change and I’d seen a decent path on Google Earth that looked perfect. Once again though the local signage defeated me (partly) and I took the left turn I’d been looking for, too early, ending up in another overgrown narrow track between trees. It wasn’t until I hacked my way out of it at the far end that I found the really good path had been about 10 yards on my right, running parallel on the other side of the trees, all the time!
I rejoined the road, thankfully and as I passed beneath the A1(M) it began to rain gently. This was proper rain, the first of the journey so far, but still not too heavy and certainly not heavy enough to swap my soft shell for the Paramo. I made a cursory visit to the Devil’s Arrows and increased my pace slightly into town. 10 minutes or so of rain, plus maybe 40-50 minutes of drizzle, in five days is pretty good – especially when you consider the forecast for the same period!
I arrived in town about midday and stopped in at the little cafe on the corner and had a sausage roll and a pot of tea, while the rain came down in force. Within 30 minutes the sun was out and I went and sat outside to wait for my bus. This was the only piece of the public transport jigsaw that actually ran on time today. It dropped me at York station in plenty of time for my first train which left on time, but arrived 10 minutes late into Manchester. This meant I had to run (yes, actually bloody run) across platforms to catch my second train, to Crewe. The train was absolutely packed. I had a seat booked, but I’d jumped in through the very back door of the train, just as it was closing, and I didn’t fancy fighting my way down through the packed aisles to try and find a seat that would already have been hijacked. I stood for 50 minutes as the train got slower and slower.
The second train arrived 20 minutes late into Crewe which meant I’d missed my connection. The next train was a 45 minutes wait. I checked the departure board and found that this final train was expected to be running 10 minutes late – brilliant! Over the next 30 minutes that delay got longer and longer and I became ever more angry and frustrated. What a shitty ending to a great five days – all thanks to bloody public transport. Over an hour after I’d arrived at Crewe, my final train was cancelled. I admitted defeat and rang my daughter who came and collected me! I bluffed my way out of the station and then claimed a refund on my Manchester-Crewe ticket, which hadn’t been checked on the train. I got 55% of the ticket value back, which is a minor win in the scheme of things.
A really great five days along one of the best walks there is!