Find yourself a wet and soggy destination. Visit it during the wet season. What do you have then? One of the newer traditions of my group of hiking friends. Two years ago we visited Dartmoor in October/November, last year we did the Cairngorms in October, and this year we chose the North York Moors. On Dartmoor we had been wading through paths; normally one would walk on these, but we had chosen such a wet time there often was some four inches of water on them. In Scotland we had been properly rained away. What would this year bring? It would be a short hike, as the company could only be in England for a short while, but a lot can happen in a few days.
We would have a small group; last year we had Roelof, Erik, Viking, Henco, Maaike, and Hugh, but the first and the last couldn’t make it this year. But five is still a good number. And this time they came by boat! Erik has a snazzy new car that can hold four people plus luggage, and bringing the vehicle would make getting to and from the start point a lot easier. So on a Thursday morning I heard the sound of an engine, which heralded the arrival of my friends! They were a bit startled at having gotten there; it turned out they had left with little preparation, and had wondered when they came off the ferry whether they actually had bothered to bring my address, or my phone number… but it had worked out!
I made coffee, and we arranged the last bits. Did we have a sensible number of pots and pans? And did we have oil? And a first aid kit? When all was clear we plonked the bags in two cars and drove off. Somewhere around 2PM we parked the cars. And set off. As it was already late we only walked for about a kilometre before we already stopped for lunch. In the sun! That was a first – normally we have our first lunch in the pouring rain. But I can get used to this! Nice to be hanging around with all friends! Especially in a beautiful landscape. And it was so nice and sunny Erik decided to send provoking texts to big absentee Roelof; a habit he kept all trip through. Only to find out later Roelof’s phone had already been broken for a month…
Starting in the middle of the Moors
Never seen before: first lunch in the sun!
After lunch we continued along the old railroad, being slightly puzzled by the cat litter-like constructions we saw along the path. The mystery was solved when we reached a pile of plastic bags on a clearing – they contained bird feed! So they were making things a bit easier for the grouse, which we flying up, making their spiffing sounds, all the time. I love that sound!
After some dozens of grouse we reached to the little path that would take us down into the valley – our route started on the ridge east of Farndale, go along it, cross over, then go south for a while, then go south again, and then back north to the cars. We stumbled through the reeds and the heather as there was no path, until we came to a nice old tree. We wondered if we should go on from there; it was getting dark, and from the tree it would get steeper and less suitable for pitching tents. So we called it a day! We had walked no less than six kilometres. Maybe even seven. But now it was time to bring the beer out! Henco and Maaike had decided that as we didn’t need much food for only two days, they had plenty of space for some good Belgian beer! And after the beer the whisky came out. And then the stoves, for cooking curly kale. A swamphike classic! Henco tried out his new wood burner, which we decided not to use at it worked a bit too well, so we cooked on old-fashioned whisperlites in the end. And after coffee it was time to go to bed. It had become cold!
Henco's wood-burner worked better than expected
The wind and the rain swept the tent, but I had faith all would be well. This tent has seen worse. I did have to defend my place – I shared my tent with Viking, something his wife had festooned with some suspicion. After twenty years! Maybe she’ll trust me by the time I’ve known Viking for 40 years. Note to self: go camping with him in 2033 to find out!
In the morning it was bright and sunny. Lovely! We had luxurious breakfast, and set off. Down into Farndale! And out the other side. Before the hike, Viking had wondered if Farndale should perhaps not be avoided as it was so much more civilized than the surrounding moors, but its bucolic bliss made him change his mind. Maaike saw plenty of opportunity to use her plethora of cameras, some of which seemingly work-holed straight from the early Bronze age. She would take analogue pictures, develop and print these herself, and then scan them in in order to share them with us. I see the beauty, but I prefer to plonk them straight onto internet from the memory stick…
Four intrepid hikers
Soon we entered the moorland again, on the other side, and went all the way to the top of the ridge on the other side. It was a broad, even track! Suddenly we travelled at speed. So much so we soon went down into the valley again. And out the other side! All the way the question whether it is better to call a container for things such as tents a “foedraal” or rather the more prosaic “zakje”, kept us entertained. The answer, of course, is that one should never use “stuff” when one could use “paraphernalia” instead; just to pick an English example.
Unavoidable group picture! Erik, Henco, Viking, Maaike and me. By then it had finally become a bit swamp-like.
At the start of the moorland we had a last lunch. And we were only some three kilometres, as the crow flies, away from the cars, while we had hours to spend still, so we headed south, to have a slightly longer walk. That allowed us a view into Rosedale with it industrial heritage – I loved it! And upon getting back to the cars we ditched the bags, drove to the pub, and then walked for another hour. Very beautiful! And then the pub beckoned. We had hardly deserved a hearty pub meal, but sometimes one should abandon one’s Calvinism and just seize the moment. And once back in York, the drivers could join the exhausting of my beer (and whisky!) stock.
Pub dinner - and these were only the starters...
Given that I now live in a city worth scrutinizing, we had just that planned for the next day. We saw the Minster, the Shambles, and the city walls. And then it was time to see the inside of a pub for a solid lunch; that would save the travellers having to have expensive and unappetising ferry-food. And then it was time to stuff all people and bags back into Erik’s car, and wave them goodbye! The end of swamphike 2013, the swamplessest swamphike ever!