Thursday, 28 August 2008
Like a pack of cards, things started to tumble. Starting with phones. My super dooper radio/camera phone dropped down the toilet, water damaged, it was useless so I took Sophie's phone with me. When it fell out of my pocket somewhere in the middle of the Dales, I not only lost photographs, but more tragically, something of very sentimental value.
And then there was Darlington. Looking up bus timetables on the internet it seemed the last bus to Barnard Castle was at 4.30pm. My train didn't get into Darlington until 4.40pm so I had to book a B & B in there. It was something else. To say the owner was a fan of Nelson would be a gross understatement. Like stepping into a museum, it was stuffed with memorabilia. Led to my room passed a wall long mural of the battle of Waterloo, he proudly told me he'd been collecting for the last twenty years. The room was small, basic and reminiscent of my attic abode in Wick, but thankfully, Nelson free.
And now for somewhere to eat. Not a great deal of choice, and I made a wrong one. Tapas bars are for sharing platters with friends, not for sad and lonely singles. How does one choose two dishes from about fifty selections on the menu? Gloomily I went back to the "Admiral" Lot's of noise and jollity hailing from the "Waterloo" bar, tempted to join them, I thought better of it and headed to my room.
The next morning at breakfast the table was adorned with red, white and blue napkins and little union jacks waving between the salt & pepper pots. Outside in the garden, the flags of England, Scotland,Ireland and Wales waved back.
Wondering how any wife could put up with this Nelson fanatisism, she told me she herself was also a fan. They'd got married on the HMS Belfast, in full costume (of course) as seen on the photo of their business card.
Phew! with a quick salute to the flags at the front door I was off to Barnard Castle, a lovely dales town with lot's of lovely places to stay, eat and drink. Grrr!
First stop, the Information Centre. I needed to know how I was going to get from Reeth to York tonight. By taking three buses and a train apparently, and the last bus from Reeth was at 5.30.
Right! Better get going then. All was going well on the yellow roads. The sun was shining accompanied by a gentle breeze until I hit the high road. Battling in the wind across the moors, I somehow lost my way and when I saw a dirt track I took it -because it led back to a road. Disorientated setting off in the wrong direction, I soon realised I was heading north, not south. Now I may be crap at map reading but along the way I've picked up a bit of geographical knowledge as I'm able to tell the difference between the rugged northern pennines and the rolling dales.
Scrambling down to a ford I stopped to fold the map. This is where I guessed, later, I must have lost the phone, because not long after that I tried to ring York. I wasn't going to make that bus tonight.
With no way of contacting my friends I just hoped and prayed there'd be somewhere to stay in Reeth. It was a pretty big village with five pubs and a couple of B & B's but- It was Saturday night, and with a wedding party in town, to every knock the answer was "No room at the Inn" My last hope was the "Temperance Hotel" As I started to knock, the door flew open. The owner was dashing off to Evening Service, and I just caught her in time. With everything crossed I asked the question. Yes! She did have a room "But did I mind being alone in the house with Bob?" the only other guest. Did I mind? Did I care? Most certainly not, but first I needed to use the telephone.
I had a super large room in this huge three story Georgian House, I was amused to read the notice in the bathroom about how the ten reasons people give for not washing can easily be the same reasons people choose not to go to church. Well, as I needed some cleansing, spiritual or otherwise I was pouring bubbly into the large bath from the "help yourself" array on the shelf when I spotted a blast from the past "Goya's Aqua Manda for Men Aftershave" One quick sniff and I was catapulted back to the Seventies (A decade with a lot to answer for in Fashion and Musical taste-well some of the music was ok, but a lot wasn't) Dancing to the "Revolution Shuffle" with spotty youths in wide flares and ludicrously tight cheesecloths shirts ,who somehow, in the cold light of day, never looked as dishy as the illustrated boys in "Jackie" magazine, were stood up on the first date.
Ah well, back to 21st century and food. Not having eaten since breakfast, choosing somewhere to eat wasn't that difficult as all the pubs were heaving. Wedged between the Billiard table and the wall, I read the B & B lady's account of her "Coast to Coast" 25th Anniversary walk with her husband.
As Alison (WHI Co-ordinator for this region) hopped on the bus outside Hexham, I knew today could only get better. The sun was shining and so was the map holder slung around her neck. Yes, I was off map control duty for the next two days!
We arrived at Bellingham, and after a brief chat with some local walkers we were off on our way. With Alison map reading, I could concentrate on what I do best -talking! We compared notes about our respective Co-ordinator positions and before too long met yet another lone "Lejoger" He certainly didn't look like he'd make it to Bellingham, never mind John O' Groats. Oddly, he was wearing all his waterproofs. Sweating profusely, in the heat of the day, he explained he was trying to minimise the weight on his back. At 4.30am with a minimal water supply he'd set out from "Once Brewed" or was it "Twice?" I can't remember now, but feeling very sorry for him we decided it was time for our own "brew" and stopped off at the delightful little teashop cum Post Office in Simonsburn. An estate managed village, it was a picture postcard place with all the houses painted in heritage green.
We had to speed things up a bit as I'd arranged to meet Alec-a walk leader from Cramlington, who'd driven over here especially to meet me. We eventually caught up near Hadrians Wall where Alison was leaving us to return back to her village. Back in map control, within five minutes, Alec and I managed to get lost in a field. After going round in circles a few times we eventually found a dog walker who guided us towards the minor road into Hexham.
The next problem now was guiding Keith (mapless husband) out of Hexham to come and meet us. Now I read maps in a colour coded way. Yellow=ok for walking. Orange=not ideal, but ok for a short stretch if there's no alternative. Red= to be avoided at all costs, unless absolutely necessary. Blue=If found walking on one of these you should be carted away in a little white van.
Anyway, Keith is taking directions down the phone. "Yellow road, what yellow road? are you mad?" he barked down the phone. "What the hell are you talking about, all roads are grey!"
Fortunately, as Hexham was his childhood stomping ground he knew where he was going and we all eventually walked into Hexham together.
Bidding farewell to Alec, with promises to meet up next time he was down in Redhill visiting his family, we set off back to Stanhope.