Saturday, 27 February 2016

Chimney Bank.

I ring my father from the edge of the windswept moor.

“We’re heading to the top!” I shout into my iPhone, “from Lastingham to Rosedale! If they find two prone bodies up there, that'll be us!”

“Oh, right!” My father shouts back. “Lovely! I hope they serve you some lunch at The White Horse!”

So do I. The last time Husband and I walked to The White Horse in Rosedale we arrived at five past two; cold, tired, hungry. “Can we order something, please?” I asked, like Oliver Twist, “to eat?”

The man leaning against the bar looked up from thumbing his copy of The Daily Mail. “Sorry,” he said, “you’re too late now, we stopped serving at two.”

Right, thanks a lot, for nothing. Where’s that legendary Yorkshire hospitality when you need it? 
To be fair that was then, last year, and on this trip we've encountered nothing but solicitous service and friendly folk. 

Nevertheless, we know we’re up against it time-wise, and weather-wise too, because although it’s benign at the moment, sunny even, it’s set to change for the worst again soon, according to the forecast… as usual.

We’ve left the younger two with my parents and headed up to the moors for a fix of countryside. I don't like to leave it too long before pulling on my wellies and going for a ramble, even if my particular wellies are tiny and pink and girly, with fur lining, they still do the job. I don’t even mind bad weather. I always maintain there’s no such as thing as bad weather anyway, only bad… yeah, yeah, we all know that one… only bad clothing, and walking is one of my favourite things in the world. Plus I'm from Yorkshire, a bit of a squall isn't going to deter me.

I love it up here, and I’m loyal to it. This little part of North Yorks is mine, that's how I see it anyway. Somehow it's in my bones, even though I was born in York, and now live in Tooting. Go figure. I can't.

I first came here years ago to stay in a cottage with my dad when he was writing a book and I was revising for my A-Levels. We did a lot of walking together. Then I came back to the same cottage again and again. First with a - okay, with the - boyfriend (least said soonest mended… as they say up here), then with four mates for a post-A-level alcohol binge-fest, then in my twenties with a friend who suddenly announced, moments after we’d unpacked and popped the kettle on, that she didn’t like walking and had no intention of stepping out the front door. True to her word, she didn't, for the whole weekend.

On that occasion I had to tramp the moor by myself, like a lovelorn Cathy looking for her Heathcliff. I remember I lost the path at one point, nearly had a panic attack in the chin-high bracken, eventually falling into The Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge on the top there, with an enormous sigh of relief. As the door creaked open the locals all turned to look at me as one, exactly like that scene in An American Werewolf in London. (I love that film, which coincidentally features Van Morrison’s Moondance which was the title of the last blog, and also Jenny Agutter, who I've mentioned before, in that famous shower scene.)  

Any road, this is what we need right now, a road. Well, not any road, the right road, or path, across the moor to Rosedale and the pub. We set off in high hopes and high spirits, and in a straight line, and quickly come to a fork, where the path splits. Husband looks at his phone. I ring my father, again. 

“It's a fork in the road!” I shout down my phone. “What now?” 

He should know, because he knows it round here, and he's clever, especially brilliant at planning circular walks with pubs in the middle, which all walks should be, in my book.

“Ah!” He shouts. “Hard to tell without seeing it myself! I’d guess left!”

“That’s what I thought!” I shout back, “but Husband says right!”

We take the right, and eventually it leads across the moor to the main road down to Rosedale, Chimney Bank it's called. It's not the scenic way I hoped for, but it gets us there. It's also vertiginous, almost vertical, hence the name. Actually, close up it’s not as steep as it appears from a distance. Slippery in certain conditions, true, in the ice and snow, but not today, thank goodness, there's just enough purchase underfoot.

We make it to the pub in good time, and they cheerfully provide soup and sarnies and instructions for how to get back to the path without a return hard climb up Chimney Bank. Great. But no sooner have we set off back than we lose our way again. Well, not lose it exactly, we know where we need to be, I can even see it - that ridge up there - but there are lots of little paths running through the gorse and heather to reach it. Some are man-made, some are formed by the gazing sheep that trample the landscape round here like they own the place. Which is the right one? I'm not keen to repeat my lost in the bracken episode.

“Shall we just go back to the main road for a bit?” says Husband, “get our bearings from there?”

“Okay,” I say.

So we do, and that’s when it begins, the rain, a special type, like cats and dogs: cold, sharp, relentless, coming right at us.

“I’ll go on the outside!" Shouts Husband, gallantly, "you'll be sheltered by me, at least a bit." 

He takes the brunt of it, gets drenched, very quickly, while for me it’s not so bad because I'm in the lee of the wind. We find the path back and then I start to trail behind.

“You okay?” he shouts over his shoulder, and over the howl and the bite and the blast, as we march on, whence we came.

“Yes!" I call. "How about you?” 

“I will be!” He shouts again, “just as soon as I get out of this! Then I think I might have a hot bath!”

“Good idea!” I call back, because I know how he likes a nice bath.

Love E x


P.S. My wellies.

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