September 26th 2014

Anne King from our PR company Watershed hiked the Yorkshire Dales with The Wayfarers and recalls some of the surprises we had in store. It was my ‘Wayfarers’ moment’. A beautiful, calm dusk was falling over the Yorkshire Dales; I was getting a surprise ride in an open-topped vintage Bentley sports car on my way to dinner at a gorgeous olde-worlde pub – and we ran out of gas. Driver and also our host for the evening David (channeling Mr Toad in helmet and goggles) was mortified. The cell signal was virtually non-existent, we were on a remote lane – but hey, it wasn’t raining! Happily, enough satellites aligned for the few seconds needed to call David’s wife, who nobly arrived with a can of gasoline destined for her lawn mower. We arrived at the Craven Arms full of tales of our heroic ordeal, to find the rest of the group happily ensconced with pints of local bitter, ordering from a mouth-watering menu in a fabulous cruck barn and only very mildly concerned about our absence. I am still grinning when I think about it. Tackling a Yorkshire stile The surprises continued that night. A group of musicians serenaded us at our table with Yorkshire dance tunes played on the fiddle and sang old folk songs - Scarborough Fair, sung solo, reduced the assembled company to an awe-struck silence. At Bolton Castle we were met by a special surprise guide for our private tour – Mary, Queen of Scots herself, who regaled us with tales of her period of imprisonment there. Beautifully costumed, Her Majesty graciously showed us round. We remarked on how much she looked like our stalwart Walk Manager, Sue! It didn’t end there – Dorothy, a classic old Dales bus (circa 1949) was waiting to take us to our next stop. There was, I am ashamed to report a slightly unseemly scuffle for the row of rear seats, always top choice for the naughtiest schoolboys and girls! At our base for the next two nights, The Wensleydale Heifer, the themed rooms involved treats of chocolate, champagne, four-poster beds and oh-so-welcome whirlpool baths. We met racehorses, nose to nose, and were overwhelmed by young sheepdogs that put on an impeccable and remarkable display for us. We ate Wensleydale cheese with fruitcake (yes, that’s what they do up there). We (well, some of us) risked bootfuls of water and possible humiliation and crossed a river via stepping-stones instead of a perfectly sensible bridge. We learned how to build a dry-stone wall and rode on a little train on a heritage rail track. But one of the big surprises Yorkshire had in store was out on the trail. I am used to stiles - the steps or gaps used to cross field boundaries. But boy, does Yorkshire have styles of stile designed to test fitness, co-ordination and ingenuity! The fells and moors of the Dales are sheep-country, so there are a lot of stiles, intended to keep the sheep out, or in. There are the double ladders, the wooden step up, twist and step-down again kind; the gaps in the walls (surely not designed for human legs to squeeze through); the kissing gates; and the little gates on springs so vicious that one Wayfarer needs to lean on them to hold them open and let companions get through with their kneecaps intact! I do think we learned to love them and all perfected our techniques. But our cries of triumph at negotiating a particularly steep and fiendish specimen were muted as our Walk Leader Alan strolled up, casually unhooked the neighboring farm gate and just walked through! To join us on our Walk in Yorkshire in 2015, check out all the details on our website.

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