The final section of the Tabular Hills Way. Up hill and down dale. Too much road walking and a cold North East wind. Fish & Chips, the kindness of strangers, drastic action on the blister.
In a gentle drizzle, the road from Hutton le Hole soon takes me out of the village in the opposite direction to last time I was here. A left turn into rolling fields with boggy stretches and poor grazing and a couple of sheep taking a lazy glance at me from a low tumulus. Down into the dale through styles and fields with horses grazing, across a couple of becks, and into woodland. The routes on the Tabular Hills Way all tend to follow a similar pattern: down from higher pasture and arable fields into the narrow wooded dales that bite into the hills and then steeply back up again; today’s route is a prime example.
Onto small roads through little villages: Gillamoor then Fadmoor with its Millennium cross; and down through woodland on forest tracks into Kirkdale. It’s Sunday and there is a group of lycra clad adults and children orienteering through the woods, little heaps of flour marking their route, whoops and whistles as they keep in touch with each other in the trees. I meet up with them being briefed in a large clearing at Hold Caldron where the gentle sounds of a weir are drowned out by the fierce barks of two large guard dogs locked inside a strong security cage.
A stiff climb out of the dale up roughly paved steps and then along the crest of the steep forest slopes lined with orchids and feeding barrels for game birds. Back onto road again along an exposed ridge with the chilling wind blowing hard from the North East. An unmarked left turn, my GPS coming into play, and past the rhododendrons, azaleas and formal gardens complete with Palladian portico of Nawton Tower.
Across Beadlam Rigg and then down into another small dale and steeply up again through forest plantation to Pinderdale Howl. Down again past the old buildings and goats of Hasty Bank Farm into the larger Riccal Dale, across a muddy ford, and I rest in a small glade just off the path sitting on a great fallen silver birch to eat lunch, change my socks and tape up the small but insistent blister tingling on a toe of my right foot.
A large hare lopes lazily away across a field of young barley as I exit the wooded dale refreshed. Another short road section, down Keld Lane and a sharp turn into the head of Ash Dale; a beautiful grassy track leading between steep banks of bluebells, ramsons and ancient trees. Beautiful but rough going underfoot, the hoof-cratered surface of the bridleway set unforgivingly hard in the dry weather.
Ash Dale slopes gently down in long sweeping curves with the sunlight dancing through the trees as the clouds pass and I fall into a thoughtful haze while keeping an eye out for the hoof-holes.
At the end of Ash Dale the path takes several 90 degree turns along the edges of fields and then crosses a field being developed for housing along a safety-fenced path. Finally past the town cricket ground, the cemetery and All Saints church into the market town of Helmsley, the end of the Tabular Hills Way but the starting point for the next phase of my hike: The Cleveland Way.
The pub where I am staying in Newton on Rawcliffe only does lunches on Sundays so I eat fish & chips sitting beneath Helmsley’s old market cross before catching a bus back to Pickering where I will be met again by my hosts. On my return I discover that a group of people also staying at the Swan B&B have heard about the loss of my camera and have gone out of their way to make enquiries in Whitby. It”s very kind of them and I am touched by their generosity, even though it was unsuccessful.
Time to pack my bags for tomorrow, and the blister’s time is up too. I bite the bullet and lance the hard skin with the sharp blade of my little Swiss Army knife, smother everything in antiseptic and hope for the best.
12.7 miles (20.4km). About 5 hours walking.