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Monday 26-Apr-2010 - Travel to St. Bees
The leadup to this trip was as iffy as any we’ve been on due to the Iceland volcano, but by four days out, the airports were all open and everything was on. I was pretty excited to be taking this walk with Marla – a father-daughter trip is probably the dream of most fathers of adult daughters, at least if your daughter is as cool as Marla is!
The plan as originally envisioned was to walk in the spirit of Wainwright's Coast-to-Coast walk from St. Bees on the Irish Sea to Richmond in North Yorkshire - 120 miles of the total 200 mile way that ends on the North Sea. Between Marla's vacation schedule and our lack of interest in pushing it any harder, we thought that 120 miles in 10 days walking would be about right.
Our travel to St. Bees was easy and all according to plan, but pretty long. We flew to Amsterdam, then to Manchester, and were able to get a train right away at the rail station conveniently located in the airport. The ride, although pleasant, was long, and through Carlisle, somewhat north of St. Bees, before connecting to a milk train back south.
One of the themes of this journal, as suggested by Marla, is the senses, and it’s time to mention one of the enduring tastes of this trip: salty licorice. We bought some ‘zacht en zout’ pastilles in Schiphol and ended up eating them for the entire walk. I’m not much for licorice generally, but the saltiness definitely put a different twist on it (no pun intended), and even helped on some of the longer afternoons.
Our B&B was only a couple of steps from the train station. Marla was pretty jet-lagged by the time we arrived, so she took a nap while I scouted out the town – which didn’t take long! When she woke up, we went out for pub grub – rogan josh lamb, far more tasty than I would have expected – before repacking for the walking part of our trip, with street clothes in the bottom of the pack, hydration bladders out and filled, and rain gear close at hand. This is about the fourth time I have been in the UK in May, just in time for the World Snooker Championships – not as compelling as cricket, say, but more interesting than you would have thought! Also, it helps put you to sleep…
Tuesday 27-Apr-2010 - St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge - 13 miles
Our very accommodating and very pleasant B&B host laid out a huge ‘full cooked English breakfast’ for her guests – 2 eggs, 2 Cumberland sausages, 2 or 3 rashers of bacon, broiled tomato, mushrooms, not to mention toast, jam, cold cereal, milk, and coffee and tea. Whew! Almost everything in this part of the world is sourced locally, and everything tasted wonderful, you can imagine!
The ‘accommodating’ part of her service was that it was all out at 0730, perfect for the C-to-C walkers. Actually, that much food for a starter was okay, too, as long as you expend a few thousand calories walking each day!
The dining room complement for breakfast was Bob from Ottawa, David from Melbourne, Australia, and the two of us. All of us had been under the volcano cloud: Bob was on the first flight out of Ottawa after the UK fly ban was lifted, and David had actually been stuck in Hong Kong for a week waiting, and was having to find all new accommodations.
I thought it interesting that on one day in one house in one small village in England there would be walkers from all three of the biggest exports from England – Australia, Canada, and the US.
We started off in fine weather, walking along the coast of the Irish Sea with its dramatic cliffs, the lighthouse, and a large rookery of puffins. The standout image this day, though, would turn out to be one of the most vibrant visuals of the whole trip – daffodils of various shapes and colors, and in riotous abundance.
About this time, we also met John and Stella, English émigrés to Edmonton, Alberta, whom we would encounter periodically for the next several days. A little farther along we also met up with an older couple on a walking trip – the 80-year-old man couldn't believe we were carrying so much stuff! (Neither of us had more than 30 lbs, including water – but then they weren’t through-hiking, either.) We ended up walking with Bob around lunch time, so we sat and ate lunch with him mostly out of the wind, which had picked up during the latter part of the morning and was blowing cold. Clouds were scudding by, promising to realize the forecast of several days of rain. In the event, we saw no rain, but it threatened all the rest of the day.
When Marla and I looked at the suggested route’s last parts, we saw that it led over Dent Fell, up and down, both steep. Neither of us was attracted to that plan, so we instead walked over Flat Fell - the name is just its name, certainly not a description - which was admittedly a bit less steep. We came off it just at the bunkhouse we had booked, which turned out to be a working farm as well.
The two of us were in a 10-bunk room, but were the only occupants. A few minutes later, David from Australia showed up, having booked a private room. Shortly afterwards, John and Stella arrived, having done the same. All of us had asked for the host to provide us dinner (actually, I don’t remember either of us having done so, but we were totally happy to pay for it to avoid walking the 3-mile round trip into Ennerdale Bridge for supper). The dinner was superb, a tasty salad, grilled pork chops and 8 or 9 kinds of mixed vegetables, and chocolate cake and ice cream for dessert. We five sat around drinking coffee and chatting until after 2100. After everyone else was off to bed, I talked for another couple of hours with Stu, a long-term resident who was working at the nearby nuclear plant.
It has been several years since I walked a walk where others were doing the same or almost the same, and had forgotten the pleasure of exchanging stories, ideas, and insights with them. There is a certain camaraderie there, especially since the number of long-distance walkers is not very large. This dinner, which we ate all together, reminded me of the most memorable dinner at Pereje
on the Camino de Santiago.
Wed 28-Apr-2010 - Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite - 15 miles
Today was to be a longish day but not particularly difficult. We had another full cooked English breakfast(!) and were off before 0900, through Ennerdale Bridge and along the northern shore of Ennerdale Water. Once we got to its eastern end, we started to see some nice views, even though the fog and low clouds were in and out. The walk past that was long and tedious, and I had to stop for a rest break at Black Sail Hut, the remotest hostel in England, but apparently almost always fully booked. They had snacks on offer for visitors, and we discovered here one of the ‘winners’ of this walk – English flapjacks. They are oatcakes, nothing like American pancakes, but we were hooked on them at once.
We were just having some with a cup of tea (price list, stove, and ‘honesty jar’ are in the kitchen) when Bob from Canada walked in. We sat and chatted with him for a few minutes, then left together for the long climb over the Haystacks to Honister Pass.
I found the walk up to be very tiring. The track was mostly large irregular stones, right along a stream flowing down the mountain – no switchbacks here! – and by the time we reached the top my quadriceps and calves were aching. Marla, on the other hand, went up about like a mountain goat. Part of her training for the trip had been to do incline intervals on the treadmill and to exercise just about every day for the month prior to the trip, and it sure paid off for her. The walk – HIKE – up to the top was by far her favorite part of the walk today.
When we got to the top (and for the record, I was only 7 or 8 minutes behind her), there were gale-force winds blowing. There was something so energizing about the wind but also about the sense of accomplishment of being somewhere you can’t drive to, and it didn't hurt that we were able to see several of the lakes at one time – Ennerdale Water, Buttermere, and Crummock Water. I think part of the romance of the Lake District is in the place names themselves! We spent 15 or 20 minutes enjoying trying to stand upright, then headed toward the disused tramway that led from an old slate mine down to the pass. The tramway was also a long, very straight trail of large, irregular rocks, mainly shale, and we were all happy when we got to the road at the pass. Walking on sharp broken rock is no fun!
At the pass is a shop. It used to be the headquarters for the slate mine, but the mine basically went out of business decades ago except for a boutique operation – a few hundred tons a year, maybe – that makes gravestones and house signs. However, not being ones to pass up a capital opportunity to make money (pun definitely intended!), the shop now has a museum, a souvenir shop, a café and snack bar, mine tours, and a zip line. They may have other opportunities, too, but that’s all we saw. We (that means Marla) were also happy to see that the shop had clean restrooms.
We considered buying a slate house sign or two but then decided against it, given that we had a week of walking still in front of us.
We parted company with Bob just before Rosthwaite – he had booked lodging in the next town – and found our B&B to dump our packs. Our first two nights had been at very satisfactory places, and very accommodating. The B&B in Rosthwaite was the most expensive stay of the whole trip, but the most disappointing. It was a fancy room – lots of pictures, decorated furniture, a water pitcher and bowl (decorative only) – but a bathroom and shower had been jammed into what had been a nice-sized bedroom, making it just too small to be useful. There was nowhere for us to spread our stuff out, and the twin beds were jammed together – they had to be, or there would have been no room to walk around at all.
We had pub grub again tonight, and I must say the quality seems to me to have improved over the last ten years or so, never mind the long history of (reputed) bad English food. My fish and chips were tasty (although admittedly not every pub does well at this), and Marla had a chicken, ham, and leek pie that she just raved over. While we were sitting in the pub we struck up a conversation with a young Kiwi next to us who is studying osteopathic medicine in London. He was tramping (to use an antipodean term for walking) around Cumbria because his flight home to New Zealand was canceled due to the ash cloud. We'd now met someone from every major English-speaking country (pace
, South Africa!).
A surprising sight in Rosthwaite was a phone booth that was occupied every time we walked by it. It turns out Borrowdale doesn't get mobile reception, so folks have to revert to old-fashioned forms of connectedness. In fact, we saw very few of the red phone booths on this trip – mobile phones seem to be even more ubiquitous in the UK than here.
When we got back to the room, we made a health assessment. We both had aches, nothing serious, but Marla had several blisters that we needed to care for, so we did that, got to bed reasonably early, and went to sleep after some tossing and turning.
Thurs 29-Apr-2010 - Rosthwaite to Grasmere - 10 miles
One other thing that diminished my opinion of this host was her rigid breakfast schedule (“anytime between 0844 and 0845”). We resigned ourselves to a late start and enjoyed our table talk with other guests until 1000, not getting off until 1030. Since we had a short day today, it wasn’t so bad.
One of the conversation topics at breakfast was on the ubiquitous sheep and lambs (May is lambing time in England), and we learned that Borrowdale's main and characteristic breed is the Herdwick. File that away as useless trivia, says Marla. Ewes with their lambs were indeed ubiquitous, with me constantly giving Marla grief on her daily “Pop, they're so CUTE
” comment (they were!).
The first couple of miles were easy ones out of Rosthwaite and along Stonethwaite Beck. After that stretch, though, the way turned straight up the side of Lining Crag and over Greenup Edge – a long, hard climb. The views were good when the clouds lifted, but the ground was wet and muddy and (most of all) rocky, and the track not well-defined. There was one time we couldn’t figure out where to go when we realized we were being overtaken by a half-dozen young men carrying bicycles(!) who showed us the way as they ran out of sight ahead of us.
In the valley below Greenup Edge, Marla commented that it was the most remotest-feeling place she'd ever been. To validate her, an older Englishman whom we met not five minutes later made the very same comment, unsolicited!
We made pretty slow time today. On the steep uphills, I had to go slow and stop to breathe periodically. Contrariwise, Marla found the downhills difficult and went slower than I did. We had been eating only power bars for lunch, and I think part of the problem was that we were underfueled. We had been trying to not consume all the fat of those cooked English breakfasts, but shorted ourselves on the calories somehow in the doing of it. No harm – it just meant we went slower.
After crossing the Edge, it was one long and tedious downhill through Grasmere Common, and we eventually came into Grasmere. Marla was tired enough she was down to just putting one foot in front of the other, and things got (only slightly) worse when we dragged into the hostel to find out it was the wrong one, and that we had passed the road to ours about a mile back. But, since we were already close to Grasmere, where the food was, we arranged to drop our packs there and go on into town for supper.
Grasmere is a pretty popular tourist spot, and there were plenty of people around. Just when we walked into the town square, two British jets flew over at very low altitude. I’ve had this happen several times in Europe, and you can understand it: they don’t have the vast sparsely-populated expanses of Nevada and Arizona and New Mexico to practice in. Just the same, Marla asserts it seemed quite out of character from the quiet touristy nature of Grasmere. These guys weren’t as close as the ones in France – I couldn’t tell the color of these pilots’ eyes – but they were low and loud.
We had pub grub again – Yorkshire pudding with roast beef for Marla, liver and bacon for me – then went to the Co-Op to buy trail mix and fruit for tomorrow. This was our first experience with the local Co-op grocery that stays open until 2200 (!). It's apparently a common supermarket company, since we went to at least four others in various towns along the way.
We retrieved our packs from the ‘wrong’ hostel and backtracked to the ‘right’ hostel, where we were the only guests save one man. They had a drying room here, so we washed some things and hung everything out to dry before crawling into our bunks.
Fri 30-Apr-2010 - Grasmere to Patterdale - 9 miles
We expected this day to be relatively easy, and so it turned out to be. The other guest at the hostel didn’t take breakfast there, so it was just Marla and me. We got off in good time – it got light before 0500, and we were always awake by 0600, so we always had plenty of time to pack before breakfast. Our way lay along byroads for a while before hitting the only incline up of the day, a 1700 foot climb over 2 miles (that’s a 16% grade, if you’re keeping score). The way was again a rocky and muddy path along a plummeting stream – no fun for me! That took me most of two hours, Marla having got there 15 minutes sooner, and I had to take a short break at Grisedale Tarn before we continued. Clearly more cardiovascular exercise is indicated for me if I want to enjoy hill-walking in years to come!
Before the trip, we'd considered walking Striding Edge, a rocky route along a ridgeline not far from England's second-highest mountain, but we opted instead for the nice, pleasant valley route. I worried a bit about opting for the valley, since Marla had talked up Striding Edge considerably before the trip, but she assured me that she was not interested in risking it. After the last couple of days we had hiking in the fells and seeing the ominous weather at the top, neither of us regretted taking the safer alternative.
The rest of the day, another 6 or 7 miles, was all downhill, and we made it into Patterdale about 1430, the earliest we had done on any stage. Marla was tired again, but a real trooper. Her blisters had bloomed a bit, but not to the point of being incapacitating.
At this point, I became a hero to my daughter. The next day’s walk, from Patterdale to Shap, was to be the second-longest and the hardest of the Coast-to-Coast walk: A giant climb up then immediately back down (1/2 mile vertical for 4 miles up and 4 miles down on the ground (12% grade average)), followed by another 8 or 9 miles of approximately flat walking along and beyond Haweswater. With some trepidation, I broached the idea of our skipping that stage, and touring by bus the next day to end up at Shap. Marla now confirms what I saw then - that she was absolutely giddy at my suggestion. She had not been looking forward to that day at all! As it turns out, we talked to several people later who averred that it was a really gruelling stage, even for walkers considerably more fit and experienced than we were. I think if we were intending to do the entire Coast-to-Coast, there would have been no way we would have skipped any of it, but since we were only walking in the spirit of Wainwright, we have no regrets. Hey, it's a recreational walk, not a death march, right?
So, instead of doing 120 miles of the Coast-to-Coast as originally planned, we redefined success as a 50-mile walk in the Lake District and a 50-mile walk in North Yorkshire, with a day of touring between them!
Sat 1-May-2010 - Touring Keswick
We took our time getting off from the hotel, catching the first bus to Keswick via Penrith, and arriving at ‘the capital of the Lakes’ around noon. We ate lunch on the street, then toured all the stalls there were set up for the bank holiday weekend. The Pencil Museum was a must-see – pencils as we know them were invented in Keswick – although it isn’t all that impressive a museum. Just as we came out of the museum, it started raining, which it did for the rest of the afternoon. Not only was it raining, but this was also the first day of the COLD weather we'd experience for almost the rest of the walk. It was still raining when we managed to finally get the bus driver to stop at the very southern end of Shap so we could walk back to our lodging at the very northern end of Shap. The lodge where we stayed was clearly in development, but was satisfactory, and we enjoyed visiting with one of the new owners, Jamie, as well as a woman from Cambridge who was walking the route from east to west.
From the bus we learned that there were quite a few sheep that clearly were going to be voting Conservative in the upcoming election, if the political signs in their fields were any clue.
Sun 2-May-2010 - Shap to Kirkby Stephen - 18 miles
Today we started the second half of our walking tour – the Yorkshire Dales. We got off in good time, but right away the wind started showing us what we had in store – a brisk, chill, very variable blow from the north that made picking the right layers a real challenge. We felt it first crossing the M6 motorway on a cool footbridge. All day long it was put on the windbreaker, take off the windbreaker, put on the fleece, take off the fleece, put on both fleece and windbreaker. I don’t think either one of us was ever really comfortable all day. Marla finally learned that it was actually warmer to wear her fleece over her windbreaker (counterintuitive), although still not ever toasty warm.
After crossing the motorway and walking through a small plantation, we spent the rest of the morning walking across broad, windswept (brrr) hills full of sheep and lambs, scenery Marla quickly determined was ‘boring’. I have to admit there was a certain sameness to them – lots of hills, and lots and lots of rocks, seemingly even more sheep than rocks. We had bought sandwich stuff the day before, so we hunkered down behind one of the innumerable dry walls for a lunch break, never quite warm, before moving on.
Almost the entire way we took today was on roads, even large parts of the moor walks, a choice necessitated to avoid a river ford or a longer march, and Marla found walking on the tarmac to be really tiring. I can understand that – I would probably have been more tired, too, except that all of my training has been on concrete. In fact, for the first time since I can remember that I finished a walk with ZERO blisters. I walked without liner socks this time (I had brought them, but wanted to experiment going with just my trekking socks), but whether the lack of blisters resulted from that, or from the fact that the temperature was low enough that my feet did not sweat, I can't determine.
She did great, though. We got confused a couple of times in the afternoon, and it was generally she who worked out the correct way forward (maybe her motivation to be done walking for the day made her more efficient!). We got to the hostel in Kirkby Stephen just at 1800, dropped our gear, had soup at a pub, bought groceries for tomorrow’s lunch, got cleaned up, and settled into our funky little room in this funky little hostel for the night. The hostel is a converted Methodist church building, and is cute. The owner, though, apparently has a couple too many irons in the fire, and the building is in need of some attention. It was marginally satisfactory, perhaps the second biggest disappointment of the trip (but, hey, at £18 each, it would be hard to complain very much!).
Today was the longest day of the entire trip – some 17 or 18 miles, and we were looking forward to 12 and 13 miles days from here out!
Mon 3-May-2010 - Kirkby Stephen to Keld - 12 miles
Today turned out to be a quite easy walk. We slept until almost 0800, had cold cereal for breakfast – a welcome change from the cooked breakfasts – and were underway just after 0900. The forecast was for cold and windy, with showers possible, so we weren’t very much looking forward to the walk, short it might be. Indeed, it did start out like yesterday, with neither of us quite figuring out how to get warm without overheating. It wasn’t too bad, though, and the walk itself was easy, a gentle climb over four miles or so to Nine Standards Rigg, a hill with a collection of cairns on top. The cairns date back at least 200 years, but no one has any idea when or why they were built.
Most of the early part of the afternoon we walked across a wide, barren moorland, during which time the wind freshened. Eventually it started hailing – very lightly – so we took our lunch break huddled on a sit-upon under a sit-upon. The break was shorter than normal because we never could get quite warm. Fortunately, the hail never turned into anything more, and eventually the sun even started breaking through intermittently, so the last five or six miles of the walk were much more pleasant.
We arrived at Keld Bunkhouse about 1630, and sat and visited with Heather, our host, and Brad from St. Louis, a retired publisher of historical/ethnic cookbooks. We bought supper from Heather – a great value – then watched a DVD about the Coast-to-Coast with Brad until time to rack out.
The Keld Bunkhouse turned out to be the surprise hit of all our accommodations. Several of the places we stayed were very satisfactory, no question, but Keld topped them all handily. The combination of venue – right by the Swale River, in Swaledale, the actual accommodations, and the friendliness and helpfulness of our host – made this a standout in our book.
Tues 4-May-2010 - Keld to Reeth -12 miles
Today turned out to be probably our prettiest day in terms of weather and attractive scenery. We bought packed lunches from Heather and got off about 0915 – as the day’s distances have decreased, we had gotten more relaxed about getting away early.
Our walk led us in just a few hundred yards to Keld village, where we left the road for the public pathways that lie along the Swale river (hence this dale’s name, Swaledale) for most of the way to Reeth. There is an alternate path that leads up (up is bad!) to the fell tops and through land poisoned by the nineteenth century lead mining. We had seen what that scenery looked like in the DVD, and decided we wanted something prettier. Our way was, in contrast, lush and green and beautiful, and with the wind having eased off and the warmer temperatures, great walking. It was otherwise not remarkable, and the fact that this was our next-to-last day of walking on this trip was on both our minds, making the miles seem maybe not so long.
We had crossed a few stiles in the Lake District, mainly in Borrowdale, but on the whole that region is wide open for walking. In Swaledale, by contrast, there is a stone fence every few hundred feet, and when the path went through the fields, as it invariably did, there would be a stile at every fence. Every fence. They came in all shapes and styles (no pun intended), and many of them were actually pretty awkward for walkers with backpacks. Sometimes the pattern varied, and there was a ‘kissing gate’, but many of those were too narrow for a backpack, necessitating entering the gate, walking backwards up the vee until your pack cleared, then swinging the gate and climbing back down. After a while, they became a minor irritant, you can imagine.
The wind had picked up considerably, with a concomitant drop in temperature, by 1500 when we walked into Reeth, and the cozy sitting room with its fire at the Gregsons’ ‘Old Temperance Inn’ was quite welcome. We dumped our packs and plumped down to warm up and relax. We strolled out after that and had a good conversation with the ice cream man before heading to the pub for supper. We had seen rabbits, live and dead, all day long, and by some perverse logic had decided to have rabbit for supper. The pub was out of rabbit, though, so we settled for Barnsley Chop – a lamb roast. It was tasty, but a bit greasy.
Just at the end of dinner, we saw two men walking by with tuba and euphonium. I had earlier seen mention of the Reeth Brass Band, and figured out that they were going to a rehearsal, so while Marla went back to the B&B, I went looking for the band hall. I found a man getting out of his car with a trombone, introduced myself as a walker on the Coast-to-Coast and asked if I might sit in on the rehearsal. He replied, “You’re certainly welcome to – did you bring your instrument?”
I was taken by the image of a Coast-to-Coast walker with his backpack, a euphonium lashed on top in case he ran into a brass band rehearsal somewhere in rural North Yorkshire!
When I got back to the B&B, I met David Gregson, who is our host’s husband, as well as preacher for the Evangelical Reformed Congregational church which meets next door. I had him parse his church name, and we discussed theology for an hour or so before retiring.
Wed 5-May-2010 - Reeth to Richmond - 11 miles
Our last day of walking dawned blue, bright, and clear, but by the time we had eaten breakfast (in the bookstore Elizabeth operates!), it had reverted to overcast, cold, and gusty. We got off a bit later than usual, not rushing it, partly because of the short 11 mile day, but more because we were thoroughly enjoying our conversation with the Gregsons.
The way today again lay along the Swale, very pleasant walking. As the valley opened up downstream, it was noticeably different from yesterday, and in fact changed hour by hour all the way into Richmond, with bluffs, groves, gardens, villages, and over all much more built-up than we had been seeing. Marla was quite relieved (her word – I guess the pun is intended) to note that free (or very cheap, like 20p) public conveniences are much easier to find in England than in Germany.
Around the village of Marske we met and started walking with John and Pat from Cambridge. Pat is a Brownie leader in the Girl Guides, and John is a telecommunications specialist who actually used some of the telecomm gear I created in Houston in the 1980s, so we had plenty to talk about.
At some point this afternoon we also climbed over our last stile, and Marla still regrets not thinking to get a photo of it.
Walking with John and Pat, we actually made much better time than we expected, arriving about 1500. We ended up walking all the way to our B&B together – they were staying just down the street from us. Our host was out for an hour, so I sat on a park bench with our packs while Marla toured the Richmondshire Museum. At the museum, she struck up a conversation with two volunteer docents who gave her some background on the upcoming national election from the point of view of the Liberal Democrat party.
After we got into our room, we dumped our packs and went out to stroll through Richmond, check out the bus schedule, and eat, which we did at a Bangladeshi buffet – a bit different and quite tasty, and featuring the largest naan I have ever seen.
We got to bed a bit later than normal, as has been our wont these last couple of days, at least where there was a television.
Thurs 6-May-2010 - Touring Thirsk
We think we could have stayed another half-day or so in Richmond, but it was raining and we were more interested in Thirsk, so we spent a scant half-hour walking around the public gardens with their stunning flower arrangements, then caught the bus to Thirsk via Northallerton. Northallerton looks itself like a place worth a short visit. Arriving in Thirsk, we found our B&B just 5 minutes from the town center, but no one at home. Just as we were walking away to come back later, a man walked by us and into the house without any greeting. We went back and found him standing quietly in the kitchen. He wasn’t very communicative, but did show us to our room and give us the key. When we went back out, he was standing in the kitchen again. Later, we saw him standing in a dark dining room, and still later, in the kitchen again. Just standing. Ignoring his build, he reminded us most of all of Lurch in the Addams Family. Creepy.
We had lunch at a teashop, then went to the World of Herriot Museum, which turned out to be excellent, combining information about Alf Wight (the real-life James Herriot), his books, the television series ‘All Creatures Great and Small’, life in Yorkshire in the 1930s and 1940s, and the history of veterinary science in England all in one. Well worth the admission!
Having eaten well without having gone the 10 to 15 miles needed to walk it off, we bought a light picnic supper of naan, hummus, and ham, and ate it in our room while watching the end of the voting in the national election, then stayed up late watching the early returns, and dropping off close to midnight.
When we weren’t watching the election, we followed several food shows, all of which were about ‘locally sourced’ food, and almost every one of which featured dishes based on pea mousse. Strange.
Fri 7-May-2010 - Touring York
The buses from Thirsk to York were infrequent, so we caught the first one, at just after 1000. We got to talking to a couple who go into York frequently, and when we got there, the man, Geoff, offered to walk partway to our B&B with us, saying he had nothing to do for a while since his wife was shopping.
Marla was pleased for me to see what she knew I would enjoy, the old city center of York and particularly the York Minster. Our B&B was a 15-minute walk the other side of the city center, but after our just having done the long walks, comfortably close. Just the same, we were happy to put our bags down again. We immediately walked back to the center and spent the rest of the day just walking around and window-shopping. We didn’t want to pay the £8 admission to the Minster, but went instead to Evensong, where we sat in the choir stalls and got to hear the choir (men and boys) for free (and took a free peek at the insides of the cathedral entering and leaving).
York has well-preserved old city walls, so we walked along them back to our room, stopping for doner kabob at a typical doner kabob dive.
We have spent every evening of this trip in our room, but the weather has been just cold and windy enough to keep walking from being pleasurable, and, of course, we’re no party animals! Anyway, listening to all the commentary on ‘hung parliaments’ was actually interesting, as were ‘Top Gear’ and ‘Great British Menu.’
Sat 8-May-2010 - Yorkshire Air Museum in Elvington
In spite of less-than-promising weather, we walked into town to catch the bus to an airshow just out of town at an old airbase. We visited underway with an old gentleman who is a WW2 veteran and a docent at the Yorkshire Air Museum.
When we got dropped off the bus, we had to walk a few hundred yards before we could see what was there: dozens of jeeps, trucks, half-tracks, tanks, and other military vehicles, along with a couple of hundred reenactors, all dressed in period clothing, from soldiers (English, American, German, Russian…) to refugees to housewives to priest and bobby. Almost the first thing we got to do at the encampment was to actually go inside of and tour a C-47 Dakota transport plane from WWII. The American paratroopers on D-Day jumped out of C-47s, and so it was particularly fascinating for Marla, who has read way too many books about those paratroopers. We were thinking how cool it was that we just happened to catch such an extensive show until Marla snapped to the fact that today was 8-May – VE day – the 65th anniversary, in fact.
We visited at length with an ‘officer’ in the 4th Indian (Ghurka) Regiment. Like many (most?) reenactors, he was quite up on his back story and history, and we enjoyed chatting with him. There were also dozens of vendors of books, magazines, models, period clothing, etc., and a bunch of wargamers and model makers there.
The museum proper was housed in several of the old buildings, and we walked through most of those as well until time to catch the bus back to town, by which time we were pretty well museumed out, anyway.
The bus back in dropped us off literally across the street from our B&B, where we retrieved our packs and walked to the train station. The train to Manchester was straightforward, the only wrinkle being the mile walk facing us between the train station and our last B&B (not that long, really, but we weren’t eager for more walking), but yet once again the friendliness and hospitality of Yorkshiremen presented itself. When we detrained, a woman I had been talking to said, “I know that hotel – let me drive you there; it’s no problem, really.” Her car was parked at the station, so it was the work of only a few minutes for us to pile in and ride down the street. Thank you, kind lady from Huddersfield!
Our last night was in an eighteenth-century coach house modernized, and run by a Romanian and his wife. When I asked if they had mamaliga on the menu, her eyes lit up, and she said she could certainly fix it for us. I was just joking, though, and anyway, we could get grits tomorrow in Nashville. We had a short visit with them before going upstairs to repack for the trip home.
Our connections through the trip were superb, with timely trips and short layovers throughout.
When we got to the airport, we found our flight delayed 3 hours due to the volcano. By the time we got to Atlanta, we had missed the 1605 to Nashville. While we were in the rebooking line (which was hundreds of people long and being served by no more than 3 agents, thank you, Delta Airlines), we missed the 1905 to Nashville. Around 2025, we got rebooked on the 2044 to Nashville, but even rushing, didn’t get to the gate until 2040, by which time the gate was closed. Fortunately there was a 2250 to Nashville, which we made.
So, like every one of these walks, I had a great time, could have done more of the same, enjoyed my travelling companion, my Yankee Doodle daughter, and yet was happy to get back home.
Along the way, we met some people from the Netherlands who put me onto the Pieterpad, so maybe sometime in the next few years…
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