Thursday, July 14, 2016

Day 14 -- Richmond

I was supposed to walk to Reeth today, but the hotel where I had a reservation was double-booked, so I was bumped. Bed and breakfasts in the U.K. charge by the person rather than by the room, so it is likely that I was bumped in favor of a two-person booking. With no other accommodations available in Reeth, I opted to say at the same B&B in Richmond where I was scheduled to stay on Friday. I planned to walk to Reeth, then take a bus to Richmond.


The bus service in Swaledale (where both Reeth and Richmond are located) is poor. There are three buses between Reeth and Richmond each day. Each bus is a mini-bus holding 16 passengers; reservations are required for the afternoon bus. While I may have been able to make reservations for the afternoon bus, I wasn’t sure I could arrive in Reeth before it left, so I decided to take the morning bus from Keld all the way to Richmond, and spend the day there.

Richmond is a delightful market town, with ample restaurants and services, an historic castle, a lovely river walk. Janet and I had already visited the castle in 2012, so today I walked a pleasant 4 miles along the River Swale.

Bridge over River Swale 

Along the way, I stopped at “The Station,” a former railway station that was closed in 1969 with the dismantling of unprofitable railroads by Richard Beecham. What had become a derelict building has been restored to commercial businesses as such buildings often are. It was after the lunch hour, so I stopped at The Angels Share Bakery that recently had won a top award for its “Cumberland pie.”  I had a nice discussion with the owner/baker, Alex, and Sam, who was serving the customers. The pie was delicious, but it disappeared too quickly.

Cumberland Pie

Alex and Sam

Outside, Yvonne and Mike were celebrating the completion of a walk with ice creams, a British tradition possibly second only to quaffing pints.


Resuming my loop walk, I passed St. Agathas Abbey, yet another monastery dissolved by Henry VIII.


Continuing along the river, I eventually returned to my B&B, whose garden is occupied by a weather frog.


Day 13 -- Kirkby Stephen to Keld, 14 miles

Elaine, the hostess at Bollam Cottage B&B, recommended a route to the Nine Standards different from that recommended in the Coast to Coast guides. Her route crossed several pastures, and passed through a lovely wood into Ewbank Scar, a striking rock formation through which Ladthwaite Beck cascades. Her recommendation required some time-consuming route finding and careful map-following, but was worth every bit. About the same length of the “official” route, her route substituted about 2 miles of scenic footpath for approximately the same distance of road walking. Thanks for the recommendation, Elaine.

Ewbank Scar

Where Elaine’s route joined the “official” route, I met John and Charlotte, who were walking separately, but happened to be at the trail junction at the same time.

Charlotte; John

While talking with them, I saw several approaching walkers whom I mistook to be Dennis, Lynne, Dave, and Sara, but who turned out to be a group of ladies from California and Washington. They have been hiking together, on and off, for about 40 years. Unfortunately, one of their friends, Patti, was unable to join them this time, so they carried her image with them. We all (except Flat Patti) chatted as we hiked up to the Nine Standards.

Julie, Cheryl, Tricia, Flat Patti, Donna and Maggie

The Nine Standards are 9 large cairns that have adorned the ridge east of Kirkby Stephen since time immemorial. Nobody knows who built them, or when or why they were built.

From the Nine Standards I followed a very boggy ridge approximately 2½ miles, with a cold wind blowing incessantly. A feeling of isolation permeates one’s being atop the high, exposed, featureless moor; to the far horizon in every direction I saw no one else the entire time – not even sheep. Except for the ever-present water, I might as well have been on the moon.

After more than an hour, I reached a crossing path on which Andrew, Normand and Marie-Helene were walking. Andrew and I are kindred spirits: he is an Australian, solo walking 500 miles in England and Scotland this summer. Normand and Marie-Helene are Canadians, living in Montreal. I had briefly met them last night at dinner with the Ullswater steamer group, but hadn’t had a chance to speak with them.

Marie-Helene, Normand, and Andrew 

Normand is a meteorologist working for the Canadian government. I asked if he had heard of my brother-in-law, James Holton, who was a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington. As if we had been transported to the scene from Romancing the Stone in which Juan discovers that author Joan Wilder is outside his compound's gate, the following dialogue ensued. I am absolutely not making this up.

“You know James Holton?” he responded.

Marie-Helene joined in, “Holton?? He knows James Holton??”

Normand continued, “I read his book. It’s a classic of meteorological science. I keep it on my desk. I met James Holton some years ago at a lecture he presented to Canadian scientists.”

When I mentioned that Jim had died 12 years ago, Normand said that he still uses the 2nd edition of Jim’s book to study for competitive exams necessary for promotions. He observed that Jim’s book is somewhat dated, but it’s apparently still the best thing out there for its subject matter.

Jim had walked the Coast to Coast a few years before his death, so we were traveling in his footsteps.

Jim Holton

Andrew, Normand, Marie-Helene and I continued on and met up with Leo and Lynn at Ravenseat farm, where writer Amanda Owen maintains a primitive tea room in an old shed. We stopped for tea and scones as the rain started falling. The sun was shining when we left a half hour later to walk the rest of the way to Keld.

Tea time
Lynn, Leo, Norman, Marie-Helene, and Andrew
Lynn and Leo