During my flea infested night, I decide to try to book us on the train to Whitby (another coastal town north of Robin Hood's Bay). If I can find accommodations in RHB for tonight (this will be very difficult), then we could train to Whitby and then walk the 6 or 7 miles to RHB. That would eliminate a very short walk followed by a very boring day with nothing to do and replace it with a very interesting day full of things to see and do and a very nice walk along the cliffs.
Lauren says she's in. She still doesn't look quite right but she's in favor of the busy day plan over the boring day plan. That's my girl.
The C2C gods haven't let us down yet. I call the Raven House, in which we're booked tomorrow night. They've had a cancellation and can accommodate us tonight as well! I leave Lauren in the room to shower/dress and run over to the train station. I speak with a very helpful conductor who tells me that we can catch the 10:10am train to Whitby and it will indeed be a lovely old steam engine but not the Hogwart's Express. Our locomotive will be the "Green Knight" or some such nonsense. I'm very happy and think we can pull this off.
I dash back to the pub and finish packing. We dine alone (surprise, no one else slept in this dump??!?) on cereal and toast and head off to the train station. As we're on the platform talking to the same conductor I spoke with earlier and one of his railway compadres, we hear "You're cheating! You're cheating!" being shouted. We turn to see who's causing all of the commotion. Guess who?
There's Mic Dundee, decked out in his walking gear and wide brimmed hat, stomping towards us shouting about us cheating. He's wearing his usual wide grin and we do our best to defend ourselves. It's not cheating. In fact, if we didn't take the train, we'd only walk 4 miles today but by taking the train, we're going to walk 6 or 7. It's not cheating. Alfred Wainwright himself said not to follow in his exact footsteps but to make your own way. We're making our own way and some of it is made up of railroad track!
Allen joins the three of us and doesn't accuse us of cheating. The guys had put their wives on an earlier train to Whitby where they plan to shop the day away while the guys walk. (Michele and Kathy walk every few days and shop/visit tea rooms the rest the of them!) After some more hassling about cheaters, we hug and kiss goodbye yet again and promise to see them tomorrow in RHB.
We find a very comfortable seat on the train and both grin like little kids when the whistle blows and we hear the chug, chug, chug. We can see the steam rushing by our windows and we enjoy a very easy ride to Whitby. No sooner do we leave the train when the sun goes behind some black clouds and it begins to pour. We pull out the rain gear and try to tuck away the camera/phone/gps in the middle of our non-waterproof packs.
After checking at the information booth, we know that if we climb 199 steps the the Abbey, we'll find the Cleveland Way, which we can take along the cliffs of the North Sea until it hooks up again with the C2C. Sounds perfect to us. We dash into the co-op and buy four small baguettes to get us through the short walk to RHB. It's only 6 1/2 miles and we'll be there in time for a pint and some lunch!
The walk through town is a challenge because we're passing so many great looking shops and the streets are cobblestoned and windy and very Diagon Alley-like. We agree that we HAVE to come back here tomorrow to have a look around. The rain can't bring me down. I'm smiling in spite of it because my daughter and I are now setting off on the LAST walk of the The Walk. We're going to do this!
The abbey is breathtaking. It's on top of the highest cliff over town and only a few walls remain intact. It's easy to see where the stained glass windows used to be. The abbey is surrounded by old, crooked graves at odd angles and this would be the most perfect setting for a Halloween party. It's spooky and wonderful and inviting and I could spend all day poking around.
We turn away from Whitby and head towards RHB. The views of the sea and the cliffs are reminiscent of St. Bee's from 15 days ago. Lauren's spirits are pretty high and I'm happy to find myself exactly where I am. The going is sloppy. Very sloppy. There's been a lot of rain and the path is thick with mud. I realize that these 6.5 miles are not going to be fast.
After only 25 or 30 minutes of walking, we look back and see the Abbey, faintly visible through the fog that's begun to settle. It's a stunning image and I try to capture it with the camera but it's not the same. It's errie but inviting, this falling down abbey on a cliff by the sea, shrouded in mist and rain. These kinds of images hold me and it's hard to turn away and keep walking but we're getting more and more drenched. We walk on and in only a few minutes, we are alone except for two small barns off to our right. The fog has cut us off from everything. Whitby and its stunningly Gothic Abbey are no longer there, the sea and it's sheer cliffs are not visible and the horizon in front of us has also vanished. We stop and listen. The only sounds are those we make and even those sound muffled and odd.
Lauren remembers a comment her dwarf made when we had a similar encounter on the way to Richmond. He said that the world took on a video game quality. I prefer to imagine creepy Halloween kinds of things like vampires and werewolves and witches but to each his/her own. I leave Lauren to her thoughts and she to mine. We plod on.
We pass a lighthouse, which makes me think of Doug. I take some pictures of it for him while Lauren talks to the horse and two ponies in the adjacent field. The going gets slower and slower as the mud gets deeper and deeper. We stop to um...attend to some things behind a tree and as we're putting our gear back on, two British guys come up behind us. We stop to chat and they love the idea of a mom/daughter team doing the C2C. That's when Lauren tells them I'm her grandmother. I consider tossing her over the cliff but she's got my passport in her pack so I resist the urge. We talk with them for awhile and while I was really hoping we were only about a mile from RHB, they burst my bubble by telling us that it's at last another hour of walking. (And as fast as they walk, that means miles and miles.)
The mood starts to dip. Lauren is hungry; the baguettes are gone. I only ate part of one and she had the rest but her tape worm is screaming for more. We have nothing but water and some ginger cookies that she doesn't like. I tell her that we just need to walk faster so that we can get her fed. She doesn't want to hear that and becomes very sullen. I keep going, knowing that the only way our situation will improve is by getting to RHB and feeding her as soon as possible.
As we come around a bend, the two Brits are taking pictures. There it is! RHB is down below, hugging the coast of the North Sea. I'm ecstatic! I turn to Lauren and can see by the look on her face, she doesn't want to hear what I have to say. She's hungry and mean. I smile and keep walking. We're almost there and once she's been fed, she'll be nearly human again.
The walk into town is glorious. We stroll through vine covered archways, along the property line of some beautiful homes with even more beautiful gardens. The sun is out and I'm on cloud 9. I try to get a high five out of Lauren. I get a death stare. I smile at her anyway and tell her we've done it! She couldn't give a fiddler's fart. I try not to let that diminish my happiness and pride at our accomplishment.
We know that our bags can't be here yet; it's too early. Unfortunately, the stones we've carried from St Bee's are in the bags on the Sherpa Van so our stone-throwing/boot dipping ceremony will have to wait. We walk the steep hill down to the bottom of the village (and man, it is really, really steep). Lauren's knee is giving her a hard time. Between that and her empty belly, I'm trying to keep my distance.
Its tradition to have a pint or 6 at the Bay Hotel, in The Wainwright Pub, upon finishing the walk. In we go. I order a pint for me and water for Lauren and ask for a menu. Oh shit. They just stopped serving lunch. I buy two bags of crisps (for you Americans, those are chips). I try to get Lauren to smile and enjoy the moment. She's not having any of it. I smile anyway, which irritates her all the more. The two British guys from earlier sit down next to us and their conversation brings her out of her gloom more than a little. We have a nice chat and as I'm about to have another pint, Lauren cuts me off. She's leaving. NOW.
I say our goodbyes and congratulate them on their walk and we head back uphill to our B&B. No surprise the bags haven't arrived but I can't wear these smelly walking clothes another minute. I rip them off and head for the shower, after which I have to sit in a towel for over an hour waiting for cleanish clothes to arrive. I dress while Lauren showers and then we head back down Hell's Hill to find some dinner.
It's actually quite hard to find a nice place to have a celebratory meal in RHB. I've read that before but now I know it to be true. This town needs such a place. Seafood and pasta and great appetizers and drafts and wine and champagne. That's what I'll do when Lauren graduates from HS. Relocate to RHB and open a proper place for End-Of-Walk Celebrations.
We find a decent place and because we're so early, they can seat us. (Apparently, you have to book a table in this town for every meal because they are so few.) Lauren has chicken kiev and I have fettuccine alfredo with salmon, bacon and mushrooms. I'm full and happy. Lauren is back to herself pretty much so we head down to the North Sea to dip our boots and throw our stones.
To say I'm proud of us just doesn't seem to fully explain how I feel about what we've done. Lauren and I have grown closer and I've learned that she has a quiet strength beyond her years. We've tested our physical boundaries and exceeded what I thought was possible. I'm eternally grateful for her generous gift of being my partner in this journey. I couldn't have asked for better counsel or companionship from anyone. We've spent way too much money, made friendships that will never be forgotten and made memories to take out and savor for many years to come.
Lauren, I hope someday you will read this and understand what a wonderful gift you've given me. I am so very impressed with your tenacity and endurance and courage. I thank you and I love you like you can't imagine.
To all of our family and friends, thanks for the support before and during this crazy time. You kept us going.
To Dougie....I know that staying home wasn't what you really wanted. Thanks for letting Lauren and me be big girls and do it all by ourselves. I missed you like crazy and I'm so happy to home with you again. Now, let's celebrate the anniversary we had on 6/30 but I wasn't home for!! I love you!
17 Day Itinerary
Our walk begins in St. Bee's on the West Coast of Great Britain at the Irish Sea. Almost 200 miles later, we will find ourselves at the North Sea in Robin Hood's Bay.
Day 1 - Moor Row, 9 miles The Jasmine House
Day 2 - Ennerdale, 8 miles Low Cock How Farm
Day 3 - Seatoller, 14 miles Seatoller Farm
Day 4 - Grasmere, 10.5 miles Town Head Farm
Day 5 - Patterdale, 7.5 miles Grisdale Lodge
Day 6 - Shap, 16 miles Brookfield House
Day 7 - Orton, 8 miles The Westons
Day 8 - Kirby Stephen, 13.5 miles The Black Bull
Day 9 - Keld, 14 miles Keld Lodge
Day 10 - Richmond, 14 miles The Old Brewery
Day 11 - Danby-Wiske, 14 miles Old School House
Day 12 - Osmotherly, 12 miles 32 South End
Day 13 - Clay Bank Top, 11 miles The Maltkiln House
Day 14 - Blakley Ridge, 8.5 miles The Sevenford House
Day 15 - Grosmont, 14 miles The Station Inn
Day 16 - Robin Hood's Bay, 16 miles The Raven House
Of course, these distances don't account for getting lost and doubling back a few times, avoiding an aggressive herd of heifers or navigating the moors.... or wandering off in search of a pint.