Day 14. Sunday, 19th June, 2016. Clay Bank Top to Church Houses

Saying “Goodbye” to Wolfgang and The Buck Inn

The breakfast was commensurate with The Buck’s hospitality. Before nine o’clock, Wolfgang was taking us north, back to Clay Bank Top, expounding upon his theories and philosophies. He had proved to be a marvellous host.

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The day’s walk started with a stiff and long climb to gain Carr Ridge. The path continued south- east and then east over Urra Moor. Near a trig point (Round Hill), there was a fellow rambler sitting on a stone, paying homage to the sunshine, the heather and the skylark. It was indeed a beautiful moment in this wild, inhospitable terrain. We chatted about more earthbound matters, such as the impending referendum about EU membership; just four days away!

After the initial climb, the walk was pretty well on the level. Not long after the trig point, we came to Bloworth Crossing, one of those major ramblers’ crossroads in the middle of nowhere! The Cleveland Way, which we had followed since the previous morn, took a left and headed north, whilst the C2C relentlessly ploughed straight ahead; east-south-east. We were now on a disused railway track, so any gradients proved to be extremely gentle.

We took up with a veteran long- distance path walker who hailed from Minnesota. Although we didn’t discover his name, we found out that he was a retired attorney with republican sympathies; he had taught maths at an inner- city school in Minneapolis for the last years of his working life. He was in his seventies, but he set a hot pace! We therefore arrived at our destination for the day, Blakey Ridge, by lunchtime.

The Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge

Blakey Ridge is really the name given to the topographical feature. There is no settlement as such, but there is the isolated Lion Inn. This seems to be quite a landmark for ramblers, and many C2Cers were staying in the inn’s rooms. The place was heaving, although most had come by motor vehicle judging by the car park. A couple of ladies walking with their dogs were eating outside; we had bumped into them on the previous evening as they had stayed at Chop Gate. So we sat outside, at the adjacent table. It was freezing! Huddled in our anoraks, we ate our sandwiches with white, shivering hands. The ladies were carrying on to Grosmont, a good 12 miles down the C2C; they only had just over a week available to them, and so they were covering a good 20 miles a day; they had little experience of long distance walking, and the shorter of the two was carrying some serious blisters with her. Tough Yorkshire lasses to be sure!

We, on the other hand, were staying a couple of miles to the south-west, as we hadn’t been able to get in at the Lion Inn. We walked south down the busy Blakey Road, before taking a right down a steep lane into the pretty valley of Farndale. The sun came out, the wind dropped, we stripped off our anoraks. The transition from windy moor to verdant valley seemed dramatically sudden, even on foot. We were staying in the hamlet of Church Houses, and its first landmark was its unusual cricket pitch. Sheep were grazing in a field in the centre of which was a strip protected by plastic webbing held as vertical as possible by metal stakes. It seemed, from our vantage point on the lane, that the outfield rose steeply in all directions from this wicket. Near the hedge sat a ramshackle hut, which I presumed was their scorers’ box. Later on, our landlady informed us that Higher Farndale had won the league the previous season; I bet they don’t lose many home games!

Not far beyond the ground’s boundary, we found the Feversham Arms, a neat, quiet country pub. Our room wasn’t very big, but it was well equipped, and had a good view down the dale. We had a pint in the bar, and as we felt extremely comfortable, we stayed put for our evening meal rather than move into the dining room. The food was excellent, in particular, the vegetables, which were seasonal and crisp. We had been on the receiving end of some high quality hospitality, not only on this Sunday evening, but also on the preceding stopover. The Buck Inn and Feversham Arms are as different as chalk and cheese. But both reflect the personalities of their proprietors; the attention to detail and the friendliness shone through.

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