Archive for September, 2020

Crossing 09th/10th September 2020.

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

Didn’t rate our chances of completion very high. Harriet has suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and, while loads better than she used to be, can still go flop when pushed too hard. The problem is she is very determined to do stuff and does all the pushing herself! I was pleased to step in as a late substitute when her walking partner cried off as I had meant to do the Lyke Wake years ago but somehow never did. Although I haven’t done this distance for over 20 years my recent Covid-related job as a relief bin collector has got me quite fit but I was worried about a dodgy knee which has suffered from jogging on pavements in safety boots.

Early September is usually a pretty good bet for the weather and it was very fair. No rain, not too hot, wind perhaps a bit brisk but at least it would be behind us most of the time. Harriet’s mum, Jane, had kindly volunteered to drive us to the start and pick us up when/wherever and also joined us for the first section. It was sunlit and scenic with gorgeous views, purply heather, browning bracken and a few ripe bilberries still around. Mostly stony or slabbed paths so I was quite glad of previous pavement conditioning. Enjoyed plenty little breaks for nibbles and fags. We had started about 13:20/13:30 so really got the benefit of the views. Local livestock obviously used to walkers and hang about to be admired.

The disused railway line was rather monotonous underfoot but provided easy miles-per-hour and was also where we saw a cute little stoat. Here Harriet revealed that she doesn’t actually like walking much but was doing this only for the challenge! It was dark and chilly before we finished that bit so the next stop was for a more substantial feed and change into ‘nightclothes’. Then came a stretch of road, then the boggy moor.

Really, I suppose we had it pretty easy. Arriving at the end of a dry summer we never found ourselves above ankle-deep and the clear night made spotting the white-topped boundary stones no problem. Harriet was still leading the way most of the time and full of bounce. I suppose hopping around looking for a dry-ish passage is a sort of entertainment and I wasn’t bothering with checking the time any more. There were toads! We saw several, in various colours and sizes, just sitting in the path. Also large spiders making their web across the path, I guess ready to catch an early morning breakfast before men and beasts trampled the webs. We did make an effort to step over, not through, especially for the finer examples.

‘Ware grouse butts! Up here, instead of mounds for the shooters to stand behind, they have dug great pits to trap unwary errant night travellers.

The moon was high in front of us now, helping visibility and atmosphere. We tended to have our little rests near standing stones where possible and it felt a bit special.

The rest of the way should have been simple but there was a bit by some streams after Fylingdales where it was annoyingly difficult to find the path. I suppose that could have been a lot due to tiredness and being up at a time that man was not meant to wot of. And maybe singing to keep the spirits up distracted attention from route-finding. Hint – learn some songs properly so you don’t have to keep conferring about the next verse.

And all was not well with Harriet. Her dicky metabolism was playing up again. The first symptoms were stomach bloat then belches of awesome volume. Mind, after my hi-cal rations of cheese, sausage and chocolate I was competing with quieter but more noxious emanations. Harriet’s belly had more or less packed up work. She was even struggling to take water. Fortunately in her bag of many things there was some isotonic sugar/salts powder and that helped the water go down. Still couldn’t take food though and the remaining distance without it might be too much of an ask. We went slowly, very, very slowly. Dawn happened with its usual uplifting effect and that helped a bit. When the way was dry enough to be worth putting on clean socks we did that too and it was another boost. Slower and slower yet. Then H sent me into the Bag for some energy gel thing and managed to get most of it down. Quite disgusting, apparently, but it did the trick and we made it to the end. No skipping off to do the extra bit, stone to stone was quite enough, and our 8:30 or so finish time is hardly one for the annals but we felt very, very proud.


So comes the report of our crossing 9th/10th September 2020:

Sunday, September 13th, 2020

Participants: Myself, Harriet, and Maddy

The sun was full and our spirits high when we… well actually it was cloudy and we both just felt like we wanted to go back to bed or for a small ramble. The time was something around 1.30pm by the time we found the start stone and set off. My mother, who was acting as chauffeur, was accompanying us to the first trig, so our pace was a little slower but it was nice to share a bit with her. Along the road, through the woods, across the fields, till the first proper bit of up. Ups aren’t my thing. My body seems to have an issue, heart rate soars, and I head towards black out, no matter how much training I do. I took it steady. We headed along the top and up to the trig. Here we stopped for a quick nibble, and bid farewell to my mother.

We elected to go around rather than over the next section, taking the alternative route as the wind was quite high and had battered us throughout the first section. We got to the plantation and took the very sweet woodland path until we came to the gate to take us up to the wain stones and across the top. Here we met the gorgeous Galloways, some of whom were very curious and interested. After a view stop on the top, we continued along and down again.

By this point the bloat had well and truly kicked in. My body wasn’t absorbing and of the water, but it was sat in my stomach which was inflated to the size of mid pregnancy, no exaggeration. It was painful, and unhelpful, but I ignored it.

The next section we got some good miles under our belt. Despite everyone saying it was a dull section along the railway, the sun was going down so the views were just bonny. And we found plenty of slags to keep us laughing with endless jokes. Oh and we saw a stoat running and leaping along the track and then off into the wilderness. On the last bend before the Lion Inn, we stopped in a nook and changed into night layers as the last of the light left. We ate a bit of food as well, dreaming of the beer and food such a short distance away. But this was unsupported, so HTFU!

The road section was dull in itself, but oh the stars were just beautiful. A clear night, a bright sky, and even a few shooting stars to make it even better. A mention must come here to the very sweet driver who stopped to check we were ok! (Making a massive difference to the idiots roaring past at speed, lights on full, and way too close). We assured him we were fine and were actually doing this for fun!

Then of course, the bog. It was so much fun, lots of hopping around, problem solving, and all in the dark. The white tops were a godsend though we did miss our way at Shunner Howe and took the lower path, but that was quickly remedied at the road.

The next section was quite nice though still the bog hopping. Was nice to meet the Blue Man I’ th’ moss. We couldn’t work out why the Raven Stones were called as such. And on. During this section we started our toad spotting. 5 toads in toadtal (sorry). They were all quite content to sit on the path and watch us pass, with the exception of one who sat fine, until I tried to step over him, at which he jumped to where my foot was due to land. Cue gravity defying feats to save his little toady body.

Well I’d have been bloody appreciative if Wheeldale Beck actually lived in the beck, but it seems just that general area should be considered wetness. The stepping stones, to be any use, should have started 100m earlier and finished 100m later. And on.

Across the railway, through the joke of a nature reserve, across the road and splash into more boggy mud. That section past Fylingdales was hell. Not proper bog, just muddy wet. I hated it.

And it was at this point, as one reaches the hard track again, my body said enough. I tried to drink, and spewed it back out. I tried to eat, and spewed it back out. Not good. I was shaky and fatigued, but no way in hell was I letting that stop me. I changed into my waterproof/dry socks, and sat for a while. Just before we left I thought I might try the rehydration salts I had brought in a spare bottle of water. My body accepted these, sipped lightly. Here too the sun began to rise. There is an odd power in sunlight. The old adage ‘where there is light, there is hope’, is too true. It gave me strength to continue.

Forwards we went and made it, ever more painfully and slowly to the bridge over the stream. Here we sat. My body had now stopped accepting the drink, and was shaking hard, and my vision was struggling. Maddy adjusted her kit and put on dry socks. In addition she ran a tail rope for me (a rope tied to her pack for me to hold). I could barely form words but I held on and we continued. I didn’t actually put weight on the rope, but holding it gave me a guide. I let my head hang, and put my feet in her footprints. She led me up the hill and along the track. My consciousness was wavering at this point and I couldn’t think straight or see properly. My body stopped circulating to my arms, which fell numb but for the one I had looped into the tail rope, keeping the effort for essentials only. At the road, we called my mother to meet us at the end.

And on. But we were only 1km from the end when my body stopped and I collapsed. I was not going to fail here. After a minute I managed to communicate with Maddy to look in my rucksack for an energy gel sachet. My body tried to reject it, but I forced it not to. I could see the end, it was so close. This amazingly gave me a considerable boost. Maddy got me up, and I made it to the end unassisted.

And the END!!!! Never have I felt greater achievement. I did not do it fast, or well, but as someone who has suffered for many years with CFS/ME, and has notable other clinical issues, this was such an achievement. I am so proud of what I have done. I don’t know if I shall do it again, but we shall see.

Crossing 03rd September 2020.

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

What follows is a brief account of the crossing made by me, ‘Big’ Tom (Huddersfield) and my friend ‘Lucky’ Leo (Somewhere south of Birmingham) on this Thursday just gone, the 3rd.

It is to my understanding that crossings are generally assisted; light-weight and brisk. We did not have such a luxury. Armed with a tent, 40 miles worth of water and a miscalculated 80 miles of food we made camp at the start point North of Osmotherley and set our alarm for 3:50 the next morning.

Ten minutes to get up and packed: reasonable, no? We set off at 4.30. Not ideal, but we were lucky with the weather – not a rain-drop in sight. The night however had been wet and windy, and I for one did not get a good stretch of sleep.

The first section was, if I dare say, very enjoyable. We navigated the first woodland path and stone-step ascent in the dark, being dive-bombed by bats. The burgeoning light soon greeted us on the tops and the bats were replaced by the heckling laughter of grouse – who doubtless understood that humans at this hour, on this patch of moor inevitably meant two more fools who were attempting the Lyke Wake Walk.

Despite their mocking, we enjoyed the first ten miles of hilly Cleveland way, the impressive vistas of the open vale to the North and, for ‘Lucky’ Leo, the first sight of moorland in his uneducated southern life. The heather is a purpling relief from the black peat. We are surprised to meet a cow on the path. We greet her, hoping for a blessing, “Good Morrow, fair Lady!”

We say hello to the early tumuli, detour to the Lord Stones, pass a field of at least 50 pheasant, clear the Wainstones and make our way to our first stretch of moorland proper. At this stage the packs are feathery-light, morale is high and the flagstones are welcoming.

The moors look fantastic, and the air is perfectly cool for walking. Honestly, this section went by very quickly and we soon found ourselves meeting the old rail-line with a quick march. The winding path took its toll on me, however, what started as an optimistic jaunt turned into an arduous trudge about three miles in and I started to lament. My feet were showing the first signs of soreness, and testicular chafing was quickly driving me into blind insanity. The views did little to distract me in this moment of mental weakness, and when the Lion’s red roof peaked over the hillside I was truly fed up.

At the pub we had the only proper break of the walk, about 10 minutes at noon. The packs had made progress very slow. Two days previously I had phoned the pub to see what time they opened.

‘About 12 we start doing food.’

‘Oh no,’ I said, ‘That’s no good for us, we’ll probably be passing at around 9!’

My underestimating optimism would become a trope of the trip.

Having replenished our water we slogged on up the road section, and in my head I moaned bitterly to myself. I hated this stupid road, the stupid cars, the stupid walk, and the stupid idiot that decided to do it (me). If I had only myself to disappoint, I would probably have stopped there, but ‘Lucky’ Leo’s ever-stoic presence was reason enough to continue. We passed the voluptuous curves of ‘fat betty’; I was nonplussed. Had I not set out to reach new levels of tiredness, new frontiers of loathing? Yes – but not this early!

In fact, it was a momentary lapse of enthusiasm, the doubting, low-point of the entire walk. As soon as we started the ‘boggy section’, just after the turn off to Fryup, my spirits soared back. The ‘boggy section’ was incredibly boggy indeed and we set about jumping over ominous puddles, and hopping from grass tuft to tuft, avoiding the ultimate humiliation and punishment of sodden socks. Despite this being arguably much more strenuous, it was, at least, fun – a gratefully received respite from the monotony of the train-line and road.

The bogs went on for a long, long time. We only had the spiders for company – spiders which, I swear, I have never seen before and must be some dire, mutant species resident only to this strange, abandoned plot. It was utterly bleak – exactly what I’d wanted.

I can’t stand being tired and frustrated on a boring, everyday road, but being tired and frustrated in a stinking, forsaken swamp – well that’s the stuff of adventure, and I like adventure, so that conversely eradicated any feelings of tiredness or frustration that were lurking before.

We even ran a section at this point and one of our feet each yielded to the beckoning, turbid water. I was very lucky that my sock dried quickly, God knows how, and it was perhaps only by the blessing of that early cow, Mother of the Moor, that we didn’t suffer unduly from this brash gesture.

The bogginess subsided towards Shunner Howe and, sighting the road in the distance, we promptly lost the path. Tabbing across burnt heather and squelching underfoot clag we reached the road, gambled as to whether we’d gone off south or north and hit – we quickly found the entrance to the next section.

Here I changed my socks – absolute rapture. If there is one tip to be extracted from our naive foray it’s this:- bring multiple pairs of socks. Changing them mid-trek does, as the guide book rightfully says, bring new life to your feet.

Supposedly we had left the ‘boggy section’ behind but if anything the upcoming section was even worse and we spent a long time navigating around ponds, streams, treacherous reeds which would yield to hidden bog and utterly useless broken bridges. We reached the blue man i’th’moss stone, proof that we were still on the right line, and started out on the next section.

At this point the gross amount of sugar I had been consuming all day took its toll and I started to experience horrendous stomach cramps. The cure was good marching and recitement of hiking songs. This section, in retrospect and in comparison to the coming slog, went quickly, although we were becoming quite tired. Fylingdales was now visible ahead, seemingly unaffected by normal laws of geometry. A curious shift in natural physics occurs at this stage in a walk; the further you walk towards something, the further away it seems to get.

We found the ravine, eventually, but not the path down. In fact, this enraged me. I had another ‘mental lapse’ and cursed the ravine for its existence and cursed the path for not being more easily found. This time I did not curse myself, I was too indignant. I hot-headedly insisted we should just go straight down through the bracken, but this was impossible. We back-tracked a couple of times, found the path and gave our knees a good battering on the way down. The packs had started to weigh heavy. I dully acknowledged the beauty of the ravine.

Up the other side we now had our sights on the next ‘checkpoint’, the Eller Beck bridge just over the North Yorkshire Moors railway. At that point we would have just seven miles left to complete – tiny! All we had to do was walk the gently sloping mile up to Simon Howe and the gently sloping mile down again.

Let me tell you – these two miles were un-ending. They continued inordinately, indifferent, uncaring. Fylingdales continued it’s physics-defying retreat into the distance. I started to think now about the walk’s connection to death. The countless Howes, tummuli, burial mounds we had passed. The guiding stones placed long ago by people long passed. The fanciful rumours of coffin-bearers crossing this route. The Lyke Wake dirge droned mockingly in my head. This is the mindset I wanted to get to grips with, but, be warned – once you get there nowt but the slightest slither of romanticism about it remains.

By the time we got to Eller Beck I was so tired I felt dizzy and could not read the map. I bust out my secret weapon – a bottle of fizzy pop. A substance packed with so much sugar, caffeine and the-devil-knows-what-else that it cannot fail to revive your physical abilities. It worries me that we drink this stuff on normal days without to-do and don’t really notice it. I don’t know what’s in the damn stuff but drinking it while that tired makes you realise it’s like jet fuel. For emergency use only in my book.

We’d been told that the previous section was the hardest to navigate, as people often turn south at the blue Man i’ th’ moss. We had problems at fylingdales, the guidebook appeared impossibly convoluted, the light was fading, and I was intensely anxious that we had picked the wrong valley to walk up and would have to back-track severely or admit defeat. I had visions of us appearing inexplicably North at Ann’s Cross or Foster Howes and, utterly defeated, pitching the tent hap-hazardly over the heather or just giving-in completely and sleeping open, miserable with ruined sleeping bags in the morning to remind of our disgrace.

Adrenaline drove me quickly up the valley, trying to gain as much distance as possible before night fell. Thankfully, with the pinkening sky warning the impending dark, we arrived at Lilla Cross and could see all the way across to the radio mast that signalled our finish. Elation over-took me and I gave way once again to optimistic underestimation. Surely Ravenscar was just a hop, skip and a jump away, a rapid four miles – we might even make it while it was still light! Down this moor, no problem, up and down the ravine, a little summit and bingo! – home and dry. I enthusiastically voiced how much of a success the trip had been, how hard it was and how glad I was it was essentially over.

Wrong! We were marching down as quick as our sore feet would allow but the descent took an ungodly amount of time, the path became difficult, boggy and dark fell upon us like a vulture on the sick and dying. The head-torches came out, there was no option but forward progression, but this descent from the moor took a, frankly, just unfair amount of time. I was moaning something awful. Leo was, as per, taciturn, but I’m sure he wasn’t ecstatic. We talked a little about what we were most looking forward to tomorrow. For Leo – a cup of tea. For me – a great stinking portion of fish and chips.

At long, long last we met the ravine. Here the steps descend unevenly, rapidly and, on this day, didn’t appear that different from an actual river, thanks to the heavy rainfall the previous night. We carefully picked our way down the slippery rocks. It was a final punishment to the aching knees, but at this point I was veering towards complete indifference. We ascended and realised there was a not-insubstantial distance between the ravine and the last road to cross, which would mean two miles towards the end. Whatever, we trudged on, becoming increasingly slower.

We met the road and the sudden, bright, roaring headlights. We stood, waiting to cross, blinking empty-headed in the passing glare like concussed rabbits.

Surprisingly enough, the last two miles went by without issue. Head down, I was now completely resolute. I was utterly exhausted but there was nothing to be done apart from wait out the last 50 minutes. I followed the path and thought of nothing. I saw only the small section of path in front of me illuminated by the head-torch. Sporadically I checked the time, which dragged, but I had fully, finally accepted suffering at this point. We were utterly buggered, and resistance was futile.

We reached the mast at ten to eleven. We stood, dumbfounded with fatigue. Is this it? Where’s the stone? There’s a stone there, but there’s nothing written on it. Five minutes poking about later Leo re-examined it, oh no this is the stone, look – ‘Lyke Wake Walk’.

We’d finished. We plonked the tent down right there and then. I got into my sleeping bag while Leo ate one last sandwich and, perhaps mid-conversation, I crashed into sleep. Some time late I woke, busting for a wee, awkwardly squeezed on my boots to get out the tent and -agony! My blisters were very tender, and horrendously big – some as big as the toes themselves. ‘Big’ Tom indeed.

Leo had got off without a single one – Lucky Bastard! ((alternative family version: “Lucky Rascal!”))

Glad that I never had to do that ever again in my entire life I went back to sleep. In the morning we got up, amazed we had actually finished. ‘Right, what’s the next challenge then!?’

We thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and are looking forward to ordering our badges. Hopefully other would-be dirgers and already established ‘Lykes’ can find bemusement in our small tale.

Yours Faithfully,

‘Big’ Tom

Crossing Report 30th August 2020.

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

I am a regular runner and like almost everyone the unfortunate events of 2020 meant spring and summer was a time of cancelled plans. In order to salvage a sense of achievement for the year I set about planning a Lyke Wake Walk crossing, I was able to persuade two others to accompany me. Brothers Chris and Mike are both experienced off road runners with upcoming ultra-races (>50miles) who understand the mythical status of the LWW.

We set out from sheep wash at 06:55 and made good time in reasonable conditions arriving at the Lion Inn at 10:15. At this point it’s pertinent to mention that the preceding week had seen heavy downpours – this was going to be important for our onward journey.

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We left the Lion Inn with a sense of ease having not been in any difficulty thus far. We were keen to get off the hard road surface following the lengthy spell past Ralph’s Cross – none of us were prepared for how soft the ground was about to get. As we entered the bog we frequently saw our legs disappear up to the knee but the terrain really bit back when Mike and Chris both disappeared up to their arm pits! After pulling them out, the terrain got no easier, narrow tracks covered in rocks – I took a tumble not long after Chris and Mike’s plunge into the bog. This misery of this stretch was compounded by the onset of rain.

On reaching our second checkpoint at Ellerbeck the rain had eased and the sky was bright. The final stretch was without incident, although made difficult by bog fatigue! We arrived at the Ravenscar LWW Standing Stone at 15:05, delighted to have finished one our toughest days running.

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James Fishburn