Arrived at The Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge and, quite frankly, we're knackered! Our walking companion on Wednesday, Tony from Nottingham, recounted a tale of a work colleague (a Territorial Army Fanatic, if that adds anything to the story - you decide) who asked what he was up to on his forthcoming holiday. Now, Tony is walking the Coast to Coast as a tribute to his late wife, and to raise some money for Cancer Research, and he's doing it on his own.
For one recently widowed, in quite dramatic fashion after a long and happy marriage, this (in my humble opinion) is a huge undertaking. Not enough for his work mate, however, who expressed surprise that Tony was completing the route over the course of fourteen days. 'Two weeks?!' he asked. 'What're you doing? Crawling on your hands and knees?' Apparently Mr Testosterone would only need a week. Let me tell you, if that man ever DOES do this in a week (and not on a bicycle) I want to be there to take photos.
It has been a tough two days, with little time to breathe let alone blog. When we reached The BlueBell Inn at Ingleby Cross, Wednesday evening, my fellow Twirlie fell on the bed, and straight off to sleep. No glass of wine. No dinner. No shower. Leaving me to stagger into the bar alone like Billy No Mates. Although, that's not strictly true as it was packed with familiar faces from the last few days!
Richmond to Ingleby Cross was a long, largely boring slog along the flat, through field after field after field after field (over stile after stile after stile after stile) of wheat, barley, rape, wheat, barley, rape... repeat until you lose the will to live or for 23 miles - whichever comes first.
I think the high point was Bolton on Swale, quite early in the walk, where we stopped for a breather in the grounds of the local church. A sign on the lych gate told of the famed Henry Jenkins, buried there we know not when who had, apparently, lived to the ripe old age of 169! We think the stonemason might have sneezed at the wrong moment.
And then there's the honesty boxes. The farmers there must KNOW you're just going to be bored out of your tree. Very early in the day. So, starting just before the church, the route was dotted with small collapsible tables, cool boxes and buckets, stacked with cold drinks, home baked flapjack, packets of crisps, fresh fruit and - best of all, although it didn't tempt us, a chalk-written message on slate: ice cream round the corner in the shed. One wonders whether, had we walked any further, the ante might have been upped: house keys on the hook by the back door, Land Rover on the drive, tank full...
Having set off at 8.30am, we finally staggered into the Bluebell Inn at 6.45pm, and Gail all but lost consciousness! Accommodation there probably the most basic we've seen en route but think I could currently fall asleep on a clothes line, as my granny used to say.
Yesterday, between Ingleby Cross and Blakey Ridge was three miles shorter (yippee!) and much more bearable. Very up and downy - the guide book describes it as a 'rollercoaster' of a day and it's right - and we were in the very good company of Barry, PR officer for the Cleveland team. (The team had, incidentally, invited us to join their exercise the previous evening, out on the crag. The answer was an unequivocal thanks very much but no!!)
In the event, it was a piece of good fortune that Barry had joined us. Gail began to struggle on the downy bits, not a happy bunny at all. Fortunately, by the time this became obvious we were only yards from the planned stop at Lord Stones cafe, adjacent to a road. A quick chat about options and Barry called his wife, Pauline, who kindly picked Gail up and whisked her away for tlc and jacket potatoes, while Barry and I continued on to the most uppy downy bit of the day, which involved clambering up through the Wain Stones and on down through quite a steep, prolonged step section. The option from there was to either meet us at the next road and rejoin the walk, now at a more undulating pace, or to get a lift all the way to the Lion. Well, I don't know what Pauline put in that jacket potato, but Little Twirlie returned with new vim and a smile on her face. Not sure I can forgive her, though, for managing to dodge the big shower of the day which left Barry and I very wet and windblown for almost the entire section without her... 'Has it been raining?' asked a very warm, dry, potato-fed Twirlie as she stepped from the car and we dripped in front of her. Grrr...
Arrived at the Lion at 6.00pm, and boy! were we pleased to see those red rooftops appear on the horizon. Positively ran up the path and into the car park. Straight in the bar, where we were met by Richard, Gari and Pete from Cleveland team and, later, Andy, Georgina and Richard from Scarborough team for beer, wine, steak sandwiches and chips. Yum. Good company and a barrage of snappy one liners from the Gari and Pete Show, then another photo op with the team vehicles - this time one from each team.
Right, bills to pay, boots to lace...