Thursday, 14 July 2011

Coast to Coast - Thursday 14th July - Day 9 - Reeth to Richmond 10.5 miles

Marrick Priory
After a cold night, we awoke to an equally cold morning in the caravan, which was confirmed by the fact that we could see our breath as we prepared breakfast. Packing up was a much quicker affair without having to worry about the tents and we were soon on our way to the village where we stopped at a shop to stock up on food and drink for the walk. Peter, the campsite manager had told us the previous evening that he had been discussing the recent Coast to Coast documentary starring presenter Julia Bradbury with the shop owner and the resulting positive effect on the local economy. Certainly, apart from the first day or so, obtaining supplies had been very easy with many shops stocking prepared sandwiches and snacks. The whole walk had certainly become more of an 'industry' than it had been thirteen years earlier on my last trip. Today's objective was Richmond, the largest town on the whole walk and we were booked into a guesthouse for the night. With this being one of the shortest, easiest sections of the route, we could relax and take it easy, which we did, strolling along through the now tamed, scenically gentle Swaledale on a beautiful sunny day. The difference between this countryside and the walk as it had entered the bleak, wild upland parts of the valley two days earlier was quite marked. We reached Marrick Priory in it's idyllic valley setting, enhanced by pine forests in the background before climbing Nunnery Steps through the woods to the tiny hamlet of Marrick.

View of Swaledale
This section between the hamlet and the village of Marske proved to be a wonderful walk through typically bucolic English scenery and the views from the hilltops were delightful in the warm sunshine. We stopped briefly in Marrick and had a quick conversation with a group of Coast to Coasters going east to west who seemed to be under the impression that the harder days were behind them. We didn't like to disillusion them. Heading out of the village, we approached a walker sitting on a bench resting with his boots off and stopped for a chat. We had seen Alan, (which, as we later found out, was his name) on a number of occasions and had said 'hello' a few times but we hadn't had the opportunity to talk to him before. I would guess that Alan was in his seventies and looked quite frail and walked slowly, often with his arms folded. We would overtake him fairly early on most days as he slowly strolled along and it was quite baffling that he always seemed to be in front of us as we set off each day. We later learned that, though he walked slowly, he walked for many hours at a time, so although we passed him early on in the day, he would always halt overnight a few miles further on from us.
Swaledale from Applegarth Scar
After chatting for a while, we left him sitting in the sunshine and headed for the limestone cliffs of Applegarth Scar, which we climbed without too much trouble before stopping on the path just below the clifftops to rest and enjoy the views down Swaledale. Continuing, we reached Whitcliffe Wood and enjoyed the change in scenery through the woodland before emerging on a road as the first views of Richmond with it's enormous castle keep towering over the town came into view. This section of the walk proved to be a very easy stroll along tarmac and we passed a number of people out for a walk enjoying the summer sunshine as we descended into the attractive cobbled town square.
Richmond Castle towers over the town
Being among the hustle and bustle of a town the size of Richmond after more than a week of staying in  villages seemed a little odd at first but as we were too early to check into the guesthouse, we found a pub on the square with tables outside and bought a welcome pint and, being back in the land of the mobile signal after two days without, made calls home before checking in and sorting out our gear for the following day. The guesthouse was one I had stayed in thirteen years earlier on my previous trip, and I introduced myself to the owner who was still running the establishment. On my first visit, she had just taken over the business and it had suffered from a slightly neglected atmosphere. Now, however, things couldn't have been more different as she whisked our laundry away and took orders for packed lunches for the following day. Later that evening, we returned to the town centre for a very generous meal in the pub we had drunk in earlier, which would hopefully set us up for the longest section of the route tomorrow, the twenty three mile crossing of the Vale of Mowbray to the North York Moors, the last National Park of the walk.  

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