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Coast to Coast 2008

Day 9 – Saturday 17 May: Hillary House to St Giles Farm, Catterick Bridge.

We started our leisurely breakfast at 8am. Del the parrot was having his yoghurt as we arrived in the dining area and he was a little more talkative than the previous evening – I say talkative but really mean vocal as Del serenaded us with a variety of alarm bells and telephone rings. Breakfast was excellent and set us up nicely for what turned out to be the only wet day on our entire walk. The weather forecast indicated showers for a time over the Yorkshire Dales and that is exactly what we got (nice to see the weather forecasters got it right for once!). We had a look around Clive’s garden before we left admiring the variety of herbaceous border plants and the well stocked and well tended garden pond with plants and fish.

We set off at 9.15am and the weather was cloudy but still warm. As we made our way down the village and over the bridge over the River Swale we saw two ladies who were also on the C2C walk and heading for Reeth but at a more leisurely pace than ours. However, I always enjoy chatting with fellow walkers and walked along with them for about 5 minutes as we headed over the fields by the River Swale to Grinton Bridge. The clouds started to darken as we left the fields by the River Swale and walked along the road to Marrick Priory. I could see others walkers further along the road but did not recognise them from the half mile or so distance they were in front. I took a few photographs in the area of Marrick Priory as I waited for Mick and Malc near the bottom of the ‘Nuns Steps’ that lead up through the woods towards Marrick village.

Marrick Priory

Mick, Malc, the Nuns Steps and wild garlic

It is a pleasant walk up the steps through the woods and in particular at this time of year when the woods were covered with bluebells and wild garlic. The pathway is shaded by the heavy tree overgrowth and we did not realise until we reached the top of the woods that it had started raining. We caught up with the two ladies from Manchester at the edge of the woods as we all donned our waterproof gear as the rain looked set for a few hours.

I walked with the 2 ladies from Manchester up the fields to the edge of Marrick village where I bid them farewell whilst I waited for Mick and Malc. As we rounded Marrick village and picked up the paths over the fields towards Ellers Farm and Marske village I expected to see the Manchester 2 crossing the fields ahead of us but they were nowhere to be seen. As I looked across the fields down to the valley stream and up towards Marske I could see the distinctive figures of Chas and Dave and also Geoff, Jane and Jeff. Where had the Manchester 2 gone? I thought they had missed the footpath and followed the minor road a slightly longer way around to Marske. As we reached the track near to Nun Cote Farm we were tempted by a sign saying ‘Elaines tea’s’ pointing towards Nun Cote Farm but we pressed onward in the worsening rain.

As we crossed the fields to Hardstiles Lane we chatted with a local farmer who was checking his sheep and lambs. He said the rain wouldn’t last long and he was later proved to be right. We walked down into Marske village and then up past the telephone box towards the path leading to the series of Applegarth Farms and Whitecliff Woods.

As we approached the telephone box in Marske we caught up with Geoff, Jane and Jeff who were steadily making progress as usual as a team and then we homed in on Chas and Dave who were performing their ‘Let’s pretend to know where we are but tag along routine’ Well done fella’s. We teamed up with Chas and Dave and headed over the now muddy and sodden wet fields towards the white painted cairn below Applegarth Scar.

Weary and wet walkers approaching the white cairn

It was not really a day to be hanging around and Mick got a good pace going as we progressed to Whitecliff Woods passing the West, High, Low and East Applegarth Farms. It is always an enjoyable walk through this ancient woodland and despite the rain today was no exception. There are an abundance of wild flowers to identify and like Steps Wood earlier this wood was covered with bluebells, wild garlic and primrose.

We passed a solo male walker as we made our way along the distinctive track through the woods. We had not seen him before but he hardly acknowledged our ‘good morning’ as we passed. We later found out he was a 73 years old from Cambridge University and he was doing the C2C walk – well I say doing the C2C walk – he told us later that he had several lifts with the Packhorse van. As I have said before people complete the walk, or parts of the walk to suit their own abilities and plans and ‘Bamber’ as Mick named him was no exception – good on you sir.

Mick and I emerged from the woodland and headed down the quite long but easy stretch of tarmac road all the way into Richmond. The rain was at it’s heaviest by now so we headed for the public toilets near the tourist information centre and waited for Malc, Chas and Dave. It was 12.40pm and obviously time for some lunch. I indicated to Chas and Dave where the local Wetherspoons pub was and off they went for a ‘good £*&^%$*& curry and a few beers’. The 3 of us had decided on some more fish and chips – yes I know we only had some the previous evening but you cannot or should not pass a good fish and chip shop without calling in.

The fish and chip shop I normally visit in Richmond, in the square just below the Green Howards Museum had burned down 2 days earlier but we found another gem of a fish and chip shop Castle View fisheries just below the pathway leading to the castle from the square. We each ordered our meals and the rain had almost stopped so I went to sit in the square near the Green Howards Museum to eat them. I was joined a short time later by Malc and Mick. Malc went for it big style – he went back to the fish and chip shop and ordered a second portion which he demolished as quick as the first lot.

You’ve guessed it, fish and chips out of the way and we went into the Castle public house for a few beers to try and get a bit drier and warmer. It didn’t do us much good because all of us were cold as we left the pub to visit the local bank cash point for some cash before we headed down to the bridge on our route out of Richmond to St Giles farm about three and a half miles away. The advantage of walking beyond Richmond was that it reduced the 23-24 miles section between Richmond and Ingleby Cross which we were doing the following day. As we were completing our business in Richmond I saw Chas and Dave heading along the route in front of us and I knew they had managed to get booked in for camping at St Giles Farm which is where we were also heading and staying.

It had stopped raining but obviously it was wet underfoot and quite muddy as we went through the impressive Iron Banks Wood beyond the sewage works by the River Swale. This stretch of woodland contains the most wild garlic I have ever seen in a wood. As soon as you enter the woods the pungent smell hits you. I visited a couple of geocaches along this section before reaching Colburn. Mick had gone ahead as I visited the geocaches but Malc waited for me. We thought Mick had taken a wrong turn at Colburn as we didn’t see him but a couple of telephone calls later and we found him waiting for us on the footpath leading out of the village towards Colburn Beck Wood and half a mile or so later at 3.15pm we arrived at St Giles Farm.

We were greeted by Simon who sorted a rack out for our wet boots and invited us into the large farmhouse kitchen to join Chas and Dave in a cup of tea and some lemon drizzle cake. We were joined later by ‘Bamber’. Chas and Dave had not only ‘weasled’ their way into camping on the lawn at the back of the farmhouse, but they had also managed to get booked in for an evening meal with us that night. They certainly know how to do it those Cockney geezers. The warmth of the farmhouse was very welcome as although it had stopped raining it was still quite damp and cold.

We chatted for quite some time amongst ourselves and with Simon who told us all about the local farming trends. St Giles Farm is principally a beef farm. We also chatted with Simon’s future son in law who was staying at the farm – he was marrying Simon and Jane’s daughter at the farm on 2 August – what a great place to get married. Simon told us that he had quite recently had to put down his 16 years old Simmontel bull – a bull responsible for the biggest part of his cattle stock. Simon was quite sad to be honest and this incident illustrated how much these animals are loved by their owners.

Tea and cakes out of the way and we were shown to our rooms which were spacious, well decorated and very comfortable. Mick had the shivers and had to keep warm in bed for an hour but he was fine by the time we met up for our evening meal. I sorted my gear out and had a shower and then went downstairs and put screwed up newspapers, provided by Simon, in our boots. I met our hostess Jane and her daughter at this point. Our evening meal was at 7.30pm but we all assembled for a pre dinner drink in the lounge. It was at this point that ‘Bamber’ told us of his crossing to date which included a few Packhorse lifts. He had also intended taking Packhorse lifts later in the walk – as I say good on you.

The three course evening meal was excellent in every respect with a carrot and potato soup followed by fresh beef and vegetables from the dale and completed with sticky toffee pudding. Excellent quality, quantity and value and Jane provided meals for 6 of us. Many thanks Simon and Jane. A few beers later and we were off to bed ready for the long slog the following day to Park House, Ingleby Cross. Simon kindly replaced the wet newspapers in our boots before retiring to bed himself. Chas and Dave were not having breakfast but we expected to see them somewhere along the route.


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