So Peeps, today’s theme is friendship. We’ll learn about the kind of friendship that is true and longstanding where you visit and meet people that you haven’t seen for years and pick up again where you left off as if it was last week. We’ll also learn about rain, lots of it! Then we’ll close the circle with an example of instantaneous generosity from a friend when a group of comrades have just about had enough of the wet stuff and would appreciate a lift – a man with a van does exactly that. This is a walk with friends on Leyburn Shawl.
We have some old friends visiting from Australia. Currently on a ‘round the world’ ticket they’re staying locally and catching up with as many old contacts as possible. They’ve also shown an interest in the walks that we do and tend to read these missives in an attempt to keep up with what’s happening in the ‘old country’.
So Karen and Dave have arranged this one. It’s a glorious walk along The Shawl at Leyburn and on a good day there are no better views of beautiful Wensleydale framed by trees that line the ridge but not obtrusive so the pictures you see are not spoilt or obstructed.
We meet in Grove Square near the police station, parking is free, we have three cars and three spare places, result!
After a brief getting ready session we make our way to Shawl Terrace via a shop for some sandwiches and up onto the ridge where we can see across to Penhill with ease but the usual view along the dale is obscured by a fine mist and above it some very heavy looking clouds that are to bring us some significant rain as we progress around this lovely walk.
The first mile is along the ridge known as Leyburn Shawl. There are a number of rumours and folk tales regarding the origin of the name and Peter Fleming regaled us of the most common one on a previous walk.
Apparently, Mary Queen of Scotts was staying at Bolton Castle at the behest of Elizabeth then queen. In fact she’d had something of a nomadic life as she’d been ‘invited’ to stay at various castles at Elizabeth’s pleasure for the last 18 years following a bit of throne work for France as well as looking after the interests of the Scottish throne from the age of 6 days. She’d had the misfortune to be born a girl which made her a chattel for barter and was betrothed to be married to the son of Henry II of France who was three at the time, she was five. The intention was to unite France and Scotland with a view to beating the shit out of the English. Henry II of France was prone to pissing everyone off (a bit like Kim Jong-un) and in this case, he proclaimed Dauphin and Mary to be King and Queen of England. It is recorded that her governess was Lady Mary Fleming, any relative Peter? Anyway, I digress…
Mary was rumoured to have a made an escape bid from Bolton Castle and did manage to put some distance between her and the guards and dogs but she lost her shawl and it was this that led them to find her. She did manage to remain alive for a little longer but was eventually transferred to Fotheringay and subsequently executed for plotting against Elizabeth. There are also tales to indicate that the name Shaw-el means wooded hillside and Old Norse ‘Schalle’ meaning huts or shelters.
We’re walking along the ridge now with an old quarry on our right and beautiful Wensleydale on our left.
The view is slightly impeded by drizzle and it seems set in for the day but the banter between our different groups is good and we’re well dressed for the part. There is a point at which we have the opportunity to turn left and Dave encourages us to carry on along the ridge. Either way there’s every possibility of encountering some significant mud as the rain begins to get serious.
We begin some descent and arrive at a point where we’re about to leave the relative protection of the trees and cross some fields. This happens as the heavens open and the level of dampness ramps up to extreme. We do contemplate waiting for an abatement but a quick check on smart phones confirms what we already know; it’s going to be like this until mid afternoon.
The ladies have had the foresight to bring brollies and they’re out now with a vengeance. The next two fields on a sunny day would be a delight. They’re full blown meadows with lots of clover and buttercups although neither are on show today. The rain is ramping up even more and is now being blown horizontal. Some of us have donned waterproof over-trousers and they’re certainly earning their keep. Our Gortex tops have drawstrings around the face if wearing the hood and the neck if not; either way they’re tightened to choking level to keep out the water currently running from our hair and channelled by the bone structure in our neck to the point where the seal is working overtime to impede the flow to our upper body.
More clouds are gathering as we cross the Wensleydale railwayline but we have a short break in the torrent as we chat and walk along the road to pick up the track and path again towards Bolton Hall. The walk down this part is pleasant and allows me to catch up with Howard who I’ve not seen for several years. That’s the wonderful thing about walking groups, the dynamics automatically arrange walking couplets that change from time to time enabling vastly different conversational topics to be covered and I get 10 valuable minutes with Howard catching up on Australia and family.
Now I’m in front and by myself for a short while and my mind drifts to thought about two magnificent holidays with the family in Australia and staying with Howard and Eileen. The kids were small and we spent much of the time on the beach. One night we went to see the Fairy Penguins on Phillip Island near Melbourne. It was bitterly cold and this was a bit of a shock as we thought of Oz as being warm. We were well rewarded though as they came surfing in on breakers and with a final flourish they’d go from the surfing horizontal to vertical and land feet first on the sand their bellies wobbling like concertinas as the payload of fish that they’d gathered with a view to feeding their young sloshed around in their bellies and looked like they’d burst. Then came the parade as they passed us on the way to their holes where the youngster were starting to call for their meals. There were signs every few yards not to take flash photography and the vast majority took note and set their cameras to inhibit the flash, the Japanese; however, completely ignored all the signs and blasted away with flashes turned to maximum to deal with the reach. Then a large Australian lady, without a microphone, remonstrated with them at a volume that was to be admired. It scared the crap out of me but had the desired effect on the adding to those that were near her in an undertone, “Fucking Japanese, why don’t they piss off with their retina burning flashes, just ban the bastards…”. I’ve always admired the directness of the Ozzies and this one turned out to be a ranger on duty!
We’re walking along a drive that leads to various farms and Bolton Hall and occasionally there’ll be a shout from the people at the front or at the rear that there is a car approaching. During one of these calls I look back and see some seriously dark clouds blowing at some speed from the West. They’re aligned almost perfectly with the dale so, I think, we’re going to get some more. If you’re not sure of understatement it’s what happens next; it gets really, really wet. We’re all somewhat damp from the previous rain, some of us from slightly inadequate clothes and others from the sweat inside entirely waterproof garments that are purported to breath; well when you get rain like this it can’t breathe so you sweat and become damp anyway. It’s certainly better than having rain come through your clothes and then run down your body in rivers but you do end up damp. The amount of rain we have today means we are getting to the point where the moisture on our skin is beginning to make us feel chilled, not the dangerously cold, energy sapping feeling that you can get in winter if you’re not careful but uncomfortable nonetheless.
We’re talking now of calling at the pub in Wensley and that one thought certainly perks us up. We arrive at the pub and there’s a perfect little Dutch barn thingy that looks like it’s been set up for smokers, there are infrared heaters and within a couple of minutes they’re turned on. It’s sandwich time whilst some of us go inside to return with hot coffees and teas. The gang is all smiles and in fairness spirits never dipped on this walk. We rarely get this wet so when it happens it’s a case of getting your head down and dealing with it.
The heavens remain open and George makes a call to Pete to let him know where we are and if he wants to join us. George the Tracker and I have already decided to walk the last two miles to get the car and pick the others up but as it happens it’s unnecessary as Peter offers to pick up the drivers to do exactly that.
Twenty minutes and several sandwiches, hot drinks and in the odd case a beer and Peter turns up in his seven seater. He’s sporting some seriously heavy rain gear and a lot of lip about going out in the rain then rubs it in a bit by telling us about what nice weather there’d been the previous day.
Fifteen minutes later and we’re at our cars ready to pick up the rest of the crew.
This is a great walk. Safe enough in most weathers in summer but during other seasons not worth any risks. Choose a blue sky day and you’ll be rewarded with the best views and a wonderful relatively easy walk…G..x
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PS. No guest walkers or antipodeans were drowned during this walk.