I’m in the North Yorkshire town of Richmond. By far the largest settlement on the route, Richmond is humming with zippy tiny cars and there’s even a roving carnival in town. It’s my only rest day, so I plan to walk as little as possible.
By my count, I’ve walked 128 miles so far and I’m just over 60% done with the Coast to Coast. Luckily for my knees, the remaining 40% is much flatter. Tomorrow I have a whopping 22-mile walk (which looks like it will be closer to 25) but it’s all flat.
Day 7: Keld to Reeth
It’s warming up! I walked the 13 miles between Keld and Reeth with a smile the whole way. My knees were not any better but I was in the Yorkshire Dales and the weather was glorious.
Today was the first day of walking without some sort of challenge, no huge hills, no bogs, no long distances, just a pure light-hearted amble. It was by far my most enjoyable walking day to date.
There were two paths from which to choose, one over a high route on the tops of the Dales and one down along the banks of the River Swale. I chose the river route because there were two small villages on the way.
Around 10 am I strolled into the fantastically charming village of Muker, just a half mile off the route. Postcard perfect North Yorkshire village. It took the smallest effort to imagine strolling the same narrow cobblestone roads 200 years ago.
On the way of out Muker I thought I would use my navigational skills to get me back on the trail without backtracking to the bridge I walked in on. My navigational skills sorely lacking, I soon found myself hopping and slipping on moss covered rocks trying to get through stream tributaries of the River Swale. At some point, well beyond the point of turning back, I realized I would just have to take my shoes off and wade through the river to get back the trail. The water wasn’t all that deep but the floor was covered with slimy rounded rocks that made balance impossible. It’s a wonder I didn’t twist an ankle.
My unnecessary risk accomplished for the day, I breezed through the tiny village of Gunnerside and checked into my comfortable B&B in the large village of Reeth. Had a few beers, a big plate of meat, and called it a night.
Day 8: Reeth to Richmond
My walk to Richmond was to be the easiest day of the route. Less than 11 miles and no huge obstacles.
It was another sunny day, even sweltering at times. I walked through meadows in bloom punctuated by the occasional sleepy hamlet. To my relief, my knees dropped from about a 7.5 on the pain scale to a 3 or 4.
Not long after I booked my trip, CAMRA (the campaign for real ale) announced their prestigious National Pub of the Year award. I use to the CAMRA guide for all my UK traveling to find the best pubs. When I learned that the 2016 pub of the year was a mere mile off the Coast to Coast, I was delighted.
It took a bit of planning to work out the route, but I plotted a course to reach the George and Dragon in the one street village of Hudswell. I found a network of lesser known footpaths to get me close to a bridge over the river, hopped a few walls and headed toward the village. Unfortunately, I didn’t account for the steep ridge I encountered that separated me from Hudswell.
The path over the ridge started straightforward enough, it even had a staircase. But I soon found myself bushwacking up yet another steep hill. At the top, I was greeted by a barbed wire fence. I knew there would be a turnstile somewhere close but the path was overgrown and I couldn’t see anything. And then I heard voices. I followed the voices and came upon a group of 5 retirement-aged men sitting in front of a half constructed turnstile. They were members of a volunteer group that maintains the footpaths in the Yorkshire Dales. We had some good natured banter and they pointed me in the direction of the pub.
A few minutes later I found myself sitting in one of the most comfortable laid back pubs I’ve ever been. Stunning views of the Dales, perfectly conditioned beers, music via vinyl, and friendly folks everywhere.
They seemed to be pushing the barbecue angle so I went for a rack of baby backs. Just to be sure I had the waitress ask how they were cooked because in the UK I wouldn’t put it past a country pub to boil their ribs. While not smoked, the ribs were just fine. I had three pints and would have gladly stayed for a few more if the pub wasn’t closing to prepare for dinner and I still had a couple miles to walk.
I entered Richmond in the best possible mood. The view of Richmond from my path was glorious. Something out of Game of Thrones: a picturesque medieval town complete with an intact castle keep, an arched cobblestone bridge, and the occasional church spire stroking the horizon with exclamation points.
I wanted to go to a museum about 10 miles away today but the cab fares are egregious. Whatever I do, I have little doubt that I will end up back at the George and Dragon.