Stage 9: Ferrybridge to Chapel Haddlesey
Setting off from the old bridge in Ferrybridge, Friday 22nd October
Bob: Wide Eric Ravilious skies, wide flat fields, wide meandering river bends. Nine cormorants sat together on a pylon. All flew off while I was trying to work my camera phone. No one to be seen for mile after mile. Corn, as high as an elephant’s eye. Sheep, so amazed to see us, that they scatter in a swirl like disturbed fish. There are few trees. Along the riverbank there is a grassy path sprinkled with river flotsam, and bushes where plastic road barriers got stuck. We had watched them floating down the river during the Mytholmroyd floods.
Silent traffic lights on amber govern the locks from the river into the canals. Its all a bit surreal. A narrowboat pushes upstream and we wave madly at it, our first human encounter all morning.
Annie: We dedicate today's walk to immigrant taxi drivers and in particular to the man who took us from the Service Station back to the old stone bridge in Ferrybridge to save our legs!
Walking along such a winding river is disorientating. I feel as if I am walking in a straight line, while the landscape swings wildly from side to side. A landmark at one moment is in front of us, and in the next is behind. Buildings which look as if they are going to be on the riverbank, suddenly seem landlocked. As the crow flies we probably would have walked a third or less of our actual distance. We follow a river bank manicured by sheep grazing between the fields and the water, leaving only clumps of nettles and thistles uneaten. It is hard walking, the only path being one that the sheep made.
In the distance, four farm workers, one harvesting and three driving lorries catching the corn. They and the narrow boat pilot are our only companions on the river bank today.
For the first time, we have somewhere to stop for lunch. The lovely women at the King's Arms in Beal Bridge feed us so well that we doubt we will be able to stop ourselves lying down on the grass and falling asleep.
The final few miles feel familiar, we are back in the area where we did our one and only recce, because we thought, and rightly so, it was going to be tricky. We are unable to walk along the river for the last mile, as barbed wire blocks our path and end up walking along the road into Chapel Haddlesey.
Waiting at the bus stop for a bus that doesn't arrive, we don't dare to walk the last few meters to take our final photo on the bridge, fearful that the bus will pass us. We sit on a bench feeling a bit ridiculous about our silly journey which takes us to remote places with such unreliable public transport, but once on the bus, we congratulate ourselves on another successful adventure.
Ending the ninth stage in Chapel Haddlesey nervously at the bus stop near the bridge over the Aire.
Finally, here are some photos of the river from today's walk: