(Read December 2,5, and 9 posts for parts 1-3 of this tale of two friends walking across Northern England.)
Day 5 Walk, Masham to Helmsley--by now all of the wayfarers are confident that we will finish the over 80 mile coast to coast walk that we began four days ago at Newby Bridge on the western coast of England on the Irish Sea side. We have about 30 miles to go over the next two days to reach our finish,the town of Whitby on the North Sea. We have crossed the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks and begin Day 5 on the Cleveland Way, a major walking path across the North York Moors. Throughout the morning's walk we climbed higher on the moors, walking through heather and seeing the occasional ancient standing stone.
Feet Waterloo--at this point on the walk getting my feet ready for the day's miles was quite a production because the soles of my feet were covered with blood blisters and several toenails were loose. The morning drill involved strategically placed band-aids, sheep's wool(collected the day before)cradles for toes and heels, and (male readers may blush at this point) wrapping all this on with panti-liners--what great multi-tasking inventions! Then the socks and boots went on. . .I tried not to complain, but one of the wayfarers was a tough old doctor who'd been watching me struggle. He alerted Dave, our walk leader, who insisted on having a look at my damaged "stubs" when we met the van for morning break. Before taking my boot off I warned him that he'd probably never seen what he was about to see. To his credit, he didn't flinch (he did confess at the farewell dinner that the sight of my poor feet took his breath away!).
Sally, my walking buddy, and I had made a pact that we were going to walk the full distance, no van hops for these two toughies. However, like a true friend she insisted on cutting out the last five miles of the walk day and riding the van into Helmsley where we were spending the night. Besides, we had gone through village after village and not been able to look in any of the intriguing little shops. So, after lunch, we hopped in the van with orders from the other walkers to search out a supply of foot bandages for the last day's walk.
Helmsley is a cheerful, bustling market town with red-tiled roofs and red-trimmed storefronts. Our inn was just off the town square so we could watch local farmers and tradesmen set up for the week-end market on the town square. We checked out several walking shops, purchasing a variety of bandages and plasters to pass out to the wayfarers when we met them for pre-dinner drinks back at the inn. We also met several great dogs, choosing this fellow and his two buddies for our Dogs of the Day photo. We were told that it would be okay to pet the black one, but should steer clear of the lap dog! We heeded his warning. . .
Walk Day 6, North Sea Finish -- from Helmsley we had a short bus ride to start one of the trip's highpoints. At Pickering Station we climb aboard the steam-hauled Moors Railway, aka Harry Potter's Hogwart Express, for a ride across the wild Flyingdales Moor. (Sally! Sally! Sally! How your standards have gone down. When you started this adventure, it was with shirt tails tucked in and now there's not one, but two, tails hanging out.)
By mid-day we leave the train at Grosmont and hike to the isolated village of Aislaby for our last pub lunch together. This time it had to be the best fish and chips in the north. Looking at this group, I think you can see how excited and happy we are to be this close to the finish. We walked for many reasons: to celebrate friendship, victory over breast cancer, retirement, life in a new country, work assignment, and to challenge old age. Before the day is over we all will accomplish our goal. After lunch we are all very quiet, lost in our own thoughts of what this day means to each of us individually. From the village of Eskdale we follow the Esk Valley until we get our first glimpse of the North Sea!
Dave kept the pace pretty intense as we cross the harbor bridge and walk through the seaside town of Whitby.
The town is interesting--full of vacationers, interesting shops and amusements, but we do not stop walking until we reach our finish point--the North Sea. We repeat the boot dipping ceremony in the North Sea as we did at the Irish Sea six days earlier. Coast to Coast--over 80 miles--we made it! We then raised a glass of champagne to celebrate each other.
After our happy dance on the sand, Dave, true to form, starts us walking again to nearby Dunsley Hall where we will spend our last night of the walk. At the Farewell Dinner we each receive our Finisher's Patch and some good natured words of praise from Dave. And, I can't forget--there was a Dog a Day--a handsome yellow lab who kept sneaking in the dining room from the terrace to get a pat and piece of cheese. Regretfully I didn't have my camera. . .
In our room after dinner, I lay awake. In July in northern England there is very little deep night. The sky is still streaked at midnight and the sheep begin calling outside our window at 4:30 a.m. I am glad to be heading home in the morning, but will treasure the memories of six days walking the English countryside with my good friend for many years to come.
- Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.