Walk – Swainby, Square Corner, Osmotherley – Jan 2016
We laugh at the rain!
We planned this in the usual way over a few glasses of golden water at the office. The intention is to extend my fitness and give Dave a bit of a stress test. As it turns out it also tests our choice of footwear and clothing.
We assemble outside All Saints ready for the X80 old farts passes gripped in our little palms. The driver, Marion, is up beat, helpful and friendly as she asks where we’re going so that she can establish the bus that is appropriate. I’ve said it before but I must reiterate, this Abbots service is top notch and the staff are a delight.
The Governor is on the Bedale service so there is a short period of breath holding as we wait for him on the connection. There’s no issue though as he arrives with 5 minutes to spare. The Gov does a quick count up and declares us present as we stampede for the back seats!
The journey is only a few minutes that takes in the delights of the Friarage Hospital and Brompton before it hits the road for Swainby. We’re spoilt for views on a good day but today is overcast and squally on the outside but in the bus we’re upbeat and in good form.
A cheery wave from Marion sees us off at Swainby and we form a militarily paired procession along Swainby High Street and on towards Shepherd Hill. This part of our walk acts as the warm up and is an essential prerequisite to ‘Cardiac Hill’ where the heart rate is elevated and veins and arteries suddenly have a major logistical job moving nutrients around our bodies with major emphasis on our lungs and legs. If Flemmers had been here the emphasis would have included his vocal chords.
I show the agreed route as plotted against a 1:25000 Ordnance Survey Map lurking within the unbelievable electronics within my iPhone I also instructed it to keep an eye on the satellites that will shepherd us across some fairly baron terrain atop the North Yorkshire Moors. For info, I also keep a printed copy these days following a technology breakdown when we were walking from Redmire to Leyburn!
We make good time to the cross roads of the Cleveland Way and before we know it, we’re looking at Whorl Hill to our left, Scugdale at ten o’clock and Clain Wood to our right. We’re in the lee of the moors so the extremities of the wind are broken but the sight of the clouds scooting across the sky is a good indicator of what we’re about to experience at the top.
I’m often asked what pleasure there is in walking in the wind, rain and cold and the answer is that, if you’re dressed appropriately then it may be windy and wet outside but inside the shelter of your clothes and boots it’s usually warm and dry.
When the rest of the countryside is monochrome and drab and the weather cold and grey then other things jump out at you. Things that are normally eclipsed by the beauty of the more vibrant colours of daffodils in spring time and carpets of buttecups, dandelions and daisies in summer.
If it’s a grey day then look for lichen on the leeward side of trees and walls. It’s so soft, green and smooth it could be used as bedding for an Irish Princess. This year there is the occasional aconite unusually it’s a single, lonely beacon probably because of the warm weather. When they really get their act together towards the end of the month and then into February the yellow will raise your heartbeat without the need for exercise. Most of all look out for the odd glimpse of blue through the grey clouds. The promise of what might be, it lifts the spirit and raises hope for the visual treat of a rainbow followed by the gentle glow of the sun on your skin. It’s all there if you want to look.
We’ve reached the cattle grid now and the wind is really starting to bite. We zip up, fasten buttons and click press studs that are normally ignored. I don a hat and wish I’d got the one with ear flaps – note to self, Sam Turners tomorrow! The rain or rather, low cloud, is fine, very fine droplets and will penetrate anything but the best of clothing. My glasses are like frosted panes and I remove them finding it easier to see without them. After 10 minutes I put them back on again working on the principle that they protect my naked eye and live with having to wipe them every few minutes to maintain visibility.
We stop at a grouse butt (hide) to capture the spirit of the day on camera and are treated to a pair of the little beasties taking off and with a torrent of abuse presumably aimed at us and it struck me that they’re probably ‘easier’ to hit at this low level. Note I didn’t use the word ‘easy’.
A little further along and we discover a stone that looks like it’s been covered with a beautiful patch work quilt. The coloured pattern is all over one side. We take the opportunity for a photoshoot and examine the marking in detail but come to no conclusions regarding cause.
Swainby Shooting House, a small barn like structure can now be seen about a mile away. We know that if we’re really stuffed then this is open and could be used to rest or shelter. Today will be nowhere near that level of exposure but it’s nice to know it’s there.
Walking and talking has the effect of demolishing time and before we know it we’re walking around to the back of it for a pee. No idea why, there isn’t another person that we can see for miles in any direction but the added shelter from the cutting wind does mean we spend a little less time looking for errr, things!
The path can be seen in bursts over the moor where it rises above the bracken and heather. Whilst there’s still a long way to go its like the Shooting House behind us, an encouraging lure in the right direction.
No-one has noticed but it’s stopped raining and whilst the wind is still a bit wild we can see for a good mile or so and the road to Square Corner is now identifiable at 2 o’clock in the distance.
At Square Corner we decide that catching the 1330 bus is doable but would put pressure on us and spoil the day so we ease off and walk the steps to Oakdale with a sensible degree of care. This is a good move as there are plenty of places where cameras are poised ready for a fall. Whilst there is the odd slip we have the dual disappointment and relief that none of our intrepid walkers fall but we don’t get any photograph or footage for the mickey take in the pub over lunch. For the record we’re always happy with that situation!
Oakdale is looking good following the recent close down and landscaping and we’re treated to a treecreeper making its way up a trunk gobbling up unsuspecting invertebrates on the way. We’re regaled with a short lesson on its habits by Dave who surprises and delights us with his knowledge.
We climb out of Oakdale and leave Big Wood behind us to return to the road over Cod Beck and into Osmotherley.
The Queen Catherine is welcome and welcoming with an open fire where we commandeer the seats in the corner. The menu is comprehensive and I opt for the corned beef pie which I’ve mentioned before. It’s big, tasty and the pastry sublime. Ask for extra gravy ‘cos that’s good too.
At half three we form an orderly queue for the Abbots bus and it appears, as if by magic, bang on time.
Marion welcomes us back on board with a smile and we make our to the seats. I find a purse and duly hand it to Marion who identifies the likely owner when I point out the seat – this is rural living at its best!
The walk is 7.5 miles and there are hills at the beginning of about 2 miles and the second mile is quite challenging. The moors are easy and well tracked, the air is fabulous but the steps down to Oakdale are slippery (as steps on the moors are prone to be). Just take care. You can use an app as I did but take a paper backup map. I’ll be reviewing the three mapping apps that I’ve used in the future. Don’t forget, just because the weather’s not good doesn’t mean you have to stay in. Enjoy the photos…G. x
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