Crossing Yorkshire

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Friday 20th
Settle to Chapel le Dale 13.6 miles

No rain for me today. A chilly wind kept me wrapped up, but it was great to have views. It was of walk of two halves. During the morning I hiked uphill, back into the fells. Lumpy, bumpy limestone country, with grey dry stone walls snaking this way and that. A highlight was winding along this ancient path that connected two villages.

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Just think of all the people have strode along this track over the centuries. I’m sure famous trails like the Appalacian Way in the USA are fantastic, but the pleasure of glimpsing our forbears’ way of life makes walking in the UK a very special experience.

The afternoon segment was the hike over Ingleborough – the middle of Yorkshire’s 3 Peaks. I went up from Clapham, through the dramatic limestone gorge.

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I’d hoped for snow on the top. It wasn’t to be, and nor were the views, as the summit was cosseted in clouds a day. But there was some frosty rhime, giving you a clue, dear reader, as to the wind chill up there. It was bloomin cold.

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Trying to warm up, I skipped rapidly down the side of the hill, to Chapel le Dale, and my next BandB.

A couple of other little moments from the day. After my previous sightings of the boots and milk – random objects with a story to tell, I decided to leave my own. I was given two very green bananas as part of a packed lunch this morning. So I left them laid out neatly on the bridge in Settle. Hopefully there is someone in Settle who loves green bananas.

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Second, isn’t this green wall simply beautiful?

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Tomorrow I will cross out of Yorkshire and into Cumbria. People who don’t live in Yorkshire often have no idea what a huge county it is. I’ve now tramped right across the county; 160 miles of walking.

Saturday 21st
Chapel le Dale to Helmside (near Dent) 11 miles

What a treat. A blue sky day. These were the views as I strode out of Chapel le Dale:

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IMG_3341Shy Ingleborough, wrapped in a cosy scarf of cloud.

I stopped to chat with a bubbly farmer, who was out catching moles. He was delighted with his haul, and he fished a couple of the little chaps out of a bucket for me to inspect. Their spade like front paws are incredible. I stroked their fur. So soft.

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It may seem harsh to cull moles, but there’s plenty to go round, and they inhibit grass growth, reduce the quality of silage, and damage grass cutting machinery.

I reached the whaleback crest of Whernside, and strode along the snowy ridge to the summit – the highest point in all of Yorkshire. I could see the Lake District hills for the first time, and the sea in Morcambe Bay. I’m finding it hard to choose the photos to include in this blog post. I took loads.

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I crossed into Cumbria and it was all downhill to the little cobbled village of Dent.

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Finally a quick 2 miles along Dentdale valley took me to my lodgings. Which turned out to be a BandB with two of the kindest hosts I’ve met. They took such good care of me. Warm scones, straight from the oven, greeted me on arrival. Life doesn’t get much better. The Old Craft Barn definitely goes into my top 5 of UK BandBs. Thank you, Joe and Caroll.

Sunday 22nd
Rest day (inc 3 miles to Sedbergh)

Today I got in an hour’s short walk to Sedbergh, and then that was it for the day. I’d planned for today to be a rest day – I need one, and the weather forecast for today has been looking awful ever since midweek. It was grey and nippy but dry, during my stroll into Sedbergh. As soon I settled down with a cup of tea, on came the freezing sleety rain. It’s continued all day. It’s so dark and grey outside, it seems like dusk.

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IMG_3406 Sedburgh

Perfect timing for a rest day.

Finally, I saw this sign the other day. Any guesses as to what it means?

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Half time

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Wednesday 11th February
Nr Tadcaster to Wetherby 12.5 miles

I felt fully restored after one of my epic sleeps. If 12 hours sleep a night is good enough for Roger Federer, then it’s fine for me. Finishing early yesterday allowed me to catch up with my blog, do my washing, and have a cup of tea with Richard, lovely ex boss, who popped over from his office for a catch up.

With audiobook accompaniment I completed the final 4 miles of the not-so-pleasant footpath from York to Tadcaster. This ho hum little section even included me having to take my life in my hands and rush across the A64 dual carriageway. I don’t recommend this. The OS map was actually incorrect, as there is a safe crossing half a mile further east. Still, I survived.

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Angel in Tadcaster

Safely in Samuel Smith’s Tadcaster, I met Les and Sarah who had juggled their diaries in order to accompany me for the day. Everything looked up from then on. We left the plains and roaring traffic behind and followed the twisting River Wharfe as we moved slightly uphill, and out of the great flat expanse of the Vale of York. Houses suddenly changed from red brick to creamy limestone.

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As is the way when accompanied by friends, the miles slipped by in great conversation and many laughs. And treat of treats, Les brought freshly baked madelines! He’s even left me with 4 for tomorrow. So very good.

Whilst we walked, limericks started to appear in the comments on my previous blog post. Thank you so much everyone! I read them aloud; they are brilliant.

Hidden gem of the day was coming across the hamlet of Newton Kyme. It has a marvellous hall and several gorgeous Georgian houses alongside it as support acts, with gardens full of aconites and snowdrops. The hall has a marvellous avenue and ha ha. We googled ha ha and found that it is a word that we have morphed from the French ‘Ah ha!’ The exclamation refers to the surprise of a hidden ditch at the end of the lawn.

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Newton Kyme Hall

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Two thirds of our happy party

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Two pairs of big hands

Our cheery chatting party reached Wetherby and met up with Sarah’s Sam and junior hiker, Mariella, age 16 months. The well timed lunchtime arrival meant a long pub lunch was in order.

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Aconites for Sarah (who loves the yellow winter jewels)

I’m in my first BandB of the trip. I find BandBs to be a bit of a lucky dip. There’s no real way of knowing what they’ll be like. But today I definitely got a winner: Wharfe House BandB in Wetherby. A super place to stay if you are in the area or driving north up the A1. Cosy, gorgeous design, and such a friendly welcome.

I’m excited to be in West Yorkshire, and to have crossed west of the A1. Progress!

Thursday 12th
Wetherby to Bramhope 12.7 miles

Longest day so far, and the hilliest. I appear to have survived. It’s good to be in rolling countryside. It was a cold, still, monochrome type of day. I loosley followed the Wharfe valley, first on its northern side, then crossing over by the Harewood estate, and heading west on the south of the river.

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Venerable oak at Harewood House

The sky was frequently dotted with red kites – a great sight.

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Deer park at Harewood

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First daffs I’ve seen this year

At Bramhope I was rescued by Mike and Helen who are very kindly feeding and watering me tonight. Being given crumpets with real honey and a huge mug of tea on arrival was just so good it’s hard to explain. Small things!

Tomorrow will be a short day, as I’m feeling rather weary.

Friday 13th
Bramhope to Menston 5.7 miles

Not the best of days. I enjoyed a short walk to Menston in the company of Mike. Alas no photos as the views over the Wharfe Valley were hidden by grey mist. An empty legged feeling grew steadily worse, and by the time I got the train into Leeds for an overnight stop, I felt really poorly. For the rest of the day I couldn’t eat and had a fever. Ughhh!

Saturday 14th
Home!
What a horrible night. I have picked up some kind of stomach bug. I feel too wobbly to walk so I’ve decided to temporarily break off from my walk and I’ve headed home to doctor Ian. At least I’ve got to about half way now, so I’ll have to look at this as a half time interval.

I hope to get going again asap.

Meanwhile thanks again for all the limericks.

The efficacious and saturnine blog post

Here’s my diary for the last few days, during which I’ve trundled along from Beverley to just past York:

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Friday 6th Feb
Beverley to Goodmanham
11 miles
I got so lucky, I couldn’t walk on Thursday, but as it happened the weather was filthy. I restarted on Friday, and the sun shine bright and almost warm.
After meeting my friend Sarah for a second breakfast in Beverley, (my second breakfast, not hers), I walked out of the town and into an old railway track, another relic of Beecham’s transport massacre. I pretty much stayed in the track for the majority of my walk. Due to the fact that raised banks and bushes lined the track, it was rather chilly and tunnel-like. This meant that the snow, fast melting elsewhere, remained. It was quite icy and slightly tiring underfoot. But a pleasant walk, apart from an excess of canine excrement sitting proudly in the snow.

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Goofy selfie and snowy track

I reached a toasting hot pub in Goodmanham, and was swiftly whisked away to stay for two nights with Alex, Jane, and Ambrose the cat. I was properly spoilt with a wonderful supper, that incredible crimson sunset, and such good company.

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Ambrose the cat
I felt really tired, surprisingly. Embarrassing really, but it is how it is. So I’m not sure that I have been very good company, with my epic hibernation type sleeps.
Nb the words efficacious and saturnine came up in conversation, as they do (?), and thus have found their way into the title of my blog post, for no particular reason other than they are wonderful words. Plus I hate to play by the SEO rules when it comes to titles of blog posts.

Saturday 7th
Goodmanham to Pocklington
10 miles
If you look at the map you’ll see that today was a bit of a dog leg. There weren’t any more direct route options that didn’t involve a lot of road walking. But there were two bonuses. This stage involved the first little hills of the walk – the Yorkshire Wolds. And secondly, I was lucky enough to have a walking companion for the weekend.

Alex and I slip slopped along through good Yorkshire mud. Skylarks accompanied our constant chatter. Is it a bit early for skylarks? They sounded lovely anyway. And some were hovering unusually low, so we actually got a proper glimpse.

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Sunday 8th
Pocklington to Sutton on Derwent 9.7 miles
And then we were three. Alex and Jane joined me for today’s walk, although Ambrose declined to be a puss in boots and didn’t join us. That was probably a good thing as we walked for the best part of the day alongside the rather lovely Pocklington Canal. Ambrose would have been beside himself with all the birdlife: a heron, coots, ducks, swans, and more skylarks up above.

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Bridge over Pocklington Canal

We made up limericks as we pootled along enjoying surprisingly warmth from the February sun. I do love a limerick. Any comments posted in limerick form would be very much appreciated.

The last mile of our walk was a grim plod down a straight bit of road that seemed to double as a race track for local traffic. Fortunately Ian arrived just at the right moment to pick us up and ferry my fab companions back to their car, and me home for the last night before I properly strike out on my own.

Monday 9th
Sutton on Derwent to York 12 miles
Ian dropped me off to restart my journey at lunchtime, and I continued following the Wilberforce Way to York. I can’t say that this route is the most well planned – there was yet another stretch, this time about 2 miles, on a very busy local road. Quite unpleasant to have cars flying past at 70 mph. There were some nice bits – walking through quiet woods, and it was good to arrive on foot into York. Also it was a superb day, weather wise. I got quite hot. My baselayer tights had to be removed in a churchyard.

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Perfect lunch spot
I saw a foal excitedly chasing a poor dozy sheep that had managed to squeeze under a fence into the horse’s paddock. The foal v sheep performance continued for quite some time. In the end I walked on, happy to have experienced this free entertainment. The chase may still be going on today, for all I know.
I arrived at Sam, Sarah and baby Mariella’s house in York, fairly tired after my longest day yet. It was lovely to see them though, and hopefully Sarah is going to join me on Wednesday. It’s brilliant seeing friends along the walk. It is all part of a very memorable experience.

Tuesday 10th
York to near Tadcaster 7.6 miles
A grey freezing foggy sort of day. And my most uninteresting stage thus far. Quite a lot of tarmac, bike paths, and plods beside arable fields. All of which was in earshot of the A64, which is a very busy dual carriageway. There are always going to be days like this on a long walk. Very soon I’ll be out of the flatlands of the Vale of York, and into countryside that is a lot less familiar to me.

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York Racecourse in the fog
My solution today was to stick in my earphones and listen to a thriller (audiobook). The drama kept me content and shut out the roaring traffic.
Today was my first time with my proper rucksack (up to now I’ve just had a tiny running bag with a few bits in for day walking). I’ve been a bit apprehensive as to how my body will react – it’s the first time I’ve really carried anything like this since my op. I’ve packed really light, but it’s still something I need to be aware of. Anyway I feel ok. I ended up stopping early, at 7.5 miles, as I passed my favourite hotel chain. The temptation of a half day and a bit of feet up was too much to resist. I’m probably in need of a bit of a battery recharge. I felt incredibly sleepy all morning. Even though I’m not covering the kinds of miles I would have done a few months ago, my main aim is to enjoy the walk and ensure I steadily get fitter.

Now I must remember to start taking a few elephant photos…

As I Walked Out One Frosty February Morning

This blog post contains my diary of the last few days.

Sunday 1st February 2015

I’m off again!

Tomorrow I hope to embark on a walk.  I’m aiming to walk right out from my house on the East Yorkshire coast, and strike west across Yorkshire, into Cumbria and the Lake District, and I’ll stop when I reach the sea on the other coast.   It’ll be about 220 miles.IMG_2891

I’m setting off in the morning.  How do I feel tonight?  Excited and apprehensive.  Excited because I’m itching to do a long walk again.  Excited because I really like the idea of my route – of a trail that is unique to me, rather than the heavily trod St Bees to Robin Hoods Bay coast to coast walk. Apprehensive because this walk is the first stage regaining my fitness after an operation I had 2 months ago.  Before the op I was fitter than I have ever been in my life. But now I feel far removed from the person who did things like bomb up and down Ben Nevis in less than 4 hours last September.

I’m so hesitant about my ability to complete the walk that I am not going to publish this blog until I’ve been walking for a couple of days. I had the idea this journey about 6 hours after my operation.  I remember lying in bed, a feeling discombobulated from the general anaesthetic and painkillers, messaging my friend Suzanne, telling her I’d had this great idea for a walk. I think we both thought I was slightly giddy with the stuff going round my body.  But it’s turned into a real idea. So ever since then it’s been something that’s been nice to think about and plan.

I want to enjoy the walk, and I don’t want to be pressured by setting myself a target to do it in a certain time.  So I will take it day by day, starting with gentle daily mileages, and see how I go. Don’t ask me when I’ll finish. I’ll finish when I finish.  If I finish.  At first I am going to come home every night – my lovely Ian will find me and fetch me back.  So that’ll give me plenty of flexibility to see what kind of mileage is comfortable for me.  Then after that, I’ll be B&B-ing it, as I can’t yet carry the extra weight that tents etc require.

I really really hope that I can complete the walk.

Monday 2nd February

IMG_3005Yay!!!

I have started my walk, and completed my first day.

IMG_3011What a great day for beginning the journey.  The ground was frozen, the sun shone, and the North Sea roared.  I walked out of my door, over the field to the sea, and then along the cliff top for 4 miles before reaching Aldbrough and turning inland, heading west.  I enjoyed seeing the very familiar landscape from some different angles.  All was quiet as I crunched along for just under 9 miles.  That seems like such a paltry amount.  But I’m pleased.  It’s progress.  And, touch wood, my body feels alright.

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It suddenly snowed this evening. I really hope it’s still white in the morning. It would be awesome to walk in the snow.

Tuesday 3rd February

IMG_3047A white morning! What a thrill. When planning this walk I had thought that the initial stages would be the least exciting, due to the fact that it is home turf.  But so far it’s not been dull at all, and the rare snowfall – our first of this winter – transformed the landscape.  Nine miles again, which I’m pleased about, and my body felt fine and my spirits were sky high.

IMG_3067I saw a hare, deer, loads of animal tracks, and only 2 people.  I discovered some paths I’d never walked on before, linking Swine with Wawne. Proper Viking place names, those. It’s been good these first two days, walking in the morning and being home by lunchtime.  It feels like a sensible way to ease into the trip.

 

Wednesday 4th February

IMG_3088A very short walk today – mainly so as to fit in with being picked up and dropped off.  I walked from Wawne to Beverley, a route that mainly involved winding along the snowy banks of the River Hull.  It was brilliant arriving in Beverley, our local market town, on foot.  The sun obligingly came out and shone on glorious Beverley Minster as I trudged up to it.  That’s my first leg done. I’ve got going.  Tomorrow I am not walking – I’ve got a business meeting to go to in West Yorkshire.  Then on Friday I’ll crack on.

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Can you spot the ducks?!

From now on I will be able to follow known footpaths – the Wilberforce Way will take me to York, and then the Ebbor Way will take me to Otley, where I’ll have a choice of following the Dales High Way or the Dales Way, all the way to Bowness on Windermere.  So far I’ve had to make up my own route – it was something of an unknown as I’d not been on these footpaths before, and one never knows if a right of way as shown on an OS map will actually translate to be a usable path on the ground. Luckily this time all the paths I had chosen turned out to be real tracks.  So I’ll call it the Flora Way, from my home to Beverley.

 

Lovely friends – if any of you would like to join me for a day or two’s walking, then please drop me an email or message me.  I know my route but won’t actually plan each daily stage until a few days in advance, but I will be able to tell you roughly where I’ll be.  So it should be possible to organise something.  

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Which way?

 

Owls, bikes, and monks

We’re just back from a weekend in Leeds, where we did some owl spotting as well as going to a film festival. (Owls are the city emblem).

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The touring Banff Film Festival was visiting Leeds.  It’s early on in the UK tour, so if you like mountains & outdoor activities, then there’s plenty of time to catch it.  Lots of short films are shown in quick succession, ranging from 3 minutes to 40 minutes in length.

Our favourites were The Ridge, which is a stunning short video of a guy mountain biking on the Cuillin Ridge in Skye.  I’m not that into mountain biking films, but this is truly jaw dropping – both in scenery and the skills of the rider.

My second favourite was a film called Tashi and the Monk.  This was a longer film about a childrens’ home in the Indian Himalayas, and a particularly naughty little girl.  This is a short trailer. 

The runners

Walking through Cornwall. Destination John O'Groats, then Shetland!

Walking through Cornwall. Destination John O’Groats, then Shetland!

On this day one year ago I was in Cornwall. I’d just passed the 100 mile mark, and had over a thousand miles still to crunch under my boots. I felt uncertain about my capacity to walk such a long way. But I was already learning that the best way to cope with the self doubt that accompanies any sizeable and exciting challenge is to focus all my attention on what’s around me. Paying attention to the day ahead, the next footstep, the views, the next meal….these are all the simple but incredibly effective ways to harness that most powerful muscle of all, the mind.

Today, I’m six days away from running my first marathon; 26.2 miles along the Brighton seafront. My good friend Alison and I have spent the entire winter focussing on the next footstep, trying not too think about the fact that in April we will run further than we ever have done in our lives before. I said a while back that I think that the training IS the marathon. Well, we’ve succeeded in doing the training. Since the start of December I’m amazed to report that neither of us has missed a single training session. We’ve completed the whole thing, which jointly means that over the last four months we have:

  • Cycled 600 miles
  • Run 780 miles*
  • Plus all the stretching and lifting at the gym, and mindless turbo sessions
Perfect perfect early morning run in the Cairngorms, just a week ago

Perfect perfect early morning run in the Cairngorms, just a week ago

Whatever happens on Sunday, I’m ever so proud of our determination, and the fact that we have enjoyed our training so much. We’ve run through rain, howling wind, through knee high floodwater, snow. We’ve run in Kent, East Yorkshire, London, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire. We’ve run along the sandy paths of New Forest, along the trails of the North Yorkshire Moors, over the fells of the Peak District, and through a hill pass in the Scottish Highlands. We have learnt to love running. We have learned how to eat. We are both fitter and stronger than we’ve ever been at any time in our lives before. We have become runners.

The small crowd that was there early on, cheering us on through your sponsorship has become a much bigger crowd. We are both so grateful. And if you’ve not done so, it’s not too late to sponsor us.  I’m fundraising for the MS Society, and Alison is fundraising for Mind.

*A small coincidence:
I looked back at my diary and realised that this is the mileage I had done on the day I crossed the Scottish border last May. Lands End to the border – the length of England – was 780 miles exactly.