Helmsley Youth Hostel provides me with my first snore-free nights sleep in three recent hostel trips. Instead it was stormy winds battering the windows that broke my sleep, so it is a surprise to wake up to calm blue skies dotted with white puff clouds and a distinctly hot beating sun. Summer isn’t going without a fight.
My sole room mate – a 63 year old gent – tells me he is on his annual three week tour of the national parks courtesy of his free pensioners Moorsbus pass – a scheme on the verge of closure due to budget cuts. Today he is off to York but this time last year he was forced to cancel his tour due to relentless persistent rain.
It really is glorious out and while this makes for a nice breakfast it’s not ideal for walking. A gaggle of old northern ladies gather on the next table in a weekly get-together that involves taking it in turns to gossip while slowly engulfing themselves in their communal cigarette smoke. It’s a scene from a Julie Walters sketch.
No more procrastination. This is it. I stow water and lunch in my rucksack and lift it onto my shoulders. Holy smoke, 2L of water weighs a lot!
The trail leaves west gently rising up through crop fields alongside medieval woodland. The breeze ruffles the leafy canopy causing tired old oak branches to creak as they sway.
I prefer old woodland to new plantations as there’s an organic chaos about what grows where. What you see is the democracy of generations of growth. Everything has found its place and wildlife thrives in the settled equilibrium of this landscape.
My first stop on this tour is at Rievaulx, a pretty little village that reminds me of Tolkien’s Shire. No hobbits are seen but there are plenty of visitors for the magnificent ruins of Rievaulx Abbey.
For me it’s an opportunity to take a break and reduce my load by the weight of one apple.
The path follows a minor road for a couple of miles before heading off up a track. I can hear a cacophony of squawking and splashing from a series of ponds barely visible through the tree line. The odd glimpse reveals many happy ducks on some sort of holiday.
By perfect arrangement, just as hunger strikes, the trees give way to a serendipitous sunny clearing where quaint stepping stones span a bubbling brook.
An hour in the sun idles by while I read with my feet dangling in the icy water. It is so peaceful that I almost miss the three ducks that paddled silently by so that they might also rest awhile at this spot.
Once feet and socks are dry again the march resumes up through Callister Wood. The gradual ascent of a farm track is punctuated by gunshot. A line of beaters wave red flags in a crop field in order to disturb grouse so that they might be targeted.
The joke is that the birds are everywhere; in the fields, on walls, on the track pecking at grain fallen from some trailer, and best of all next to the line of vacant 4WD vehicles belonging to the shooting party. The poor dumb creatures appear to survive through weight of numbers rather than any instinct for self preservation as I could get closer enough to throw a towel over them.
Into the farming village of Cold Kirby. A roadside stall hoves into view and it’s a surprise to find not eggs or carrots for sale but flapjack.
My load, though heavy, is beginning to feel lighter and it’s only when my arm gets wet that I realise the hose from my “water bladder” has become detached and water is dripping into my rucksack. This mishap aside I’m really pleased with it as it means I can sip as I walk hands free. The fields are replaced by woodland again as tiny Hambleton approaches.
There’s not much here, just the Hamilton Inn and a row of cottages on the A170, but who wouldn’t want to live here?
Judging by the For Sale sign this isn’t the panacea it might appear to be. A mile later and I’m at tonight’s stop, Garbutt Farm. Instead of a doorbell four adorable dogs announce my arrival with friendly barking and much wagging of tails. Two affectionate terriers lick my salty shins, an ageing Labrador brings me her soft toy and a retired racing hound limps over for a sniff.
So it’s official – I have survived day 1. Feet, calves and knees seem mostly OK despite my fears though my left hip is complaining. My body is like some Rubics Cube that had been taken apart too often.
After a shower I walk the mile back to the Hambleton Inn for a truly superb home cooked meal. This is the pub that closes early on Mondays but when I phoned to enquire about food said they would stay open until 8:30 to accommodate me! As my body glows from the days exertions while attempting to digest a towering pile of pork, black pudding and farm vegetables I try not to dwell on the fact that the walk tomorrow it’s set to be longer and harder. One day at a time…
Here’s today’s walk in point form…
In a nutshell
My first day on the trail. Would I even finish it?
Finding the escaped contents of my water supply in my rucksack
Hope I’m not as stiff as a board after such unaccustomed exercise
|Stage||1 – Helmsley to Cold Kirby|
|Distance||9.3 miles||Speed||2.9 mph|
…and the route taken…