I am going back to the whole ‘on paper’ thing again for a moment, because ‘on paper’ this stage seems really great: a 20 mile hike across the Vale of Mowbray. Loving a pork pie as I do, imagine the emotional rollercoaster going on in my mind when I thought that there would be pie goodness around every corner only to discover that that my Melton Mowbray bubble had truly burst like gum around my mouth with the realisation that I wasn’t in Leicestershire. Recovering from that low seemed nigh on impossible until the discovery that there is in fact a Vale of Mowbray Pork Pie company. Things looking up, I concentrated on my pot of tea and the thought of my Full English breakfast being lovingly prepared by Bridget from the Hildyard Arms who had come in especially to feed us hungry Coast to Coasters who had invaded the pub last night.
So, like I say, a lot of miles to cover, but I feel I got off lightly: by the time Alicia and Linda met me at Colburn, they had already covered three miles and were having to endure another three beyond Ingleby Cross. If this was the Tour de France, it would be a transition stage. A flat, fairly nondescript trek between two sets of mountain ranges or, in our case, the Dales and Cleveland Hills. They would also have closed the roads for us removing the necessity of a) having to make a detour around the roadworks on the A1(M) at the beginning of the day; continually having to jump out of the way of tractors along the 100 mile road section between Bolton-on-Swale and Streetlam and c) having to sprint across the four lanes of high speed traffic on the A19 to get to our final destination (which hopefully would not be representative of the increasingly imprecisely titled series of films bearing that name).
Anyway, parts of my pack were once again sent on to the overnight stop allowing me all the boundless energy required to face any challenge the day placed in front of me. First thing then: breaking in to Catterick Racecourse to retrieve my hat after a gust of wind had blown it from my head. Ironically, it was just after the A1 footbridge, where, before we crossed, I had a premonition that it would blow on to the windscreen of a truck travelling at 70 miles an hour causing a hideous pile up going back hundreds of miles to, probably, Peterborough. Taking note of this vision, which seemingly took at least 10 minutes and involved many, many improbable ways for a person to die as per the aforementioned film franchise , I aired on the side of caution and crossed the footbridge with cap in hand so to speak. Over the bridge, and within seconds of donning it once more, I was climbing down the 10 foot fence to retrieve my precious headwear much to the amusement of my walking companions.
This wasn’t the last time they decided to laugh at my expense, as during a trip in to the graveyard at Brompton-on-Swale to look at Henry Jenkins’ memorial, who apparently lived to a million years old, they hid behind a tree and let me walk off thinking they had gone ahead without me. After that priceless piece of hilarity, we headed off east once more finally saying goodbye to our companion and guide for the last three days, the River Swale, as it went off to meet the North Sea further south through the Rivers Ure, Ouse and Humber.
After a cheese and pickle sandwich pit stop at Streetlam, whose residents, according to the guidebook don’t much like walkers, we found all manner of food stashes along the remainder of the route. One, at Moor House Farm, afforded us the luxury of a cool box stashed full flapjacks and Lucozade (no Caribbean Crush) and a bench on which we could enjoy our quarry. It was here we met up with Richard and Sons again after losing them at the Henry ‘I can’t count years properly’ Jenkins’ memorial. He was very upset that somehow we had managed to get in front of him despite having not overtaken him on the trail (now who’s competitive). We pointed out the error of his six year old guide book’s ways and agreed that we were correct and had stuck to the official path (pretty sure that is how we left it). We set off again together, guided from Moor House by the farm terrier who was clearly making sure Richard didn’t lose his way again and almost immediately came across Emma’s Fridge which contained all manner of healthy snacks such as apples (one of my five a day) and Wispa bars (Chocolate grows on trees and is therefore another one of my five a day).
Nearly at the A19 we had a little bit of practice in dashing across major transport links: the M25 of railway lines at which, not only did we have to wait for a northbound train, but for one heading south too. This one was more exciting as the driver hooted and waved at us as he dieseled passed.
We discovered important things about this part of the countryside whilst waiting at the Stop Look Listen sign: fields of animals that produce a lot of manure don’t smell as much as the fields of crops that have this same crap poured all over them to encourage plant growth. This was confirmed at a positively beautifully perfumed field full of cows through which we had to carefully pick our way through so as not to come between mothers and their calves. Everything seemed to be going so well, no bulls, no erratic movements from angry friesians until, out of the corner of our eyes to the right, the moment we had all dreaded: a group of fast moving, nay charging, domesticated oxen heading towards the same exit of the field as we were. My advice on how not to worry about these most dangerous of all the farmyard animals about to dry up, it soon became clear that they were not interested in us and we were able to quickly, but calmly, run off screaming in the opposite direction.
The time was upon us: time to play on that motorway people had be so insistent I search out when I was younger. We had spotted the Germans shortly before and it appeared that they were blissfully unaware of the obstacle looming towards them which, in hindsight, would have been a great state of mind to be in for the day. But it was slapping us in the face with its tarmaccy tendrils. I saw my chance about five meters away and just sprinted, as far as anyone can with a backpack on, over two lanes of northbound traffic, all clear, into the central turning area. Southbound all clear, still running and over the second two lanes before triumphantly celebrating with Richard et al who had already crossed. We all waited for the others to ensure they were safe and celebrated with fish and chips and a pint at the Bluebell Inn. Well, me Tim and Thobi did, the others had to go up a steep hill to Osmotherly for their digs for the night!
Tomorrow, in the words of Iron Maiden, we Run To The (Cleveland) Hills. Three days to go and 50 miles left.I never did find a Vale of Mowbray pork pie!
Colburn to Ingleby Cross
19.9 miles / 141.4 miles