“Well, Sainsbury’s now,” I messaged a friend on Friday evening, “extra supplies for the weekend as Jonathan is here. And hopefully a walk idea for tomorrow. Have you seen the weather though?!”
There were six of us who, managing to achieve the remarkable, had coordinated diaries in order to walk on Saturday. Another foray along the Tyne had been planned but, as I’d watched the weather forecast unfold through the week, it was clear that a dry day in that area was not on the meteorological calendar. Nor anywhere close by for that matter. In fact with high winds and heavy rain on the cards I was on the verge of cancelling until I reached the bread aisle.
“Saltburn. What’s it like in Saltburn tomorrow?” I pondered, staring at the wholemeal array. On the North Yorkshire coast, it enjoys its own microclimate and Linda and I have found sunshine there when everywhere else drowned. The Met Office prediction for the area was kinder so I pinned the tail on that proverbial donkey, messaged everyone and added a loaf to my trolley.
Saturday, as expected, dawned wild, dark and gloomy in Appleby. However, with the wind at our backs, we instead outran the storm and onto a beach under pressure washed skies. Blues, sunshine and scudding clouds competed for space above our heads as the wind whipped colour into our cheeks and the waves into shape. Sand scudded over our feet, scarves of silica millions flowing golden along the beach. Seaweed Himalayan mountain ranges decorated the shoreline with dune grass Mexican waving us on.
Of course, it was also a natural canvas for the resurgence of the inner child; pop up graffiti, the inevitable sand sandwiches and leaning into the wind as this maritime world swirled and danced through our walk.
“What are you expecting to catch?” I asked a chap with a fishing rod on the end of the pier. He was sitting on a bench surrounded by bags and kit and one rod twitching over the railings.
“Cod,” he replied, “just caught a flat fish so far today. It wasn’t so big.”
He raised his hands to suggest something around a hand length in size.
“Did you throw it back for next time?” I queried. He nodded.
“I’m a bit new to this,” he explained, “but apparently there are cod here”
David reflected later that, should he be unsuccessful with his catch, the fisherman could always pick up a portion of fish from one of the many seafood cafes on his way home.
“It would be a bit battered though,” he added with a mischievous grin.
We completed our 5 mile walk in search of a different catch – that of cake. Wandering through the town centre, we noted that most of the cafés were busy and seating a party of six wouldn’t be easy. As the advance tea search threesome took stock by the railway station, we were interrupted by a passer by.
“Did I hear that you were looking for a café?” she asked.
“Yes, somewhere that does good tea and scones,” I answered.
“We’ve seen a few places already,” Linda chipped in, “but there isn’t enough room for all of us.”
“Well, there’s Rapps along the road and the Sitting Room just here,” she pointed to a building on the corner nearby. It too looked busy.
“Ah, we’ve just passed Rapps,” Linda continued, “it looked a bit full.”
“Mmm, oh,” pondered our helper.
We were beginning to think it wasn’t our cream tea day as I looked back at Jane, David and Jonathan ambling in our direction and very ready for refreshment.
“Ah, I know. Of course,” she exclaimed, brightening considerably, “Brockley Hall. Now that’s really special. I was there this morning.”
She swiftly gave directions and, just as the rest of the party joined us and unaware of this new intel, we set off at a pace that had the men muttering. Where were we going now?
They weren’t disappointed. Nor were we. Really special was a warm library in a boutique hotel a few hundred yards away. Big armchairs and a large sofa seated us all comfortably in a bay window overlooking the garden. Windswept glowing, we settled down to devour freshly baked scones and tea cakes with all the trimmings and plenty of time before our train.
It was clear though, as we headed to the station, that any remaining sunshine had been stored for later by the heavy clouds subtly creeping our way. We were met by the wind and rain welcoming committee at Scotch Corner and I salute our drivers who embraced the A66 flood slalom challenge over the Pennines as we reentered our storm tossed home valley.
Further west, Lake District conditions that day had been described as “brutal and challenging” by the fell top assessors with gusts of 80mph recorded even at lower levels. I have no idea who would even consider tolerating a walk in such weather.
Maybe some time in a bread aisle could set them straight?