Monday 21st - Friday 25th May, 2012
A few years ago the television presenter Russell Harty was making a documentary called The Yorkshire Dales on Film when he quoted that “When God had finished making Heaven, rather like when you make an apple pie, with that bit of pastry that was left over, he fashioned the Yorkshire Dales.” He wasn’t wrong. The Yorkshire Dales are beautiful and are a wonderful addition to the many stunning places that make up the rich tapestry of these diverse islands that we call home.
That’s why in 2012 DRWF decided to head towards Yorkshire for the annual “Active with Diabetes” Walking Holiday. In recent years, we have walked the ancient paths of the Long Mynd in Shropshire, the coastal paths of Pembrokeshire, the steep and wild cliffs of North Devon, the stunning hills of the Lake District and followed in the footsteps of Roman invaders and our Celtic ancestors in Neolithic Wiltshire. This time we decided to explore the largest county in England and put our lungs and calf muscles to the test by climbing some of the steep rolling Dales and traversing the natural farmland and woodland paths.
Members of our walking group began descending on the market town of Richmond on Monday, 22nd May. Our base for the week was the historic King’s Head Hotel, which was situated right in the town’s market square and would be our home for the next five nights. By six o’clock everyone had arrived, checked in to their rooms, freshened up and gathered in the hotel bar for a meet and greet and pre-dinner drink. Our first time walkers were welcomed by the veterans of the group and introductions were made all around, especially to our leader from Ramblers Countrywide Elizabeth Savage and Diabetes Specialist Nurse Angela Sealeaf, who, as always, would keep her watchful eye on us during the week. Dinner began with the handing out of welcome bags of fun goodies and lots of Yorkshire and walking information. After a fantastic meal most of our noisy and excitable group retired, while a few night jays stayed up late reminiscing over coffee and talking about the week to come.
On Tuesday morning we awoke to a crystal clear blue sky. The mist, drizzle and cold chill from the day before had vanished to be replaced with a very hot twenty nine degrees, even at 8am in the morning. After a big breakfast, we gathered at the foot of the monument in the town square and caught the 159 bus to Middleham, where we began our first walk towards to Aysgarth Falls. We enjoyed a fairly level walk through lower Wensleydale and the Valley of the River Ure, taking in Middleham Moor with views north to Wensley Village. It wasn’t long into the walk when we realised that the sudden and surprising onset of the high temperature was slowing us down and causing some dramatic fluctuations in some of our group’s blood-glucose levels. This was easily rectified with some Jelly Babies, biscuits and sugary drinks and further finger-prick testing. Once Angela was happy that everyone was OK, we set off again. Not only was the heat a surprise, but the intense rain fall of the previous weeks had given the ground such a good watering that we now found ourselves walking through fields of thick and heavy calf-high grass, which was very hard going on the leg muscles. At the mid-way point a small village pub made for a welcome sight and we set down our backpacks and walking poles and ordered some iced drinks to enjoy with our packed lunches. At this point Angela decided to send a couple from our group back to Richmond on the bus because the heat was really affecting their blood-glucose and fluid levels, enough to be of concern. The rest of us continued for about half an hour until we came to the ruins of Penhill Preceptory, an ancient chapel belonging to the Nights Templar and built in the year 1200. With four miles to go to Aysgarth Falls, our leader Elizabeth, Angela and I decided it was time to quit while we were ahead and abandon our efforts. The sun was beating down, the humidity was high and the walk was becoming unpleasant. Everyone agreed and we headed back to the village and a farm coffee shop, where we had a lovely pot of tea and slice of cake while we waited for the bus back to Richmond.
On Wednesday the morning sun was even hotter. By 7am it was already intense, so it was decided that we should adapt the walk to make it a bit shorter and more suitable for our group. At 9am our private hire bus arrived and whisked us off to the small village of Reeth where we began our walk. The route took us along the local part of Wainwright’s Coast-to-Coast Path, headed over classic Dales fields and meadows and though farmland and some wooded areas. Elizabeth led us high above the Swale where we stopped for lunch and took in the stunning views of green hills, blue sky and countryside for as far as we could see. We continued all the way along the top and followed the gentle descent back down into Richmond, where we spent the remainder of the afternoon exploring the town and doing our best to stay in the shade.
Thursday was our scheduled day off from walking, and very glad we were too, as the sun was hotter still and the thought of rambling in it didn’t fill any of us with glee. Instead we headed to the historic city of York, where our group split up and headed off in different directions. Collectively, we spent the day visiting York Minster and the surrounding parks and buildings, riding the big-wheel for a bird’s eye view of the city, filling up on knowledge at the many different museums and exploring the winding lanes of The Shambles searching for gifts to take back home. Happily exhausted and with tired legs and aching feet our coach took us back to Richmond where the hotel had a lovely meal waiting for us and a welcome glass of cold wine. After dinner we retired to the nook for coffee and finished the day off with a pub quiz, some prizes and lots of laughing.
Our last day, Friday, had arrived already. The morning temperature had dropped slightly and there was a welcome breeze in the air, so everyone decided to do the final walk. At 9am we all piled into the private bus and our talkative driver and temporary tour guide drove us to Muker, where we started our six mile walk. This really classic Dales village was a great starting point along the low-level part of the Coast-to-Coast path. After smearing ourselves with suntan lotion, checking our blood-glucose levels and taking on some water, Elizabeth set off and led us through fields of deep grass and across meadows with grazing sheep and cows, up hill, down dale, through woodland and thicket and across farmland where we were shown the right paths by some friendly farmer’s wives and greeted by some curious lambs and protective sheep-dogs. We walked close to the Swale all the way into Reeth, where we had started our walk on Wednesday. The sun had come out again with a vengeance, so we dived into the first café and had a lovely pot of tea and a bowl of home-made coffee and vanilla ice cream before meandering around the village and the random collection of shops. The bus and our chatty driver arrived on time and off we went back to Richmond to freshen up, pack our bags and meet for our last dinner together.
Our final meal was as wonderful as all the others that week, so we called the chefs out for a round of applause and to thank them for all their efforts. Every night that week a name was drawn from the hat and a prize was given out. Tonight it was a book about diabetes that was given to the lucky recipient. A special thank you and gift was given to our leader Elizabeth for the great walks she had planned and for being flexible enough to change things at a moments notice to adapt to the great British unpredictable weather. A gift and applause of appreciation was also given to Angela for looking after our health and wellbeing so much during the week. We couldn’t do our walking weeks without her.
After dinner we went down to the nook for tea and coffee, where we huddled together speculating about the King’s Head’s resident spooks and who’s room they might haunt. This led on to an assortment of personal ghost stories into the late hours. When we had scared each other enough, we headed back to our rooms laughing nervously. It was a perfect end to a perfect week. The next morning we rose early for breakfast, said our goodbyes and headed off home in our respective directions, promising to see each other again the following year and chattering excitedly about where the next “Active with Diabetes” Walking Holiday would be.