07 Jun Urra Moor
Another great name – Urra. Earthy, primitive, rolls wonderfully off the tongue.
We looked across to Urra when we came down off the hills on Sunday. That night we stayed in the rather dated and drab Wainstone Hotel in Great Broughton, about 2.5 miles off the trail. We discovered (rather too late) that the hotel has a pickup service so you don’t have to walk in via the winding, busy road. Grrrr. The highlight of this unrewarding and unnecessary road walk was the flashy drive past of about 20 Harley Davidsons, such machines…. Ooh and all that leather!
We had high expectations of the Wainstone Hotel given the write-up in our C2C guide by a chap called Henry, whom we fondly call Henry the Navigator. The dark carpets and furnishings create an ambience of joylessness, deepened on Sunday night by the absence of other punters. If you add in the ingrained smell of deep-fry fat from countless seasons of serving up fish and chips, you’ll start to build the full sensory picture. However, a bath and a lift back to the start of the trail in the morning redeemed the Wainstone a little.
But back to Urra Moor. Another treat in the cornucopia of delights served up on the C2C. Inevitably, it’s a grunt uphill to get onto the moor but once you’re there it’s another world. A moor to rival any moor. A sign claims that here is the biggest uninterrupted expanse of heather in England. Certainly there’s a helluva lot of heather; it must be quite a sight in late summer as the land turns purple. For me though, it’s something else that hits the spot. When you’re up there all you can see are gently intersecting contours disappearing into the far distance and the sky. There are no trees and almost no evidence of man save for the path beneath your feet and the occasional old stone boundary post. These spare coordinates are not enough to give you a sense of scale and perspective. You could be lost up there.
Last time we were here it was a cold, misty April day when we could see only a few yards in front of us so it seemed like a closed world. This time it was warm and sunny, a hazy sunshine smudging the border between land and sky. It’s a wondrous, endless world that seems empty until you start to encounter the bird life. We saw curlews, agitated by our presence, anxious we would harm their young; grouse with tiny chicks rushing dementedly as our footsteps approached; lapwing and many others if I could just pick them out from their song or their flight.