Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
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C2C Day 8 - Going the Extra Miles
Keld -> Applegarth

Darby: Screw you guys – I'm goin' to the B&B.
Us: But-
Darby: Eh! Screw you guys – B&B.

     And so we awoke, at the Keld camping farm, to pouring rain lashing the tent. There didn't seem any particular point in going out into that so Mark and I lay there doing nothing until Darby invaded our tent. The thing about her tent being, as you will have noted from the pictures, that it's only just exactly big enough to lie prone in. Which probably isn't much fun when you're just lying there awake not wanting to go out in the rain. I don't know. I've never tried it. At any rate, if you're going to hang out in a tent sheltering from the rain, hers isn't the one to do it in. Even the vestibule of our tent was a better deal, which is where Darby planted herself. We didn't mind. We liked visitors. Especially girls.

After not too long we all couldn't but admit that a quick dash through the rain would get us back to the barn, where we could be cold and uncomfortable in much more spacious surroundings. We could also make breakfast. I had two apples hoarded for mine – one of which I ended up cutting into small bits with my multi-tool and feeding to the chickens. Once the barn was open, they were a little quicker than we had been to figure out that indoors was the place to be (rather than out in improvised shelter). They happily ate the apple bits right out of my hand. I didn't even get pecked. I was gratified that they seemed to like what was on offer. Who knew chickens liked fruit.

While we ate, we planned our day's walking. The guidebook terrifyingly informed us that "today's walk takes us through a part of Yorkshire that has been forever altered and scarred by the activities of the lead-mining industry" – futher describing a confusing climb up to a moor where "the landscape at the top is a bit of a shock . . . what confronts you now is a gravel wasteland almost entirely devoid of life; a landscape that more or less exactly conforms to the definition of the word 'desolate'".

Well! how could we pass that up! Pretty easily, as a matter of fact, since it turned out there was an alternative route down through the valley of Swaledale – described as "just beautiful . . . easy and unstrenuous . . . [with] riparian wildlife . . . the villages passed on the way are a joy too." We took it from the text that the mining wasteland was meant to be an edifying object lesson in man's ability to destroy the natural environment.

Well: screw you guys. If we wanted to see a natural environment destroyed by man we could have stayed in London and taken the Tube to Hackney.

So, delightedly bypassing the mining blight, we instead entered a completely idyllic valley with mist and waterfalls. Granted we were still being rained on, but it hardly seemed to matter. The most desolate thing we passed was this pretty stone ruin. Mark briefly spotted the sun, but it soon went away. We entered the river valley proper.

Me: Wow. Nothing quite like a beautiful, green, misty valley.
     We passed through something called the Rabbit Metropolis! A whole huge hillside of warrens. As we approached, scores of rabbits ran for their holes in sequence, sweeping out of our path in great cresting waves.

Here's what Darby and I looked like in our full rain kit. (You'll note my preferred colour scheme hasn't changed.) In a very competitive field, here is the absolute winning mother and lamb portrait. (No, I didn't Photoshop that.)

The terrain, aside from being utterly lovely, was also very soft. I think we were all doing well foot-, ankle-, and knee-wise. On the other hand, after the fells of the Lake District, the summit attempt of Kidsty Pike, etc., my lips were so chapped I looked like Shackleton's fo'c'sleman. The other morning in the B&B, when I attempted simply to smile good morning to Darby, I cried out in pain as my lower lip split open. I suppose that's just the price you pay for glory.

Finally we left the side of the river and entered farmland. In the tiny hamlet of Ivelet, Darby made her daily survival call. Mark – evidently not sufficiently lulled by the gentle valley – had an epiphany:

Mark: I've just realised what the closest experience I've had to this is – Band Camp. Marching in the rain when I didn't want to go anywhere, with a huge heavy thing on my back [Mark was a drummer]. Not getting enough food or sleep. And ending up in a tiny space with you at the end of the day.
     We passed through the town of Gunnerside. It was certainly the smallest thing I've ever seen with a school; and awfully cute.

We began to climb up the side of the valley. It was so gorgeous and misty that I kept taking soft pictures. Darby sort of posed for one. There were bluebells. This ruled; it was like traversing Rivendell.

And but then we took a (glorious) wrong turn. It was one of the few genuine wrong turns we took, that wasn't quickly corrected, and really led us off of the golden path. On the side of this hill overlooking the valley, the path split – one branch going up toward the summit, the other meandering level through some sheep enclosures. Indulging wishful thinking, we took the lower path – and but quickly ran out of gates and turnstiles to get us through the stone walls of the enclosures. However, we soon emerged into what appeared to be the newly-designated natural area of Rowleth Wood. The path through it was narrow and thick with foliage – as if it had hardly ever been traversed – but it was totally lovely.

By the other side of wood, we all agreed that it had been a total boon. First of all, we couldn't really get lost – there we were in a valley, and as long as we didn't go over the summit on the left, or into the river on the right, we'd eventually get where we were going. Moreover, Darby felt this was the loveliest bit of the whole trip. Mark suggested that it would probably make it into the 2007 version of the guidebook as an alternate path: "Those lucky enough to enjoy Rowleth Wood . . ." Finally, I was forced to admit that perhaps the whole trip would have been this nice if we had eschewed my fixation with sticking carefully to the routes indicated in the guidebook and maps – and instead went with Mark's preferred method of "keep Scotland on your left; stop when you hit water." I was glad to have tried it his way for a bit; and we were well-rewarded.

Later, we got a few seconds of actual sunshine out on another field of rabbit warrens. We decided to stop for a much-needed lunch break after we (quite painlessly) hooked back up with the main trail. What a wonderful world that has singing birds in it! Carrying on, we got very excited trying to see how many titles of Xanth novels we could remember. (Come on, admit it, you read Xanth novels when you were twelve.) I think we ultimately got six or eight. Try it yourself. No cheating looking online.

We then dropped back down to the road by the river, where it warmed up spectacularly. We ditched all our rain gear, and lay in the grass for awhile before heading on to the town of Healaugh.

Our actual target, though, was the slightly larger berg of Reeth – and their wildly well regarded Reeth Bakery Cafe! The guidebook called this place a "little treasure" and insisted that if you only had one cup of tea in Reeth, you had to do it here. And we were not remotely disappointed. The room was cute – we had it to ourselves – and the owner was lovely and unassuming. (He claimed not to know that the guidebooks rave about him.) They had soya milk for my tea! They had a selection of vegan cakes! (In Reeth!) We drank pots of Yorkshire tea, and Mark and I had carrot and butter bean soup with fresh-baked granary bread, and Darby had a big indulgent selection of cakes. (We shared the vegan carrot and walnut cake.) Do check out their web site.

And so I suppose we were so fortified by this stop that we took the unprecedented decision to . . . carry on. Technically, Reeth was supposed to be our stopping point for the day. We had already done 11 miles. But there were some logistical advantages to knocking out the additional 8 miles to Applegarth. (For instance, we needed to be in Richmond – the other biggest town along the way – during business hours to run some errands. And Richmond was only a few miles past Applegarth, so we could hit it in the late morning.) Plus we all felt pretty good. What the heck! We did a bit of quick shopping to replenish our provisions. And then got walking again!

Although our available daylight was a little short, we still indulged ourselves with rest stop or two, of which Mark made use in his usual way. I was able to take the ultimate cow family portrait (stick that in your fake backdrop, Olan Mills!). Though, shortly after, we were passing through an enclosure of many cows and as I reached the other side, I looked over my shoulder and noticed that one of the cows was a conspicuously different colour than the others – and had two sharp things sticking out of its head.

Me: Uhh. That's a bull.
Mark: That's why I'm standing on this side of the fence.
     We passed through a bit of forest, climbing something called the Nun's Steps. (Evidently there used to be a convent at the top.) It was awfully steep and slick.
Darby: Jesus Mary Mother of God!
     Did I mention Darby's a lapsed devout Christian? (Southern Evangelical Presbyterian, specifically. It seems they make terrific apostates. Them and Catholics. And Mormans. God love 'em.)

We passed through the tiny hillside hamlet of Marrick. We passed through a gate and then on past God's Own Sheep Enclosure – by far the biggest one we'd seen, hundreds of the wooly white guys inside. That's it there over Mark's left shoulder.

I was feeling awfully jaunty – and found myself doing a little whiteboy boogey for part of the walk into Maersk. I suppose the following goofy pose was meant to convey my general enthusiasm for the whole day.

And so just a last little climb of the day – up to a white-painted cairn announcing the last bit of trail into Applegarth. As we did the climb, I found I was feeling like an unstoppable machine again: Knee acting up? It'll heal overnight. Feet swelling? They'll deal for another few miles. Energy for another climb? – at the end of a 19-mile day? Check.

And so then we sat on this beautiful hilltop, watching a glorious dusk settle on the meadows behind and below us, hundreds of faint sheep baa's floating up gently on the cool air. Go ahead, look at that again. Take your time. We did.

Another level mile down the trail and we came upon the East Applegarth Camping Barn, where a lovely older woman heartily welcomed us in and returned Mark his bag (griping good-naturedly about how it was too heavy to even pick up). For 5 a head, we got mattresses and pillows in a stone structure, a big well-equipped kitchen, a phone, and a lawn on which to pitch our tents – just to let them dry out. Then we made a happy, hearty dinner out of our tins, packets, styrofoam cups . . . well content with our progress on the day – and more importantly with our enjoyment of it. Mark speculated that it was easier to do 8 miles on top of 11 when we chose to, rather than when we felt had no real choice in the matter. Still:

Darby: I can't believe we're a day ahead . . .

Tomorrow: Day 9 - Applegarth to Danby Wisk (16.5 miles)

  coast-to-coast walk     camping     dargbles     humour     pitely     walking     wildlife  
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

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ARISEN : Operators, Volume I - The Fall of the Third Temple by Michael Stephen Fuchs
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