To Richmond

On a mild and breezy morning, with a few clouds rushing merrily towards the North Sea, we head east in better spirits after a couple of damp days. Melvin and Winfield will continue to Brompton on Swale and take a rest day tomorrow. I’ll stay tonight in Richmond, half a day’s walk away, where Julia will join me.

We mooch along together, chewing over people and places we all know. On a long distance trail, whatever your age, experience, fitness, social standing, speed and strength, you have something in common with your fellow-walkers. Even if they’re heading in the opposite direction, a flash of recognition and goodwill lights up the meeting. Of course, we three were born and raised a mere ten miles apart, so we have additional common ground, but Winfield’s tale of hiking in the Caucasus and teaching local students all the verses of ‘On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘At’ conjures up images beyond mere hilarity.

After an hour we catch up with Terry and Pauline. I think I’ve now figured them out: they start early so that when they’re unsure of the route they’re in a position to wait for others to catch up and give them a lead. We sit together for a few minutes and enjoy the warm sun before marching on across rolling pastures to Marske. Winfield remembers buying ice cream on his previous visit. He dashes up a side street, our shouted requests following him, but sadly he returns empty-handed from the shop that is no more.

We sit on a low stone wall and eat lunch a couple of miles outside Richmond, after which it’s an easy walk-in. I shake hands with Melvin and Winfield who continue through the town, while I go to my digs. The room is newly refurbished, and I’m the first occupant, so I christen the shower and phone Julia, who is just setting off from a country house visit. We meet in the market place and spend eighteen lovely hours together.

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