Friday, July 28, 2006

Travelogue Pt 5

Grassington to Buckden

After a pleasant and comfy night on the sheep farm, the proprietess returned us to Grassington. We tapped the cash machine (again) to stock up for the ATM-less days ahead, bought sandwiches, and set off uphill. It took us a little bit of wandering through fields to find the right path, but eventually we were headed through farm land and then open country.

We passed a lady walking her dog, Daisy. Don't mistake Daisy for a useful sheepdog or anything - what she's staring at so intently in this picture is a red rubber toy. After seeing several of these lean, short-haired border collies on our trip, we began to think that our own dear Stella, for all her blue heeler markings, is part border collie. Eek.

The first half of the 10 or so miles we did on this day were up on the walls of the valley, with incredible views

and lots of sheep. This is a Swaledale (or Dalesbred, I'm unclear on the difference), and a stylized version of its head is the logo for the Dales National Park.

We had lunch at a pub in Kettlewell, a jacket potato for me and a roast beef sandwich (and beer!) for Trent. The second half of the day's walk was more along the Wharfe, with yet more sheep. I went gaga over a small herd of what I thought were blue faced leicester, but which I later discovered were Wenleydale longwools. Trent had the camera, and unfortunately didn't take a picture of these beauties.

We arrived in Buckden and found our B&B, Hartrigg House. It was the last place I had called in an increasingly desperate search for an available room. It turns out that there was only a room available because they were supposed to be closed that weekend, but their teenage son, who answered the phone, didn't know that. At any rate, this was hands down the nicest place I've ever stayed. The room was vast and gorgeous. They did our laundry. They brought us tea on a silver tray, complete with slabs of lemon pound cake. They had a lovely yellow lab named Molly. They fed us the biggest breakfast we ate at any time on our trip (or maybe ever), and they were incredibly kind and friendly throughout. If I ever have the chance to go park myself in the English countryside for a week and luxuriate, this is where I'm going. Sadly, we didn't take any pictures of the room because we were too busy soaking up the comfort.

We ate at one of the two eating establishments in the village. Our hosts had strongly recommended that we go to the restaurant in town instead of the pub at the Buck Inn (which apparently used to be nice but has gone downhill), so we did. Trent had something called "The Buckden Trencher" for dinner, which was a giant Yorkshire pudding with steak and kidneys, gravy, veg, and chips. It was enormous.

The next morning, I was absolutely horrified to discover that our hostess not only washed our clothes, but IRONED them (right before we were going to stuff them back into our packs). We ate our enormous breakfast, complete with black pudding, and sadly departed.

Buckden to Aysgarth

I'm going to reproduce exactly what I wrote in my journal at the end of this day, when I was whiny, dehydrated, and sunburned. I'll add some editorial comments and pictures.

7-2, Day 8, Buckden-Aysgarth Village via Bishopdale, about 8 or 9 miles. [Maybe more - we did a bit of backtracking here and there.]

Today was the first day it felt like a death march. We started the day steeply uphill on a stony Roman Road. We didn't hit the road until after 10, because of the magnificence of breakfast at Hartrigg House. Oy, it was huge.

Anyway, hot, uphill, stony.

Then a nice bit on the fellside.

We did not take the precipitous descent to the pub in Cray. [This is significant because we started the day with a liter each of water, and it was blazing hot. By the time we decided not to go down to the pub in Cray, we'd covered only 2 miles and been through a liter.]

Hot uphill walk on road, then turn off into farm road. The nice lady at Dale Head Farm let us refill water there - thank god! Then bushwhacking along the supposed marked path - a bit hazy in spots, kind of challenging overall. Happily, a very nice lady who lives in the house by the public phone box by Ribba Hall Farm gave us more water. We slogged on, up another fairly stony track. We got lost after Howsdyke Farm - couldn't figure out which way the supposedly pleasant lane went. Grr. [At this point, we had decided to go with the easier looking route downhill through mowed fields, which worked great until we got to an electric fence. We were reminded of the eternal truth of walking: if you're going to go off-course, it's ALWAYS going to involve walking up a hill to get back on track.]

Got nettled on the sunburn on the backs of my legs and was bitterly unhappy. Peed by an old barn. Ate a melty granola bar at some point. Swatted bugs. Pub closed in Thoralby when we got there. Decided to take road instead of path to Aysgarth to make navigation easier. That road was fuckin' steep! At one point, I though we'd doen the worst of it, but we rounded a corner and it went up and up more, and more steeply. I threw my head back and howled and whined in a very pathetic fashion. [Somewhere along the way, Bishopdale met up with Wensleydale. We could tell we were in Wensleydale because the main livestock were now cows instead of sheep.]

There ain't shit in Aysgarth except the very nice Yoredale B&B and tearoom where we're staying,

and a posh and hideously overpriced pub with the meanest bartender in England. [Note that this didn't stop us from having a drink there. I have no idea what's up with the tiki decor. The pub is otherwise very traditional.]

We had dinner at the tearoom, which was lovely. [Pasta with salmon and a light tomato cream sauce] I had the sticky toffee pudding for dessert, which was divine.

Tomorrow, stroll to the falls and back, and BUS to Hawes. [To be covered in future blog entries.]

Monday, July 24, 2006

We interrupt this blog for whining

A phone call, Saturday 5:36 p.m.

Hale's: Hello, Hale's Ales. This is Amber, can I help you?
Me: Do y'all have air conditioning?
Hale's: Yes, we do.
Me: We'll be right over.

Sorry about the long postless spell. It's been abnormally hot in Seattle. Now, I know people in other parts of the country regularly suffer through gross hot weather. But we don't, and we're not equipped. The average high for this time of year is about 76, so the weekend we've spent in the 90's is killing us.

I spent huge chunks of yesterday afternoon in the garage, which was the coolest room in the house (dark, concrete floor), processing the fleece Jon sent me. I'm flick-carding it open, which means that for about 1.5 hours of carding, I get maybe 45 minutes of spinning. Working with raw fleece is frustrating - you work and work, spin and spin, and you don't really make an appreciable dent in the supply. While in theory it's nice to have a bottomless bag of wool, it would be nice to see some progress...

Meanwhile, I finished my Wool Peddler's shawl last week. Here's a blocking picture, since it's been way, way too hot to model.

I'll resume and wrap up the travelogue later this week when temperatures (hopefully!) return to normal.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Travelogue Pt 4, plus packing

We finally begin walking

After a final tromp around York, and a visit to its farmer’s market, we headed to the train station, armed with pork pies. Sitting on the platform eating pies was a real pleasure. The woman who announces arrivals and departures at the York station sings them in plainsong. You hear “The 13:40 for Manchester now arriving at platform 3. All passengers for [somewhere, somewhere else], Leeds, and Manchester should be on platform 3,” and it sounded like the Eucharist at an Episcopalian church. Cool!

We trained to Ilkley, by way of Leeds, to begin our walk. Ilkley is quiet, but lovely. It’s an old spa town, and it has a gorgeous city park all along the Wharfe River. We stayed at the Roberts Family B&B, which was the same price as our B&B in York but had a much more plush room. The hostess, Petra, was a stitch, flooding us with information for 20 minutes straight after we arrived. Among that information was the location of the best pub in town for real ale, the Bar T’at. (The name is a play on the town’s famous song, “On Ilkley Moor Baht’at,” which means on Ilkley moor without a hat.) There was a staggering variety of beer (although I should point out that we weren’t responsible for emptying all the casks you see in the background)

and I tried hard to keep it all to myself.

After a stroll around town (didn’t take long) we visited the riverside park, which has very handsome ducks and is a popular spot for people to bring their dogs to play (look in the background of the second picture).

We chatted with a lovely gentleman who had a dog that reminded us strongly of Stella (so now we’re thinking she’s part Border Collie), who we didn’t get a picture of because she was moving too fast.

We had “light” dinner at the pub that Petra recommended (for food, whereas the Bar T'at was recommended for drinking) and went to bed early.

The next morning, fortified with another giant English breakfast, we set out along the Dales Way toward Grassington. Ilkley is, I believe, the official start (or end, if you’re going the other way). And here’s another picture in which I look dorky (and Trent looks less dorky).

The scenery was stupidly beautiful.

There were lots of sheep, and consequently lots of wool stuck in the fences. If I had started collecting it when I started seeing it, I would have had a sizable bale in a couple of days. (Don't think I wasn't tempted, but I thought it might cause some problems with customs.)

We got lost (sort of my fault, since I'm the designated navigator, but it really came down to a difference of interpretation with our guidebook author about what constitutes a "pedestrian pavement"), which naturally required walking through a field of nettles once to get lost and once to go back, uphill both ways. Along about that time, we had encounters with livestock. The yellow arrow in the first picture below indicates the path’s right of way. The board that is perpendicular to the fence is called a step stile, a device designed to let walkers through but keep livestock in.

We visited the ruins of Bolton Priory, where Trent took many beautiful pictures.

And then we walked a long ass ways further to Burnsall, which is about 3 miles short of Grassington and about 13 miles from where we started. The scenery was gorgeous the whole way, and varied as the path wound nearer or farther from the river. But by Burnsall we decided we’d had enough, that climbing over one more damn stile was too much.

So, I used the one public phone in Burnsall to call a B&B that I knew was located on a sheep farm. It was 1.5 miles further (uphill, over 18 stiles), but the lovely proprietress came and got us in her car. After sorely needed showers (look how sexy walking through the country makes you! I like to think that's a dirt line, but it might be powdered manure...)

she took us into Grassington for dinner and to use the cash machine – the ONLY cash machine in the vicinity. We had a delicious dinner, a pleasant beer and chat at a pub, and then were picked up and returned to the sheep farm for a good night’s rest.

Oh, and the day included more signs that we found amusing. "Danger of hideous death" is going to be a theme that continues in the sign pictures. (Click the last sign picture to enlarge it and see what I mean. I'm especially fond of the little "you may be electrocuted" ideogram.)

And because this has once again become excessively long, I’ll continue in another post. (It’ll start to go faster, I swear; we took fewer pictures after the first day of walking.)

Karen asked in the comments to the last entry what we packed in those small bags, and how that worked out for us. Here’s my packing list:

4 short sleeved shirts/tops
4 pairs undies
2 pairs pants
1 pair shorts
2 bras
4 pairs socks
Running shoes
Teva sandals
Sweater (thin merino)
Rain jacket (Burley bike jacket)

Toiletries (disposable razors; travel sized deodorant, hand lotion, and shampoo [lost in London B&B]; small tub of moisturizer that doubles as lip balm; assorted medications; and a big bottle of sunscreen)
Small walking path guidebook
Atlas of the Yorkshire Dales National Park
1 liter plastic Nalgene bottle
100 g ball of sock yarn, 8- 2.25 mm bamboo needles and a small crochet hook
Moleskine journal
pen (lost on day 4)
Digital camera

Trent had a comparable quantity of clothes. He carried the Lonely Planet England guidebook, the toothbrushes and toothpaste, and the tubes of cortisone cream and antibiotic ointment (very useful - I was eaten alive by bugs and nettles). At any given time, of course, I was wearing one outfit and a pair of shoes. I never weighed my packed bag, but I’d guess it ran between 12-14 pounds depending on how much water and how many snacks I was carrying. It's worth noting that even at home I'm not much of a girly-girl, so there was never any need for makeup or such (although I did wish for a comb a time or two, but since my hair spent most of its time in a ponytail, I managed).

Had it been cold, the sweater could be layered over any of my short sleeved shirts. With the rain jacket on top, I'd be reasonably warm in any foreseeable English summer weather. Because the weather was abnormally hot during the time we were walking, the sweater and one of my heavier short sleeved tops turned out to be dead weight. We mailed back our sweaters, the top, one of my pairs of pants (which I developed passionate hatred for – I should have just donated the damn things) the Lonely Planet (which was mildly useful for pre-trip planning and in London, but really didn't cover the Dales), and a few misc. items that we bought. I ended up buying a new pair of shorts and a t-shirt while we were in Hawes (after 4 days in the Dales). We both bought hats (though mine turned out to be more suitable for rain than sun, so I didn’t wear it all that much), and Trent bought a trekking pole. We also had to buy more sunscreen because we ran out. All in all, I’d say we packed about right.

We always managed to find a launderette or stay at a B&B that would do laundry when we needed it, so we never really had a problem with stinky wardrobe. You have to sort of embrace looking dorky when you’ve packed clothes for comfort and light weight, which can make you feel conspicuously touristy, especially in London. But I was truly grateful for the relatively small bag every time we took a train or bus. Carrying a small bag also discourages shopping, which is good for the budget but sometimes frustrating. Toward the end of the trip, we did start acquiring stuff (a Delia Smith cookbook, a million postcards, a box of Yorkshire tea, several packs of biscuits), and we somehow managed to slide all of that into the backpacks, although I complained bitterly because the structure of my bag made it easier to pack than Trent’s so I got stuck with the cookbook.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Travelogue Pt 3 - York

Polite Notice: Lots of pictures, may be slow to load.

Incidentally, Blogger is only letting me upload a single picture at a time, hence part of the delay in posting.

Getting to York was a little bit of adventure. There had been a fire just outside King's Cross station in London (the main rail station), so we were herded onto the tube, sent to Finsbury Park, and packed onto trains for Peterborough, which turned out to be about an hour north of London. Peterborough is a 6 platform station, but they plainly weren't used to as much traffic as they were getting. Since schedules were all off, they were constantly reassigning platforms, which would cause huges masses of people (and their luggage) to surge up and down stairs in panic. (When we started walking and I watched sheep for awhile, this scene came to mind.)

Eventually, we made it onto our train for York, which was completely packed. The passengers were generally good humored about it - I heard a guy shout to one of the conductors "We can still breathe - you could send in more!"

We had booked our York B&B before we left for England, which was a good thing since York is very popular in the summer. We stayed at the Romley House B&B for two nights, a charming (and small) place with professionally cheerful hosts.

We had one of the best dinners of the trip at The Hole in the Wall pub in York. We both had giant Yorkshire puddings, mine with Cumberland sausage and Trent's with roast pork and stuffing. The beer was darn tasty too. We got a little dish full of sauce packets, and I was staggered by the sauce selection.

York is incredibly beautiful. Every time you turn a corner, there's another completely amazing old building. Here's a selection (clicking will make these bigger, by the way.)

We visited the Minster while we were there, and Trent took zillions of pictures.

If you ever get to visit the Minster, be sure to tour the undercroft. They excavated under there at some point because the foundation was collapsing, and they found that the present cathedral was built on the remains of a Norman cathedral, which in turn was built on an old Roman fort. They found an aqueduct under there, still draining water. Photography is forbidden in the undercroft, so you'll just have to take my word for it - very cool.

We also went for a walk on the city walls. Well, really it was two walks because it was pouring during the first of them.

I found a yarn shop, Sheepish, in an old section of town called the Shambles. This turned out to be one of the very few yarn shops I saw on the trip. The woman working there said she'd be coming to the pacific NW this fall.

Another York highlight was an absolutely amazing pub called The Maltings. They had a staggering selection of hand pulled English ales and select foreign imports (Leifman's Kriek! On tap!)

We began to really enjoy language in York, too. We had our laundry done, and the nice lady at the laundrette called us love about 8 times while she took our money and handed over laundry. The barkeep at The Maltings stumped when he asked "anythinkelse?" But the it was the signs that never stopped amusing us. (We forgot to take a picture of our favorite, "Polite Notice: No Parking At Any Time" which has inspired me to post polite notices at work, "Polite Notice: Leave me the hell alone" or "Polite Notice: Whiners will be shot.") Be sure to read the fine print on the Red Boats sign; apparently, the lads get unruly.

York is beautiful, but it's absolutely heaving with tourists during the day. I prefer the evenings, when you may encounter actual locals.

In Part 4, we go to Ilkley, drink more beer, and actually start walking. Stay tuned.