by Will Perry
The next morning I was on my way to Reeth, through the beautiful valleys that cradled the River Swale that connected Keld to Richmond. When I arrived to Reeth, I was able to recharge some of my electronic devices, send a postcard to my wife and even Facetime with her for a few hours. As I was searching for a good pub to eat dinner, two ladies approached me and inquired about the baseball hanging from my rucksack. I explained to them why I was walking across England and they seemed very intrigued. We sat down and chatted for a bit about the highlights of the walk thus far. They were appalled about the level of midges I had encountered and didn’t know how I could do it. Well, it just so happens that one of the ladies and her husband, not wanting me to “brave the bivy” and sleep with the midges another night, insisted that I stay with them in a spare bedroom in the B&B their family had rented out for the weekend. I gratefully accepted their offer and spent most of the night chatting with them. Staying with them meant I would have a shower, charged electronic devices, internet connection, a comfortable bed and most importantly, have a respite from the midges which had plagued me throughout my walk. It was a great night.
A reprieve from this!
The next day’s walk was the shortest of my entire journey. I walked only 8 miles to a camping barn just outside Richmond. I was grateful to have a respite from the midges inside a bunkhouse conversion from old cattle stalls. The hard mattress ironically wasn’t as comfortable as my therm-a-rest, but access to a toilet, shower, a sink for washing and a clothesline were very welcome luxuries.
When I arrived in Richmond, I resupplied and took a few hours to eat a nice sausage roll at the local bakery and pickup a package I had sent to the post office at Richmond. From there I journeyed through the flat, uneventful 22 mile slog until I reached the small village of Osmotherley on the western boundary of the North Yorkshire Moors.
The day I left Osmotherley I had woken up with a fever and wasn’t feeling very well. Even though I hadn’t slept in a bivy bag the previous three nights, I found myself shivering throughout the night despite being plenty warm. I hadn’t realized it at the time, nor did I allow myself to, but I must have contracted some sort of bug or infection from the midges and was also experiencing the onset of a flu and the beginning of a rather annoying bout of diarrhea. Diarrhea, just for the record, is quite possibly the worst thing you can have doing a long-distance walk, with the exception of a broken foot or leg of course.
As I set off from Osmotherly, and took the Cleveland Way, climbing and descending the Cleveland Hills, severe exhaustion started to set in. The fun was gone—the only thing keeping me going was the goal I had set to reach my destination for the day—The Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge. That goal, only four miles into my day, was still 12 miles away. 12 miles with my heavy rucksack and at the pace I had been going throughout my walk would take an estimated five hours. At this point I was on top of the windswept North Yorkshire Moors with no refuge or cover from the harrowing wind and heavy rain attacking me as I walked. Wincing as I walked, with piercing stomach pains, my two moisture wicking layers underneath my windproof and waterproof jacket seemed to do very little to protect me. I felt as though I had just jumped out of a warm pool as the layers underneath my jacket were soaked through and dripping with sweat (most likely due to the onset of the flu).