We’re on the cobbles that make up the parking area of Reeth, it’s opposite the lovely green that makes this village such an attractive destination for tourists and locals alike.
Max has brought his owner to help us with this leg of the walk, Max is a cross between a spaniel and a poodle and attracts the label of Cockapoo or in Australia, a Spoodle. He’s very curly and extremely friendly and will keep us amused all day. Stephen, his owner, has lived here for years and will take us on this leg all with the added challenge of gale force winds from the residue of Hurricane Ali.
The trees are in full leaf and the gales are bending them as whole units rather than just branches but it is those same branches that take the hit.
We walk to Fremington where Shannon and Tam, our wonderful Ozzy walking companions have spent the night; they’re sitting outside and Tam is on the ‘phone telling the lucky recipient at the other end of the conversation that she loves him. Life does go on when you’re walking and it draws people closer as the process gives time to reflect. These guys are both vivacious and easy on the eye although that’s not really PC, they’re also extremely interesting and good to talk with as the conversation is always balanced with either party able to express themselves with both eloquently composed tales of their lives and reflective interludes for a response. They’re both lovely people, I like them a lot.
We’re now 7 strong (including Max) and I take the opportunity to count us at each stop. I’m guessing that’s the inner teacher that’s built up over 25 years but it reassures me that we’re still all here.
Otto and Kathy are both delightful; they met on the Camino with my friend and whilst my involvement with that is limited to about twenty days the wonderful evening that I spent in Santiago de Compostela with all of them was both exciting and funny; it also resulted in some friendships that look like lifetime relationships and scattered to every continent.
At Grinton Bridge I’m drifting into thoughts of my time in a folk band. Grimbles we were; the name taken from a condiment bottle in Scotland and used to label us in an extreme emergency when Lord Feversham rang my sister Mary to book us as then un-named ‘folkies’ to do an evening for the Young Farmers in Helmsley.
‘Phones in those days were not only tied to a socket on the wall but only in houses that could afford or justify them. I could do neither but my sister could. Mary called out to me and, un-phased said that Lord Feversham was on the ‘phone and wanted to book us. I thought she was taking the mick and when I picked up the receiver and in response to my “Hello” a disembodied very posh voice said, “It’s Peter Feversham here, we’d like to book you to entertain the Young Farmers. You can drink all you like and I’ll pay you twenty quid”. There was a pause then he followed on, “You chaps up for it?”
“Err, yes”, said I.
“What’s your group’s name?”, he asked.
There was an even longer, “Errrrrr”, then I spluttered, “Grimbles!”, as I remembered Pete’s observation about it being a good name for a group.
“Grimbles?”, he repeated and the upward inflexion in his voice was asking for confirmation.
“Indeed”, I replied and that was it. Grimbles performed for the Young Farmers in the Feversham Arms at Helmsley and we did take him up on his generosity regarding free bar to the extent that our return booking was for £30 but we had to buy our own drinks!
Our third booking was at the Bridge Hotel at Grinton and it’s just across the river from us right now. The sight of it is responsible for all of the above memories and more. The extra bit occurred when two young girls who were trainee nurses and had shared our cars on the way to the pub had asked if they could do a song in the first half. We’d done about thirty-five minutes and had another couple of songs to go when they sang a beautiful song called “Dancing at Whitsun” about the dreadful loss of all the young men in the Napoleonic Wars and includes the words,
“They have gone with the forests of oak-trees before, have gone to be wasted in battle”
but the real stand out memory was the voice of one of them who later teamed up with Roy Duffield and became the South Bank Grunters. Between the pair of them, they stopped the show such was the clarity and beauty of their performance and all this is going through my mind now – walking gives time for thought and it’s fabulous.
The wind strength is visibly increasing and the trees that have taken residence along the banks of the river are bending and contorting in the huge gusts. There are broken limbs reaching down to the swollen river as it does its best to deliver the astonishing amount of water that had disgorged into it from the sodden hills above.
There’s no threat of flooding – yet – and we leave the banks of the river to make our way towards Marrick Priory. It’s now an Outdoor and Education Centre but it was originally built by Roger de Aske around the year 1154. Roger gave the house for nuns following the rule of St. Benedict. With it, they were given the parish Church of Marrick, jointly dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St. Andrew, plus one *carucate of land in Marrick and other lands in the locality, totalling four hundred acres. Gifts were received from other barons so that, within a few years, the nuns had holdings at Hurst, Owlands, Ravensworth, Cowton, Marske, Kirkby Fleetham, Richmond and Carperby.
Once established, the Priory became the home of several of Roger de Aske’s own daughters. Most of the nuns would have been from the families of landowners and merchants. Their day was divided by the offices, or times of prayer, beginning with Prime at dawn and continuing through Matins, Lauds, Terce, Sext, None and Vespers to Compline. Each day also included a mass, said by the resident priest, and time spent listening to a portion from the Rule of St Benedict. (you can read me more here: https://marrickpriory.co.uk/history/foundation/
**”Carucate” – a carucate is the amount of land that could be ploughed by 8 oxen over a single season.**
We pass the Priory and begin a steady ascent to Marrick Village the wind speed is increasing at an alarming rate and the gusts are both sudden and vicious; the storm was forecast to increase as the day progresses and in this case, they really had it right.
We have the option to turn left and walk across the tops but decide on a right and take the path near the river. This decision gives us an element of respite but it’s only marginal. We leave the road and pass through a gap in the dry stone wall to enter a field clearly in fallow. It’s dry but the long grass is blowing like the swell of an angry sea. The long grass, noticeably uncut throughout the season, is responding to the storm force gusts and the waves produced are often the width of the field but agile as they chase each other around the hillocks, undulations and a lone tree that stands in the middle of the field with boughs bending at a vicious angle with each increasing gust.
We’re pleased with the decision to take this lower route but also appreciate that there will be elements of it that will test us as the remnants of Hurricane Ali whip up the atmosphere in this beautiful dale into a violent storm.
We don our wet weather gear; then we remove it again as we try to strike a balance between staying dry and staying cool between the squalls. We’re approaching Whitcliff Scar and the sun has made a welcome reappearance but the wind is increasing again and the dark clouds in the distance are a warning of things to come. The track is running adjacent to a farmyard when the heavens open and the driving rain hits us from behind. It’s a vicious squall and we stagger forward for several yards. I move quickly behind Kathy to shield her from the storm and Otto instinctively moves in front of her to ensure she has someone to grab in the wind. There’s a large farm building to our left, it’s relatively new and has been constructed using a steel frame with corrugated sheeting. The combination of materials and wind create a huge cacophony of bangs, slams, whistles, and even eerie screams but we take shelter there regardless and wait for the abatement that has followed each of these acute weather attacks. About twenty minutes sees the sun return, there’s no reduction in the storm force gusts but we rejoin the track regardless.
Another ten minutes and we enter Whitcliffe Woods where we’re protected from the storm but now have an additional concern as some of the higher level branches are being fractured by the wind and whilst most are little more than twigs, we do get the odd one that crashes through the lower limbs and lands in the track like a car park barrier.
At the top we exit from the wood and return to coping with the random bursts of wind and squall then within a few minutes we can see the welcoming sight of Richmond Castle and point it out to Kathy and Otto. The track is now a road and mostly downhill but it also has avenues of trees and shrubs on either or both sides and on several occasions we have to negotiate our way around broken limbs of trees that have crashed across the road and in the majority of cases have rendered the road impassable to vehicular traffic and make us slightly anxious as we walk under them keeping a wary eye on the strained boughs still in full leaf and not yet ready for the winter onslaught.
We enter Richmond expecting things to improve but it turns out that our route is blocked by a mandatory detour and a police car is parked at an angle across the road to enforce it. The normally quiet avenues of Richmond have been transformed into no-go areas as boughs are broken off their parent and the odd tree is ripped out of the ground complete with roots destroying yards of the pathway by lifting heavy paving slabs like playing cards. Trees in full leaf are not good in a storm!
We make our way across a park and direct Kathy and Otto to their hotel via a couple of detours then, with an affectionate hug, we leave them with a promise that we’ll meet them the other side of the Vale at Ingleby Cross in a couple of days.
They’ve got a day or two of fairly easy walking and it’s also quite beautiful when the weather’s good. Here’s hoping!
Enjoy the snaps.