Swaledale and stuff happens

Swaledale and stuff happens

We were in Keld. All was fine. Monday evening spent happily in Keld Lodge, a former youth hostel, now a simple hotel at the halfway point on the C2C. On Tuesday, a dry, mild day of weather at last and the glorious riverside trail along the Swale. A highlight because you can stride out, look about and think beyond your footsteps, contemplate the journey you’re making. Gone are the days when you need to take care with every step and your mind is absorbed in making it to the overnight stop in one piece. You’re fitter after 100 miles and all those climbs and the going is easy. I look forward to this part every time. The gentle Swale with its grassy verges and rich meadows full of wild flowers, field barns, stone walls, tiny wooden gates across narrow stone stiles, aged sheep and plump lambs. It’s a place to be caressed by the landscape and get a sense of new life.

Grinton, right on the south bank of the river was our overnight stop on Tuesday. The tired but adequate Bridge Inn made up for its shortcomings in kitchen and comfort with its delightful bar staff. Wednesday we set out for a 17-mile journey continuing through the Swale valley via Richmond to Scorton. The low-lying terrain makes the mileage manageable but it makes you weary too. We had booked to stay at The Lodge with the lovely Dora. Thoughts of the ample bed and countless soft towels, the gentle stroll to the local pub for a bite of supper, all these sustained us on our trek. Until, about 3 miles short of Scorton, came the shocking news from Packhorse (our bag carrier) that something had gone very wrong with our booking and thus Dora was not expecting us; she had no beds but she did have our bags! Despondency descended on our happy hikers.

To cut a very long and tortuous story short, we managed to book an extra night at our next planned stop in Ingleby. Dora, full of apologies for her part in the booking debacle, got her man, the wonderful Colin, to drive us, our bags, bodies and rucksacks all the way to Ingleby and the splendid Beverley at Park House, near Ingleby Cross. A glass of Prosecco is the priority chez Beverley; it even precedes the removal of boots, so we clinked, said cheers, cast our anxieties aside and cast our minds to the plan for the next day, today, Thursday. Day 11.

Options? Get a cab back to Scorton and walk back to Ingleby and complete the full walk. Getting a cab would possibly be complicated; it would certainly be expensive. The prospect of going back to walk one of the least interesting sections of the whole C2C (lots of fields and tarmac roads) did not appeal. The alternative, a day walk around Ingleby and Osmotherley with a trip down to Mount Grace Priory, carrying a light pack and returning early to Park House for the evening Prosecco, well, that sounded terrific.

So just 7 miles today. Calm, easy walking, an unexpected hiatus in this amazing but intense journey. A glum Aussie (a rare breed) announced that, as far as he’s concerned, missing a single step of the trail cancels it all out. It’s cheating. We had all thought about this, all four of us in our different ways have thought about having a sense of incompletion. We’ve done the C2C before so in one sense it doesn’t matter that we missed those few miles. And in another sense, too, this is a journey, our journey, whatever journey we choose to make. It isn’t pure; there is no right or wrong way to do it. Each journey is its own story and this one is different from the last. Great!