Now well into our 53rd year the FAC keeps on keeping on…sometimes hobbling, occasionally limping, definitely slipping, slithering and sliding and wading is not unknown, but ultimately we continue marching on. This year we’ve completed 25 walks with 10 on the Wolds & the East Riding, 10 on the North York Moors, 3 on the Howardian Hills and 2 in Lincolnshire which adds up to creditable 234 miles. Don’t tell Keith though as I keep telling him I’ve been cutting the mileage down despite this years total being only 8 miles less than last year.
Our last walk of 2018 was a visit to The Wadkin Arms to catch up with our old friends Martin & Alan who did us proud once again serving up a delicious chicken stew. Notable guest’s that day were Col’s in laws Elliott, Joe & Sam visiting from Australia. A fortnight later saw us ensconced in the Green Dragon in Welton enjoying egg & chips…do you see a pattern forming here?
On a winter visit to the Middleton Arms in North Grimston we were besieged by Irish farmers while Sherlock encountered a frozen squirrel at Bella Farm car park, although I might add it was of the stuffed variety.
As winter turned to spring we were seemingly stalked by a crocodile as we stopped for a brew in Houghton Wood. Well it must be true as Keith’s got a photo of it and as he’s said many times, the camera doesn’t lie. Twice during the year Col has ensured that the first paragraph of our fortnightly report had been written before we’ve even left Wetwang. Once by leaving his hat on his car roof and another time depositing the contents of his rucksack on the road.
Other highlights of the year were the landlord of The Plough in Wombleton being alarmed as we strode into his pub wearing our customary blueys. His initial thoughts were that we were scenes of crimes officers although he looked relieved when we assured him we wouldn’t be drawing chalk outlines of dead bodies on his nice carpet.
We’ve had two visits to Cropton this year and on both occasions we’ve encountered the same bloke strimming the grass verge, in fact every time we visit Cropton he’s there no matter what time of year it is. During April we crossed swords with the landlord of the Station Tavern in Grosmont who refuses to serve customers who stand at the wrong end of the bar, in fact we got the distinct impression he’d rather not serve any customers at all. He later declined to fill Paul’s flask claiming he couldn’t leave the bar unattended despite the fact we’d twice seen him do so while we were there, fitting it in between waffling on his mobile and wrestling with his laptop. He’d definitely won the miserable landlord of the year award…and it was only April!
Later that afternoon we thought we’d mislaid Stu as we settled down for a bite to eat. With rain imminent he’d donned an ex military camouflaged poncho and for a moment we thought we’d lost him as he blended in seamlessly with the surrounding greenery. May saw us getting blasted by the wind & rain on Flamborough Head and during a sunnier June…John went a bit overboard with the sun block giving him the appearance of Chief Sitting Bull getting ready for the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Later in the day as we got back to the cars in Huggate who should roll by in his mud splattered 4×4 but our old mate George, former landlord of the Gait Inn. Another summer highlight was being serenaded by Peggy Lee as Col was showing off his new ring tone but then being unable to turn it off.
During October we got tangled up with a 30 strong group of walkers in Ruswarp who didn’t seem to know where they were heading. Their haughty leader didn’t appear to appreciate being told that the bridge they were heading for over the River Esk was closed. You just can’t help some people. Later in the month it was time for our annual trek up onto the moors around Goathland rounded off with a ride behind a steam train on the North York Moors Railway. The day was enlivened by Paul mislaying the ancient FAC heirloom ‘Bob’s Bag’. ‘Mislaying’ being a relative term in this case as there are those among us who know more about the incident than they are prepared to tell.
Into November and despite dire warnings of rain that even Noah wouldn’t have set sail in we headed out to the Howardian Hills. With the rest of Yorkshire seemingly underwater all we got were a couple of short sharp showers. Well apart from Col that is, he got an extra drowning from a passing milk tanker as we wended our way out of Slingsby village. He later claimed he could get us back to Terrington without the aid of a map or apparently a sense of direction. He maintained that he knew where we were by the field full of pigs just ahead of us which he’d remembered from earlier in the day. His confidence quickly faltered though when it was pointed out that they were not the same pigs and it wasn’t the same field.
All in all another good walking year with plenty of variety, along with a fair few overgrown paths, but the FAC consider it their duty to keep these paths open. And the weather gods generally looked kindly upon the FAC which is always a bonus.
During the year ‘Hard man of the hills’ Ray decided to finally hang up his boots, his last walk being on May 23rd which is just over 29 years since his first outing with the FAC on January 11th 1990. FAC scribe Jacko reported back then that new member Ray Windle seemed to enjoy his day out but, and I quote, “We’ll soon put a stop to that”.
Over the years Ray has been a constant presence on our fortnightly walks, usually in his preferred position as back marker. On occasion he’d find himself up at the front of our wayward group and realising that no one was ahead of him, he’d turn round with a look of worry on his face asking “Why am I in front…are we lost?”.
Although unintended Ray was the unofficial FAC weather man. He could never be accused of being over dressed when out on the hills, usually sporting a t-shirt even on the most inclement of days. However we’d all start to worry when Ray put his jacket on as we knew we’d be in for some really rough weather.
I can say without hesitation that Ray’s absence is keenly felt by all, Col in particular, as he now has to either retrieve his own water bottle from his rucksack or beg someone else to do it. On the other hand our half way stops in the pub are less stressful now that former FAC treasurer Ray isn’t demanding money with menaces as he once did. So I raise my glass to our good mate and walking companion Ray Windle!!
Absent friends on our annual Christmas celebrations this year are quiz master Laurie along with young Nathan, well compared to the rest of us he’s young. Also missing is “I’ll try and get a swap for next time” Lee and John Suddaby who ventured out with us on a handful of occasions this year but due to family commitments has had to call it a day. And not forgetting poor old Stu who has been suffering with the dreaded lurgy all week. He was really looking forward to attending so he could spread his germs among us.
However our most notable absentee today is our web master Keith who tirelessly publishes our fortnightly exploits which can be found on the wonderful FAC web page, there for the whole world to enjoy as well as others closer to home, hopefully. And of course he’s printed the 2020 walking programme, this year managing to get the date right, as well as a magnificent book of photo’s taken over this past year. Thre’s also a handy collection of the fortnightly FAC walking reports for those who wish to look over the past year whilst wondering “Did we really do that?”. If it’s in the book…it must be true. So we raise a glass to Keith in his absence who I know would rather be here right now…emptying a glass, rather than filling one.
I’d also like to thank mine hosts Stuart & Helen for looking after us today on our 31st year at this homely venue. 31 years!!…There should be a plaque on the wall. Despite Stuart changing the locks we still manage to get in here every year.
And lastly I’d like to thank each and every one of you here, for without you there would be no FAC.
To the FAC!…..and all who sail in her.