6th August 2022 – Masham to Ripon – 14.6m

Well that was quite a tough day, although to be fair I made it tougher than it should have been. I’m back in my hotel room now and my feet are buzzing from the 15 mile pounding they’ve taken and from the piss poor protection offered by the Roclite 345s. I made the day more difficult by not knowing how to take it easy and basically pushing myself through a forced march, even though there was no compelling reason to do so. I think I must just be wired wrong.

I had another good night sleep, despite my room being positioned directly above the outdoor smoking area for the pub. People were shouting to (or maybe at) each other until well after 11pm and the old sash windows on the hotel don’t offer the best sound protection. Just as I was dropping off a large group of very loud people returned to their rooms near mine and made a great noise about saying good night to each other in the hallway. BASTARDS!

I was mostly conscious by 5.30am and then slept through until just before 7am, but as I was catching the bus back to Masham this morning, and the Saturday service didn’t begin until 9.40am I had loads of time to kill. I lazed and lounged until my stomach began to rumble so I boiled the kettle and squeezed a couple of the ridiculously small milk sachets into one of the mugs, dropped a tea bag in and added water. The milk was bad and big clumps of curds floated in my brew! I dumped it and reconsidered my options. I could go down to breakfast in the pub, or I could pop across the square and get a bacon roll from Greggs. I chose the latter and after queueing for ages behind the various market traders who were ordering multiple items, I eventually returned to my room with the roll and a large tea. Perfect!

I wandered over to the bus station for 9.25 and the bus arrived at 9.30 and then seemed to take ages to embark a half dozen passengers. Each one was having a long discussion with the driver. I thought we’d never leave! The journey seemed interminable and every stop seemed to add to my frustration – I just wanted to get going! As we circled the market square in Masham, heading for the stop, the bus became blocked by a delivery wagon and I lost all patience, asking the driver if I could just get off here and thankfully she let me. They could still be there now for all I know. My frustration stemmed from the fact that I’m used to an early start – I like to start early and finish early, but not being able to begin the walk until 10.20 was driving my OCD mad! I had 15 miles to do and my internal monologue was telling me it would be dark before we got back to Ripon. Stupid I know, but that’s just how my mind works. At no point did I even consider taking it easy and settling on arriving about 6pm. I set out at top speed and pretty much maintained that for the whole day! It was a warm day too, with occasional cloud cover but mostly in direct sunshine all day. In the end I did 14.3 miles in 5 hours and 8 minutes. I cut a mile out of the walk at the end just arrowing into Ripon on the shortest possible path, because by that point my feet were feeling hammered.

As I left Masham I passed a long string of people returning into town after walking their dogs, it was like an organised race or something. Last time I did this walk, at this point, I had an interesting interaction with an old lady walking her dog. I’m absolutely convinced I met the same lady today, but we didn’t say anything, just nodded as we passed.

The first few miles of the walk today were quite agricultural, lots of field boundary walking, some with crops, others with stubble. The first interesting section, and always the best part of this day into Ripon, is the path through woods of Hackfall. It was pretty busy at this time of day too, which I’ve never seen before, as I’d normally be here before most people are up and about. I was giving way to groups of people all the way through the woods, people four or five abreast across the path, no thought to others. Just towards the end of the woods I spotted another fallen tree and decided to sit down on what I expected to be a nice bouncy branch. Unfortunately it was an old dead tree, and as I sat down, the branch broke and deposited me on the floor. I was glad there was no-one around to hear the little yelp of surprise that I uttered as I hit the ground. I found a more solid bough and had my first break of the day.

On my way into Mickley I became aware of the sound of gunfire (I was listening to my audiobook at this point) away to the north. Lots and lots of shotguns, all banging away furiously and for a good long while. At the last house in the village I passed a couple of young boys eating their lunch in the garden. They were probably only about 4 or 5, and the younger one of them said ‘can you hear that noise?’ I said it was shooting, but I didn’t know what they were shooting at. The older one just said ‘pigeons’ and they both nodded knowingly. I presume they were clay pigeons, not real ones. There must have been 20+ guns and they were banging away for as long as I was in ear shot, so I doubt the entire UK population of flying rats would have kept them that busy.

My break-neck pace prevented me from diverting to the shop in West Tanfield, I instead told myself I had plenty of provisions (which I did) and the extra time and distance was unnecessary (which it clearly wasn’t). The next waymark is the caravan park at Sleningford Mill and I spotted a drinking water sink in the middle of the campsite and had a refreshingly cold, long drink of water. The caravans were wall-to-wall and some of the setups were very impressive. I don’t see the point myself, give me a lonely layby at the top of a mountain road any day.

I found a huge block of concrete beside the path as I left the campsite, in the shade too, so I took another break and ate a couple of flapjacks and washed them down with warm juice.

I breezed through North Stainley, not even stopping to watch the cricket match in full swing (I mean, why would you?) on the village pitch. The next few miles were mostly tedious and I tuned them out with my audiobook. The miles don’t look too bad on the map, but on the ground you find that the views are mostly obscured by trees and the route is all tarmac or concrete roads. Initially these have been built to support the massive quarry at North Batts, but then they link the farms of North, Middle and South Park. I just put my head down and trudged them out. I found a barn towards the end, with a bench in the shade and took my final rest stop. I finished the warm juice and the last of my biscuits and headed downhill (at last) towards Ripon.

The final 3 miles look like they should be right beside the river, and they are, but you can’t see it because of the screen of trees and bushes. I hit the tarmac into the city with a mile to go and although I’d planned to scope out an alternative ending to the day, it involved an extra mile, so I binned it and headed straight for the pub. I ordered 2 pints of Diet Coke and juggled them and the magnetic door key up to my room.

For the last few miles of the walk I’d been promising myself a bath when I got into my room. I’d convinced myself that even though I knew it was a small bath, it would be long enough to get my legs into it and that’s all I needed. Just some relaxation for the muscles. Nope, my memory had made it much bigger than reality, it’s only about 3 feet long and I quickly abandoned it and settled for a shower. I feel a lot better now and  ready for some tea. Despite last night’s disappointment in the food department, the pub is just too convenient not to use, so I’ll eat here. When I’m done, I’ll pop next door into Sainsbury’s and get something for dessert.

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