PHIL CALVERT: No rain in Yorkshire

AFTER three months of almost constant bad weather, it was with an increasing sense of eager expectation I was looking forward to going to Cartmel Races.

The ground was still wet but was drying out fast and, hopefully, any damage from the Saturday meeting would be repaired before the Monday meeting. There was just that slight concern over the ribbon of cloud straddling the country from Northern Ireland into Scotland and spilling over into Cumbria and North Lancashire. It was going to be close.

It was, therefore, with mixed feelings, I received a call from Wifey’s baby brother, requesting we reschedule our arrangements to get together at Beverley in East Yorkshire. I love Cartmel, and Beverley is a bit of a trek, but sunshine over there was pretty much guaranteed. We decided to go with it.

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With such a long journey there and back, and without a stop-over option to make the trip worthwhile, Wifey and I decided to try to take in a walk while we were there. Time would be limited, so our base needed to be within easy striking distance of the racecourse where an evening meeting was scheduled.

We have not spent much time in that corner of Yorkshire, but years ago we walked the 20 miles from Beverley to the Humber Bridge at Hessle. All good walking on clearly defined paths. We devised a circular route taking in part of that route, and including a brief halfway stop at a pub. Perfect!

After the long drive over, the sun did not disappoint, and so under blue skies, we eagerly strode out from the (appropriately named) pretty village of Walkington, heading south to Skidby and the prospect of a perfect pint. Paths were clear and well marked and Monty was in his element, trotting backwards and forwards. But it was too hot for running and it soon became clear, that in contrast to the Pennines, water was conspicuous by its absence.

We walked through fields of shoulder-high broad beans bearing an enormous crop, alongside fields of potatoes, barley and wheat. The ground was powder-dry underfoot and Monty had to drink from puddles in troughs formed by tractor tyres. Clearly it had rained in the last week, but it was drying fast, and the walk involved no mud at all or any livestock. Just dry arable fields, mainly of wheat, dotted with poppies.

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After an hour-and-a-half of walking under the sun, I had developed a respectable thirst when the windmill at Skidby came into view. Just a few hundred yards separated us from the prize of refreshment when a field full of what appeared to be the only cattle in East Yorkshire blocked our way. Being cows with attendant calves, they also appeared to be the most aggressive cattle we’ve ever encountered. They seemed out to get Monty. We retreated.

A further 45 minutes under the burning sun was required to work our way around adjacent field edges to the far side of the village and our prize of much-needed refreshment. Delightful tubs and hanging baskets packed with petunias adorned the front of the lovely old pub, exactly as I remembered it from 30 years ago. This had been the halfway point on our 20-mile trek all those years ago and I nostalgically remembered those wonderful cask ales on offer. But times change ... they were shut!

Emotionally traumatised and disappointed and, of course, thirsty, we had a fair walk back to the start where the village pub was open. Superficially, things are the same now as they then, but pubs have gone through tough times and many have been forced to close. In these remote locations, they are key resting places, usually marked on maps. They are somewhere to get a bite to eat, perhaps get a cup of tea and enjoy a pint. They are part of the English landscape and I mourn their loss. But if they are not open you can’t support them!

Back at the car, we freshened up, met up with my brother-in-law and family for a bite to eat, before, still under blue skies, we enjoyed an evening’s racing at Beverley before the long trek home chasing the setting sun.

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Minor disappointment aside, we had enjoyed a brilliant day in a landscape of cornfields with constant sunshine above.

I couldn’t help wondering about Cartmel though? Did it rain there? All I know is we didn’t see a drop.