Coast to Coast Day 10 – Brompton-on-Swale to Ingleby Cross

Published 11 October 2010

“The weather is going to be insignificant tomorrow. No significant rain. No significant sun. No significant cloud. Just insignificant.”

At Kirkby Stephen hostel Catherine had spotted a rather elderly guide book for the Pennine Way.

It was, by all accounts, one of the first books written about the granddaddy of long distance paths and at the back it included tips and information for planning your trip, with a sizeable section given over to food, especially packed lunches.

“Packed lunches”, it proclaimed, “should include all six of the food groups” and amongst the things walkers were extolled to take were plenty of protein (hard boiled eggs, pork pies, etc.), 3oz of dried fruit and nuts for energy, and of course 2oz of biscuits which, the book felt important enough to point out in case your maths was completely up the spout, meant you should take 4oz for two people and that a 8oz pack would last two people two days! Funnily enough it neglected to point out that a large pork pie could last two people two days, nor that if there was two of you, you really should take two boiled eggs…

Every night you should, it went on, have not one, not two but three courses in your meal and you should always start the day with a hearty breakfast.

The commitment to a hearty breakfast was very much in my mind as I sat staring at the gargantuan breakfast placed in front of me at the Farmers Arms.

We’d had a feeling something might be in the offing when the lady serving us proudly proclaimed she’d made the coffee “as thick as tar” and that she’d put three tea bags in the tea pot. She told us this before plonking half a pack of butter on the table and bringing us a toast rack that was so full that the chef had slipped an extra two triangles of bread on the side of the plate.

And then breakfast itself arrived. To say the plate heaved a sigh as it was placed in front of me is perhaps an understatement but let us just say that the only thing they’d skimped on was the solitary egg which sat looking lonely on a pile of fried bread. Then there was the three sausages, three rashers of bacon, two slices of black pudding, a ladle full of beans, fried mushrooms and, of course, a whole tomato.

It was an insane amount of food and felt like a heart attack on a plate. I dreaded the thought of finishing it all, which would probably involve a huge siren and party poppers going off before the chef arrived with a celebratory half loaf of toast by way of congratulation.

Strolling through fields near Catterick Bridge

Leaving Brompton-on-Swale was like leaving suburbia; a curious feeling for a walk which Wainwright designed to pass mostly through small villages. However the A1 and Europe’s largest military base at nearby Catterick had put their mark on the landscape and our morning was spent wandering along grassy fields near main roads.

Most people try to do this stretch as part of a 23 mile day hike from Richmond. The reason people can do 23 miles in one day – albeit with rather sore feet – is because most of this stretch is flat, going through and along fields and down country tracks. It’s not hard to get a good speed up.

It didn’t really feel like we were walking along such a busy trail. The paths were often overgrown, looking like they’d seen no one down them for months and months. That said it’s far superior to what Wainwright encountered when planning the route. So inaccessible were farm paths due to missing stiles, barbed wire, angry farmers and bulls in the field, that Wainwright routed much of this section along roads. Thankfully due to the work of the council and landowners most of the road walking has now been eliminated.

Highland cows cooling down next to the River Swale

During the morning we saw very few people bar a father and young daughter cycling, who we encountered mainly due to getting slightly lost near Bolton-on-Swale. Still we did see a highland cow that decided standing in the Swale was a good idea to cool off. Its calf seemed less convinced.

Other than that, the paths were along fields of barley and wheat, and through fields of cows, as we headed to the tiny village of Danby Wiske. One farm at Standhowe offered a small diversion with a sign pointing out what the farmers had done to improve the environment for walkers. It included a notebook for comments and one previous East to West walker had heaped praise on the farm, wishing that some farms from Ingleby Cross had taken a more walker friendly attitude.

Reading a comments book on Stanhow Farm

After reading that comment I felt a little churlish about potentially complaining about a heavy patch of nettles, and even more so when we passed through a nearby farm where the owners had made the walking as difficult as possible. The path was so narrow that you’d have to walk one foot in front of the other in order to get down it and stiles – when they did exist – were frequently broken. Freshly churned mud was everywhere and random and rusting farm equipment had been dumped right in the right of way. But best of all, a bridge had been made by dumping a 12″ wide piece of concrete over a beck, which wobbled ominously as we crossed.

There had been nowhere at Brompton-on-Swale to buy lunch, and nothing en-route, so we’d had to break the golden rule of the Pennine Way guide book and go out for the day without any food bar half a bag of buttermints. However we knew there was a pub at Danby and a walkers cafe based in someone’s house.

The White Swan pub in Danby Wiske

Well where the latter was we never did find out. It seemed to be completely non-existent and we soon grew bored of trying to find it and headed to the pub by default, where a small contingent of walkers and cyclists had congregated for sustenance. The pub sign was clearly Coast to Coast based with one side proclaiming it was 130 miles from St Bees, and the other 60 miles to Robin Hood’s Bay.

Given the heat – easily getting above 25°C – orange and lemonade seemed to be the tipple of the day in the White Swan, so much so that the woman behind the bar had to keep rushing off to get new bottles. Refreshing ourselves and lining our stomachs with sandwiches and cake, we were soon ready to set off in the sun once more.

The White Swan had clearly been a crossing place for walkers and there were quite a few who appeared to be going from east to west, however in the afternoon we again saw next to no one bar two walkers late in the day who had presumably set off quite a way away in Clay Bank Top that morning.

A field of crops outside Danby Wiske

The rest of the afternoon was more and more farms. More fields of wheat. More of barley. Field walking’s fine but after a while it gets a bit tedious and one of the big problems was that there were few places to rest that either weren’t in fields or weren’t under the gazing eyes of a farm house. In desperation after crossing a railway line, we ended up sitting down on the concrete steps leading up from the train line.

With few places to stop off for refreshment, some local farmers offered snacks for sale from ice boxes. One gave the curious combination of flapjacks and Lucozade Sport (orange) whilst a later farm gave a choice of fruit, cans of drink or some freshly chilled crisps – clearly important to keep them cold given the way they were artfully arranged over the ice packs.

What I really wanted was a homemade chocolate brownie or some other farmhouse treat, but clearly no farm was in sync with my mind and instead I had to contend with a tractor whose reversing beeps could be heard for miles around ensuring that everyone knew what was going on even if they were nowhere near it.

Eventually we began to draw near to Ingleby where we’d be resting for the night, and passing by a farm we were greeted by a very happy puppy who would no doubt have followed us all the way to our B&B if we hadn’t managed to escape its attention by running as fast as we could.

The A19 – worst road crossing on the Coast to Coadt

An even bigger challenge came shortly after and what better way to end the day than trying to get over the six lanes of the horrendously busy A19? Our guide book described it as more dangerous than Striding Edge and I’m not arguing. I’d say it’s the most dangerous thing most Coast to Coasters will have to face on the whole thing. There’s no crossing, no bridge, no signs to warn motorists, no hope of being able to do anything than hope you’ve judged the traffic speed correctly and RUN. RUN LIKE THE CLAPPERS. Yes. Run. I don’t care what the Green Cross Code says – walking over this thing would have been far more dangerous.

Making it across alive we got to our B&B owned by a fellow Coast to Coast walker who plied us with a fantastic cream tea welcome and proceeded to tell us all about the next days walking before we showered and headed out to the nearby pub only to end up talking to an Australian camper who laid into one hiker who had done 34 miles in one day.

“You’d never seen anything at that speed” he scoffed, despite having proclaimed just moments before he was going to do 30 the next day himself.

As he supped his ale, he didn’t seem to be particularly enjoying the Coast to Coast, proclaiming it too busy. He was on a six month holiday in Europe and had only decided to do it after pulling out of a walking route in Turkey after an injury, and having gone to Lancashire to walk random paths just in case they hadn’t been used for years and someone wanted to remove their right of way status.

“That must have been interesting,” Catherine politely commented.

“Nah. It was just so boring” he muttered with a slightly mad glint in his eye.

The Blue Bell Inn – contender for one of the best pubs on the Coast to Coast

The pub itself was far from boring. It clearly hadn’t had much money spent on it for years and seemed stuck in a glorious time warp without even having fridges behind the bar. The food was insanely cheap, with most options being about a fiver, but had quite frankly amazing steaks.

Despite being a Sunday evening, it was bustling with locals and after our Australian friend had gone off to get some sleep (having delightedly found there was a marquee he could bivvy down in rather than mess around with his tent), the table next to us was soon colonised by an increasingly large and happy group of dominoes players. As they played I did my best to support the rare cask version of John Smiths. Clearly Smiths was popular – the pub had three versions with the cask version being joined by the miserable Smooth version and the diabolical Extra Cold.

Besides there being two excellent guest ales on, I felt the need to support Cask Smiths in some sort of way, hoping that its international corporate megalomaniac owners would take note of my two pints before deciding to get rid of the stuff.

My duty done we retired to the B&B to try and rest our throbbing feet in the provided foot spa which seemed to do little beside vibrate a lot. Whether it did much to help my feet would just have to be seen in the morning…


Mark Greenhalgh

16 November 2015 at 1:43 am

great read, in the style of Wainwright bemoaning luxuries, noisy people and Yorkshire Farmers! I agree whole heartedly about the later, i will one day do the Coast to Coast again and hopefully by then there will be a bridge over that damned A19!

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