“Danby Wiske... At 110 feet above the sea,… is the lowest point between the coastal extremities of the walk.” Poor old Wainwright really didn’t enjoy this section at all. He adds, “To walkers whose liking is for rough places and high terrain, this will seem the dullest part of the whole walk; those who believe the earth is flat will be mightily encouraged on this section.”
Its not so bad… really. We set off through the village up another lane and then through more farmland. In no time at all we cross over the East Coast Mainline, and as we walk on away from it the roar of the trains indicates that it is akin to the runway in Heathrow as regards frequency of use. There seems to be a high speed train shooting up it at two minute intervals. I am lead to remember something I heard on the radio about some rail lines already running to capacity.
Its muddier than yesterday, after the overnight rain. Expect the crops like it. At Oaktree farm we go through the farmyard carefully trying to avoid some quite impressive mud baths. Nevertheless there is a basket of goodies for walkers by one of the gates. I am faraway in thoughts when crossing a stile I get a nasty shock. RATS!!! But on closer inspection they are plastic after all.
More farms, more gates and stiles, more mud. We even get to go across a railway line on foot. Luckily much less busy than the previous line! (According to the Rail Atlas it’s a freight line going to Stockton on Tees).
The Cleveland Hills are definitely getting closer, and in no time at all we are at Exelby Services on the side of the A19. A chance for a late coffee break is seized upon. The service station is a rather ramshackle/low key affair reminiscent of the Little Chefs by the A40 around Ross on Wye. The cheerful rather underemployed fellow serving the coffee engages us in conversation about the Coast to Coast. Are we going to Park House tonight? We are. His auntie works there.
The next bit, the crossing of the dual carriageway A19, is by far the most worrying thing of the day for me. Perhaps because we have been off the beaten track for so long. Whatever. Lorries and cars are doing the full 70 up here, on their way towards Newcastle. Its scary!!! Eventually Ray gets me to the central reservation, and then over altogether, into another very quiet little road, which leads us into Ingleby Arncliffe and on into Ingleby Cross.
There is something strange going on here. Quite a few of the gardens have witches in them, and other lifelike mannequins. Up in the church tower Rapunzel is letting down her long hair.
Down around the village green there is a collection of old cars, and someone is busy fixing one. It is only when we get right up next to it we realise that the mechanic is a mannequin too.
It is slightly spooky. All too quiet. It feels as though we have strayed into one of those weird villages they used to have in The Avengers circa 1964. We only need Steed and Emma to come running out of the Post Office to confirm it.
We are not at our overnight stop yet, anyway, so we press on towards Park House, leaving the village and starting upwards along a Forestry Commission Trail. Park House is obvious, so now for project two. We have plenty of time to walk on to Mount Grace Priory, we just need to find the path. It is clearly shown in the book as a spur leading off the main trail, but the only path we find is signposted ‘ No Public Right of Way. Site of Special Scientific Interest.’. Hmmm
We have a good scout about, and there is no other path. At one point we come down through the trees on a minor path, and scale down over a bank, only to find ourselves back on the apparently closed path. That’s the Forestry Commission for you. Never walker friendly.
There’s no other option, so we proceed along the rutted muddy track. There has obviously been a vehicle along here recently anyway. So much for SSSI. The track takes us into Mount Grace Priory by a back route. Once in, we have to get to the front ticket office. Its English Heritage AGAIN. The man at the desk asks how we got in, and we are both a bit defensive. He just wants to give us directions to Osmotherly, though, and doesn’t seem to be remotely concerned about our trespass. Apart from that they are welcoming, and don’t seem to mind the big boots tramping around their upstairs history exhibition.
Lunch is a civilised affair in the Priory grounds.
The place is HUGE, although ruined. The monks were Carthusians, and lived alone in individual cells where they seem to have had penthouse suits by the standards of the time. Meals were provided. They had several rooms, an upstairs, a garden, a toilet and running water. Not bad. Come and join us brothers!!
Later, on our second trespass of the day, the weather starts to close in. We arrive at Park House just in time to avoid squally thunder showers. Big rain.
The landlady has gone to pick up a group of walkers from our next days destination, well Clay Bank Top. Her husband, a deeply apologetic Bristolian, makes us a cup of tea which we enjoy whilst watching the rain hammer against the windows. When ‘Auntie’ turns up we are ushered again into one of ‘Julia’s’ rooms!! That’s twice now. Wahay! Apparently Julia stayed here with her film crew for several day’s filming, involving body doubles and helicopters. Illusions shattered then. 2Well she never did what you have done!” the landlady told us later. “She never walked the Coast to Coast”. People all along the route still love her though, for stimulating all the extra interest and bringing more business their way. Even the Australians have watched her programmes.
Park House is an ‘evening meal included’ place. The other group of walkers having arrived, we are regaled with tales of how bad the next days walk will be for us. They got caught out in the rain though. They look older than us too. It won’t be too bad surely. It will be an early start at any rate.