And Back Again

So.  You  go away for a few days and when you come back half the internal walls in your house are gone.  You’ve got no bathroom, no kitchen, no heating, barely any ceiling and  the only running water is a hosepipe sticking out of the middle of a concrete floor.  The one safe, semi-liveable-in room is your bedroom but even here every available inch of floorspace is filled with refugee clutter from other parts of the house; piled high to the ceiling.  And all is covered in a fine layer of plaster dust.  Bedsheets included.   What would you do?   We (because we’re rufty tufty types) stuck it out for a couple of grim, long days.   And then?   We ran away.   Packed what we could and   fled, shrieking, to family in Gloucestershire.  We planned to return when the house was a little more habitable.  A flushing loo would be an inducement.Hence the lack of recent posts ….I think I was pretty realistic about eight days walking around the Yorkshire moors in March.  And until someone mentioned “An  American  Werewolf In London” (“Stay on the road. Keep clear of the moors. Beware the moon”)  I hadn’t even thought of werewolves.  So being reminded was great.  Thanks Mark.

North Yorkshire in March?  You’d pack some serious waterproofs wouldn’t you?  And gloves?   And a fleece and plenty of thick socks?  A nice warm hat?  Exposure bag, whistle, torch, half a dozen bottles of Spitfire ale, eight family size bags of Revels – all the usual emergency kit, in case I got caught in a snow drift.  But then miraculously, amazingly, wonderfully, beautifully the sun shone.

And shone and shone and shone.  Don’t you just love it when that happens?  The one thing I really needed in my emergency survival kit was sunblock.  But it being the North Yorkshire Moors in March, I hadn’t packed any.  Burn David, burn.

So I ended up lugging all this other stuff for mile after mile. Stuff. Just loads and loads of  redundant stuff. Really heavy stuff.   Soon my hip joints hurt and my knee joints hurt.  And  my  feet hurt – big time.  At the end of my first day, I shuffled into my first pit stop (the very pretty village of Levisham) like a weary, second rate specimen of the Walking Dead. Spit bubbles on my cracked lips and murmuring, barely audibly, “pity me, pity me.”

After that first day, I figured I’d have to walk quickly (blisters be damned) if I were to keep to my fairly punishing schedule.  So I might not  have time

Helmsley Castle

to stop, linger and admire any  ruined castles rising out of the morning mist,

Rievaulx Abbey

or a beautiful abbey with attendant posing cattle

Saltburn Viaduct

or an 150 year old brick viaduct as stunning today as the day it was built.  Brick!

Some  good old fashioned English place-names

I wanted to see some  good old fashioned English place-names


reeking of an Anglo-Saxon/Norman/Viking past.


And I wanted to be  enticed by a pretty path.  Or two;


to see a coquettish path that tweaked my curious nose and tugged me along, Aunt Polly like, by the ear lobe.


I thought I’d see plenty of wildlife, hopefully something  I hadn’t seen  before

Red Grouse

and hopefully something with stick-on comedy eyebrows.  Unlikely.

Before I set off, I imagined endless trudging along brooding, treacherous and stormy cliffs,

my head cowered by the gale that I marched ever so stoically (and very, very bravely) into.

Stomp, stomp, stomp across the moors, dodging rain squalls with hailstones the size of tennis balls careering about my ears.

Roseberry Topping – possibly the nicest named hill in England

I doubted that the weather would ever afford me a vague hint  of the Himalaya

Captain Cook’s monument (horizon left)

or a whiff of the mystical, the magical.

A man

I hoped not to see a soul. Not one.  I wanted complete solitude.  And yet, one day, I saw THIS man.

But I did want to see some pretty flowers, and maybe, just maybe, a levitating ball  of exploding gorse.   Result!

A Larch ‘Flower’

And something unfamiliar, at least to my eye.  Something microcosmic.  (There you go, Stacy).

And  a vista. I wanted to snap a nice big vista without some grinning Herbert sidling into frame uninvited.  And waving.

An uninvited, grinning, waving,  paramilitary clad Herbert.


What I did get was an eight day walk in North Yorkshire.  And it was amazing.  I know that is an overused and consequently impoverished word.  But it was.  Amazing.  And very beautiful.  And very long.

9 thoughts on “And Back Again

  1. Hi Andrea, wow a month walking in Tuscany sounds amazing. Though I would say that I went to Sicily for a week's walking holiday last September and it was still very hot indeed. But what a treat and then you come back and your house is all done – result!

    These past few days I've started planning my solo walk for early next year – can't wait.



  2. Im sorry but still laughing at your tale of all useless “stuff” in your backpack,definitely going to double check mine.But now wondering at my own trek 1 month in the Tuscany Hills(Sept) have been wearing my hiking boots everywhere.While Im gone the other half is gutting and renovating our cottage he promises I will have aleast a toilet and bedroom when I get back,will be lighting lots of candles while away.


  3. Hi David, I was beginning to wonder whether you had become lost on the moors! The walk you did certainly looks fantastic from the pics; I especially like the one of Helmsley Castle and those of the old sign-posts. Sorry to hear that the building work is taking so long but at least you can console yourself with the fine weather, perfect for getting out and about. Jason.


  4. Thanks Stacy. Sadly the house is still er, a trial. Got a bath though. And the toilet flushes. Big steps forward….

    You're so right about Groucho Grouse. I hadn't noticed the similarity and yes, the larch cones shouldn't work with that boiled-sweet colour combo. But they do!

    Hi Alison, thanks. We do a house renovation every three years or so and for once we're pretty much having everything done at the same time. Unforeseen problems with the heating system means that rather than the kitchen going in and the bathroom being finished off our brilliant builder, Steve, is still digging out concrete in order to lay pipes. Good grief. How we laughed when we learnt of that problem.

    Thanks, HG. I try and get away each year (normally Jan or Feb – to avoid clashing too much with what's going on in the garden) and do a solo walk. Already planning next year!!

    Hi Andrew, going to have to cry off our Sissinghurst visit I'm afraid but lunch would be good. We can escape and pretend to be normal for an hour or two. Might look a little disheveled.

    Hi Petra, isn't it just. Stunning. The house building work was planned but is just dragging on, as they are wont to do. Should start being a lot more habitable after this weekend … I'm so fed up with takeaways and ready meals and not being able to find ANYTHING.



  5. Those photos are brilliant, I can't believe you thought it would be so grim upt' North bearing in mind that is my neck of the woods and I am such a grand specimen! Glad you are back safe and sound, shame about the house, the dogs must have been excited to see you and it was probably Hobb's tail causing all the devastation!

    When are you returning? Who is looking after your gardens!!??

    Hope to see you this weekend if you are back xx


  6. Welcome back – brilliant pics – you are such a good photographer.

    Bit worried about your house though – was it an earthquake or just the kind of DIY your partner always attempts to suprise you with while you are away that goes wrong (not that I know that your partner does that but I have lots of friends that has happened to!)



  7. There really is no easy way to come back from a vacation, but your story takes the cake. Hope things are calming down and that you have plumbing and walls and other household luxuries again.

    But wow–it looks like your holiday was, yes, AMAZING. (Does putting it in all caps enrich it a bit again?) The skies alone are spectacular, let alone those lovely paths and castles and Groucho Marx grouse and cliffs and fog and moors. The larch blossoms are exquisite–in a way it's easy to see them turning into cones, and in another way it's easy to wind up craving fruity tropical drinks. Thank you. 🙂

    It's a pity about that guy who ended up in the way of your last photo. Aren't you glad you aren't carrying his pack? It looks heavy.

    Welcome back!


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