Sunday, 31 January 2016

No Roman around today!

Sunday 24th January 2016.  31km 

I was home alone last night as Rachel and her parents attended a Burn’s Night supper. In some respects it was nice to have somewhere very familiar to just paddle around in and have a quiet night to myself. My evening meal consisted of more curry from the night before…….one can never have enough curry sometimes! Once my appetite was replete it was down to preparing the next days walk, highlighting the route and ensuring that my bag was packed ready for an early morning departure. 

The alarm went of again before 7am and I slowly dragged my body out a nice warm bed. Within twenty minutes breakfast was over and I was completing my finally packing to include food supplies needed for the day. After the previous days walk and only carrying a day bag I was keen to off load as much from what I had previously been carrying in my larger bag. Surprise, surprise I am sure I got rid of about 4 kilos of weight, it might not seem a lot, but over rough undulating terrain even 1 kilo can really make a difference. 

By 8am I was in the car and heading out of the driveway to be dropped off at Hexham Abbey. Once again Rachel was dropping me off before heading home, so when we arrived at Hexham Abbey Rachel was being a bit clingy, I don’t think she wanted me to go…… but a man must do what a man must do, and work was calling me. After a lengthy farewell and much hugging and kissing later ( sorry I should have added a warning declaration to readers of this blog ) I turned the corner and we were both out of each other's site. 

There has been a church on the site of Hexham Abbey for over 1300 years since Etheldreda, Queen of Northumbria made a grant of lands to Wifrids, Bishop of York c.674. Wilfrids Benedictine Abbey was constructed from the remains of Roman stone from the area. It is a wonderful peaceful place and I would recommend popping in if you are in the area. 

My route took me directly to the railway line and along Cycle route 72 before following the river. Unfortunately due to the height of the recent floods the footpath had fallen victim and I was forced to continue on the road through Fourstones and Newborough. Newbrough and Fourstones are on the Stanegate Roman road, built in A.D. 71, which runs from the east to the west of England and formed the original northern frontier before the building of Hadrian’s wall. Newbrough’s church stands on the site of one of the line of forts along this road. 

Soon I was leaving the tarmac behind as I headed across the moor to the Roman Military road. There was no sign of a footpath and once again I had to take a grid bearing, identify a point to aim for in the distance and just walk in a straight line irrespective of what lay ahead of me. Once more I bog hopped my way through squelchy, smelly muddy water. Just before reaching the end of the section the weather finally let me down and a windy squall of horizontal fine rain increased in persistence forcing me stop and put my waterproofs on. I had been walking for about ten minutes when my sixth sense kicked in, something was wrong, the Feng Shui did not feel write. I stopped and collected myself, thought long deep and hard……a rare experience for me nowadays! Agh….walking pole, where was my walking pole I thought? I retraced my steps hoping it was close at hand, maybe I had left at the gate I had to open, maybe it was at the stile before that. All sorts of dramas and scenarios were going through my head. Fortunately at the first stile, there is was patiently waiting for me to return. I am sure it smiled when it was in my hand once more….. 

Once on the Military road I played dodge the very fast 'are walkers supposed be treated like bowling pins ?' crazy car drivers.  I was now following the line of Hadrian’s Wall passing the fort called Brocolitia, and the site of the 3rd century Temple of Mithras. Thankfully, after bounding from road to grass verge, road to grass verge repeatedly like a demented bunny I turned right and once more followed a direct line Again the path faded from an ancient byway to nothingness. Fortunately the Gods were looking favourably upon me and I was able to take advantage of walking on top of a derelict stone wall that was nothing but very very lumpy grass, hard to walk on but far easier than being swallowed by a bog. Several times I encountered huge pools of deep water that had congregated within the confines of a closed gateway that required precision foot placing to avoid drowning. These were missed opportunities of seeing me triple salchow and pirouette on sods of earth or wobbly stones as I wrestled to open and close gates without mishap. There were also a couple of bridges over burns that had to be crossed and once more my athletic graces were brought to the fore as I slipped and slid along the wet, greasy wooden boards like Bambi on ice. I have never encountered such a plethora of obstacles along a path for some time and I was glad when I finally reached a tarmac surface. I was in such euphoria that I had to sit down and have a sandwich to celebrate. 

It was well after midday and I had only completed half the distance, so after a quick respite I set off once more. Hadrian’s wall was behind me now and I was in what used to be the Border Reivers territory. I had avoided being TWOC’d in Middlesbrough and now had the thought of whether I would be safe crossing through this land that was once home to the lawless gang of horsemen, or would I encounter a group lost in time? I constantly gazed around, kept watch and listened out for the whinny of a horse that might give them away. 

The fine mizzle of rain had eased off but I kept my waterproofs on and increased my pace along the road trying to make up the time I had lost crossing the boggy wastelands. I left the road and turned onto another ancient Byway before reaching the Pennine Way, a 267 mile path from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholme in Scotland. I was only following it to Bellingham today. 

I was starting to feel the exertion of the day by late afternoon and I was starting to wish the end would come soon. By now I was starting to climb and this was only increasing my sense of fatigue. My legs were tired from having never really been able to go in a straight line what with all the slipping and sliding around I had endured and I was a sweaty uncomfortable mess inside my waterproofs. 

Ahead lay Shitlington Crag and by now the light was starting to change as the end of the daylight approached. I bravely battled on and at the top I was nearly blown off my feet. I ducked behind a wall to recover and as I continued the fine wet mizzley rain started again. At last I was back on a decent track but the was short lived as the path turned left I was greeted with one final boggy, smelly waterlogged stretch of moor to end the day on. Again there was no sign of a path and I slowly criss crossed my way to the road before turning left again and my hotel in Bellingham. I am often surprised by accommodation givers different approaches to wet, smelly, muddy walkers and tonight was no exception. I took advantage of getting as much mud off my boots outside and I peeled my soggy waterproof trousers off and bundled them into a position where I would not drip mud everywhere. At reception I was met with a cheery Geordie greeting, and once checked-in  was shown to my room. As asked if I needed to take my muddy boots off and received the response…Na bother! 

My room was a Palace, the bed was huge, it was not raining inside and it was warm ….I was a very tired Happy Bunny! 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Rested and raring to go!

Saturday 23rd January 2016.  Consett to Hexham - 30km

The previous evening saw me staying at my in-laws only 30 minutes away. After a hot bath to warm my cockles, a curry and really good nights sleep I was fully recharged and almost running out of the door for the start of that day's walk. One added advantage of staying over at the same place for 2 nights was the fact that I could swap carrying everything, to managing with a day bag. It really was a nice feeling to carry only the essentials for a days walk. 

I was dropped off at the start by Rachel and after a quick stop at the local supermarket for supplies for the day, I was soon heading downhill out of Blackhills, Consett. Today was going to be a long undulating day as I made my way through the Northumbrian hills. 

Initially I started alongside the river and then was directed across two fields, right across the middle of them. I confirmed
alternatives with a dog walker and elected to take the more direct route by using the edges of the fields. This initially was a sound idea but the local horsey population had had the same idea and the path was heavy going and almost as badly churned up as the field. 

I was soon on terra ferma, and after passing the wonderful sounding village of Unthank I slowly climbed out of one valley into the next. I have been known to take a detour every now and then and today was no exception. I chose to do this merely to make the day more exciting and to keep myself on my toes! 

My planned route was to take me along the appropriately named Coal Road through the Slaley Estate and Slaley Hall but my head was in la la land. As I walked along the road, bidding good morning to the various cyclists that whizzed past me I came across the local hunt that were in full whato and phaw phaw mode, as they sat on their steeds that were whinnying and stamping their feet. They were sprawled and spread eagled across the side of the road as if they owned the place…….well maybe they did! What I failed to notice was that they were in actual fact totally blocking the road I should have taken and I only became aware of this when my inbred sixth sense told me something was not quite right. As I checked my map, I realised far too late to turn back that I’d missed my turn. Once more I gave my self a severe and good telling off but as the road took me in the same direction I carried on, and at the last moment cut left across fields to join my intended path. 

By the time I had reached the village of Slaley and mile eleven, I was ready for a break. There were no cafes to be found although there was a pub which was now owned by the community. I felt that if I went in I was in danger of not coming out. I paused for fifteen minutes and a bite to eat in the covered entrance to the local church. It was a welcome spot with a small platform to sit on and suitable shelter from the cold, biting wind. 

With the impending dark night looming, I packed my bag back up, retrieved the next map and was off again. Once more my route continued along the roadside and again I had to play 'dodge the cars' as they flew past me at an alarming rate, virtually eating up the verge that I was walking on. 

After several near death experiences I was relieved to leave the road and once again head up a hill before descending to and crossing a river. My path went right, but to the left was a large bungalow in landscaped grounds with the owner ( or one of his minions ) cutting the grass. It’s January no-one should be cutting the grass at this time of year! 

I passed through the woods and the Hamlet of Ordley, back into civilisation following the Pennine Way. The final stage of the day involved a slow steady climb before reaching a point where Hexham was revealed below with the Abbey the central focus. I descended down into the town, through the pedestrian street and into the Abbey to finish the day.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Car fire stops walk!

Friday 22nd January 2016 - 24.5km

My accommodation last night was in the St Johns University halls of residence just behind
Durham cathedral. The room was cozy, with everything I needed and was surprisingly quiet. I woke up an hour before breakfast to complete the morning's routine and have my bag packed ready for an 8.30am start.

Breakfast was part of my accommodation deal and just before 8am I was queueing with resident students waiting for the door to open. At 8 am prompt the doors opened and like a lemming I followed the duties of everyone else. For me it was a bit like being back queueing for school dinners. At the hot food section, I apologised for being a vegetarian and was offered a very well cooked hash brown and one braised tomato. I hovered slightly and was then told that the eggs were on their way……..Now I think that at this point the Trade Descriptions Inspectors should have stepped in! Eggs, Eggs, a steaming baking dish of pale yellow, very flat looking congealed thing was put in the place of the eggs. I guess this was what they loosely described as scrambled egg, although it bore no resemblance. My thoughts must have been read because as soon as the pale congealed slop was put in place then the surface was liberally stroked and chopped up with a large serving spoon. Well I guess that made some difference.  I bravely offered my plate up and yes you guessed it….there was no flavour at all.

After my breakfast experience I was on my way by 8.30am. My route took me through urban Durham to pick up Cycle Route 14 and up one killer hill that woke me up very quickly.

On the outskirts of Durham I picked up Cycle Route 14 and the Lanchester Way another railway line that I followed through ……. by the time I reached Lanchester I had completed 20km and was ready for a coffee. A signpost directed me to the local shops and I headed in that direction. I came across just what I was looking for. I stepped gingerly inside as I was a soggy mess due to the incessant rain outside. I was welcomed in and was informed that the cafe was an Austrian / German coffee house. I took advantage of a strong black coffee and some Apfel Kuchen…..and then another coffee.

Once my energy levels had been raised I stepped outside to see a small van on fire and being dealt with by firemen wearing breathing apparatus. This was right by the path I was supposed to be taking, so like an excited school boy I waited patiently for the fire to be dealt with until I was allowed to pass the site and be on my way.

I continued along the railway to the outskirts of Consett and past the site of the steel works that used to employ the majority of the Consett population in the 1970’s before it was closed.

I had arranged to meet Rachel at a Consett pub so that we could spend the weekend at her parents,  only 30 minutes away by car. The pub we had arranged to meet at was closed, so I went on an impromptu pub crawl and ended up at the Scotch Arms in Blackhills. I checked with the barmaid that they were going to remain open all day ( as Rachel would be a few hours yet ) and once confirmed took advantage of a chip butty and a pint of Haggis Hunter…….delicious.

After a two hour wait Rachel arrived, and I was whisked away at speed, within the legal limit, to a hot bath and a curry.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

A lazy cold day!

Thursday 21st January 2016.  - 17.6km

I was the only guest at the B&B last night and although my room was not en-suite I had the bathroom all to myself and took full advantage of a long hot soak in the tub! Once my skin resembled a prune it was time to get out and do my washing….this felt a bit like being back in Europe on a long walk.

I was asked if I wanted to join my host for dinner and naturally accepted given that there was nowhere else to dine that I was aware of. Dinner was a homemade vegetable hot pot with a sponge and homemade custard for pudding… was delicious.

Breakfast was a lazy affair and I took my time over it whilst having a good chinwag with my
landlady over nothing and something. I was packed and heading out of the door. The air was crisp and cold but so I chose to walk with a jacket on. This proved a wise decision as in no time at all I was toasty warm. My route took me along an old railway line and to the village of Coxhoe. It was strange to be back amongst the hustle and bustle of people and cars. I walked along the main street before heading across the A1/M motorway. I always snigger to myself as I gaze at the traffic whizzing by and the drivers probably dashing off to work.

With the motorway behind me, I crossed another old railway line before dropping down to the River Wear. I continued along the river bank, ascending and descending through woods and along a hillside before reaching a garden gursery. My tradition of having a coffee and a wee snack developed from travelling through Europe has not left me. I checked that there was a coffee shop at the nursery and as I walked into the cafe looking like a wet, smelly, dirty homeless person, I could feel noise briefly pause and eyes falling upon me before customers carried on with their business.

The nursery was declared as a 'hidden gem on the doorstep of Durham' and judging by my
snack I felt that they weren’t wrong.

As I stepped outside ready to set off again the temperature had dropped sufficiently for me to notice. I carried on along the river bank and made a detour due to a landslide. I navigated my way through Durham streets the Cathedral and the end of the day.

Full Steam Ahead!

Wednesday 20th January 2016 - 28.5km

After a good night's sleep I woke looking forward to my breakfast. Little did I know what was in store for me. The previous day whilst visiting the Olde Tea Shop also owned by my B&B landlady, I had entered into a conversation about my breakfast. Having being offered and declined a full english because I am a vegetarian I was offered a mushroom omelette. After me cereal of Luxury Muesli my omelette arrived and OMG what a sad sorry thing it was ! Basically a limp affair, unadorned by anything except fresh air, sitting on a stark white cold plate !!
Disappointment over, I was on my way early as I had a long day ahead. My route took me
straight through a cemetery to reach Middlesbrough’s famous Transporter Bridge and the riverside bank to the edge of Stockton-on-Tees. I joined the Castle Eden Walkway and as I walked into the Industrial Estate I was approached by a dodgy looking person carrying an overnight bag and what looked like and ivory temple in one hand. I lowered my head, but as we drew side by side he asked “know where I can get some smokes mate?”. Mmm,  I quickly uttered that Asda was across the road and carried on without stopping. My route took me past the front door of Middlesbrough prison and I surmised that my “got any smokes” asking person had been a resident of Her Majesties pleasure.

I continued through the urban areas of Stockton interspersed with sections of the old railway line that seemed to be the favourite dumping place of all manner of household detritus….aren’t some humans just animals ,with no pride in the place they live in or near.

Soon Stockton was behind me and my route just went straight on and on and on. It can be tedious walking on old railway lines but this was a living breathing one. My first point of interest was the old railway station that had been converted to a tea room. With a full tummy of  freshly baked cheese scones and hot chocolate I set off once more on and on and on with no left or right turns. Occasionally I was startled as a bicycle whizzed past or a bike bell rang as it crept up on me. Every now and then a dog walker stopped for a chat which helped break the monotony of a path that just went forwards.

To the west of Darlington I finally broke cover and turned left. I had almost forgotten what
that felt like, it was slightly thrilling. As I passed through some woods something in my peripheral vision made me look to the left. Rummaging around the base of some trees was a man…..I thought he was looking for mushrooms but he informed me he was Geocaching. 

The final stage of the day took me across several fields.  It was a slow slog as every step meant an extra layer of mud being added to each boot. It was hard work.

As I entered Trimdon the day was getting late and cold and I was pretty pooped, but I pressed on to my B&B, arriving just as the light was changing.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

TWOC’d ( Taken without consent ) !

Tuesday 19th January 2016 - 19.3km

Today was always going to be a short day so I took the advantage of a slow, lazy start and a leisurely breakfast. Once in the breakfast room of my accommodation I didn’t think I was going to get a cooked breakfast as the staff were in a heated discussion about the duties of the day. It was a strange experience to being ignored, but eventually my order was taken and then my feast arrived. My mind or head must have been in the clouds because it was about 30 minutes into my walk when I realised I had left my walking pole in my room. I never like to go back on my walk so I decided to press on instead.

The route was easy going initially, but soon I was heading into the clouds or was it heaven? The path slowly ascended and continued up and up. For some reason my bag felt quiet heavy today and it was not made easy by my constant slipping and sliding along the muddy, snowy path.

I made a slight detour in a forest, well I missed the path left so I had to retrace my steps to go the right way. In the cloudy weather I donned my waterproof jacket as by now I was sweating buckets. I now knew what it felt like to be an oven basted turkey and it wasn’t pleasant !

The path through the forest was waterlogged and very boggy so I took advantage of following others who had made detours around the obstacles. Eventually I left the forest and reached a wide open space with Middlesbrough unfolding ahead of me down in the valley below. My route continued downhill and by now I was wishing I had gone back for the walking pole. I gingerly made my way downhill, once more with clenched buttocks, and was relieved to arrive at the bottom unscathed…….unclench buttocks and breathe I thought to myself!

Soon I was following an old disused railway line into the heart of Normanby which took me through its urban streets and into the industrial parts of Middlesbrough. It was rough and it was dodgy. My head was down and I was walking without making eye contact with anyone. Why do some people not take pride in where they live, why do they dump rubbish and unwanted household items in streets and fields?

I decided to take the route past Middlesbrough football stadium and walk directly to the edge of the town centre where this stage ended. I have previously worked in Middlesbrough and knew that as the locals used to say, I was on the wrong side of the railway line. The side I was walking on used to be known as the Red Light district. With that in mind and knowing the reputation some of the local population, I was hoping that with all the electronic equipment I was carrying, I was not going to get TWOC’d! 

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Snow Balls!

Monday 18th January 2016 - 28 kilometres

Breakfast was not until 8am despite me being the only guest at this accommodation. The shooting party who were also staying at the pub would no doubt have brekkie later after bagging a few birds, Phaw Phaw! 

With a full stomach and some trepidation I set off into the cold morning air, hopefully I was not going to die today ! I had decided to take the advice of the landlady, and not wishing to repeat part of the previous day's walk, I followed a minor road to the head of the Farndale valley. The going was quiet tough, there had been a fresh sprinkling of snow, so once again I was doing a good impersonation of Torvill and Dean but with no Bolero playing in the background. Eventually, and with a certain pride, I reached the end of the road. I had two choices now, either right across virgin snow or straight ahead on the permissive track.

Right would take me across virgin snow, how deep was it ? Across a stream, how steep were the sides, how deep would it be if I fell in and would I reach the track in the distance that I could see before I died ?

Straight ahead, my options were deep snow but motorbikes had used this so I could follow them. The ground looked very boggy, would I sink with the weight on my back? And would I die that way too ?

With almost certain death either way, I chose to follow the permissive path over an exceptional boggy, smelly, deep squelchy and snowy field, and across a stream using very slippery stones………….I survived!!

With jubilation I turned left over the stream and onto the track that I would follow to get me to the moors track of Rudland Rigg. I was quite happy now - walking and slipping backwards, sidewards and forwards along the virgin snow and then I crossed over a wooden bridge. ‘Wee man’ was keen to see the sights and took the opportunity of a snowy photo shoot on the bridge. Once completed we were on our way………….and then the fun started !

I knew where I wanted to go in the field, I knew how to get there, but there was no sign of any path or footsteps or motorbike tyre tracks, or anything. Just marshy weedy ears poking out of the clean snow, beckoning me to walk across, ready to suck me under the snow in the quagmirey, soupy, smelly water.

Like Rudolph Nureyev I balletted across the tufts of marsh grass to avoid being sucked under and before long I reached the first gate, slightly out of breath but unscarred.

I looked into the next field and surveyed what was in store…..more of the same, up hill, steep, very steep and a gate. Could I get across this one unscathed………….No chance! I set off with renewed confidence, taking it slow and steadily. The snow got deeper, and more slippery. Soon I was on my knees, body still moving forward with inertia ( I didn’t know she was with me! ) I picked myself up, I progressed a few steps, I fell……she was back again, inertia kept me going forwards until I was on my hands and knees. Well this style of walking, nose diving, and lot’s of inertia carried on, until out of breath, I arrived at the gate. I celebrated with a whoopee and several mouthfuls of cold water.

Once I had caught my breath. I checked my position and decided that with no sight of a path or track that the best course of action was to get a fixed position / direction and walk. …….How wrong I was. Within minutes of setting off I put my right foot down and it just kept going, and going and going, only to stop in a very deep smelly boggy hole. I was up to my meat and two veg in snow, it was cold, it was wet and I was very stuck. I tried to move but I could not get enough momentum to get out. I pulled on my foot as hard as I could and suddenly I was free and almost on my back. It reminded me of the farmer and the giant turnip, except there were no turnips here and there were no animals helping me out.

Once upright, on two feet and on firm ground I decided on a new strategy. Rudolph Nureyev had not let me down earlier, so with that in mind I resumed my forward motion. It went like this. Walking pole…poke in the snow a few times to see how deep the snow was, poke a clump of heather close by to see how deep that was. Move forward to said heather. Walking pole…poke in the snow a few time to see how deep the snow was, poke a clump of heather close by to see how deep that was. Move forward to said heather. Walking pole…poke in the snow a few time to see how deep the snow was, poke a clump of heather close by to see how deep that was. Move forward to said heather. Occasionally I got it wrong and yes I was up to the meat and two veg again and again and again. 

Subconsciously I was very proud of myself, because at no time did I ever shout out………I’M GOING TO DIE or HELPPPPPPP! I managed to stay calm throughout the whole process. Maybe my brain was just frozen!

Finally I found a grouse butt almost buried in the snow and that told me I was close to the track. I went in search and sure enough the track or the sign of a track appeared. I waded my way along using the pole poking method and soon I was at the Rudland Rigg. I turned right knowing that civilisation was now not too far away. I just had to put my head down and march because getting to this point had taken an age and I still had 20km ahead of me.

The weather on top of the moors was bleak, no view, just mist. I put my head down and walked until I reached a point where the path forked. I turned right to keep on the Cleveland Way and by now, with a clear view ahead of me, I could see that I was once more in trouble.

The section of path had only been walked on once, probably by a women, with size 1 boots and going in the opposite direction, so I could not walk in those footsteps. Also the snow was furled in waves of deep, very high cliffs of snow. This time it was two steps forward, step with the foot to the highest point…………think about inertia very very hard……..and with great effort move other foot up…..and squeeze buttocks! Would the snow hold my weight, would I sink………….no it held, and so on and so on. But every now and then, after releasing clenched buttocks, thinking the snow was ok…..I sank. There really was no pattern to it, but I am sure it would have looked hilarious had it been filmed……It might have even won an Oscar.

By now my energy levels were fairly sapped but I only had two miles to get to Kildale and it was downhill. How hard could that be? Well the answer was very. I was by now walking on a tarmaced track which was very slippery in places. I shimmied from left to right across the road looking for safe passage, occasionally onto the grass verge or gulley, finally to the main road and a flat surface. 

In Kildale my route took me past Glebe tea rooms and by now I was so knackered and I couldn’t have cared how late I

would arrive at my hotel, I was going to rest. Toasted fruit loaf and a hot chocolate minus marshmallows and cream later, I was ready to go for it. My route continued uphill…..aggghhh. But once at the top I crossed over to the Captain Cook’s monument, basically a concrete / brick pointy needle up to the sky. There was a decent view however, but no time to dilly dally, time was pressing. From the monument it was downhill and again I adopted a new technique. I have learnt alot in these two days of walking. My gait this time had significantly increased in speed, due to that women…..inertia, a slight air of cockiness and a definitive shimmy from side to side to reach solid snow….a bit like a downhill skier but without skies.

Soon I was at the carpark…..I was nearly there, I could feel it in the air. I turned right, there was the sign, two miles….whoppee. I nearly danced but there were people in the carpark. I turned left. STEPS, lots of them, STEPS going UPHILL, who put those there? It was so unfair, I felt a Kevin moment coming on, but I kept myself in check, I am a professional walker. With one step forward at a time, and with some inertia I climbed the Everest of steps to reach the almost flattish moor.

The sheep looked at me in pity, they new and could see I was tired. I could see them willing me onwards. Roseberry Topping came into view and I knew then that I had made it…..I had survived one of the hardest days walk I have had for some time and I hadn’t died !

The birth of a new walk

St Aelred’s Way, Helmsley to Melrose Abbey, Scotland

Sunday 17th January 2016 - 27.5 kilometres

There is nothing like the winter weather to start new walks, and with that in mind today, and with snow on the ground, I set off to re-create a walk from North Yorkshire to Scotland. In the 12th Century the abbot of Rievaulx Abbey was Aelred.  During his term of office he was dedicated to travelling between the daughter abbeys of the Rievaulx Abbey family. Melrose Abbey in Melrose, Scotland was one of the daughter houses of Rievaulx and was the first Cistercian Abbey in Scotland. Aelred would have visited Melrose Abbey frequently, and with this in mind this new walk, which is likely to take 12 days, will be called St Aelred's Way.

Accommodation was expensive in Helmsley so after negotiating with the lady who wears the trousers in our relationship, she offered to drop me off for an 8am start there rather than overnight it locally. We woke up at home at 5am for me to finish packing last minute things. There had not been much more snow overnight and after checking the weather cameras at Sutton Bank, the powers of modern technology, we took that shorter route.

7.30am saw us parking the car in Helmsley square and a after a quick visit to get supplies for the next day's walk ( I had a packed lunch already for today's walk ), I was on my way by 8am. After saying goodbye, I crossed the road and just before I turned out of sight I was called back…………not that Rachel was missing me or that she was after a final goodbye kiss, no -  I had left my food supplies on the back seat of the car. With the food then packed away I set off again but didn't get across the road before I had to return back to the car again - I had forgotten my notebooks and pen.   

Finally, I set off and Helmsley was soon behind me in the morning sunlight. I had elected to take a more direct route to the North Yorkshire Moors. Rather than following the Tabular Way my journey took me across crisp snowy fields to the village of Pockley. This hamlet is adorned with thatched cottages and is a sleepy oasis.

From Pockley with this more direct route in mind, I followed the various lanes to meander North towards Wether Cote farm, and then once more across country. In places the snow was quiet deep so the need for caution reduced the speed of my progress. I descended a steep hillside into Sleightholme Dale, past Sleightholme farm which looked like it had stood there for an eternity -  sadly the stable block was no longer used and was left to decay. After crossing a wooden bridge over a very full and fast flowing stream I was soon once more on Tarmac.

After a final short stretch on a lane I turned right to join a Bridleway, once more I looked back and around me to marvel at the rolling hills dusted with snow like icing sugar on a cake ( oooo ). It really was a beautiful day ( aaaah ). The Bridleway took me East to meet up with the road that would join the Rutland Rigg and my path across the moors. Once on the moors and with snow all around me, my pace was painfully slow. I was staying in a bed and breakfast in Church Houses that night and I had a deadline of 3pm to arrive or wait a further three hours until it opened again. This deadline meant that I could not dilly dally and rather than waste time having a well deserved lunch rest, I chose to eat on the hoof.

The path across the moors, although not suitable for vehicles, was peppered with car tracks that enabled me to move uncaring about what was under my feet or how the deep the snow was. By now I was probably the only person in that hostile environment and I did feel rather vulnerable. It was after lunchtime and the weather was starting to change, it was getting colder and the wind was building up. I added more layers to keep the chill out and the warmth in and by the time I got to the point where I would head east I was quite toasty warm. 

The path down to Church Houses had not been used since snowfall so I ended up walking rather delicately over very deep drifts of snow, hoping that I would not sink up to my knees or even deeper. This is not the first time I have walked in virgin snow and the not knowing what is below your feet is always a real worry. A broken leg, so easily done is the last thing I wanted. Thankfully I descended the moors unscathed and without any dramas. All the time my thoughts were of 'I have to walk back up this in the morning and it will be hard going and very tough'. By 2.15pm I was walking into my bed and breakfast and a very welcome sit down, a warm log fire burning away, a beer and rest at last.