So I’m sitting tonight at The White Swan in the quiet hamlet of Danby Wiske. Across the table from me is our old friend Mike, who’s staying in the same B & B, The Old School, just one house down. It’s his birthday–he’s 66–and he treated me to my wonderful salmon dinner and a half pint of a Yorkshire ale. I bought the next round.
When Jimmy and I arrived at 7 p.m., soaking wet after two and a half hours of walking through fields in a hard rain, the owners–Frank and Doreen Phillips–hustled us in, helping us to remove our wet jackets and pants, stuffing our boots with newspapers, showing us up to a cozy room with flowered coverlets on the beds. I took a quick shower then came to the pub, while Jimmy settled in for a soak in the large tub. He may be over here later to post some words as well.
We left Richmond at around 10 a.m., after having stopped in at the mountain shop (for more maps), the optician (in an unsuccessful effort to repair my eyeglasses, but where Jimmy bought a magnifying glass to help his map-reading), and the baker (for a sandwich and some scones). We descended to the Swale, crossed the river, and then began a lovely walk through a wood along the bank. The sun was out at first, but soon it clouded over, and a strong wind began blowing from the west. The long-anticipated rain was on its way, but we still had several hours of dry walking before it began.
At Colburn, we paused to check which turn to take. Ahead, I could see two men sitting on a bench, watching us. I was sure they were locals, knowing the path, and amused at our uncertainty. As we approached them, we asked if we were going the right way. One of them said yes, but also insisted that we should be reading our maps on our own. And so we started talking — they were Martin, an Irish busdriver from near Belfast and his father-in-law, Tom, a local man of 73 years old. They were out for a short walk — Martin here on a three-week holiday with his wife, he walking, she “touring the stores.” We ambled along with them for a good hour or so, until we reached Catterick, where I wanted to break for lunch and where they were being picked up by “the wives.” Our talk was of many things–plants and weather and travel and crops and the proper way to approach cows. “They need their space, like every creature,” Tom told us. “A lot of people don’t understand that.” “I’ve seen a lot of people nearly killed by cows,” Martin said. “I was almost one of them.”
(Later in the day we would come to a field filled with cows, clustered just around the gate we needed to go through. I approached gently, talking to them, telling them we were their friends, thanking them for making way for us. And they did, quietly taking their leave, allowing us to proceed on our way.)
(Jimmy and the Phillips just arrived. Glad to see them all.)
After Catterick we eventually came to Bolton-on-Swale, a lovely little town with a beautiful old church and churchyard. We took our time visiting the church and noted the inscription and the memorial to Henry Jenkins, a local man reputed to have lived to 169, “enriched with the goods of nature if not of fortune, and happy in the duration if not variety of his enjoyments.”
Part of the time as we walked we were with (or following) the large American group we had met yesterday. At one point we met, and chatted with Ulrich, a young German man who was travelling the path alone, from east to west. A seasoned walker, he’s walked from Land’s End to Canterbury, as well as many paths in German and France. He had stayed last night at The Old School, where we are tonight. Somewhere along the path Karen and Shane (the couple from Orton) passed us; they were in the pub when I came in tonight, and of course they wondered what had happened to us.
One of the things that happened was we stopped at Kiplin Hall, the country seat of George Calvert, the founder of the colony of Maryland. It was a beautiful, great Jacobean manor house, open to the public and with a great library — and a tearoom. (And a public bathroom!) I urged the virtue of taking a break (it was now around 3:30 or so and the rain was just beginning); Jim acceded, and we spent a very lovely forty-five minutes in a grand wood-panelled room with huge portraits of nobles looking down upon us. Jim had a “garden vegetable soup” made with produce from the Hall’s gardens, along with a sausage and apple pie. I simply had tea and a cheese scone. Mary, the manager of the kitchen, served us hot food even though it was after lunchtime. We were very grateful and very happy, and our pause served us in good stead as the rain began in earnest when we left. My feet, in their new boots, stayed dry.
All through the day, we walked through barley and wheat fields. We finished up in a “spinney,” a term we have yet to investigate. (It appeared to be a muddy alley between low trees. Very sweet and nice, leading to a field that led to the road that led to our village.)