“Congratulations!” shouted the little girl, jumping with joy while she looked up at me. “Thank you” I said smiling and turning to walk away before my eyes welled up with tears. It was the same family I’d seen the day before in Aysgarth while they were waiting for a bus. All four of them were gathered around me smiling at me, proud of me and happy to see me again.
I’ve been thinking of that little girl on my journey home today. When I was her age I would’ve been excited about meeting somebody doing a multi-day walk too. It's a journey to be celebrated - for its beauty and its people, but also for having walked it alone. When I doubted myself I found my way through it. Her recognition of my achievement helps me to see it and feel it too.
Yesterday taught me that it’s worth resting and lingering sometimes. Although I was eager to arrive in Askrigg for lunch, I paused by the river to rehydrate. Standing there in a daze, enjoying the breeze with my heavy bag off my back, a woman approached me. She very kindly invited me to join her and her sister for a cup of tea. They were sitting having a picnic between their car and the river, protected nicely from the wind. I immediately said yes and joined them at their tiny table complete with a teapot, teacups, and club biscuits.
I felt so happy to sit with them, to find out that they were on holiday together to celebrate a big birthday, and to listen to stories about their family. Anne said how great it must be to walk alone for a few days, and I could sense that it really appealed to her. On departing I felt rejuvenated, not just by the great tea and rest, but also by the warm hug from Anne and fond farewell from these wonderful sisters.
I had a spring in my step as I walked up the hill towards Askrigg, and as the guidebook suggested I picked up a takeaway lunch and headed for Mill Gill waterfall. Having imagined a tiny cascade, I was really amazed by this powerful waterfall! It helped that there had been a lot of rain for maximum effect. While I liked the idea of eating my lunch beneath it, the flow and power of it wasn’t very relaxing so I continued through the woods to find a quieter spot.
I meandered for the rest of the day, mainly through farmland set against a backdrop of brooding dark clouds and occasional showers. I loved to see the barns and drystone walls glistening when the sun peeked out. Towards the end of the day and the journey, I came across a very poorly sheep. As I approached her she just looked up at me, absolutely helpless. It was so sad. I searched on google to see if I could find contact details for any local farmers and I tried one number and left a message, but that didn’t feel enough so I alerted a man in the village and showed him a photo I’d taken of the sheep. He said that she didn’t look too bad but I explained that she was on her last legs. He said he would let the farmer know and I just had to trust that he would do that as I walked away. I was glad to receive a call back later on from the person who I’d left the voice message with, who thanked me and reassured me that she had contacted the farmer about it.
Before reaching Hardraw, where I had started The Herriot Way, I walked through a sleepy place called Simonstone where there was a very posh hotel. Although I wasn’t dressed for such a place, I really wanted a mug of hot coffee. I wondered if I might get a few funny looks walking in wearing walking boots and a big backpack, but I think I got away with it and the bar staff were really nice. I sat outside, looking to the hills and watching the peacock and peahen strutting about. I was slowing down my pace and procrastinating.
It’s a strange feeling when a journey comes to an end. Mine seemed to have different endings. First in Hardraw, where my walk had begun just a few days before. Then in Hawes where I came across the lovely family while walking in the rain towards the hostel campsite for my final night. Then waiting for the little white bus where I got chatting to an elderly man who told me that he had solved many problems while out walking.
Where does a journey begin? Where does it end?
Perhaps it begins with an idea and ends with a story.
And where that story ends, another can begin.
While sitting on the train, enjoying the countryside views and writing my journal, I received a lovely message from Anne after sending her the photo of them having their picnic:
"It was one of those lovely encounters which you remember with fondness! We're sitting having our picnic now and chatting about you! Hope you've having an enjoyable train journey after all that leg work! Our very best wishes! xx"
Places visited - The Herriot Way
A lot of people recommended this place to me while I was walking this route and it certainly lived up to its reputation. It's a lovely small coffee shop with seating inside and outside in a beautiful village setting. The lemon drizzle cake was divine!
Lovely pit stop for a weary walker and the coffee was excellent! I really enjoyed sitting in the garden with the peacock and peahen, although it felt a little surreal.
I camped here for one night at the end of my walk. The hostel manager was really welcoming and friendly, he gave me a tour when I arrived and said I could help myself to tea and coffee. The shower room was clean but looked a bit like a prison cell, I didn't particuarly enjoy locking myself in there. The facilities were good other than that but the place lacked charisma. I found the same at Grinton Lodge YHA.
This is part five of a series of blog posts about my Herriot Way walk in August 2023, typed 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 enjoyed following this journey.