The day we drove up to Cumbria was the first decent day’s weather we had had for a long while. Clear blue skies promised so much – crisp fresh air, bright sunshine – a genuine invitation to the outdoors. Holiday weather. Longer daylight hours now the clocks had changed for British Summer Time helped to improve the spirits after a long, cold winter.
So it was that we arrived in this beautiful part of the British isles with so much optimism.
So, now, four days later we are still surprised that the weather has remained so constant. Waking in our rented holiday cottage in Dentdale amazed by more blue sky, contrasting green hills, contrasting bright white lambs, contrasting grey stone walls. So much colour contrasting against so little noise.
Huge, large scale maps interfere in their usual awkward fashion, covering the breakfast plates, hiding the tea, reluctant to lay flat and give up their secrets. Yet we win eventually.
We decide on a riverside walk today, starting out from Sedburgh. Birks Lane leads down to the river Rawthey, past JMP Foodservice depot, (which we decide could stand for Jolly Mass Produced, as there are numerous trucks parked in the yard.) The footpath runs alongside the river through several fields (some containing more sheep, of great interest to Duchess.) Mostly the bank is quite high above the fast-moving river, but we eventually find a small sandy beach under an old railway bridge, where Duchess could cool off with a swim.
Several sections of disused railway line are used in this area for walking and cycling. They make quite an impact on the natural surroundings, having succumbed reluctantly, one assumes, to their new lease of life.
Past the confluence of the Dee with the Rawthey, this is nearly the bottom of Dentdale. The rumble of the water over the stones and rocks holding our attention for some while. Walking on duchess drew the attention of a large gaggle of geese and ducks in a nearby field. They clearly believe in strength in numbers, so the flock waddled towards their fence merrily asking us to pass along, quickly losing interest once we had passed.
A short road walk ensued until we spotted the footpath sign we were expecting to the Ford. It was with some concern I noted it actually read ‘Deep Ford’! As we all had hot feet by this time, the concept wasn’t entirely horrible. Through 2 fields, scattering sheep as we went, we arrived through a gate to find a fast-running Rawthey, about 25 yards wide, but no discernable ‘fording’ ridge. The crystal clear water showed the large stones and pebbles which formed the riverbed, but there was no evidence that this ford is regularly used. Of course, Duchess could see no problem and was quickly standing knee deep at the edge wondering why we were reluctant. A scan of the far shore revealed a muddy beach a few yards upstream from our position, leading to a sloping path up on the bank. Not being terribly intrepid, I would have been quite happy to about turn and retrace our steps. But I was out-numbered by a dog and an adventurer!
My usual method for making decisions revolves around lists of pros and cons, so here’s what went through my mind in very short order:
|Nice warm day||Really cold water|
|Loyal team members||It’s quite fast moving|
|Pride if I make it||I could easily fall in|
|I can unzip my trouser legs||Squelchy boots|
I’ve always been aware of my limitations and quite like my comfort zone, so this was clearly well outside. Discussions ensued about whether barefoot or booted was preferable, but once the boy had literally put his toes in the water, he announced the stones were far too slippery. So boots only. So my newly discovered intrepid self set out clutching my walking socks and trouser legs for dear life, placing one foot then the other very carefully into the water, trying to find flat areas to ensure I remain vertical. Almost immediately, the brand new, completely wrong sensation of cold water pouring into my boot took my breath away.
It seemed such basic rules I was taught as a young child were being questioned ;
Look after your new shoes – Be careful – Don’t follow others into trouble…
Yet, surely I was grown enough to make my own decisions, take a calculated risk…?
Duchess clearly never knew this dilemma, she enjoyed doggie-paddling around in circles waiting for us both to get across. Sometimes I wish I could just act on instinct, rather than have to consciously battle with it. But not often.
Sure enough, I dropped my trouser legs, which had almost made it across dry as a bone. At the deepest points, the water was halfway up my thigh! I nearly fell in a couple of times, mostly off slippery rocks which had been in the shade, but the fact is that we all made it safely across without major disaster. We sat down on the sunny bank, emptied out our boots (something I won’t miss doing again), put dry socks back on and replaced boots. Having had hot feet earlier, this wasn’t as bad a sensation as I had expected. I watched as my chilled, pinky legs gradually thawed back to their usual winter white.
I must admit to a smile on my face as I watched a couple approaching the ford from the other side, and couldn’t help myself calling out to them,
It is quite deep!
We saw them later in town, so clearly they made it across, too!
With my newly discovered intrepid feeling, we marched onward past a touring park, and on through a farm with free range chickens and a most colourful cockerel strutting his stuff. The farmer tried to dissuade us from our course, presumably to keep us off his land, but we managed to find the footpath our of his yard and across a large field towards the disused railway. Over the railway banking, and skirting around the edge of Sedburgh golf course. Watching a group teeing off, given the Masters is taking place, was quite amusing. The first golfer hit a tree branch and his ball dropped about 100 yards ahead. The third golfer hit his shot into the middle of the river to his left, so tried again with better results. One of the holes was just 115yards, but in two parts, either side of the river Dee. A pretty hump-backed bridge allows players to head for the green in search of their ball.
Walking along the side of the fairway gave a lovely view of manicured greens and two-toned fairways, quite a contrast to the rough greens and browns of the farm fields and trees yet to bud.
The footpath then crossed the golf course and took us back onto a riverside walk for a short way before leading us across a footbridge back to the bottom of Birks Lane.
An interesting walk, taking in various people, creatures, terrains and landscapes, both natural and man-made. But what will stay with me is the pleasant surprises;
The warm sunshine throughout. And the satisfaction of having achieved something I really wasn’t sure about.
Our boots are still drying out. We put them on the wall back at the cottage.