Peculiar things happen when one turns 40. Aches, pains, irregular nocturnal toilet visits and a sudden interest in garden centres to name but a few. But I’m different; age is just a number to me. I liken it to a computer game, where the more you play, the further you advance in skill. As far as I’m concerned, I’m expert level 41 and well on my way to master Jedi of the fairy-tale realm. That’s how i saw it anyway.
Let me introduce myself, I’m Mick Richardson. I run, (when sciatica allows), I cycle, i lift weights, I hike, play racket sports, have climbed the highest peaks in Britain and crossed coast to coast on a bicycle. I’m not in too bad a shape, even if i do say so myself and what’s more, i like a challenge. So when a friend of mine telephoned amidst an electrical storm asking whether I’d like to do the Lyke wake walk, i naturally agreed.
“When?” said I.
“5 o’clock tomorrow morning” came his reply. This was at six o’clock at night.
Ste Nolan is older than me by ten years, I’ve known him a long time and we’ve recently done a couple of reasonably sized rambles. 10 and 20 miles to be precise which we both ached after i hasten to add, which is why, when i took the call asking if I’d like to walk 42 miles in the morning, I offered him an escape route. A contingency plan, citing that the heavy downpour i was currently staring at would make the ‘Boggy section’ impassable.
“Let’s do the Gallon walk instead” I reasoned. With its 8 pubs in 8 miles, real ales and open fires, it was an offer that those people with common sense might grab with both hands but Steve’s common sense had been overridden by his testosterone fuelled masculinity.
“See you at five then” he said, and the phone went dead.
My immediate task was to tell my wife, who, on her last day off before work, had planned a list of jobs for me to complete under her watchful supervision.
“I’m just going for a short walk dearest” I cowered, before telling her I’ll be back just after midday. An impossible task of course, but what is she going to do when I’m stuck in the middle of the North Yorkshire moors? Besides, the washing line can wait. Next I had to pack my rucksack with rarely used items from my darkened garage and made a couple of ham sandwiches. I had drinks too and stole a bit of chocolate from the last remnants of the kids Easter eggs. What could go wrong? I thought to myself. Then i attempted to sleep.
I woke before the alarm meaning Kruellagh’s beauty sleep wasn’t disturbed and as i crept about in the dark, i wondered what on Earth i had let myself in for. I made myself some breakfast, I then slurped my tea and waiting for Steve. As the clock struck 5 his car headlights bathed my street in white light, you simply couldn’t knock his punctuality although i was secretly hoping he’d sleep in and not turn up at all. It was time to get going.
We reached Ravenscar slightly late because we hadn’t used a sat nav, choosing to steer toward the unmissable beacon instead. Trouble was, we hadn’t planned for any thick fog that might obscure our view and we drove around aimlessly for quite a while, finally spying it as it loomed into view like a beacon of hope, at least now we could start the walk and get it over with. We set off walking and in a very short space of time, two things happened in quick succession. First Steve fell down a pot hole. Not all of him, just his leg but he tumbled regardless, and at the same time, 5 deer appeared through the mist.
“Doh” shouted Steve,
“A deer, a female deer” shouted me
Both at the same time. Though I’d like to add, Julie Andrews did not appear over the crest of a hill to the sound of music. Steve did have to contend with the sound of my laughing though.
I can’t really recall too much about the start of the walk. Steve and I choosing to regale ourselves with tales of the past and present and general witty anecdotes, and it seemed not too long before we reached Fylingdales and the first moist section. Yeah it was squelchy underfoot and i had to listen to Steve telling me how he put the perimeter fence up of the American base, but we soon got through it. After crossing the road, we both decided that that was a great time for a well-earned cuppa, which was oddly cold. Bloody cheap flasks, I thought but hey, I didn’t have to carry them so couldn’t complain. What surprised me at this point was just how hungry i was, I only had one sandwich to last me all day but that didn’t stop me. We can re-fuel at Blakey Ridge we thought. An idea that rooted deep in our brains with visions of Beef filled, Yorkshire puddings dripping with hot gravy.
“How far is it from here?” i asked, as if i could smell the food wafting through the Lion kitchen at that moment, to which Steve twizzled his finger in the air in a Westerly direction muttering that it was
“Just over there somewhere” best getting moving then.
I’ve done the LWW before, albeit in the opposite direction. It was some years ago and our party stopped over night at Blakey to much merriment. In my mind the pub wasn’t far at all, the reality though was somewhat different; it was still a couple of hours away.
“This is the Boggy section” I’d tell Steve. This was the bit i wanted to get out of the way. With that gone, I knew we’d be almost half way which is a great psychological booster to anyone attempting the crossing, but it never came. On and on we tramped and as we did so, I struggled to recognise any of the walk.
“Hold up, something is wrong” said Steve, swinging his rucksack off his shoulders and removing the map in one fell swoop. “I think we’ve taken a wrong turn” and with that, my moral dipped. Up until that point we’d been making great time. We’d set off and maintained a fair old pace, I’m not talking land speed record but quick nonetheless but what good was that in the wrong direction? “So we are here” he continued, pointing his finger onto a barren section of the map. “But we should be over there” He then pointed off in the distance to a tree line further than the Planet Neptune. Ok, i exaggerate but you can see how my mood was starting to dip. In cases such as these, I think it’s best to throw caution to the wind. I mean we could, as was one of our suggestions, walk the long way round. Following our current path till it ran out then dog leg right toward the Blue man. Or, we could walk through snake infested, angry Moor hen nest building terrain, as the crow fly’s through knee deep heather and over ankle breaking ground that we couldn’t see. The Boy Scout in me opted for the former, but my inner Chimp suggested the latter. With my chimp rattling its cage in darkening mood, he won and off we went. I have to say it was strength sapping but hey ho, we eventually made it. “Sorry we’re an hour late blue man” I said, “I’d love to stay and chat but…” and i tapped my watch. I’m sure he understood. He’d probably seen it a million times already. He didn’t complain anyway
Now back on track and a few jelly babies later, we mentioned that we hadn’t seen a signal soul on the moor. “Only us two mugs are daft enough to be up here after a wet spring” said I, before looking up and seeing an elderly gentlemen walking directly toward us. He was easily in his 60’s and whats more, on his own. He wore a pair of denim jeans and had two walking sticks propping him up.
“Lyke Wake Walk”? He enquired after we had exchanged pleasantries.
“Yes” we replied, sure to impress our guest with such a feat. “Its 42 miles long you know” we continued, just in case he didn’t know.
“Yes i know, I’m doing it too. It’s my second crossing this year. I did a night solo crossing in March” Steve and I just looked at each other. Which prompted our guest to look at his watch? “The boggy section isn’t too bad” he said. A statement that demoralised me even further as i was hoping we’d already past that bit during our unplanned diversion over the viper pit. Before he added, “You guys will be lucky to be home for last orders” and with that he walked off.
“Over my dead body” I said, I was gagging for a pint at this point and no way was I missing the pub.
“That might just be the case” replied Steve, staring skywards at all the Vultures circling above.
In the end we hit the boggy bit without even realising it. We were trudging along as best we could, draining the last of our stories from or memory banks when my left leg suddenly sunk in peat, right up to my knee. Steve had a great view of this due to his close proximity, however as i lost my balance, my walking stick, that I’d been carrying to act as a depth gauge for such an occasion, swung round and almost skewered the poor man. He was two inches from being a human kebab but we still found humour in the situation, albeit humour that was draining fast. What followed next was both of us walking and jumping in all directions, trying to keep our feet dry. It was tiring, especially after repeatedly hopping over big bodies of water. And i guess this is where my injury occurred, although i can’t be sure, because it wasn’t like I received a sharp pain. More a grumbling strain in my groin, one that began to grow as we walked. A strain that would worsen with every mile but more of that later.
With the bog section finally complete (woohoo) I changed my socks for new and felt determined to get to Blakey Ridge. But what is it with that section of road? The pub just doesn’t get any closer. “You can forget your pint” i said to Steve “Your map reading skills have put pay to that” It was our first negative words. But what really heckled me was the olds man’s words that were still ringing in my ear.
“YOU’LL BE LUCKY TO MAKE LAST ORDERS”
At around this point, my mobile began to ring. It was the wife. She’ll be wondering how her little brave soldier is doing, i thought.
“Where’s your car keys” she screamed
“Oh the walks going really well” i said, sarcasm not one of my strongest point.
“You’ve blocked me in with your car and taken the keys” she went on, ignoring the fact i was somewhere in the middle of anywhere going nowhere fast.
“What do you want me to do about it?” i asked and she knew fine well i couldn’t do a thing, but she felt batter for blasting me anyway. So with yet another stop and emptying my bag revealed i did in fact, not have the spare key with me. Which was a nice little victory for me although it was more lost time which we had to contend with? Steve on hearing our heated conversation walked off laughing.
The disused railway line, just behind the Lion, i do remember, because It was mind numbing. It just goes on and on, although it does have one advantage, It’s flat, so we were able to make good headway. With no gradient underfoot, my pulled groined also got some well-earned respite. Respite that wouldn’t last long.
The end of this section marked the end of any lingering hopes we held as to this walk being over soon. Steve, whose toenail was hanging off, struggled when walking down hill and I, with my pulled groin, couldn’t walk uphill, so as we both hit Clay Bank, it’s fair to say we’d both seen better days. We sat in silence, only the odd groan breaking the tension and i honestly feel that if any kind soul had offered us a lift home at that point, we might have taken it. Steve passed me a corned beef sandwich and i shared the last of my jelly babies, A fair swap i thought, but neither of us spoke to cement this deal as we were simply too tired, to this day, I’ve still not learnt if he was happy with the swap. One thing i was aware of though, was the need to keep moving. Sitting still for longer than ten minutes had the effect of my legs turning to cement. I knew If they did that, i was doomed. Steve Changed his socks and i got going.
“See you at the top” i grunted. It was every man for himself now. An epic internal battle of self. Was i really going to quit and tell my wife I’d failed and wasted her day off? Of course not. I’d finish the route even if i had to crawl. I had to crawl.
My groin was so bad now that i had to lift my left leg with my hands. I achieved this by gripping my trouser leg and pulling it up. This manoeuvre i used for the rest of the journey. Yes even Charlton bank. The going was slow and i slumped on my back at the summit but i got there all the same. From there it was a (short dog walk) or so Steve kept reminding me. Though if i did have a big dog with me at that point, I might have rode off on it. Either that, or poke it with a stick till it snapped and ate me. Win win in my eyes, at least the walk would be over. With daylight fading fast and a few miles to go I couldn’t help think of the film American werewolf in London. You know the one? Two lost boys walking in the dark, up on the moors. Sound familiar? With neither of us even thinking to pack a torch we were now operating under night vision.
“Whose picking us up at the other end then?” i asked
“Don’t know” Steve replied. And that just about summed up or planning. Beaten, demoralised, broken and stupid. You couldn’t pick two worse guides for the LWW if you’d gone on the moors with Myra Hindley and Ian Brady.
“Hi love” said Steve, talking into his mobile phone, battery diminishing quick. “Can you pick us up”? She could, but only at Swainby, which by my calculation put another 2 mile on the grand total. That bit hurt. I thought about quitting there and then. Just sitting down and saying no. But you can’t, not now. It’s too cold and pitch black and we’re fresh out of supplies. We had to go on, not through pride, not to claim title of Dirger but to make sure we didn’t get hypothermia.
We finish the walk and shuffled into Swainby. There are two pubs in that little village, and Yep, Steve’s wife had chosen the one furthest away. It was always going to be wasn’t it? The landlord felt sorry for us and allowed us in. We were in a bad way. Tatty clothed, limping rat bags with lifeless eyes pleading for a cold lager. She passed them over and i gulped it down so quick a vacuum pulled on the glass.
“Another please landlord” and she obliged. The second one took a bit longer to drink and gave me time to reflect. It had been a tough day. As i stared into the abyss i noticed an old clock on the wall. 21:30 the time read, and i just had enough energy to smile. The old man had got it wrong.
Lucky to see last orders my A***.