“Silly beggars, they should be shopping.” muttered Linda as her feet swam through ankle deep mud.
We had just passed the postie delivering to Shankfoot farm and were wondering what he had thought of two women wading through unrelenting muddy clart when the rest of the world were dry footing their way amidst Christmas lights. Beef suckler cows gazed at us in disappointment. They had initially regarded us with interest on our approach and had moved as one towards us, a brown black mass of food searching cattle, hoping for a silage refill or some nuts at least. We had neither so the herd moved aside from the track, revealing a penalising mudbath as our reward.
The book “We’re going on a bear hunt” came to mind, especially the repetitive line, “Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, we’ll have to go through it”.
So we did.
The two silage ring feeders bore witness to the depths that the cattle’s hooves had poached the land into and I was extremely glad of the hidden hardstanding that underpinned the track alongside. At least I could see how a tractor could access and refill each without issue. Prancer and Dancer had nothing on us as we slipped, slithered, skipped and hopped our way into the relatively drier conditions of Haughstrother Wood further on. We both hoped that our destination café had a “Welcome muddy boots” policy.
Linda and I had managed to find a free day that coincided with dry weather to walk a little more of the South Tyne Trail. The particular stretch we had in mind follows part of the Carlisle to Newcastle railway so we decided to let the train take the strain and joined shoppers at Appleby enroute to Carlisle for the coffee drinking section of the journey where we then changed to the Newcastle service.
Our milky winter sunshine start point was Haltwhistle. The station sits squeezed between the river and town and is close to the Trail as a result. It didn’t take us long to retrace our steps to where we had finished the previous section in October and we strode out eastwards along cycle routes and country lanes. For a bright morning it was reassuringly glacial with a persistent breeze that had us donning hats and gloves whilst moving into 3 mph warp walking speed to build up some heat.
The route, aside from the boot clagging section, offers easy walking and we made Bardon Mill in good time having seen just a handful of cars and a couple of dog walkers along the 7 quiet miles. A short flurry of shooting activity occupied us briefly after midday with bright woolly hatted young beaters, silently occupying a tractor towed trailer enroute to lunch. Two 4 x 4s followed a little later, filled with green and brown tweeded flat capped shooters. I wondered if theirs had been a successful morning.
“Can you not drink it out of the teapot?” he asked with a smile.
“Mmm, well, seeing as I have also been served tea as a bag in a cup in the past maybe drinking it directly from the pot is a step in the right direction,” I replied, mirroring his grin, “ but could I have a cup anyway?”
The owner of the Bardon Mill Village Store and Tea Room had just filled our table with cakes and pots and jugs and a mug of coffee for Linda, but no teacup. He returned to his safe zone behind the till and cake display counter and continued with unloading and reloading the dishwasher. I don’t think he was expecting to see me back on the customer ordering side so soon having just delivered our items.
“Could I have a cup please?” I had asked.
He looked baffled.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” it dawned on him, “didn’t I give you one?”
I shook my head at which point the teapot banter began.
The village store and tea rooms in Bardon Mill sits next to the green in the village centre and is a delightful emporium of all things necessary and lovely. In the cake fuelled warm haze of wellbeing that follows a brisk and bracing walk we settled to browsing the local crafts and cards by our table as we waited for the train home.
It was a perfect excuse for these particular silly beggars to do some Christmas shopping, especially as our muddy boots were so welcome.