The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday 8 April 2011

Day 20 - Ellerton to Barnard Castle

Fri 9 April (0655-1605)
Distance: 22 miles (Tot: 350)
Weather: wall-to-wall sunshine and jolly warm when out of the brisk breeze
Number of 'oh dear!' incidents: 3

You may notice that one of the photos above is of the Scotch Corner Hotel. Many of you will know the said hotel is situated on a junction of major roads and many will also appreciate that I try to avoid road walking, particularly on anything other than little lanes. I certainly wouldn't plan to take us along the A66.

Finding ourselves at Scotch Corner after a complete failure to navigate in the village of Middleton Tyas (that is to say, we both assumed the correct direction without even glancing at the map), wasn't our first or last mishap of the day, although it was the only navigational incident. Being not prepared to backtrack by the time I realised the error, a mile along the A66 dual-carriageway ensued. It wasn't as bad as I'd expected. A very wide verge and light traffic made it better than other roads we've walked.

The first 'oh dear' of the day was rather more distressing and happened early on. I love my Pacerpoles and wouldn't be without them. A rough tot-up would suggest that I've used them for in excess of 3500 miles now. So, when the bottom section of my left pole suddenly fell out, having parted company with the locking nut (which is left in the middle of the middle section), it was considered a catastrophic failure.

Over second breakfast, I emailed Heather and Alan at Pacerpole and just over an hour later they confirmed that they would send two new pole sections to meet me in Jedburgh next week. In the meantime, I'm walking wonkily!

The third 'oh dear' was moments before we got to a track, when I realised that it wasn't a right of way. A few moments later we discovered that the 'track' was actually someone's front drive and that we clearly could not use it. A bit of trespassing across nearby fields got us to where we needed to be, but looking back on the day, I think that this may have been on of those 'plotted it after a couple of glasses of wine' days. There were a couple of incidents of assuming we could walk along private tracks - an assumption I wouldn't usually make when there's clealy a building on that track.

Aside from having to re-route ourselves a few times, it was a stunning day. The air clarity meant that views were far reaching and the sky was absolutely clear. The only downside was some of the terrain. We've been spoiled with waymarking to date, but today we returned to the hit-and-miss that we're used to. Then there was a farm where every field had been ploughed to its margins and no paths had been reinstated. I didn't feel bad there for ignoring the clear 'private - no right of way' sign and diverting along a track.

Latterly we reached the Teesdale Way and soon afterwards had the first glimpses of the Tees, which must be my favourite river in England. The surroundings for those last few miles were jaw-droppingly good. Woodland filled with the sent of wild garlic and speckled with wood anenomes (I think!), and the gorgeous Tees flowing below. It was so good that I nearly forgot how hot and energy sapped I was. It's a shame that the snap I took with the phone doesn't even start to do it justice.

Arriving in Barnard Castle was a bit of a blast from the past for Mick. He lived here briefly about 50 years ago, and it's Ma-in-Law's home town. A lovely looking place it is too. We've just had a tasty dinner (it's a B&B and a meal out tonight) and now we're going to go for a quick wander (because we've not walked far enough today...).

(Mike: I'm not mentioning the state of the feet for fear that they will immediately revolt, but likewise I'm glad they're permitting me to continue for the moment!
Maike: will you still be jealous when you're looking out of the window in the middle of a day, watching the rain bounce off the cars below? ;-)
Robin: thank you for acting as a foul weather magnet over the other side of the country. We heard that it had rained heavily not much further west, yet we missed the worst of it. Alas, luck like this can't last forever.)

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