There was no sign of the rain abating as we made our way down for breakfast a little after 8 a.m., to be joined shortly afterwards by the couple from Whitby. From our table by the window we could watch the circling ripples on the car park's puddles as I provided a running commentary to our two fellow Wolds Way walkers who were sitting at the other side of the dining room.
"I think it's easing," I'd pronounce, swiftly followed by "Oh no...it's started up again. It's actually getting heavier!"
Rain drop watching quickly ceased though when we were served with a delicious full English breakfast and, in spite of my having discovered small mushrooms growing in our en suite, I wasn't put off from tucking in to those accompanying my egg, bacon and sausage. I'm sure they were a different variety entirely. And it was actually a very nice breakfast indeed.
The Whitby Walkers (this is how I shall refer to them from now on) left a little before us and we let them get a head start before bidding farewell to the landlady of the Middleton Arms. It had been a quirky but not entirely unpleasant stay. The service and food had been excellent, although the standard of accommodation for the price had left quite a lot to be desired. No matter. It had served its purpose and now it was time for us to move on and (there was no way of avoiding it) to get a soaking.
Splashing our way down the farm track which led us away from North Grimston to rejoin the Wolds Way, I was faced with a couple of small dilemmas. First of all, how was I going to get any photographs for my blog in such appalling conditions? I just couldn't risk my camera getting water damaged and, as I had never walked this way before, I didn't have any images from previous trips to fall back on. The simple answer was that I would quite possibly be left with a pictureless blog for this part of our journey.
Then there was the small matter of what I could best describe as "trail etiquette". I could see the Whitby Walkers ahead of us on the farm track and, although they were by no means slow walkers, it was quite likely we'd catch them up at some point. As nice as they were, I was pretty sure they, like us, would prefer to walk without any extra company. So what should we do? Walk past them with a quick "hello again" only to have them overtake us when we slowed down, and so on - for 15 miles? And calls of nature could be awkward, knowing other walkers were following on somewhere behind! We would have to put a greater distance between us.
After picking up the trail where we'd left off the night before, our route took us uphill past a farm where a team of shearers were busy working their way through a shed full of sheep. We paused momentarily, marvelling at the speed with which an animal could be shorn of its entire fleece and I wondered how long they would take to shear all the sheep we'd seen in the shed in Thixendale the previous day.
The path then led us along the edge of Settrington Wood before turning to pass through a narrow plantation which provided us with a brief respite from the rain. Aware of the fact that I had yet to take a single photograph, I used the shelter provided by the trees to take a quick snap. Something, anything, to prevent my blog from becoming too text heavy!
We were now on high ground, known as High Bellmanear, and the map in my guide book showed a symbol for a viewpoint, but there was no chance of seeing anything beyond the low cloud cover. A little further along the trail, at a point known as Settrington Beacon, we entered Beacon Wood where the dense tree cover provided some welcome shelter. Emerging from the wood I smiled upon recalling a quote from an old Wolds Way guide book I had read, which stated that here was "one of the most memorable views on the entire Wolds Way". This was definitely not a day for views.
Ahead of us we could see the Whitby Walkers and I realised that it would not be long before we caught them up. At some point in the day we would need to take a break and, having studied my guide book, I knew that we had just two options, both necessitating a diversion from the trail. The first opportunity for a break and refreshment could be found at a lavender farm, just outside the village of Wintringham and a short distance from our current position. After that, the next (and only) possible place for a rest stop would be the Dawnay Arms in the village of West Heslerton. The latter was further off the trail and down a fairly steep hill, which of course would have to be climbed back up again after our break. For this reason, I preferred the first option, but we decided to wait and see which route the Whitby Walkers took. Our choice would depend on where they headed after Wintringham. I caught sight of them on the main road through the village, shortly after which they disappeared from view. The road continued straight on and, although I couldn't see exactly where they'd turned off, it was obvious that they weren't going to the lavender farm. I was relieved that our choice had been settled. We were soon going to get a sit down and a hot drink!
Just half a mile along the reasonably quiet country road brought us to Wolds Way Lavender and, much to my relief, a sign confirmed that their cafe was open. Inside the shop and cafe was a shock to the senses after almost two hours of walking in heavy rain. It was bright, it was warm and it smelled wonderful. We paused just inside the doorway for a little while, dripping onto the doormat, to the bemused looks of the only other two customers. A pleasant lady shop assistant politely suggested that we should leave our wet rucksacks in a corner. I then removed my jacket to discover that the rain had worked its way through where the rucksack straps had pressed and as a result my base layer was soaked. Thankfully the waterproof cover on my rucksack had done its job and the contents were snuff dry and, a quick visit to the ladies' room later, I had changed into a dry top. I returned to the cafe to find a steaming hot coffee and plate of lavender scones - a real treat at any time, but never more so than on a day like this.
We spent a very pleasant hour at Wolds Way Lavender, enjoying various scones, cakes and two mugs of coffee each. It also provided an unexpected opportunity for some retail therapy, browsing a variety of lavender products, all made on the premises. The "Wolds Way Lavender Soothing Foot Balm" was just too good to resist, especially as the blurb on the box advised that "tired, aching feet will be instantly uplifted..." Just the job!
Aware of the fact that we had so far only covered just over five miles, we geared up again to continue . Another group of very wet and bedraggled walkers entered the shop just as we were about to leave. We recognised them instantly as the group we had encountered on our first day, in the Green Dragon at Welton. They remembered us too and we exchanged greetings and comments on the weather before we left, discovering once outside that the rain had eased to just light spots. And so it was in a much better frame of mind that we made our way back towards Wintringham, picking up the trail as it led us along a track behind the village church.
As we turned into a field, to follow the path along the hedgerow, we encountered yet another of the acorn mileage signs from which I worked out we had ten miles remaining to take us to Ganton.
The next couple of miles turned out to be the highlight of the day, beginning with a walk through the lovely Deep Dale Plantation. This is the oldest and most extensive Forestry Commission operation in the Wolds, parts of it having been planted in Victorian times. As we entered the woodland a pair of roe deer ran along the track ahead of us and we followed them for a little while, until they darted into the cover of the trees where they almost instantly seemed to disappear. We followed the forestry track as it wound its way through the woodland until suddenly we found ourselves faced with an ascent which took us completely by surprise. This was a climb to rival the Rabbit Warren between Millington and Huggate. It may even have been steeper. The direction sign certainly seemed to think so. Once at the top we named this part of the walk "Sudden B*****d". It was so steep in places I found it hard to keep my footing and, once again, I was grateful for my walking poles.
Having conquered "Sudden B*****d" we were to be rewarded with a wonderful treat in the form of another "Wander" art installation. Entitled "Enclosure Rites" by Jony Easterby, the artwork combines ancient, archaeological and natural aspects of the Yorkshire Wolds, including a Bronze Age barrow, fences to represent land enclosure, and a dew pond for biodiversity. There is also a collection of intriguing carved figures. I thought "Enclosure Rites" was a landscape masterpiece in a little corner of heaven. I loved it so much that, four days after completing the Wolds Way, we returned to photograph this section of the walk under blue skies and sunshine. Therefore, the images that follow are altogether cheerier than any I could have taken at the time we were on the trail.
"Enclosure Rites" begins with a charming gateway through which walkers pass when leaving Deep Dale Plantation. Made from riven oak, it reminded us of something from The Hobbit.
Once through the gate, the sight walkers are met with is both breathtaking and surprising. To begin with, there's the view, which is spectacular, reaching out over the Vale of Pickering and to the North York Moors and Cleveland Hills on the horizon. Of course, on the day of our walk we were prevented from seeing anything at all of the view as it was entirely obscured by low cloud cover.
"Enclosure Rites" begins with a representation of a Bronze Age burial mount with red painted riven oak posts along with a group of carved figures.
The figures were modelled on the small chalk carvings found in some of the excavated burials of the Parisi, the Celtic tribe who inhabited East Yorkshire. These figures are known as "The Guardians".
Just for contrast, I'm also including below an image of the pond taken on the day we passed through while walking the Wolds Way. What a difference a couple of days can make!
We found, to our delight, that the dew pond was teeming with tadpoles. When we returned, four days later, we took a picnic and discovered that the tadpoles were rather partial to our sandwiches. It was fun to watch them swarming round chunks of bread, spiralling like a weird, animated cartwheel.
Back on the trail, we couldn't hang around for very long at "Enclosure Rites" because not only was it rather chilly but we also had a further nine miles or so left to walk. And so, promising ourselves that we'd return on the first available sunny day, we resumed our walk which went on to lead us along the edge of the delightful Knapton Plantation. It had started to rain again and, not for the first time that day, we were grateful for the shelter provided by the trees. Rabbits darted about in all directions and a roe deer leapt from the path ahead of us as we approached.
The path along the plantation edge continued for a mile or so before emerging onto open pasture land. The cloud had descended and the way ahead was hazy and, through the mist, we spotted a vixen and her cubs scurrying into the undergrowth. It was becoming so murky that even the trees close to the side of the path were disappearing from sight. Returning to this spot, four days later, we could clearly see beyond the trees to the lovely view that we had been denied on our original visit.
The edge of the pasture was slightly hazardous in places, due to the large number of rabbit holes, and I was amused to see that a health and safety conscious North Yorkshire County Council have provided a humorous warning sign. Of course, the image represents a rabbit peering out of its warren, but on a day such as this it also seemed to suggest the rabbits may be swimming.
Leaving this particularly delightful part of the walk behind us, we crossed the road which leads down to the village of West Heslerton and began what, for me, was the least enjoyable part of the entire Wolds Way. I'm sure that on a fine day this section would be very pleasant indeed, but as the wind picked up to drive the rain headlong into our faces, it became very much a case of "let's just get this over and done with". Which is a great pity. Because, as I found upon my return a few days later, the views are especially nice.
For about a mile or so, not only did we have to contend with wind and rain, we also had to walk along a narrow field headland which was overgrown with long grass and cow parsley. This slowed our pace until we reached East Heslerton Brow where, had the conditions been fine, we would have been treated to a fine view of the village of East Heslerton and beyond to the Tabular Hills.
Further along East Heslerton Brow we should have been able to catch our first glimpse of the sea, although, even on a fine day, this can be obscured by haze.
On and on we trudged, for what seemed like mile after soggy mile, bypassing the village of Sherburn and the hamlet of Potter Brompton before eventually, and much to our relief, arriving at Ganton shortly before 5 p.m. This just left us to negotiate a crossing of the very busy A64 Scarborough to York road. I felt as if I was taking my life in my hands when I eventually spotted a gap in the long stream of fast moving traffic and dashed across to the other side. This was the most traffic we'd seen all week and it was something of a shock to the system. I felt like I'd turned feral and wasn't ready for the fast pace and clamour of civilisation.
I can't recall ever being as pleased to check in to any hotel as I was the Ganton Greyhound. We were greeted by a very pleasant lady who immediately provided us with a large pile of newspapers for our boots before showing us to our lovely room. Our boots, trousers and jackets were dripping wet but, due to some prudent wading through very long wet grass on the outskirts of Ganton, all traces of mud had been "washed" away. We badly needed to dry things out though and, having discovered that the radiator in our room wasn't working, we really appreciated the fact that a member of staff attended to it immediately and cheerfully. The warmth of our welcome, the excellent service and the comfortable room all added up to a highly favourable first impression of the Ganton Greyhound. And this early confidence was not misplaced. Every aspect of our stay was faultless.
At dinner that evening we found ourselves seated on the next table to the Whitby Walkers who had arrived an hour or so ahead of us, just as drenched as us and disheartened by the latter part of the walk through the long wet grass and cow parsley.
"There's a bus stop just outside," the lady said. "We might catch a bus home from here tomorrow because I don't fancy another day like today."
Our evening meal at the Ganton Greyhound was superb. Slow roasted belly pork from local free range pigs, with apple mash, followed by a mouth-watering apple and rhubarb crumble with ice cream, all washed down with a beer called Falling Stone from the local, and appropriately named, Wold Top Brewery.
Back in our room I tried out some of the Wolds Way Lavender Soothing Foot Balm I'd purchased that morning and concurred that their packaging blurb did not make false claims. My aching feet were indeed "instantly uplifted". Sitting in our comfortable room with revitalised, lavender scented feet and a glass of Wold Top Falling Stone in hand, I realised that in spite of the weather I had actually really enjoyed this day. It may have been arduous for a time, but that was all part of the adventure. I couldn't imagine quitting at this point. In fact, whatever the next (and final) day had to offer us, I was very much looking forward to it.
Total distance walked - 17 miles (includes extra from North Grimston and diversion to lavender farm)
Total ascent - 1,368 feet
Total descent - 1.526 feet
Highest altitude - 682 feet
Mean temperature - 68.0ºF
Coming soon.....Our sixth and final day on the Yorkshire Wolds Way. We bid farewell to the Wolds and head to the sea at Filey Brigg and the official finishing stone.