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Ancient Feet: 66 - Bringing The Ashes Home

...After a quick wash, we set off to explore Grosmont or, more precisely, the Station Tavern, and found that a big screen was set up in the bar and that the Test was in its final throes. Pietersen had been magnificent and had scored 158 to make the game safe for England...

During their long trek from one side of England to the other Alan Nolan and his mates had time to pay attention to the serious things in life.

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Soon after Egton Bridge, the path took us along a lane through the Egton Estate and, although vehicles are now barred, this used to be a toll road and the toll charges are still displayed on a sign prepared by the Egton Estates Office in August 1948.

2 8d
1 " 4 " 8d
2 11 11 11 1/-
3 11 II II 1/-
3 1/-

Fortunately, there is no charge for pedestrians and none of us needed a hearse just yet so we passed safely through the estate and soon reached our destination for our final night, in Grosmont.This is a village which is, to me at least, more popular than it deserves. The major contributor to the popularity of Grosmont is the railway station as, not only is this on the line from Middlesbrough to Whitby, but also steam trains run from Grosmont to Pickering, via Goathland which has been popularised by the Heartbeat television series.

There is a souvenir shop in the station itself and a small Co-op store across the road from the station, both of which burst at the seams whenever a steam train arrives and disgorges its passengers. The village also boasts a pub, the Station Tavern, and tea rooms. We were booked in at the B&B above the tea rooms and we made our way there.

Unsurprisingly, Don had decided that he did not want to camp so we hoped that an additional room would be available. It had been noticeable all day that he didn't want to be far from the rest of us, so the incident two nights earlier had really affected him. As we arrived, the landlady was showing two young women to their room, so it was left to her husband to show us our rooms.There was one small single room and a larger room in which three single beds had been made up. There was a shower cubicle in the corner of this room which took up unnecessary space and, if this was supposed to be a family room, the family members would have to have no inhibitions about having a shower in full view of the rest of the family.

Tom allocated the single room to me, I think out of habit rather than deliberation, but there was still the problem of where Don would sleep. The landlord said that there were no other rooms available but Don indicated that he would be happy to sleep on the floor of the larger bedroom. It was obvious that he needed to be close to the rest of us and I wondered whether one of us would have to seek alternative digs.

However, he insisted that he would be happy to sleep on the floor but, rather than allow that, the landlord said that his wife could put up a camp bed, even though I couldn't see how a camp bed would fit in such a confined space, as three beds were crammed in already. It may surprise readers to learn that I do have a cynical side to my personality and this surfaced now as I wondered whether his concern was more about complying with any health and safety rules which may not permit guests to sleep on the floor but, whatever, the camp bed was provided and Tom was adamant that he would sleep in that, allowing Don to have a bed. This was typical of Tom's compassion for his companions although, if challenged, he would claim that he did it only because he enjoys sleeping in camp beds.The others showed their compassion by not mentioning Don's snoring tendencies, although they may have been influenced by the fact that the beds were so close that they could elbow him in the ribs without moving.

The bed was installed between two of the single beds and Paul was allocated the bed against the far wall on the basis that he was the least likely to have to get up during the night and have to clamber over Tom in the camp bed and Don in the other bed.

Don might have been happy to sleep anywhere but it seemed to me that the landlord was even happier, raking in another 25 in return for shoving a camp bed in the room. The landlady returned from showing the young ladies their room just as her husband was leaving.

'When would you like breakfast in the morning? We serve at eight and eight thirty,' she asked, but added hastily 'the two young ladies are having theirs at eight thirty.'

'OK, eight thirty will be fine,'' Tom answered for all of us, not bothering with the customary sham of consulting the rest of us. A relieved smile appeared on her face and I thought that Tom had fallen for that one. The latest we had been served breakfast throughout the trip had been eight o'clock. Tomorrow would be our last day and I was beginning to think of home and would have liked to have set off earlier, rather than later.

After a quick wash, we set off to explore Grosmont or, more precisely, the Station Tavern, and found that a big screen was set up in the bar and that the Test was in its final throes. Pietersen had been magnificent and had scored 158 to make the game safe for England, bringing the Ashes home for the first time since 1987.

It was nearly six o'clock and the sun was still shining, so we sat outside feeling thoroughly relaxed, our spirits uplifted by England's victory and by the knowledge that we had only a few miles to walk to our destination the following day. Suddenly, Grosmont wasn't such a bad old place after all.

Across the road was a gallery selling what I would call 'expensive crap' but perhaps this was just my cynical side again as both Don and Tom had seen ceramic vases which they were considering buying for their wives. The difficulty was that they would have to carry them the next day, along with all their other gear. They were bemoaning the fact that they could not justify carrying any extra weight, but consoling themselves on the monetary saving, when Tom had one of his brainwaves.

'We could get Trevor to drive us back through Grosmont tomorrow and pick them up. We could pay for them now and ask the shop to parcel them up so that we can collect them tomorrow afternoon.'

So, off they trotted to the gallery to do the deals, coming back ten minutes later looking very pleased with themselves. By now, they had decided it would be a good idea to leave their packs at the B&B and carry only what was necessary for the day, which did make some sense if we were going to have to come back to Grosmont the following afternoon anyway. All I wanted was to be home as quickly as possible so coming back to Grosmont was not on my agenda at all.


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