(23rd March 2013 – 23 miles + 1 mile to Park House B&B)
As Radio 4 chatted away to itself, I worked ruminatively and efficiently through a scrambled egg and smoked salmon breakfast, all the while staring out at yet more falling snow. (Not for the last time). I feared that after the grandeur of the Lakes and Pennines, Day 9 would be a let down – that it would be little more than a dreary, utilitarian link between Richmond and the North York Moors.
I wasn’t wrong.
Today would be the longest stage of the trip and I did wonder whether it would be physically possible for me to cover 24 miles though fresh snowfall. (Foolishly, I hadn’t packed any snow-shoes or skis).
Well, there was only one way to find out.
Traipsing through the town, I noticed that the snow wasn’t deep enough to completely bury daffodils. Why, it was almost spring-like.
But as I crossed the Swale, I couldn’t have hoped for a more wintry scene. (N.B. I wasn’t hoping for a wintry scene). Pat had texted – he and Sue were having car problems and he would be late setting off. As it was such a long day and as I was carrying a far heavier sack, I said I would set off, tortoise-like, and doubtless he would soon catch me up, hare-like.
Before long I was plunging through woodland
and clambering over fallen tree trunks that blocked my path along the Swale.
It was only a day or two later that I realised that the auto-focus on my camera wasn’t working properly (see above photo). Allowing my Nikon to get soaked the previous day had been careless and stupid. Though my camera would eventually right itself, several otherwise good shots were fuzzy or ruined.
Within an hour it had stopped snowing and though it was still very cold,
any worries I may have had of wading (again) through snow drifts faded away.
It was near Brompton-on-Swale that I chatted to a dog-walker. I’ve mentioned him before – he had walked the C2C the previous August and on every day, non-stop for almost two weeks it had rained. Heavily. I commiserated … and inwardly thanked my lucky stars. It hadn’t rained on my walk since the morning of Day 2 and wouldn’t do so again. Though ‘my’ weather had been difficult and very challenging at times, I was really very elated. Nothing would have depressed me more than ceaseless rain.
As I ventured out into the Vale of Mowbray, the snow thinned, then disappeared and gave way
to flood and mud.
Mostly, the walking was fine. I covered mile after mile across unremarkable countryside
and after Bolton-on-Swale much of the walking was on metalled roads. I am no fan of road-walking. Who is? But actually this was OK. There was virtually no traffic and the quiet country lanes kept my feet off muddy, puddled paths and allowed me to shift up a gear.
As I plodded along, I fantasized about what I might have for lunch. Knowing that there would be a pub lunch opportunity today, I hadn’t bothered buying food in Richmond. But what to order in the pub? A huge steak and kidney pudding? Or perhaps forget the kidney (and pudding) and just have a huge steak? Or a huge healthy salad or a huge plate of pasta? Or both? I was so hungry that even the thought of yet more pub chips had me drooling. A huge burger with huge cheesecake afters? The possibilities kept on spinning through my mind like the wheels on a fruit machine.
I rubbed my hands (and belly) in wonderment at what the ‘White Swan’ in Danby Wiske might offer me. As I rounded a bend and the pub swung into view, my stomach gurgled in anticipation. After 14 miles I was very hungry indeed. Managing not to trample anyone in my rush to the bar, I ordered a pint (first things first) and asked politely for the menu. “We’re not doing food, I’m afraid,” replied the barman, “but there are these” he added hastily (alarmed as a look of blue-murder rolled across my normally placid face) and nodded at a plate of cellophane-wrapped rolls. I thumped my head against the bar once, asked nicely for two of the rolls and retreated, crestfallen to a table. I was still grumbling to myself when Pat walked through the door fifteen minutes later. But his friendly face and the excellent bitter did put me in a better (if still hungry) mood. (Actually, I had misread my guide-book – it did clearly state that the ‘White Swan’ only provided evening meals).
The afternoon was a long 10-mile squelch across boggy ground, along muddy paths
and past ugly, dispiriting farms.
Fed up with this long tedious trudge into that bitter easterly, I eyed the Cleveland escarpment eagerly as it drew ever-so-slowly nearer. I have twice walked the Cleveland Way (with which the C2C would walk hand-in-hand for several miles tomorrow) and I was looking forward to climbing up on high again and following a favourite trail.
Finally, at about 5pm, and after almost 9 hours walking, Pat and I staggered up the final, long mile from Ingleby Cross to Park House – our stop for the night and where Sue was waiting for us.
After a shower, I sprinted to the dining room and sat, knife and fork in hand, impatiently waiting for my dinner. It was well worth the wait. We were served a fabulous, hearty stew and dumplings followed by an Eton mess that had me purring and scraping my plate until I was told to stop.
It was a shame then that my room out in an annexe was achingly cold. When I returned to it after dinner the heating was off and I had to don several layers before edging between icy sheets. (When Julia Bradbury walked the C2C for the BBC she stayed in this very room. I hope, unlike me, she had the foresight to pack a hot water bottle).
Thankfully, I was so tired that even my chattering teeth couldn’t keep me awake and soon, still shivering, I was fast asleep.