On reflection, a bacon sandwich in the Bolton Arms at Redmire was probably not the best thing to have when I’m supposed to be on a diet. But, owing to my accute hunger, I wasn’t really in a mood to consider the calorie content of my lunch. The hardest part was resisting the urge to indulge in a slice of cake for desert – I hope, dear reader, that you appreciate the hardships I endure on your behalf.
16. Redmire Village (c) Kim Ralls
Anyway, having finished lunch I was ready to head back for Aysgarth. I walked through Redmire underneath a beautifully clear sky and followed a side street down to the main road and over a humpbacked bridge and left down a track.
The track changed rapidly from concrete to gravel to mud and I was beginning to lament my lack of a pair of decent walking boots – the boots I wear are little better than trainers with slightly sturdier soles.
17. The track heads off to the left – prepare for mud (c) Kim Ralls
I wallowed and slithered along the track, through two farms and all the while trying to enjoy the sunshine and the sounds of the countryside. Those who’ve read some of my earlier blog entries will know that I have a thing about photographing curlews. I think they’re magnificent birds and with that beak it’s hard to miss them. However, my camera lens can’t zoom in beyond 55mm and the birds normally keep well beyond that distance so all I usually get are black specs in a photo that may or may not be a bird.
On this occasion, I heard their disctinctive calls over the fields and started looking eagerly for them. There was one taking off and gliding overhead and I duly raised my camera and snapped away.
The result, after a bit of cropping, wasn’t too bad. I mean, you can at least tell it’s a bird.
Having filled up a large portion of my memory card with bad photos of curlews, I decided it was time to move on and at this point I had a little challenge in mind. Shortly after moving up to the Dales, my sister and I decided to walk from Aysgarth to Leyburn one day, going up through Redmire and down to Leyburn via the Shawl. Part of our route required us to cross the river over a set of stepping stones, except that there had been a lot of rain over the previous days and so the stones were deep underwater and neither of us fancied trying to cross – my sister has an advantage over me in that she can at least swim.
Anyway, you might have noticed that I don’t like leaving things unfinished and so walking back to Aysgarth I thought it might be nice to cross over on the stones and walk back up along the river bank to the churchyard above the falls.
Some way beyond the second farm (Low Thoresby on the map) there is a sign pointing down a bridleway towards the river. The bridleway was slightly flooded and I began to get a sinking feeling. It wasn’t deep, but I couldn’t help wondering if this meant the stones would be impassible again. Oh well, a few extra paces wouldn’t hurt and, let’s be honest, I can always do with the exercise.
Avoiding the worst of the water, I scrambled down the bridleway and startled a few rabbits clustered around a drystone wall. Approaching the riverbank the trees took on a decidedly scraggly, dry look like the ones you see in dark woods in ghost stories. I could imagine thin, crackling branches moving with more than the breeze on cold nights beneath a sliver of bright moon and decided never to come down here on such a night if only to stop my imagination giving me a heart attack.
I could hear the river before I saw it, a dark streak making its lazy way between tree-lined banks where birds darted in search of insects to munch.
And there were the stones. Or, at least, the froth as the water rushed over their tops and put paid, yet again, to my plans to cross there. On the far bank, a pair of walkers in bright coats were sat with their sandwiches. We waved at each other before I turned to head back up to the main track – I wouldn’t have minded if it hadn’t meant wading through the flooded bridleway again.
Back on track, as it were, I slogged through the mud towards the line of the dismantled railway, pausing only to look at a single glove left on top of a fence post and seemingly waiting for someone to come and claim it.
Eventually the track opened out just as a phalanx of clouds rolled in across the sun and plunged the countryside into a dim twilight, a marked change from the day so far. To my right stood the farm of High Thorseby and here the path opened out into a small nature reserve complete with a group of geese honking like squeaky gates as they flew overhead, no doubt wondering why this idiot with a camera was struggling along in the mud when it would be so much easier to fly.
They didn’t let me take their photo.
The photos don’t quite demonstrate just how boggy the ground was at this point – you have no idea how close I came to going back to the stepping stones and trying my luck.
Ahead I could see the ridge that marked the line of the old railway – the Wensleydale Railway organisation are trying to raise the funds to connect the line all the way to the Settle to Carlisle as it once did – and here I turned away to head over the fields just as the sun came back out and lifted my spirits, although I’d have been happier if it had dried my trouser legs.
The best part about this last stretch of the walk is that it’s mostly downhill which, after a day’s hard slog, was a great relief. Had I the energy, I might even have been inclined to run down the last few… yeah, who am I kidding?
I passed through the last farm on my route, a small collection of buildings called Hollins House. The path at this point wasn’t well signposted and I had to check the map several times, although it wasn’t quite detailed enough. In short, head diagonally through the farmyard (closing all gates behind you, mind) and you can’t go wrong.
From here it was a short distance to the lower falls and the final ‘home’ stretch up to the car park. I was footsore and covered in mud at this point, but the sense of achievement was worth all the hard toil through mud and up and down the hills – not to mention the lack of a cream tea at the castle.
I wondered up through the woods and through the car park, watching yet more people following the road round from the Upper Falls instead of the perfectly serviceable footpath. I like symmetry in things and a final photo of the Upper Falls seemed the best way to end my day’s outing, especially as the sun had come out once more as if on cue.