Tuesday June 20
We knew this was to be the longest day’s walking. The early start didn’t quite work as planned, thanks to a non-delivery of sandwiches at the Co-op. Pilgrims seeking to walk between earth and heaven have to accept these little challenges without complaint.
But eventually we were away, and safely delivered back at Scaling Dam were ready to tackle a real climb up over the moors. Dave suggested an hour of silent walking, which brought up almost to the level of Beacon Hill (299 m). Thankfully the great heat of yesterday had abated somewhat, and a gentle breeze accompanied us for most of the climb. The silence made us more aware of sounds and sights all around, including the bubbling call of the curlew, the anxious cry of the lapwing and the sudden alarm of the disturbed grouse. As well as the openness of the views in every direction, Dave drew our attention to the patches of cotton grass and made them serve as symbols of slavery – slavery which continues into our own times.
And the next time of reflection, as we gathered on Beacon Hill at the foot of the extraordinary gas-powered beacon, concentrated on the Spirit who accompanies us on our travels. Above was the promise of fire, while confidently around us the wind blew with Pentecostal fervour.
From here it was downhill (nearly) all the way to our lunch rendezvous with the minibus in Danby village. Despite our returned voices, surely warning of our approach, Dave and Henry who were at the front of the party had the joy of seeing two adders on this stretch of the path, both of which slipped gently away into the bracken. A living denial then of the legend that Hilda dismissed all snakes from the region, turning them into ammonites!
After lunch the main group continued walking as the clouds dispersed and the sun shone on this beautiful section of the Esk Valley. The Danby Loop seems specially designed to keep walkers mindful of Hilda as they journey, as it simply leads to and from the parish church – which rather inconveniently is situated more than two miles from the village. But as well as enjoying its beautiful setting, we had the extra joy of being greeted by friends old and new: members of our Guisborough church who had journey out to meet us, together with the vicar and wardens of the parish, who welcomed us most warmly.
The church is dedicated to St Hilda; and a memorial window records the principal figures of the Council of Whitby – Hilda herself clearly central to the whole affair, while Bede, rather out of time, faithfully records it all. Although Celtic saints are generally remembered for their hospitality, such matters are not particularly associated with Hilda. But the church that bears her name certainly makes up for that lack – and how we enjoyed the tea and cold drinks, and above all the good Yorkshire delicacy of fruit cake with Wensleydale cheese.
The last two miles of the loop took us back to Danby, on a bracken-lined path high above the valley looking across to the distant moors. We noted the remains of a stone trod: paths once taken by the monks as they traversed these ways, no doubt desperately hoping to keep their feet dry. At the end of our ten miles all feet, so far as such things were recorded, were still in good order. We’re ready for the challenges of tomorrow (the longest day of the year) and the next stage of the journey that should take us to Egton Bridge.
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Also from Day 2: see Wisdom walks in Silence