Lady Anne showed him the way

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published Oct. 26, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

John is like the Energizer Bunny — with a backpack. I know I couldn’t keep up with him.

John takes a break after a steep climb to an ancient track known as The High Way.

John Mellecker checks the map after a climb to the ancient track "The High Way" on his hike along Lady Anne`s Way.

WHO: John Mellecker, 74, of Holden, Mass.

WHERE: England.

WHEN: 12 days in May.

WHY: To tackle his 15th long-distance walk in the United Kingdom since he retired from the financial-services industry nine years ago.

FOR THE LOVE OF . . . : “I never planned to make a hobby of this,” said Mellecker, who has logged more than 1,700 miles on foot in the UK. “I did the Coast to Coast Walk after I retired, and I was just smitten.” Mellecker is married but does his walks alone. He stays at bed-and-breakfasts and sometimes uses luggage transport services, as he did for this trip with Contours Walking Holidays.

John in front of the entrance to Brougham Hall. Lady Anne restored the Hall's chapel in 1659.

John at the entrance to Brougham Hall. Lady Anne restored it in 1659.

ANNUAL THEME: “Every walk, I look for a theme,” said Mellecker, who this time traveled along Lady Anne’s Way, a route that follows the footsteps “sometimes in spirit and sometimes on the actual road,” he said, of Lady Anne Clifford. Born at Skipton Castle in 1590, the 15-year-old Anne was denied her inheritance because she was female. She got justice at age 53 and spent the rest of her life restoring her castles, rebuilding churches, and creating almshouses.

FINDING HIS WAY: “The walk is very obscure,” said Mellecker, who walked 103 miles in eight days. “The challenge is it’s not marked in the traditional sense but is cobbled together on country lanes and existing paths and there are no signs.” He used a guidebook, a GPS device, and a compass. “To do these walks, people should have a real comfort with using compasses and maps.” The first half was in the Yorkshire Dales and then into Eden Valley in Cumbria. “I had a pretty good altitude gain and loss, with a tremendous variety of terrain.”

Lady Anne`s favorite castle. She died there in 1676.

John at Brougham Castle: Lady Anne's favorite castle. She died there in 1676.

ANCIENT TO MODERN: “The weather was beautiful, but there were always thunderstorms lurking around in the afternoon,” he said. “England is so compact that history is compressed. I walked through Iron Age villages, checked out 19th-century mining operations, saw prehistoric forts, and walked on the same roads Roman legions walked on.” A more modern sight, and sound, occurred in Eden Valley, when Royal Air Force fighter jets flew overhead on training missions.

HERE’S TO LADY ANNE: At the end of each day, after checking in to the B&B, Mellecker would visit the local pub for a celebratory pint of beer. Towns he stayed in included Skipton, Grassington, Buckden, Askrigg, Appleby, and Penrith. In Appleby he visited an active almshouse Clifford built. “She kept a diary of everything she did, which was the basis of the walk, and in it she describes laying the cornerstone in that almshouse. There was a resident reading in the courtyard, and I felt like I’d stepped into the 1600s as an intruder and then went back through the arch to the 21st century.”

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3 Responses to “Lady Anne showed him the way”

  1. Karen Says:

    Loved it when I read it in the Globe and loved it all over again today. Thanks! BTW: Oaxaca was magical! Will be in Deh Haag for T-giving.

  2. Nancy Mellecker Oppegard Says:

    John Mellecker: Enjoyed your photos and travel info. Great to see a Mellecker on-line. My brothers name was John Herbert Mellecker,
    born Nov. 11, 1934, passed away at age 59. Haven’t found much about the Mellecker family except the “clan” in Johnson County, Iowa, USA.
    My dad’s name was LeRoy James Mellecker b. Jan.16, 1902, d. April 1, 1981. He mentioned family from Alsace Lorraine area…on the border of France and Germany. Just thought I’d put this info out to you in case you could add to it. Again, great to see you photo. Thanks, Nancy

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