While sitting in the dank hostel lounge last night drinking tea, a group of tall men with strong Dutch accents waltzed in. Instantly bringing the room to life, one of them asked “Is this the quiet room?”, to which nobody responded. I looked up and smiled, which they took as an invitation to sit down with me. They looked around and asked if anyone minded them making some noise - again no response, so no problem!
I learnt that they were walking the Coast to Coast in stages over four years. Probably in their 50’s to 60’s, all of them tanned and healthy looking. They’d known each other for years - I could tell by the way they joked with each other. They had beers and a game to play - Kazoo! Well, you can imagine how that went down in the miserable lounge room. I couldn’t help but admire their ease with bringing that room to life, offering beers around and happy to be together. I was glad to be part of it, and warmed by their familiar greetings at breakfast the following morning.
I’m enjoying the interest in me and my journey. Today a man asked me about it and then told me about some of the walks he’d done. People just appear out of nowhere and show intrigue when they see a large backpack. Sometimes they like to guess the trail. Today the owner of the campsite got it right first time!
It’s been a mixed day of enjoyment and frustration. I didn’t enjoy walking past the grouse shoot - it was relentless as the gunshots and shouting echoed across the moors. Through squally showers and battering wind, I rushed through this section. I knew it was the season for grouse shooting, but I didn’t want this to put a stop to my trip. I noticed a lot of dead hares along the moorland trails too, which made me feel sad. The landscape felt scarred and bare, so I hardly stopped walking until I reached Bolton Castle.
The castle and cafe were closed for a wedding but luckily I had my gas stove and coffee bags with me. I plonked myself on a bench next to the village green and fired up the stove. It was lovely having a rest there. It felt quite surreal listening to the wedding music booming from the castle in the sleepy village. I sat there for ages, talking to passers by including a local woman out walking her dog who very kindly offered to make me a brew.
On entering Aysgarth village a sweet family called out “Hello!” to me from a bench on the green. They were waiting for a bus to Hawes in the evening sun and said they’d passed me a couple of times over the past two days and asked me how my walk was going. They seemed excited to see me, it was so sweet! Moments like that can really pick you up when you’re tired and hungry. The kids were shouting “Good luck!” to me as I walked off to find the campsite after I’d joked about catching the bus with them instead. I’d see this lovely family again….
At the campsite I was greeted by a lovely woman who stepped out from her house asking if I was Sarah. “Right, let me show you to your pitch” - she’d chosen a lovely spot sheltered away from the wind. She offered to bring breakfast to my tent door in the morning - that was a first! She said she could bring me whatever I wanted, with coffee. How could I possibly refuse such an offer?
I put my tent up, guzzled some water, and hurried off to the pub around the corner. Here I am now, stuffed full of fish n chips. I’m so grateful to be here. Those scarred moors are long behind me now.
I’ve been feeling well nurtured on this walk and I’m so grateful for it. Sometimes it feels like a big extended family looking out for me - welcoming me briefly into their lives and supporting me. I sense a deeper meaning with these encounters, they are special and significant. They seem to appear at the times when they are most needed, but never expected. A welcome addition to walking alone.
A great building to take shelter in for lunch with a huge table and benches. It is unlocked and I believe there is a separate smaller building next door with a toilet. If you needed a place to sleep I think this could be a great option in bad weather. It is of course important to leave no trace, taking all litter with you.
I received the warmest welcome from Matt and Clare who run this B&B and campsite. I think it was £10 for the pitch and about £6 for a breakfast butty and coffee brought to my tent. The facilities were excellent! Hot and clean showers, a washing machine if required, and washing up area with separate taps for drinking water. There was even a little garden house with a kettle, toaster, charging points and deck chairs - all included in the price. I was very impressed! I even booked it on the same day of arrival by text message.
I didn't know that pubs like this still existed! It was brilliant - locals at the bar, excellent food in the restaurant, eyes didn't roll when I ordered a pot of tea, and no problem with charging up my phone. I sat in here for a couple of hours rehydrating and writing my journal. Excellent!
This is part four of a series of blog posts about my Herriot Way walk in August 2023. I'm typing these up from my journal which I wrote during the trip. I sat in pubs and cafes, inside my tent, and on trains while reflecting on my experiences.
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I hope you enjoy following this journey.