Dirgers: David Allen, Claire Chapman, Tom Chapman
Unsupported West to East Crossing.
We set off at 10pm on Friday 14th October. All three of us had done a full day’s work beforehand so it would be interesting to see how tiredness would affect matters later on. The forecast was reasonably promising, although there was a longer patch of rain scheduled to give us a soaking in the early hours.
It was pitch black when we set off, a thick cloud cover obscured the moon for the first couple of hours, but with headtorches on we made steady progress. Having had weeks of dry weather previously, it was typical that the whole week leading up to our jaunt across the moors had seen a lot of rain, and the boggy fields were a sign of things to come. It was unusually warm for the time of year and as we headed up towards the trig point on Carlton Bank I had taken off my jacket and fleece – not bad for midnight in October!
Our usual route is to go up and over Cringle Moor and then around the muddy plantation path and today was no exception. Last year’s storms have left their mark on this path and now almost a year on, conditions are still quite bad with a lot of mud and trees blocking the way. Fatigue was kicking in but we made only the briefest of stops at Chop Gate before the long climb up Urra Moor onto Round Hill. By now the jackets had come back on as we were walking through a wet mist and light drizzle.
Onto the railway path and this is normally a chance to pick up the pace a little, but by now we were seriously tired and had a couple of rests wherever there was a welcoming patch of heather, despite the rain that was now falling although not quite as heavily as forecast.
Rather than heading on to the Lion, we took the moorland path across to Flat Howe. Although straightforward walking in daylight, this takes some navigation under dark and wet conditions. We made slow progress but eventually hit the Blakey Ridge road just as dawn was breaking.
The weather and cloud cover denied us glorious sunrise, but daylight was more than welcome. Fortunately the rain started to recede, as the boggy section across Rosedale moor is challenging enough. As soon as we stepped off the road we knew it would be a muddy crossing, I got water in my boots which meant wet feet for the next 20 miles. They were so saturated that there was no point in changing into my dry spare socks as they would have been sodden within minutes, so squelch squelch squelch on we went.
Shunner Howe is our traditional breakfast stop. Poor visibility meant that we couldn’t see much beyond Hamer moor in fact we could barely see the Wheeldale Plantation. Perhaps not being able to see RAF Fylingdales so soon is a blessing in disguise? The path across to Blue Man was again very boggy, but onto Wheeldale Moor it got somewhat better and before we knew it we weren’t far off crossing the Roman Road.
After a wet spell it’s always worth approaching Wheeldale Beck with trepidation but this time we were lucky – the stepping stones were passable, if only just. Although there are still many mile and hours of walking ahead, at this point I’m well aware that we are into the latter half of the walk and that helps put a spring in my step all the way to the North York Railway crossing, where we were lucky enough to be greeted by a passing steam train.
Normally the section up to Lilla Cross involves a lot of dodging soggy ground, but seeing as my feet were soaked through this made no difference so we were able to make relatively light of this. The weather had really improved so we had glorious views over to the coast from here. Although we were quite exhausted by now from lack of sleep, the next few miles passed without incident and we were soon at the top of Jugger Howe. This ravine isn’t a favourite at this late stage of the walk, but decked out in its Autumn colours it is a spectacular sight.
Clambering out of Jugger Howe and heading steadily onwards, before we knew it we had reached the LWW stone at Ravenscar, some seventeen and a half hours after heading off from Osmotherly the evening before. Always a pleasure, we’re hoping to be back on the moors for one more crossing this year.