The afternoon was still a little misty and moist with the occasional threat of rain. Not that it mattered… Yorkshire is beautiful in that weather too. In some ways, it ‘suits’ the landscape more than brilliant sunshine. The countryside is laden with wild fruit at present, the fields seem full to overflowing and there is a richness to the very air.
Throughout the weekend two verses kept running through my mind… the verses from a childhood hymn, “All things bright and beautiful..” and Keats’ poem, “To Autumn”;
SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core…..
So Saturday afternoon saw us heading through the misty fields in search of the first of our hills. We rounded a corner and saw the profile we were looking for. Pulling over, under the watchful eye of a nanny goat, we got out to look. Examining the lie of the land and exploring our theories we leaned on a gate looking over a stunningly beautiful valley at the distant hills, blue in the mists, their soft colours contrasting sharply with the rich gloss of the cockerels at our feet.
Following the road led us around the hill with no sign of the footpath we had wanted. The trail took us deeper into the forest so we gave up and turned our attention to the next hill on the list. The trail took us through some beautiful places until we spied a sign for the Bridestones.
Now, I was not prepared… I had failed significantly to research the steepness of the hill we had to climb, but then, we are getting used to that. We were rewarded however with a fabulous vista as we left the trees. Great rocks, sculpted by weather and glacial erosion rise from the bracken, fantastic shapes against the sky.
The Bridestones line the ridge overlooking a valley and continue across the other side. It looks like miles, but we found it a very quick and easy passage… one of those moments when time and distance seem to lose the plot and wander off in separate directions. Climbing them was, of course, irresistible for some people… and inevitable. I mention no names… but one even had his name on, as the saying goes… though he wasn’t the only one to end up climbing there.
We spent a fair bit of time there before going in search of coffee and continuing the quest for the second hill. The rain had started threatening a bit more and visibility was getting less and less. Our first look at the Hole of Horcum was disappointingly vague and the hill elusive… but the heather was calling, so the road took us northwards towards Goathland in search of the Roman road.
Now, I remember this stretch of Roman road. I am almost entirely certain it exists. I have seen the pictures… but I am sure there is a cottage industry alive and well in North Yorkshire just erecting signs pointing seekers in circles…. A trek down a long steep hill and back up the other side of the valley proved futile and of course, it was even steeper on the way back… Signposts pointed to vehicular access, but no sign of the road did we find. My poor little car forded more streams in those few hours than I have ever forded on foot… but we were rewarded with heather in the mists as far as the eye could see.
As the heavens opened we gave up and went in search of a pub….