…………….. joined by my son Charles between the Lion Inn and the finish at Ravenscar.
A delayed train from London left me at the LWW stone later than planned but here I was, about to walk 40 miles across the North York Moors. A time-stamped photo for posterity (and Instagram) and off up the grassy slope to Scarth Wood Moor, bathed in sunshine. Mid 20s. Unusual for these parts, I’m told. It was 15.10.
LWW stones and way signs kept me on track along deserted wooded paths. Where was everybody? I’d expected it to be busier during a bank holiday week. The Guidebook warned of steep steps but I climbed them without incident and emerged onto the moor and Carlton Bank, with stunning views past Roseberry Topping to the sea, more than 20 miles away. I reached Checkpoint 1 at 17.40.
Choosing the Plantation route at Great Broughton, I passed my first coffin stone. By now it was clear my late start meant I wouldn’t reach the Lion Inn at Blakey before last orders. I called ahead and asked my son to bring food. Proper food. My pockets brimmed with energy bars but as a dinner, they just don’t hack it. Reached Checkpoint 2 at 19.10.
A sheep posed artistically for a photo by the sign-post to Carr Ridge. It was the last living creature I would see for the next two hours. On Urra Moor, it was getting cold. Taking heed of the Guidebook’s hypothermia table showing the descent from shivering through to death, I pulled on my jacket. And as I reached Bloworth Crossing and the railroad, it was also getting dark. Actually, it was very dark, and I didn’t have a torch. I know – there’s travelling light and there’s just plain stupid! I was beginning to imagine the next day’s headlines, “London man missing on North York Moors”, when I saw a light in the distance, moving in my direction. My son, who’d had the forethought to pack a head torch had come to my rescue. An hour later, at 22.15, we arrived at the Lion Inn and after a celebratory LWW-half-way-point pint, grabbed a few hours’ sleep.
The Landlord kindly left breakfast out for us and after leaving quietly through the Fire Exit (we had paid!) were up the road at Checkpoint 3, in thick fog, at 06.15. Past Fat Betty and left at the marker stone, we turned into the boggy section, with some unease, given its reputation. We needn’t have worried. With little rain for the last few weeks, it was mostly dry apart from the one place where I misjudged it with a reckless jump into thick black sludge. By now the sun had burnt off the fog and a second glorious day beckoned. We reached Checkpoint 4 at 08.15.
We followed others’ tracks through the heather to Blue Man I’ the Moss and on to Wheeldale Moor. After a short pitstop by the road, we headed down the ravine to the stepping stones with the sun sparkling on Wheeldale Beck. Cue more photos. Up the slope to Simon Howe and our only routing error. I should have read the update on the website, “…a neatly mowed path. Very tempting, but DON’T TAKE IT ! keep ahead…” Picking our way back through the heather, we made it down to the railway line and Checkpoint 5 at 11.40, just in time to see the NY Moors train on its way to Whitby.
On past penned sheep, the alternative route took us around Fylingdales and up to Lilla Cross for our first sight of the radio mast at the finish. Seeing it definitely gives you a boost but doesn’t quite offset the fatigue. Even so, despite fatigue, the view from the ravine at Jugger Howe was one of the highlights of the walk. We reached Checkpoint 6 at 14.15.
The end was in sight but oddly, I didn’t really want it to end. Why would you? A carefree walk on a sunny day (albeit, a long one) through stunning countryside. We made it to the mast 30 mins later, at 14.45. 16 hours 5 mins of walking including stops but more importantly, 23 hours 35 mins elapsed time. Made it with 25 minutes to spare!
It took nearly two hours by road to get back to Northallerton and highlighted to me just how far we’d walked. On the train journey back to London, I reflected on the trip with more than a sense of satisfaction. I’d do it again tomorrow – though next time I’d take a torch.