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Coast to Coast - September 2007

Day 9 - Monday 17th September
Reeth to Danby Wiske
(about 28 miles)

I woke at 6.45 to the alarm. A quick weather check revealed a dull but dry morning, and so I rolled out of bed, washed and packed and was ready in the dining room for breakfast at about 8 o'clock. The hot part of breakfast was a little disappointing, since it came in a pool of baked beans, which I've never liked very much, and so I didn't finish it. Still, that meant that I was able to leave relatively early for once, and by 8.30am I was on the road for Richmond.

My B&B in Reeth

I hadn't quite decided where I was going to walk to that afternoon, save that it was definitely going to be somewhere the other side of Richmond. I knew that there was a campsite not far from Catterick, and another one after Bolton-on-Swale, but I'd decided to simply play things by ear and see how I was feeling as the afternoon developed.

The walk over to Richmond was easy, and uneventful, beginning with a road walk to Marrick Priory some 40 minutes or so away. There were quite a lot of slightly friendlier-looking cows in the fields, some just standing around watching the walkers...

...and others lying on the grass with their engaging little babies.

With all that lying down, I began to wonder whether they'd heard sinister news about the weather to come.

Some of the hawthorn trees bore quite a heavy crop of berries...


...and there was a tangle of rose hips in the trees at the side of the road.

As I passed them it occurred to me that autumn had arrived and that preparations for winter were already underway, and just as I seem to do at this time every year I marvelled at how quickly spring had passed into summer, and wondered where exactly the summer had gone.

I soon arrived at Marrick Priory and set off up the path behind it towards the woods on the left.

Looking back to Marrick Priory

The woodland path is steep in places, and satisfying...

...and as I climbed I remembered charging up it at a great pace with Matt when I'd done the walk in July 2000.

Emerging at the top of the wood, the path continued through tiny Marrick--so tiny, indeed, that I forgot to take a photograph of the village itself, though I did notice a beautiful climber as I passed.

After that came several fields separated by low walls fitted with small gates...

Typical Yorshire low wall gate

...and at one of the gates I stopped for a while because the ever-welcome 'text arrived' noise had alerted me to the return of reception to my mobile phone.

Hmmmm... Which way next, eh?

I took advantage of the opportunity to check the guidebook, and as I was sitting there Graham and Keith passed at a considerable rate of knotts.

After that I set off down the hill towards Marske...

...passing a collection of most interesting-looking sheep...


...and (what I think must have been) Hollins Farm along the way.

I didn't stop in Marske, but instead pressed straight on towards Richmond. On the approach to Applegarth Scar I spotted the cairn that marks the top of the short ascent from the river, from its position in a dip...

...and realised that there wasn't an awfully long way to go before lunch, possibly in some sort of cafe :) By now it was 11.45, and so there was plenty of time in hand to launch an assault on what would normally have been the first part of the next day's walk.

The path along the top towards Whitecliffe Wood was easy and pleasant...

...and I spotted a vulture...

...and another less combative sort of bird...

...disguised cunningly in the grass.

There was also a slightly belligerent-looking ram...

...guarding his attractive capucino-coloured flock...

...and soon after that I had my first proper sight of Richmond, framed by the small trees that made up the hedge.

The gentle hill down into Richmond passes allotments, which I always love...


...and I lingered on the way down to take a closer look at what people were growing.

There was the usual attractive mixture of vegetables, fruit and flowers, laid out with an air of slightly ramshackle regimentation.

I don't think I've ever seen an allotment that wasn't sporting sunflowers, and at least one cane wigwam bearing peas.

I eventually dragged myself away from the allotments, though, and made my way down into the heart of the town. I went straight to the market square in the hope of finding a cheese savoury sandwich at one of the various eat-in or takeaway cafes, but it gradually began to appear that since I was last there the residents of Richmond had adopted a wholly carnivorous diet, since every sandwich I saw seemed to contain a bit of an animal in some form or another.

I'd also been entertaining hopes of enjoying a strong cup of filter coffee, but I'd almost despaired of finding that either when I eventually stumbled across Dave and Ian (last seen departing from Keld Lodge in a taxi, with blisters), and they pointed me towards a little sandwich bar where I could choose my own fillings, in one of the little streets off the market square. I soon found it, and not long afterwards I tucked a couple of delicious-looking sandwiches into my pack (for later consumption) and set off to search again for a drink.

This time I had more luck, when in King Street I unexpectedly detected the unmistakeable aroma of freshly-brewed coffee and moments later arrived at Sip Coffee, a small but very lovely cafe selling coffee, paninis (I think) and a selection of yummy, sweet, sticky things. I eased my rucksack to the floor and attempted to slide it under a table, and then I settled back to enjoy a large latte and a delectable slab of rocky road... Bliss!

It had been just after 1pm when I'd arrived in Richmond, but now it was after 2.30pm and I realised that I'd better get a bit of a move on if I was going to make any significant further progress. I therefore gathered my things together and set off towards the square, but once again I ran into Dave and Ian and after a brief chat we decided to go for a quick drink, as they were going to spend the night in Richmond and so I wouldn't be seeing them again. We eventually settled on the Buck Inn, where I had a pint of some sort of bitter (carbo-loading again, of course).

In converstation it transpired that they, too, had attempted to camp in Reeth, and that the bloke at the campsite had steered them towards the spare caravan instead. He hadn't charged them for it, though, and they'd slept there happily enough.

Just after 3pm I left Dave and Ian watching television in the bar. On the way to the pub I'd spotted a particularly nice looking chippy...

...and so I decided to save my sandwiches for later in the day and went in to buy some chips in a tray. They looked absolutely delicious...

...and so I fastened my poles to the side of my pack and ate the chips as I walked down through the town via some back streets, to meet up with the path again not far from the castle.

I initially missed the left turn into playing fields, and only realised I'd gone wrong some 5 minutes or so later when I found myself walking uphill beside a very busy road. I turned round and made my way back down again, though...

Richmond Castle

..and once I'd spotted the sign it was pretty easy going past the river, across a field...

...and then through an area of woodland, followed by some rather delapidated buildings...

...(with sloes providing further evidence that autumn was now well-established)...

Sloes on Blackthorn bushes near Richmond

...and ultimately in the direction of a row of small houses, which led down to the A6136.

Row of houses, leading to the main road

For reasons that aren't altogether apparent now, I remember getting comprehensively lost in my attempt to find my way down to those houses back in 2000. I remember Matt telling me that he'd found it confusing too, and so apparently it wasn't only me. It seemed straightforward enough this time, though; possibly because I now knew what the houses looked like from up on the hill, and so was more easily able to aim in the right direction. Other dodgy navigators might like to take note :)

On passing the last of the houses I came across Debbie and Dave, who'd taken a different route down from the town, and we walked on together towards Catterick. They hadn't decided where they were going to stay, but I was feeling energetic and hoped to make it as far as Bolton-on-Swale and possibly look for a wild camp if I ran out of steam before the campsite. The path was pretty, and easy underfoot...

...and we passed a number of pretty flowers in the bushes.


Any ideas?

As we continued to walk the sun (such as it had been) began to drop a little, and the path passed beside fields of tall grasses...

...before leading eventually to the A1 underpass.

Dave descends to the A1 underpass near Catterick

It was a short walk from there to Catterick, where I said goodbye to Dave and Debbie, and then I pressed on again towards Bolton-on-Swale. I was still unsure about just how far I might go, but it was only a little after 5pm when I got to Catterick and so there was still plenty of walking left in the day.

I didn't stop for many pictures on the way to B-on-S: just this one of amazing hawthorne beside the path.


Perhaps because of that, I made fairly good progress, and by just after 6pm I was making my way up to the church for a route check and coffee break. I wasn't particularly tired, and as I consulted the brick again I began to wonder whether I might make it as far as Danby Wiske. The distance seemed to be about another 7 miles, which felt managable, but I could see that the first signs of dusk were appearing outside, and sunset was due not long after 7pm. That meant that if I was going to continue then soon I'd be walking in the dark.

St. Mary's Church, Bolton-on-Swale

I've always been fascinated by tales of ghosties, ghoulies and other mysterious happenings, but although I love to read about them during daylight hours I've often found memories of what I've read returning to haunt me at night, when I'm alone. One of the things I've had to come to terms with when backpacking at night is a fear of unseen things that might be present around me. A sense of stepping back from mundane reality in an attempt to grow just a little closer to something that feels present but indefinable, and inestimably greater than all our man-made creations, is one of the things that draws me back to walking and wild camping, but the flip side of the satisfaction that I derive from that experience is the realisation that ultimately I know nothing at all about how any of us came to be here. It doesn't feel like a flip side until the sun begins to go down, and feelings of isolation and vulnerability begin to descend upon me, but at those times the sense of my mortality, and absolute insignificance, is very strong indeed.

Break at St. Mary's church - Bolton-on-Swale

I'd made some coffee before leaving the B&B that morning, and it was very welcome now. As I drank it, and re-read the guide book, I watched as the sun dropped lower in the sky above the churchyard, and began to prepare myself for the walking ahead.

I knew I needed to move on, though, and so sooner than I'd have liked I finished my drink, got my things together and began to move off. The churchyard contains a monument to one Henry Jenkins, who's said to have lived to the age of 169 (poor thing!), and as I was leaving I took a quick piccy. I'm not now sure why I took it from the other side of the churchyard, but I suspect that I only remembered the monument after I'd passed it, and that I was too lazy to go back :)

As is generally the case, light began to fade quickly once the process had begun. I didn't really notice it initially, because my eyes adjusted gradually to the conditions, but it became obvious when I stopped to take a photograph, and the camera told me I needed to use the flash.

Crumbling bridge

There was still enough light to make the walk across farmland from Bolton-on-Swale to Ellerton Hill straightforward, and at one stage I stopped to try to photograph an interesting bird I'd seen swimming in a stream, as I passed it. It was too quick for me, though, and paddled rapidly into a nook or cranny in the riverbank when it saw me reaching for the camera.

A bird was here...

I think it must have been at the point at which the path crosses a track which leads down to Laylands Farm that I came to a field full of bullocks.

Bullocks. Uh-oh...

Signs indicated that the path continued through the field, but after standing uneasily at the gate for a couple of minutes I decided I didn't want to go in, as the bullocks were showing what I interpreted as an unhealthy degree of interest in my arrival. I therefore decided to walk up the side of the field to the right instead, hoping that it would be possible to cross back over to the path at the other end. When I got to the other end of the field, though, it was impossible to cross because the stream dividing the two fields had become too wide, and therefore I had to continue to the next field instead, eventually forcing my way out through a thick hedge at the far end and having to walk back down the road towards the point at which I should have emerged.

I finally reached the little brick bridge which marks the junction of the C2C path with the road. Although I was in a hurry by that stage I stopped for a moment to take it in, because I clearly remembered taking a break there with Matt in 2000, and resting my back against the wall, when we'd walked this part of the route together on what had felt then like a marathon hike from Richmond to Ingleby Cross.

Memories of an earlier occasion

At the bridge I contined along the road towards the woods between Fatten Hill and Hobden Hill. Earlier in the day I'd thought that I might camp at Laylands Farm, but in the event I hadn't stopped: partly because the farm appeared to be in darkness, but mainly because I'd now settled to the idea that I was going to try to get to Danby Wiske. Reaching the road was a relief in a way, because it relieved me of the need to look out for the path. On the other hand, I always find it a little disconcerting to approach what appear to be abandoned buildings in the dark, and as darkness finally fell as I made my way along the road towards the wood...


...I passed one on the left and then a couple on the right. The road was entirely deserted, and by far the loudest thing to be heard was the pulsing rush of blood through my ears as I walked cautiously by.

I often listen to music or books while I'm walking, but when darkness falls I prefer to put my MP3 player away, as I want to be sure that I can hear anyone--or anything--that might be approaching. As anyone who's ever woken suddenly to darkness in the middle of the night will know, ears become attuned to every tiny sound when one's eyes are unable to relay the usual information, and as I walked on I became aware of small creatures rustling in the grass beside the road, and occasionally the explosive sound of startled birds making rapid departures from trees at the sound of my approach.

As the road entered the wood both the darkness and silence were almost palpable, and I had to make a conscious effort to contain my nerves. This wasn't the first time I'd walked alone in deserted places at night, though. I'd survived unscathed in the past, and so I reminded myself of that, and walked carefully on. Still, I was vividly aware of every movement I was making, and every sound that my clothing produced, and when I rounded a bend to find a fox frozen in the middle of the road, and staring towards me, my concentration had been so great that it took me a moment to appreciate what I was seeing, and by the time it occurred to me to reach for my camera the fox was long gone.

Eventually I saw a lighter patch ahead, and realised that the wood was coming to an end. With considerable relief I emerged and arrived at a junction, marked by a sign indicating that it was only 4 miles further to Danby Wiske. Phew! :)

The route now continued along the road for a little more than 2 miles. It was still completely deserted, and there was nothing to be seen except for the occasional twinkle of distant lights indicating the presence of a remote farm or small settlement. At a bend in the road a gleam in the hedge caught my eye, and when I switched on my head-torch I found a crab apple tree loaded with fruit. I picked one and began to nibble cautiously at it as I walked on. It was sour but delicious, and I realised I was hungry and wished I'd picked a few more.

Crab apples

I don't normally switch my torch on when walking in the dark, because I find that when my eyes have adjusted to the darkness I can do well enough without it. I'm also reluctant to advertise my presence on deserted roads unnecessarily. It was a pleasant enough evening, though--dry, and still--and once I'd grown more confident in the darkness I relaxed enough to try a photo experiment.


This is the photograph I took of the road in front of me. I hadn't seen anything at the time, and it was only when I got home and looked at my pictures that I saw the little white blobs, or orbs as they're sometimes called. I don't know what they are but I don't think it's rain: it wasn't raining, for a start, and whenever I've taken photographs that show rain there's been evidence of lateral or vertical movement. If it was mist of some sort then I assume there'd have been more of it, and more evenly distributed. Presumably it was dust in the air, or some sort of photographic anomaly. I really don't know, but I do know that next time I'm out walking on a deserted road in the dark I'll be trying very hard not to think about this photograph :)

Eventually I reached Streetlam, and the route left the road and continued across farmland again. I was concerned that it might be difficult to follow the path in the dark, but the map showed that it was less than 2km, and it appeared to be fairly straight, and so I decided to give it a go. I hadn't walked far, though, before I heard the galloping of hooves in the field to my right, and when I switched on my torch I saw a multitude of little bullocky eyes staring back at me. Eep!

Bullocky eyes in the darkness - eek!

Bullocks illuminated by Paint Shop Pro (plus one isolated orb...)

I continued cautiously along the path, but as I walked I heard the bullocks following me. Little b*stards! I realise they were simply curious, and maybe they thought I was going to feed them, but a herd of curious bullocks can do a lot of damage to one small walker when charging around in the middle of the night, so I was a little scared and my heart began to pound once again.

I couldn't tell from the guidebook whether the field I was walking in was connected to the one on the right further along, but as I continued I prayed that it wasn't. The bullocks accompanied me, panting and snorting, the braver wee beasties amongst them making occasional dashing forays towards the fence, followed by whinnying retreats. Unfortunately, and to my great dismay, when I got to the top of the field I found a hedge separating me from the field ahead, and as I approached it the bullocks took off in a group, at a gallop, and rounded the corner from their field into the one through which the path continued. I heard them bolting away into the near distance, but after a short pause I heard them pounding back again.

There was no way that I was going to enter the field with the bullocks, and I considered walking back to Streetlam and taking the road route to Danby Wiske instead. The new hedge was running in a Northerly direction, though, and I could see that if I continued along it I should eventually strike the road, and so I decided to follow the hedge instead as by that time I was reluctant to have to retrace my steps.

It was only as I continued along the hedge that it occurred to me that this field might also be connected at some point to the one containing the coos, and so I continued in a state of considerable anxiety as the bullocks paced along beside me on the other side of the bushes.

It began to seem that I'd somehow offended all of the relevant Gods when after 20 minutes or so I came to a second thick hedge, this one blocking the way forward. I now had to follow it West for some way, until I found a point at which I could force my way through. As anyone who's followed me this far will appreciate, navigation isn't my strongest point. I now found myself confused about which way I ought to be going, and had to ferret around in my pockets for the compass and attempt to work it out.

I eventually settled on a bearing and set off to follow it. I switched on my torch for a while, but I was walking in what felt like a ploughed field and the ground was so rough underfoot that the shadows created by the light just made things more confusing. I therefore switched the torch off again, and pressed on. At least there had been no recent sign of the bullocks, and so in that respect, at least, things were looking up a little.

After what felt like half an hour or so, but was probably considerably less, I saw a long, low shadow looming ahead of me, and realised that I was approaching a wall: hopefully the wall separating me from the road. So it turned out to be, and I found a place where it was possible to climb over, and dropped thankfully down onto the other side. I knew from the book that I really couldn't be more than a couple of kilometers away from Danby Wiske now, and after the traumas of the time spent in the fields I was almost giddy with relief to be back on firm ground again, and on a road that I felt sure must be leading me somewhere. Some five or ten minutes later I saw that I was approaching another abandoned building on the left, and as I drew closer I heard what sounded like a door or gate banging intermittently. I steeled myself to continue, though, and some time later I passed a track on the right leading to West Farm.

It wasn't yet 9 o'clock, but one of the things I've noticed about walking in the dark is that after a while it begins to feel as though it could be any time at all. 9pm: midnight: 3am--they all feel exactly the same without noise, light or the presence of other people to provide some kind of context. I checked my watch regularly as I walked, and I couldn't understand why I hadn't yet arrived at Danby Wiske. The guidebook didn't show the route followed by the road in any detail, though, as it anticipated that people would stick to the farmland paths, and I couldn't bring myself to start digging through my pack for the Harvey's map I'd bought in Borrowdale.

Finally, and just as I was beginning to think that I must somehow have gone wrong, I spotted lights on the road ahead of me, and realised that I was approaching the village. If I hadn't also realised that at some stage I'd have to come home and write up a faithful account of my experience I think I might actually have got down and kissed the ground at that point :) Anyway, soon afterwards a sign loomed up out of the darkness, and I realised I was there.

Danby Wiske - Praise the Lord!

I'd been planning for several hours to camp at The White Swan, and now I began to wonder whether they were still open for food. It was just after 9pm, and I know that a lot of pubs in out-of-the-way places stop serving at 9, or sometimes even earlier. I went in and it turned out that there wasn't any food. I was so happy to be there, though, and to be greeted in such a friendly fashion, that I really wasn't too bothered about that, and so I went into the garden to put up the tent--on lush, flat grass that more resembled a bowling green than the back of any pub I've ever camped at before--and then I went back to get a drink and some crisps.

I had such a good time in the pub that I stayed chatting with the bar staff and people at the bar until half past midnight. The bar staff were surprised that I'd come all the way from Richmond, and suggested that it must have been a distance of about 30 miles. I'm sure it wasn't as far as that, but equally I'm sure that I'd added a few miles to what would otherwise have been the total by having to take my various detours and getting a bit lost. I reckon it was probably 27 or 28 miles or so, which was quite a good total for the day.

One of the locals turned out to be heavily into Bluegrass music, and we spent a happy hour or so talking about Alison Krauss and Union Station and Nickel Creek, and other bands I'd never heard of. He was also a sheep farmer, and was clearly a little bemused when I described my recent experience of staggering around in fields in the pitch black. He said he'd have found it a little creepy, and so I felt a little better about having felt nervous. Another of the blokes at the bar--Andy--turned out to be a C2C walker. He was English but currently based in Germany, and had come back specifically to do the walk.

I told the landlady that I'd done the C2C before, and she produced the books that people who stop at the pub can sign to record the fact of passing through. After a careful search I was thrilled to find the entries that Les, Sue, Mark, Matt and I had made on what turned out to have been 31st July 2000 :)

Eventually I realised I'd have to make a move, since I had another long day ahead of me. I said a reluctant goodnight to the people who remained and made my way back to the tent, where I quickly got into my bedtime T shirt and fleecy pants and almost immediately fell fast asleep.

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