Richmond to Danby Wiske

Upon hearing that we were headed to Danby Wiske, the popular consensus seemed to be: don’t rush, there’s nothing there. We took an alternate route that would allow us to spend some time at Easby Abbey, which is located just outside of town about a mile or so walk from The Station. Unlike Shap Abbey, the ruins at Easby are much more substantial, similar to Tintern Abbey in Wales. This is one of the few free English Heritage sights, so we took our time exploring all of the different sides and crumbling walls, taking photo after photo.

As we headed back onto the path, we spent significant time road walking, something with which I am still not comfortable. We found ourselves stopping in a church in Bolton on Swale to see the Henry Jenkins memorial of the town’s oldest resident, perceived to have been 169 when he died. The church left a big box of Coca-Cola and bottled water inside the rectory for walkers passing by and invited you to put a push pin on a map to show where you were from. We had yet to meet any other Americans on the trail. We had heard from others that there was a couple from Kentucky, who sort of became these mythical figures to us. Each time someone heard that we were from the US, they would mention the courageous walkers from Kentucky who were making their third attempt at the Coast to Coast. The first year, the husband broke his ankle in the Lake District. The second year, the wife had to be rescued on the moors. With each person we encountered, the story grew longer and more detailed and more horrific.

I am not sure how scientific the data is at the church in Bolton on Swale, especially since I couldn’t discern whether or not the push pins represented walkers from this year or walkers from whenever they decided to create the push pin map. Nevertheless, the Eastern part of the US was well represented. Perhaps this is because its an easier flight to the UK, but for a moment it made me wish that we were still living in Oregon so that I could have placed a pin on the more barren West Coast. Although we weren’t encountering any Americans, it seemed that they were omnipresent.

The road to Danby Wiske was just as mucky as the road to Reeth and yet again, my knees to my toes were covered in manure. As we walked we encountered a yong family with three daughters ages 12-14, one of whom had special challenges. They were Australians living in Singapore who decided to take a walking holiday before attending a wedding on the continent. Over the course of our entire trip, we had seen two other families, but their children were proper teenagers. They were a lovely family and I was so deeply impressed by the children’s manners. Their walking schedule was much more demanding then ours, but they were handling it with ease and grace.

We entered Danby Wiske and got settled in at the only pub, the Swan, for dinner and drinks, sitting next to a sextagenarian couple. They inquired whether we were walkers and by their accents, I realized immediately that they were American. I asked: By chance, are you from Kentucky? This startled them because although they currently lived in Kentucky they were born in different regions of the States and did not have a Kentucky accent. I explained their infamy, which as it turns out were tales grossly exaggerated. In a few moments we were having a lively exchange and realized that we were staying at the same Bed and Breakfast (which is not all that uncommon, given that there were only three nearby Bed and Breakfasts). Our good friends, M&G, who had taken an extra rest day and Reeth, arrived and we were reunited once again! The bonds you form on the trail are deep and wide. We greeted one another the way you would greet favorite relatives. M gave me a little handmade sheep from a craft booth in Richmond as a parting gift because we knew that after tomorrow’s walk to Osmotherly we would part ways for good. When we inquired whether they would be the third, and final, guest at our B&B, we were disappointed to realize that they would be staying elsewhere.

As we wandered back to our B&B that night, the third couple was just checking in. It was the Canadian couple from our walk to Reeth where I had so kindly dropped the F bomb, as I fell in the manure.

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About 30 Ways of Walking

Gina Liotta's writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in The New York Quarterly, Slate, The Paterson Literary Review, LIPS, and The Healing Muse, among others. She lives, writes and teaches in New York.
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