5th August 2022 – Middleham to Masham – 11.1m
As a couple of people suggested yesterday, a good night’s sleep worked wonders for me. I woke feeling a bit more positive and without the dead weights for legs I had yesterday morning. I’d fallen asleep watching Bill Burr on my tablet last night and it was fairly early I think, as I was awake before 5am, but fell back asleep and awoke again at 6.30.
I don’t have as far to walk today, so I’d arranged an 8am breakfast, and promised to let Emma know what I wanted before I turned in for the night. I completely forgot about that though, despite calling into the bar on the way back from tea in the pub next door, and ordering a drink to take up to my room with me. So I figured I’d go down a bit early and give her some advance notice. In the end I just settled for egg on toast, with toast on the side and loads of tea. I’d had so much pork yesterday, I thought it may be best to lay off it today.
There’s a lot I’d change if I was running the Dante Arms, but Emma is so nice it’s hard to be too critical of the place. I had the best night sleep so far and I walked out of the door at about 8.40 feeling fairly happy with my stay. The sun was shining, it was quite warm when I stood outside the village shop trying to decide if I needed anything – I didn’t so I pushed on up the hill towards the castle. I set out in baselayer and shirt, with the coat packed at the top of my pack in partial expectation of needing it at some point.
I walked past the castle, avoiding roaming bands of cavalry (race horses heading out for training) and out into the fields beyond. I passed a huge trench across the path, and an excavator hard at work making it even longer, arrow straight across the field. It looked like some sort of pipeline was being laid, but the trench was so wide it could be used to support a new motorway!
The River Cover is used for the first part of today, until it runs into the Ure just beyond Cover Bridge. It’s a charming little river, with loads of white water and some lovely dappled sections where it runs beneath overhanging trees. At one point it looked like it was running red, a combination of the sunlight and the peaty water in the river. I was soon back beside the Ure, following a thin path through long grass, hemmed in between bushes on both sides. At least I could hear and get little views of the river through the screen of shrubbery on the left.
My legs felt better today and although my feet are still a bit sore, I’m putting that down the Roclites and the fact that they are now pretty much worn through. This will be the last proper walk they get used on before I switch over to my Salomon X-Ultra 4 Mids next week.
After an all too short section of unobstructed access to the river I had to leave it, and head away onto tarmac. There is no riverside access to the Ure (on either side) for the next couple of miles, so the path diverts to visit the remains of Jervaulx Abbey, and more importantly (for an unbeliever like me) to its tea room. Unfortunately it was closed! I’m beginning to wonder if the bloody place is actually ever open, as this is the third time I’ve tried to get a brew here and found it shut. Instead I settled for a seat on a fallen trunk, with a view of the ruins and had a flapjack and some warm juice.
The path through the Abbey grounds is concrete, but it has wide grass verges, so it’s easy on the feet, until I reached the road, which I needed to follow to reach Kilgram Range and the long steady climb up to the wonderfully named Squirrel Bank. I had loads of time, so I stopped again on a bank (no squirrels in sight) and had another drink. The last two times I’ve walked this path, I’ve been accosted by horses here, but there were none in the field today.
After another short section beside the river, it was off across farmland again, thanks to no riverside access. The paths along the section between Squirrel Bank and Low Ellington are mostly on field margins and a couple cut across fields. These were nearly all hard work. The farmers don’t seem to leave any gap between the field boundary and the crop any more, so you have to battle through tall crops, or struggle along the narrowest, overgrown margin beside the fence. A couple of fields had been harvested and to walk across stubble wasn’t too hard. The field of maize was the worst, over head height and although there was a clear gap between the plantings for me to walk in, the greenery was perfectly positioned at face height.
It was quite warm now and the path undulates and soon climbs gently across pastures to reach the side of a huge gravel quarry at Wind Hills, which seemed to have been overtaken by thousand of birds, who were enjoying the large settling ponds.
At High Mains I had another break, enjoying my second favourite view of the Ure, from the side of a huge embankment that drops steeply down to the river, running white and wide in the lush green valley below. As I sat there I heard the roar of jet engines and a flight of three fast movers passed a couple of miles away, too far for proper identification, but I assumed more Typhoons.
It’s only a couple of miles into Masham from here, and I had 2 hours until my bus was due, so I sat and relaxed. I hadn’t been prepared to pay the price that hotels and B&Bs were charging for rooms in Masham, so I’m catching a bus into Ripon, where I have a room for two nights in the Wetherspoon’s Unicorn Hotel. I’ll catch a bus back in the morning, with the added bonus of only having to carry water and waterproofs. There’s even a shop about half way where I can buy lunch!
The rest of the walk into Masham was easy enough and although I wouldn’t have wanted to walk another 5 miles, my legs and feet felt pretty good. Masham (pronounced ‘massum’) is home to two of my favourite breweries and I was hoping to be able to find a pint of Old Peculier in one of the pubs. I arrived at 2pm and passed the Bay Horse first, but it was closed, so I tried the Bruce Arms and hit pay-dirt. I ordered an OP and a pint of Diet Coke as a chaser and eased myself into a semi-comfortable chair by the door.
I took off my boots and my knee braces and let my feet get some air. Half way through my beer I heard a gasp from someone behind me and when I looked at where they were pointing I was astonished to see it was absolutely lashing it down. The hardest rainfall of the past few days and I’d missed it by just 20 minutes. I didn’t have a great view from my seat, but I could only see blue sky, so there must have been a massive rain cloud right over the pub!
At 2.40 I skipped across to the bus stop. I’m not used to drinking and at about 5.6% OP is quite strong and it certainly helped my state of mind, as well as easing any pain I was feeling in my joints. It’s good stuff!
The bus was on time and the driver made me fumble for actual money, despite there being a contactless paypoint on his little counter. I eventually found what he needed, and at least he provided change. I sat about half way down the bus and I must have been over the gear box or engine or something, because this was the loudest bus journey I’ve ever had. It felt like the driver was in second gear all the way to Ripon. At times the engine noise was quite painful. I soon gave up trying to listen to my audiobook and settled for a Spotify playlist instead, turning the volume up as high as I could.
I arrived in Ripon at 3.30 and it looked like it had been raining here too. I found the Unicorn easily enough and checked in. The room is really good, large and light, big double bed, bath (not big enough for me) and shower. The shower soon proved to be excellent too and I’m relaxing on the bed now, typing this up and waiting to go down and find some food. I probably have more choice in Ripon than any other city I’ve walked though on a long distance route (except maybe Carlisle), but I’ll still probably just go down and eat in the pub. The Wetherspoon’s app makes it all quite easy and impersonal, which suits me just fine – and how badly can they mangle a burger and chips?
OK, so just finished tea and both my earlier predictions were wrong. The app wasn’t working properly, so I had to go to the bar and speak to someone to order my food. Then the burger arrived and the bun they’ve used is at least a week old, it’s dry and hard, but the meat and onion rings are pretty good, so 6/10 for that I guess.
I’m going to finish my drink and then go shopping next door in Sainsbury’s, to pick up something for emergency lunch tomorrow. I may decide not to divert to the shop in West Tanfield and I’d like to have something in my pack just in case. Then I’ll go back to my room and finish watching Bill Burr.
I’m feeling much happier at the end of day three than I did yesterday, which is unusual as day three is usually when things begin to hurt, rather than get better!