Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Day 34 begins


Day 34 begins

When I woke it was to the sun peeking out from behind clouds but the day was already quite warm. I lazily packed everything away and surveyed the route to go. I wasn't entirely sure now that I was actually on marked footpath as there was not much evidence of people having walked here recently except for one faint trail which could have been made by animals to be fair. I had faithfully followed the signs from the village and taken to only logical next path at the opening to the previous field. I was wondering just to what extent the farmers here seem to 'lose' the signs across their land.....
Still I set off following the trampled grass and saw it dip into a deep cavernous hole where a river passed below. I came out looking like the bog monster as so much undergrowth and brambles were hanging off me, but I had at least survived the climb down and up the muddy banks the other side. A field of cows to my right, luckily were not close enough to me to get access to this field and I set off across the short grass around the edges of this one. The only exit was under a barbed wire fence, and over a wide dyke. I used the poles to help me vault the expanse and landed at the wire so to speak. Millimeters from lacerating myself but at least on the top of the bank. I had to take off the bag and pass it under the fence before I could get through, but the field (the one with the cows in it) was covered in sh....something that rhymes with hit.....so had to hold the bag from falling into said product whilst I eased under the fence at the same time. If you could have videod this you surely would have gotten the £250 quid from Jeremy Beadle/Lisa Tarbuck. What a pulaver...I tell you...
Still I was still sh.. free and walking away.... as the cows came to have a looky look. The next hurdle was likewise a test of my skill, I felt like I was on the Krypton factor.... Up a tree stump and over the fence without catching my trousers on the barbed wire, wahey... Several more barbed wire fences later I was on the side of the A19 dual carriage way and traffic was heavy now. Trucks whistled past and blew me all over the place as I tried to follow the road north. Soon enough I came to the foot path, the one I probably should have exited on if I had found the proper signage.
Something odd was afoot here as I looked for the other half, the paring of this footpath the other side of the highway. It was nowhere to be seen. Strange. If you can imagine, the main road having been built let's say about 50 years ago, then the footpath would have preceded it by several hundreds of years, but it had now vanished from view. I spied one or two options across the road, but found no real evidence of a pathway. It surely couldn't have vanished and there was access across the carriageway by openings in the Armco fencing, that suggested a footpath ahead. I followed the road North until I found an old lay-by, that now served as a restricted access to a farmers land. I walked up the drive expecting to see a style or other evidence of a path, but all I saw were warning signs about prosecution for trespassing. Some people should read the law and not be scared off by such obtuse warnings. I am not suggesting that anyone should ignore signs, no not at all, but at least know your rights out here in the countryside.
A large posh and shiny Range Rover casually rode alongside and the occupant looked at me with the window down, as if to inquire as to my trespassing on the apron of the land. I'll give her her due she was very cordial and polite and waited for me to explain my investigations in full. She happily explained that the footpath was not actually here but to the north some way along the carriageway. But I sensed her almost inform me that I could pass as there was a route at the back of her land. In the end I took the hint not to get savaged by roaming dogs, as a clue as to my decision henceforth.
I took the road north and found the track alongside the next field opposite another path the other side of the dual carriageway which was its twin, and so not the partner of the previous path some ¼ mile south of here. I was alongside a petrol station service area and used the services and got a cup of tea at the cafe.
When I set out along the path half an hour later it was about to rain, but I had no intention of putting my bag off again to get my coat. I figured I would reach the tree line before that and so made speed across the deep grass following the proper pathway. The day was full of omen and yet I couldn't tell what it was saying except, straying of the path could be hazardous to my health. At the corner of the field the sign was deeply buried beneath tall grass, as it had been 'nudged' almost flat by a passing large object. (Lets say it could be only one of a few possible choices as the field is closed to public vehicular usage, and the wind is not likely to have pushed over a post this short......
(What do you say Holmes? Elementary my dear Watson, elementary...)
Something about the choice here seemed to say I wanted to go right, but the sign pointed the other way, and back to the tree line at the back of the Range Rover driver's property. To the right a house with lovely views over the fields, to the left, muddy paths. I went left but all the while hated the choice. I heard a few voices as I neared the bottom of the field and a huge dog came bounding along the track towards me. He was very happy to see me and made no attempt to bark or bother me. A couple out walking were at the gate as I arrived, holding a second dog by the collar. We greeted one another and began chatting. I told them I was looking to get towards Durham and they said that I needed to go via a route that would indeed have led me almost to the back of the woodland property above. They also confirmed what I had noticed about the signs here, that they miraculously disappeared on occasion and were often lost in the trees and brambles.
I said that they could let the other dog go as I wasn't scared of dogs, and got on with most dogs without any trouble. They explained it was a dog recently patriated here and was a bit of a naughty boy this past few days and had need of a bit more control from them. I shrugged my shoulders, he seemed a harmless creature but they said he was not keen on eye contact, so I looked away as if that were true then my card was already marked. As they came through the gate they had found a piece of bale twine to hold him on. We introduced ourselves, as they approached. Nicola and Andrew who lived at the house behind me, the one I had felt drawn towards, said that I could follow another route across their garden and out onto open fields alongside, to rejoin the best paths to Durham.
I moved to shake hands with Andrew and as I turned the dog he was holding lurched towards me and snapped at the back of my leg. I didn't feel anything, or notice it happening, but as Andrew pulled the lead the dog had torn a hole in the back of my North Face walking trousers and narrowly avoided biting my skin by millimeteres.

Andrew was full of apology, even though they had given a warning of the dogs behaviour, and asked what I wanted him to do. I mean what can you say to someone who's dog has just ripped a hole in a very expensive and practical pair of trousers? I wasn't about to make a big deal out of it, life happens and you have to deal with things in context. I said that I could repair them later, and not to worry at all. He said we must be able to do something, so I suggested they offer me a cup of tea at their house which they very graciously did. They put William, the problematic dog away and invited me into their home. James the better behaved of the two was allowed to stay without problem. They made tea and offered me cakes and before I left they gave me a bag of supplies, fruit and other goodies. This was a very kind thing to do and it restored my faith in the universe to provide just when all my other resources were depleted.
Out in the garden again we said our farewells and they showed me where I was to head for, across the fields to reach the footpath and guided me towards a few things of note along the route. It was heavy going as the fields that weren't sown with crops were long wet grass that was heavy to wade through. I came out eventually onto the proper path, but it had not been walked in so long the grass was deep and tiring me out after only a few minutes. I guess the ramblers haven't been here for a long time, and the farmer wasn't bothering to keep any of the gates, styles or pathways marked or clear. It took me about an hour to do a short mile or so. I came to a style out on the face of a hill that had several new houses built upon and rested my knees and back. I had also been reminded to play some of Richard Ashcroft's music, since hearing Rocky play one of the songs yesterday. I had been carried away in the solace many times by this rousing and thoughtfully spiritual man's music. And walking these tough grassed paths had needed some spirit building accompaniment.

At the top of a small hill I met a man called Dave Peacock. He was about 70 years of age and incredibly fit and agile, and was a keen walker and treasure hunter. He told me all about how he had found many noteworthy things in his time using a very inexpensive metal detector, and how he had gotten a lot of the local peoples trust to use their land to search for things. I also learned that even four hundred years ago and possibly for longer than that, forgery had been a very lucrative way to make a living. He had found a coin once that was too shiny to be pure silver, and he found out that it was a copy from the other side of the waters, possibly Holland. It was subsequently worth more as an artifact because they were rarer than the silver originals. He walked with me for a while and we chatted about many things. I liked listening to this man talk about how history had shaped things, and how many unknown facts were possibly the cause of much ignorance in our culture. He was keen to share much and before we knew it we were at a bridge over the main road. He asked me where I was headed and it appeared that we had gone in the complete opposite direction. I said I knew that, but was enjoying his company far too much to worry about such things as walking back the other way along the same pathway. We were talking about ghosts and spirits and old pathways that had disappeared over time, along with much history. He was a mind of information and happily shared a great deal with me for free. Again we said our farewells and I began the trek back towards where Andrew and Nicola had suggested I go. I half expected Dave to have vanished as I turned to see him go, he was an unusual friendly and charming man, like a character from a film I had seen, who was in fact a ghost. I couldn't see Dave either, but was sure that he had been real.
The walk towards Station Town was a pleasant but long hike, what with the added mileage I had walked with Dave the treasure hunter. I think he was a treasure himself. I found a place to sit for a while overlooking the fields back towards Middlesborough. I was messing about with my camera and made a comedy video I hope that you enjoy when I get a chance to upload it. It helped to relax the mood and the strangeness of the afternoon. Omens indeed.

Along the path I bumped into a lady, out walking a small dog and made sure to keep my distance, even though the Yorkshire Terrier looked as harmful as candy floss. Molly Anderson was herself a mature lady and began chatting all about how life here was much different to where she had come from in Hartlepool just a few short miles away. She lived on the banks of the reservoir I was looking to find, and was a keen walker, though Fergus did a lot of sitting around in the middle of the path instead of the usual foraying in the undergrowth like most other dogs would. He was an island for all the cyclists who came along, he just sat staring cutely at them. Molly asked if she could walk with me to the bench where her husband had sat this morning and seen a Peregrine Falcon over the water near to the benches.
It was a beautiful spot, and I envied them a little being so close to this much nature. We talked about the ways things had changed over the years, more so for her than for me, and she made me laugh when she told me about the Craft and Chat club that she went to in the village here. She had to be told it was not CHAT and Craft, but the other way round. And when someone from an outside agency came to talk to them about bullying in their small group they had fell about laughing. Someone had also come along to talk to them about goal orientation and task focus, but again, most of them had been alive well over 70 years and one even well into her 90's, so again they fond this, amusing. The person telling them this was young enough to have been a grand daughter of most of the women. I was glad to have seen this ladies way of explaining the past, it gave me a whole new perspective on many levels. She went on to explain that work situations in a place like Hartlepool were endemic of bigger cultural flaws not being dealt with effectively. Apparently up to 4 generations of people in that place had been unemployed and didn't know how to work or see themselves as ever being gainfully employed. Molly had worked in social care and seen many things first hand. One girl, a pregnant single mother said that she wanted a big house and all the mod cons, as her grandfather had once worked and paid his social payments. Make of this what you will, like myself I am baffled as to what we have been showing this community to have these ideas fixed in this way. It could just be an isolated case, but from what I hear thus far it is much deeper ingrained than that.
I thanked Molly for her time and great stories and made my way along the banks of the reservoir. She had to get back to her dinner and I had to find a place to camp out. I hadn't gone far when I found the ideal spot, overlooking the Hurworth Burn Reservoir. I set up where I could watch the fisherman on the banks of the field opposite and catch the evening sun shine across the west side of the waters. Many Canada geese were sitting on the waters and plenty of other types of birds kept whizzing by me as I sat contemplating life at one of the many picnic tables.

A lot of cyclist had gone by during the past hour or so, but few were passing now. The tent sat low and was not seen until you were almost upon it, so I didn't think it would bother anyone, and I was going to be the only one to be here enjoying the setting sun.
A man on a bike stopped to chat with me. Andrew from a village some 8 miles away, High Hesseldon was keen to know all about my project and the results of my research so far. We chatted for a long time before he suddenly realised he had to ride back. He said that he was also working in Durham, and gave me a lot of tips about what to see and how to get there.
Then a man from the next village stopped to chat with me. Don from Station town was out having an evening stroll. I apologized for having my tent up here, but he said it wasn't a problem, as long as I didn't bother the wild life, which of course I never do.
I was tired now and when Don left to walk home I ate my small reserves and thanked the universe for so many lovely experiences today.
As the sun set on the waters, shimmering in golden light, I slept as a lucky man.

Day 34 came to a splendid end.

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