By NAVEED GILANI
One of the many attractions of the C2C path is that the entire area is steeped in history; from the spot where William Wordsworth, the poet, said goodbye to his brother before he went overseas and died, to Shap Abbey founded in 1199, to the mysterious Hermitage carved out of a boulder in 1790, the list is long. While we weren’t able to spend time exploring the historical sites, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to visit the area specifically for exploring the history of the area. Another feature of the C2C path are those ubiquitous dry-stone walls that are part of the landscape of northern England since Elizabethan times. These are referenced liberally as markers throughout the maps that we were following; we had to cross many of these on stiles or the ‘Kissing Gates’ that I had seen for the first time in my life. These walls are particularly beautiful and picturesque when covered with the velvety green moss marking the boundaries of farms of lush green grassland with flocks of sheep grazing within.
On day eight and beyond, Danesh had joined us on the trek while Kim drove around during the day sightseeing, meeting us at the end of our daily trek. Our next stop today was Keld which, contrary to what I was expecting, was the easiest of the days. There were three different routes that one could take, two of these are recommended for a particular time of the year, the third one is the longest of the three but relatively easy. All three are extremely boggy; with tales of calf swallowing Pennine bogs mentioned in the book we had to be very careful lest we sink down to our knees in these legendary bogs. We took the longer route, but we still finished in good time – a little shy of 5 hours. This day takes us out of the county of Cumbria and into Yorkshire. Judging from the experience of the day, Danesh mocked us on how we could find the previous stages so tough; in fact, none of the stages after we left the Lake District were difficult. Another running joke during the rest of the trek was my claim that after seeing so many sheep I could tell the difference between Cumbria and Yorkshire sheep. Arriving in Keld, the lady of the B&B, Rachel, served us a sit-down tea and scones in that vintage china tea set that is so English in its floral design. We thoroughly enjoyed the tea and watched a bit of TV. Keld is a small village of eight or ten houses and a church; after the tea we walked around a bit taking pictures and enjoying the bucolic scenery. At dinner the lady of the house gave us a quick tutorial, speckled with real life stories, on sheep farm economics – Sheep 101 I’d say.
From Keld to Reeth is another easy day that took us about 6 hours at an easy pace. The weather was good, and Kim was waiting for us in downtown Reeth when we arrived. Reeth is a small Yorkshire Dales village which prospered during the lead mining boom of the 19th century. It hosts a lot of tourists nowadays and therefore has several B&Bs and hotels. We stayed in the YHA which is a little walk away from the center of town. Now that we had the luxury of Kim’s rental car, we chose to drive to the YHA rather than walk. In the evening we drove around town looking for a place to eat but ended up ordering a Pizza at the YHA.
Day ten took us to Richmond and again surprisingly it was a very easy 4-hour journey. While planning the trek I should have combined the two segments between Keld to Richmond into one and some people do do that and now I know that it could be done very easily. In Richmond we stayed at a friendly place, called The Buck Inn, parts of which date back to the 14th century. For lunch we walked to the main square where I had my first English Fish and Chips lunch and to be honest my palate didn’t quite like it, too greasy for me. Richmond is the largest settlement on the C2C where most trekkers stop for a rest day. It is built around the 11th century castle on the bank of river Swale. We had plenty of time after an early finish of the day’s trek, so we went around town and to the lookout point along the river with a view of the castle. For dinner we decided to try one of the local Chinese restaurants for dinner. Didn’t realize and was quite surprised to know that all eating places in Richmond were fully booked, probably because it was a Friday night. We ended up going to a fast food joint for a take-out dinner which wasn’t too bad.
The next segment from Richmond to Ingleby Cross is 37 KMs which we had divided into two with a stop at Danby Wiske, an easy 5 hr. walk away from Richmond. In hindsight, we should have combined the previous two segments into one and should not have divided this one into two. Like I said, since leaving the Lake District every day had been easy with Danesh continuing to rub in the ease of the trek not believing that the District was any difficult. Oh well! Leaving Richmond, you walk for some time along the bank of river Swale, part muddy part riverside grassland – don’t recollect how long we walked before separating away from the river and marching into a small hamlet called Bolton-on-Swale. Here, we stopped at an old church where a welcome sign said, ‘refreshments available’. This church of Norman and Saxon ancestry dates back to 14th century with various bits of masonry from that period. We were pleased to get tea inside and admired the beauty of its architecture, its arches, and the cemetery outside with graves as old as the church. We met Jane, another trekker from the area who had set out to do the entire trek for her 50th birthday – we wished her happy birthday. There was much road-walking today – though the roads were quiet, some on the overgrown foot paths, and some through the fields of pasture. We arrived in Danby Wiske – not a small village rather a relatively largish one, around 2ish. Kim met us at our agreed rendezvous from where we went to the nearby town of Brompton to check into the Village Inn. By now, we were enjoying the luxury of a car for driving around after completing our daily trek. After checking in, we came back to the main town; it was a nice sunny day with throngs of people in the main street where, being Saturday, the weekly flea market was held. We walked around a bit enjoying the sights and sounds of the town and had our lunch before heading back to Brompton. We went back to the main town to have the Chinese dinner which we missed having in Richmond.
For me the trek had become really easy as I wasn’t even carrying my daypack since Kirkby Stephens. I never mentioned that just about a month before we started the trek, I had a shoulder surgery and though it wasn’t such a smart idea to be going on a trek before fully recovering, I nevertheless did – I never said I was smart anyway. I was doing fine till we arrived in Kirkby Stephen when all of a sudden, my Trapezius muscle, the big one that holds the neck and extends to the shoulder, felt all knotted up with severe pain. It was probably the result of carrying the backpack all this time from St. Bees. The rest day there helped but not enough to be taking further chance. Luckily Danesh was joining us from there on, so we combined his and my stuff in my backpack which he carried all the way to the end.
The distance to the next stop at Ingleby Arncliffe was a short one of 15 KMs. Since it was an easy trek on this twelfth day with the following day to Blakey Ridge at 34 KM distance, we decided to even out the two days by covering a bit extra distance on this day. We picked a point into our next day’s route where the C2C track crossed a road which was to be the rendezvous for the day with Kim. We had our reservations at Osmotherley – about 6.5 KMs south of Ingleby Arncliffe, which would have been the extra distance we would have had to trek from Arncliffe if we didn’t have the car following along and then we probably wouldn’t have trekked into the next day’s distance. After we left Danby Wiske it started raining a little; we didn’t mind as it was an easy day. We stopped at a café where the sign outside showed the remaining distance to Robin Hoods Bay. Though we knew how far we had travelled at every step of the way but seeing a big conspicuous sign announcing 50 miles to our final destination was rewarding. Making good time we felt a little bold and adventurous, so we decided to try a little shortcut through Arncliffe woods. These are thick woods through which C2C path winds down to its bottom from where it hairpins back up a steep ascent. The map shows a shortcut across the woods about halfway to the bottom of the woods. Though this is not recommended we thought, ‘how bad could it be’ as it didn’t look too tricky on the map. Going down to the end of the woods and climbing back up the very steep path wasn’t too appealing. So, we stepped into the woods at a spot we thought was the start of the shortcut; there wasn’t a clear marking. Soon, we began to regret our decision; the woods tuned dense with thick bush mixed with heather and no real path that we could trace; we couldn’t turn back as by now we had invested too much time into the shortcut. Danesh, being the youngest and the agile one went ahead to scout a path and soon we lost sight of him; I kept shouting his name and he would return my call but then I got really worried when he stopped responding. Then suddenly he shouted back that he found the C2C path. We followed his sound and saw him standing on the path which was a scramble up an 80-degree steep climb. Grabbing on to the bushes of the trees we pulled ourselves up the slope with slippery undergrowth. This diversion had added some extra time and excitement to our trek without which we wouldn’t have a story to tell. From here to the point where we were to meet Kim, it was an easy hour and a half heather-clad walk with beautiful views of the vale below.
Our next stop was at Blakey Ridge which was 34 KMs away from Ingleby Arncliffe but like I said we encroached into this segment the previous day and I am glad we did that because it still took us almost 7 hours to make it to the Lion’s Inn where we were to spend the night. Lion’s Inn was a treat, sitting by itself in the middle of nowhere on top of the Blakey Ridge it dates back to 1553, so they claim, and it looks it too with its dark time-worn beams and open fires. The day was very cold and very windy with on and off rain all the way through – probably the coldest day so far. The first half of our trek was quite tough with three ups and downs and the downs were very steep – with my worn our knees I always find it difficult to climb down, that is where my trekking poles help, so I took it slow and easy. Once out of the ascents and descents, the rest of this segment is level track and quite boring because of which it seems much longer than it actually is. At a place called Bloworth Crossing the path merges with the former Rosedale Ironstone Railway that used to serve the nearby iron mines a century and a half ago – there is no track or anything now. We walked and walked through the various moors with chilling northerly gusting winds which was no fun, but the upside was that the walk was straight and steady. We had a lovely dinner at the Inn where we again met Jane, the lady celebrating her 50th, and exchanged pleasantries. Throughout the night we could hear the howling wind outside which kept on going relentlessly before dying down in the morning.
From here on the mood was getting excited as we were getting close to our final destination. Today, we were to stay the night at Grosmont (the s is silent). Again, we decided to go a little further to shorten the last day’s trek. The last day wasn’t tough or long but we just thought of leaving as small a portion for the last day so we could mosey on into Robin Hood Bay in good time as we had decided not to spend the night there and drive back to Norwich the same day.
The first part of the trek was pretty boring, more of the previous day’s path – long and flat. Except for Fat Betty – a white cross, a little off to the left of the path, where tradition require that you leave a food offering and take one, there was nothing interesting that we were hoping to come across. Once we descended into the Esk Valley we entered one of the most beautiful small cozy English villages to behold. From here on up till Grosmont it was probably one of the most scenic section in the C2C path. We met with Kim in Grosmont where she had already checked in at the Grosmont House, a very nice B&B run by this lady of Punjabi descent. We had our lunch – tea and sandwiches, at this roadside café and walked on to Little Beck, another picturesque tiny hamlet at the edge of the Little Beck Woods through which we were to trek on our last day. Our rendezvous with Kim was a bench on the edge of the small stream with a footbridge to cross over into the woods. We enjoyed waiting on the bench looking at this idyllic and bucolic scenery adorned with an old church, an old mill, a woodcarver’s cottage, and a village hall – one of the few scenes from the trek that are etched in my mind. We had walked 28 KMs on this second last day.
Back in Grosmont we walked through the village where tourists flock to enjoy riding the steam locomotives of the North York Moors railway which features as the ‘Hogwarts Express’ in the original Harry Potter movie. We took it easy for the rest of the day with an early dinner in the village.
The last day was exciting and exhilarating; it took us only four and a half hours to reach the destination for which we had walked 320 KMs. To start our day, Kim took us to Little Beck where we had ended our trek the previous day. The woodland next to Little Beck was stunning and filled with oak trees, and wildlife galore. In the woods, we walked by the 20-meter-high waterfall called Falling Foss where a café has been built in the former ruins of Midge Hall, and the mysterious Hermitage – a hollowed out boulder where year ‘1790’ is etched above its entrance. Emerging out of the woods we looked forward to reaching Robin Hood Bay which was not too far away. Walking through farms and bushes and alongside roads we reached the North Sea along which we strode for a little more than an hour on the blustery clifftops to arrive in Robin Hood Bay. It was a proud and fulfilling moment and we took a lot of pictures of the sea down below and the town which was hustling and bustling with tourists.
We drove to Scarborough where we had our lunch at the KFC and dropped Munir at the railway station from where he went to Manchester. We drove back to Norwich.