We moved today from the treeless upland world of the moors to the lush lowland where the Esk River meets the Glaisdale Beck. We’re staying in yet another astonishing place, the Beggar’s Bridge B&B, located in the former stationmaster’s stone house right beside the railroad tracks and across the road from the 17th century Beggar’s Bridge. It’s a lovely spot, deep at the bottom of a steep narrow valley, and the owners have decorated the house and planted the garden to create a welcoming oasis of peace. There’s a conservatory looking out on the garden, where we were served tea as soon as we arrived, along with a comfortable lounge filled with books and board games. The walls are painted a soft honey yellow, a color I’ve always wanted in my own homes. Our large room has windows on two sides, and a huge bathroom with a large tub; I’ve come to treasure these rare tubs, though today I wasn’t aching for one as I have been at other times during this walk. Still, I was happy for my hot soak at the end of the day.
After leaving the Lion Inn where we said goodbye to Mike over breakfast–he’ll be reaching Robin Hood’s Bay tomorrow–we walked north along a tarmac road, coming upon a series of ancient stone monuments — “the Young Ralph,” “Fat Betty,” and others. These were beautiful and intriguing, but for me the great moment of the day came when, around a bend, I suddenly glimpsed the sea–in the distance, but unmistakable. Jim thought it might just be “a flat space” at the end of a green valley, but as we continued to walk northeast, the space resolved itself more and more into the North Sea. We couldn’t exactly see it–because the sky was overcast there was no blue sparkle–but at one point I thought I could make out a ship, and Jim agreed. Eventually we turned towards the east, along Glaisdale Rigg, and the presence of the sea became even more palpable. I thought I could smell the salt, mixed with the sweet honey scent of the heather. And I was torn between the desire to rush towards the water and the longing to linger on the moor.
But the walk took us steadily onward, giving us ravishing views of Great Fryupdale below us to the left. Wainwright delays our arrival to the sea by taking us through a few additional hills and dales.
On Glaisdale Rigg, we were overtaken by a young man, Jacob, a schoolteacher from Wigan, whom we had met two days earlier on Cringle Moor. Jacob had camped at the Lion–“just two quid a night!” he told us–and was unsure how far he would be going today. He was trying not to think about when he would get to Robin Hoods’s Bay, he said, because it meant his holiday would be over . . . .
Later, as we began the descent into Glaisdale (an easy, slow path downward on a wide track) we met a bright-eyed Scotsman, John, who paused to talk with us as he walked up the hill. We exchanged a few words and then later he overtook us as he was jogging back down. “I used to be able to run up,” he said, “but two years ago I hurt me knee. Now I can only run where it’s flat or downhill. Still, pretty good for sixty-eight,” he smiled. John slowed down to walk with us, showing us his house (with new solar panels on the roof) and pointing out to us a shortcut into the village. He was happy to meet a New Yorker on the Coast-to-Coast. “You’re the first one I’ve met,” he told me, though he’s met other New Yorkers on his trips to Greece. He was interested to talk with us about our landscape in the U.S., wanting to visit Oregon and Montana and Yosemite.
As we approached the village pub, we heard music – the lilting sound of a man singing a folk drinking song, followed by a chorus of voices joining for the refrain. We’d been thinking of getting an early meal, so we poked our heads in. The room was packed with people, listening, singing, happy. There seemed no room for us, but we lingered at the tables outside, and learned this was a spillover from the annual Whitby Folk Festival. The pubs in Whitby were all full, so a group had followed “Nick” to Glaisdale for the afternoon. Later, I saw them all get on the 4:30 train back to the coast.
Just two more days — 19 miles — and I want to savor every moment. Wainwright notes that “many walkers will consider this section the best of all,” with “a lovely river and woodlands, heather moors, charming villages, prehistoric relics, a stately waterfall, a forest trail, steam locomotives, and, to end it, an exhilarating cliff path and the North Sea extending to a far horizon.” I’m ready.