Hey! Today was our wedding anniversary – 37 years! But the weather wasn’t very celebratory – the day again started with an oppressive darkness. The breakfast was rather jolly with C2Cers present with whom we were not familiar (being slower than most, we kept meeting new people overtaking us). A couple from Atlanta, Georgia (walking against the grain, heading westwards) were introduced to a couple from Alabama, who were adhering to the more conventional west to east route. They greeted each other as neighbours, brought together by chance in this far flung land. The breakfast itself was a great success; I opted for waffles garnished by maple syrup and bacon. Sweet and salty – it was surprisingly delicious!
Many people were travelling the 23 miles all the way to Ingleby Arncliffe. Julia and I knew that this was way beyond our personal irritability limit, and we were splitting this leg into two, stopping off some 12-13 miles down the route. We started by going backwards, climbing the hill to Richmond town to buy a newspaper. But we hadn’t ventured far up Bridge Street when our breathlessness made us reconsider – we could manage a day or two without a paper!
We crossed the bridge, and in broad terms, the morning involved following the River Swale for the first 4-5 miles – through the village of Colburn, and then taking a significant detour caused by bridge repairs over the nearby A1. This involved a fair bit of tarmac slogging down onto the A6136, which then took us to Catterick Bridge. We passed an archeological dig adjacent to the A1. The old Fort Bridge had been demolished during the previous year, and this process of removal had revealed substantial Roman buildings and artefacts. Before a wider bridge was going to be built to accommodate the new three-lane highway, the archaeologists were evidently making the most of their brief opportunity.
The weather had remained dull all morning, with a little half-hearted drizzle. But by Catterick Bridge, this had become more determined, and we had an anorak stop. Despite the weather, the walk down by The Swale was delightful with meadows of spring flowers, thickets, and woodland. This ended abruptly as we skirted an ugly sand/gravel quarry, and we bade adieu to the river which had been our guide for the best part of two and a half days.
We planned to stop in the next village, Bolton-on-Swale, as its church, St. Marys, promised to be a haven for walkers, providing a kettle and the wherewithal to make a brew. And so it proved; we made coffee, had a snack, and explored the church and its yard.
The afternoon was straightforward: a few hundred metres across meadows following Bolton Beck, and onto a country lane running east. We plodded along the tarmac for about three miles; at last, we were relieved of the tedium by the sight of the sign for Rawcar Farm.
This, our resting place for the night, proved to be a splendid farmhouse, lovingly renovated by the owners. Jane was gregarious, and a great cook; Ian was more taciturn, but the perfect host. Besides the grand house, there was a vibrant, colourful kitchen garden. Our room was palatial with good views west, although the day remained stubbornly dull and the horizon hazy; we couldn’t make out Richmond.
We sat down to watch the second-half of the Euro tie between our respective nations, England and Wales, before presenting ourselves at 4p.m for tea in the sitting room. This was the farm’s old wheelhouse, used for grinding corn, and it has retained its original polygonal shape; it has a great vista, overlooking the farm’s lawned gardens, and cattle grazing in the meadows beyond. Beautiful room; beautiful homemade cake with the tea!
The evening meal was a feast fit for a….well, fit for an anniversary! The main course was a beef casserole, from the farm’s own herd of Dexters; ’twas delicious. Another couple were staying at Rawcar that evening: Joan and Andy from North Lancashire. They were veteran C2Cers, having completed the walk in the past. They were repeating the feat, but in a more piecemeal fashion this year. This was there first night of a three day jaunt from Richmond to Great Broughton, where they planned to catch the ‘bus to take them back to their car. They had actually been out east some weeks beforehand, to scout out the accommodation for this walk. We noted that we would all be staying at The Blue Bell at Ingleby Cross on the morrow. Joan and Andy had obviously spotted a gem in Rawcar Farm, and naturally, Julia and I assumed that the next place of rest would be equally well appointed!