North Yorkshire is sleeping under a blanket of gently drifting mist and fog. According to the Met Office, the difference between the two is visibility. If you can see more than one kilometre then it is mist; however, to inject an element of ambiguity, the highway code states that visibility less than 100 metres is fog! So there you have it, depending on the book you use we could be driving in mist and walking in fog all without a change in the weather and either way we’re not going to see the vale and valley as we normally do.
I remember sitting with a poorly child in the middle of the night with Postman Pat on video. Pat had called in at Greendale Church and on his return to his van had discovered Jess missing; apparently, he’d ran off chasing rabbits. Pat had gone into the fields to look for him and got lost in the fog then things got quite tense when Miss Hubbard advised the Reverend Timms to ring the church bells to guide them back. Pat was ever so grateful.
We must set up a Miss Hubbard to look after our interests when we’re up on the tops in the cloud (or is it mist or fog?)
As we drive into Osmotherley the cloud/fog gets a little thicker but all will be OK as it becomes merely a mist the moment we exit the cars.
We’re all well dressed for the cold, it’s not the bone chilling windy cold, it’s a moist clinging chill that’s not as bad but still needs the protection of a few layers or a Paramo Jacket!
So, our route takes us up the hill towards the reservoir and raises the heart rate nicely. There are numerous jokes about the moistness of the day and one or two groans at the use of the word. As we approach the reservoir the mist is rising gently towards our objective and we’re hoping that it will become cloud and return to the sky by the the time we reach the Drovers Road.
We choose the path through the woods and as we progress I notice a few green shoots just probing the surface of the leaf mulch; however, there’s no sign of life where the ground is bare. I don’t really think we’ll see much more than the odd snowdrop before February but who knows?
The reservoir looks eerie and dangerous in the swirling mist and there wouldn’t be much hope for anyone that has the misfortune to fall in. It would make a great setting for a murder mystery especially with the weather as it is and I’m thinking of a list of folk songs that would do justice to such a scene.
There’s a lot of activity where Cod Beck feeds the reservoir and it transpires that volunteers are building a bridge to enable a complete circumnavigation of the artificial lake for the considerable number of people that come up to Sheep Wash and are tempted by the walk. Pete peels off to talk to them and comes back with a positive message of progress after some hold-ups around Christmas and New Year.
We pause at the Sheep Wash proper and it reminds me of days 50 odd years ago when we would be brought up here in my parents friends car (we couldn’t afford one) and in later years, on our bikes. It has to be said that the number of cars on the road meant riding your bike all over Hambleton when you were nine years old did not reflect badly on your parents. Provided you were back by bedtime your life was your own within the boundaries of custom and acceptable practice and we used this freedom to the limit.
We turn on to the Drovers Road it’s the first serious ascent and it’s running with peaty water. It’s also surprisingly busy with people taking their dogs for walks and the ones coming down the bank right now are covered from head to tail in mud and every one of them wagging with delight.
At the top of the hill the mist is threatening to become fog and the tree that’s normally standing in grand isolation is a murky shadow – then it clears and we can see very nearly to the top of the moor.
There’re a few grouse making far more noise than their physical size would warrant as we disturb them in the heather and the water is running in quite deep rivulets along the track. It’s hard to imagine the drovers bringing huge herds of cattle from the Highlands of Scotland across the Hambleton Hills on the way to the markets of East Anglia, the Midlands and London. I read somewhere that their average pace was just 2 miles per hour which seems quite quick when you consider the beasts that they were driving and the conditions, especially if they were like today, that must have been a real challenge.
The track improves slightly at the moor top and we drop down to Chequers in double quick time.
Chequers used to be an inn and was known for a plaque that was pinned to the door and read,
“Be not in haste,
Step in and taste,
Of course, tomorrow never comes so they were safe with the offer!
We turn right on to the track towards Oakdale avoiding the steps at Square Corner which are lethal in the wet. There’s a nice bench seat that we take advantage of to indulge in a banana break to replenish energy levels and sustain us for the final four kilometres of the walk.
The mist, or is it a fog, increases again slightly as we drop down to Oakdale; this part of the walk is uneventful and we miss the views that it would normally bring; however, it’s more than made up for with wit and repartee…
The reservoirs have been drained and landscaped and whilst it’s not visible this time, I know what a fantastic job has been done and look forward to the next walk on a sunny day.
We emerge back onto the Osmotherley Road and elect to take the Cleveland Way route into the valley and enter the village via the woods and back fields. It’s a bit of a trek especially up the steps but well worth the diversion and the back ally into Ozzy is interesting in its own right.
We assemble in the Queen Cath for a corn beef pie and other options – it didn’t disappoint!
A great walk with wonderful friends and whilst the weather was less than perfect the company was exceptional.
Just under 6 miles. Enjoy the snaps…G..x
The rambling team today was George Layfield, Dave Rider, Peter Hymer, Chris Richardson, George Renwick, Dave Bowman and George Preston.