On behalf of Emma Cope, SallyAnn Hardwick and myself, Carole Pitts, I am pleased to report our successful crossing of the Lyke Wake Walk unaided, starting just before midnight on Friday 7 April, completing the walk just after 8pm on Saturday 8 April.
It was a lovely clear night, with the full moon due on the following Tuesday and a good forecast for the weekend. We left Osmotherley around 23:45 on Friday evening, clutching Brian Smailes’ ‘Lyke Wake Walk’ guide and the OS maps for both the west and eastern areas of the North York Moors. Several years ago, I had walked the ‘Coast to Coast walk’, during which I discovered the existence of the ‘Lyke Wake walk’ and was excited to finally be embarking on this adventure.
Head torches on, we soon came across an LWW marker stone and embarked on a ‘kodak moment’ with the moon as a backdrop. After crossing the lane at Huthwaite Green we began our first ascent up to Live Moor. Brian’s book stated ‘with the wind probably getting stronger as you go through a gate to start the steady climb’. How fortunate where we ? There was no wind at all – just a drop in temperature to below freezing as the ground started to glisten with frost. Fortunately we were well equipped with our down jackets and extra layers – nothing was going to stop us achieving our goal. Up we went on to Carlton Moor, looking at the light pollution from Teeside (or was it Middlesborough ?). There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the moon and stars were appearing in their masses. It was simply magical as we plodded on, soon reaching the Lord Stones cafe, which seemed to have gone rather up market since the last time I was there 8 years ago. We didn’t stop to verify as it was around 1am in the morning and didn’t think the residents would appreciate our joyous arrival. On we went across the Moors and scrambled across the Wain stones – pretty eerie but very impressive under the clear night sky.
Soon we were descending Hasty Bank – conversations were of Emma’s home-made sausage rolls and hot chocolate – which we devoured when we found the seat just before the road crossing on Clay Bank road. It was 03:55 and having walked for around 4 hours, we were more than ready for our midnight feast ! After a 30 minute stop, we were off again, and soon on the railway track heading towards the Lion Inn. The dawn was starting to break and it was starting to get light. The moon was literally setting behind us and the sun coming up in front. As we reached Bloworth Crossing, it was time for SallyAnn to perform her morning ablutions , with Emma and I following suit not long after. We still hadn’t met another soul on our walk and felt privileged to have had the moors to ourselves. After what seemed an eternity on the railway track, we spotted the Lion Inn on the horizon. I am sure somebody moved it several times as we approached as it didn’t seem to get any closer. Again in Brian’s book he states that ‘it can be very windy as the wind sweeps up the valley and over the embankments,’ but how lucky were we ? Although the frost was glistening, we were becalmed in the middle of the moors and continued to trudge on towards the Lion Inn. We started to sing to pass the time – don’t ask me what we sang, but fortunately there was still nobody else around to hear our dulcet tones. After realising we’d missed the turning off to the Lion Inn and ended up at the road, my bottom lip started to quiver and I was sulking. Can’t believe we did that adding extra time and distance to the walk.
We reached the Lion Inn at 08:10 and plonked ourselves on the grass verge opposite, looking down in to Rosedale. Kettle on again and it was time for breakfast – porridge pots from Aldi and a brew, followed by flapjack SallyAnn had purchased from her local Deli. Scrummy !!
By 08:55 we had departed and were on our way to find ‘Fat Betty’. We had several renditions of trying to sing ‘Whoa, Black Betty, Bam-ba-Lam’, struggling to remember the words and who sang it. (Note; Google has since answered that for me – ‘Ram Jam’ in 1977 !). On finding ‘Fat Betty’ we again had several Kodak moments, with the bright blue sky behind us in the pictures. The down jackets and layers were starting to come off as the temperature was starting to rise !!!
As we had to ‘march’ along the road for a few miles, it was time to do exercises with our walking poles to relieve some of the monotony and prevent ‘bingo wings’ in the future. Bicep curls, lifting the poles above our head etc. as we sang songs from the jungle book and hummed the tune when the elephants were marching (you know the bit I mean ?).
Soon we reached the turn off for the ‘boggy bit’ and were discussing how fortunate we were that it wasn’t really boggy. How wrong were we ? As we were gossiping and singing so much, we managed to wander off course a bit. A couple of wet feet later and one broken pole which was being used as a depth gauge, we were back on course and aiming for Shunner Howe. It was around this time, about the 24 mile mark (?) that we started to see people who were doing the East-West crossing. There was a group from the Met Police and we came across their support team as we reached the road crossing at Hamer. For the next hour or so we must have seen around 30 people – these were the only other people we saw undertaking the walk all day.
About ½ mile after the road crossing it was 12:00 and time for lunch. Wraps, pretzels, nuts as well as Emma’s home-made quiches and rocky road. That girl is an amazing cook !
We made the terrible mistake of stopping too long for lunch – around 40 minutes. Brian’s book commented ‘Many people say this demanding section is more than 8.5 miles long – usually because they are often feeling stiff by this time and walking at a slower pace’. Brian wasn’t wrong !!!! At any opportunity, Emma and Sallyann would not only sit down, they would lie down, and I was afraid they wouldn’t get up again. Wheeldale Plantation seemed to go on forever to our left, and when we finally reached the road for the descent towards Wheeldale Beck, we had to resort to the ‘emergency wine gums’ to keep us going. SallyAnn also later confessed to having comfort breaks as a sneaky way of getting to sit down and rest again.
A final push up to Simon Howe and we bumped in to some mountain bikers who kindly took a ‘group picture’ of the 3 of us. They went on to tell us they had done the Lyke Wake walk a few years ago and had 16 hours of rain and wind. Again we couldn’t believe how lucky we’d been – no wind or rain with the temperature being around 15 degrees in early April. Only downfall was we’d forgotten the sunblock – which I guess we could be excused for – and all had pink faces in the morning, with Emma getting the prize for the most random sunburn on her arms and neck.
The mountain bikers informed us it was now only 7 miles to the finish – just a couple of hours when they did it. How wrong were they ??? As we were getting tired we managed to wander off course to the East, and then had to cut back again when we came across the railway gorge. A quick burst in to song again ‘If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands’ – along with the actions, and soon we were at the railway crossing. Just before crossing the main road to Whitby at Eller Beck, we saw an older couple sitting in the car park. SallyAnn later confessed she was ready to jump in their car and bail out had they made the offer !
It was now already 4:30pm, with about 7 miles still to go. Off we went along the bridleway, which soon turned in to boggy wet ground again and we lost the path. Tiredness was kicking in and after carefully studying the map along with orientating ourselves with the compass, SallyAnn spotted Lillia Howe on the horizon and we set off in that direction. From that point on the path was pretty straight forward and easy to navigate, but we were tired and progress was slow. We could fully understand why lack of sleep is used as a form of torture. Emma had started to hallucinate and was convinced she had seen brown bears on the moor. Later we all started to agree with her.
Soon I spotted the Beacon at Ravenscar on the horizon, to which Emma’s response was ‘You’ve got to be kidding …..’ (Actually, her language was a bit bluer than that but I can’t print that here ? ). We reached the final road crossing at 7:10pm and then walked together across Stony Marl Moor to the finish, arriving just after 8pm at 8:05pm. Our total crossing time was 20hrs 20 mins – not the fastest time recorded but we were elated. Now there was just the additional 2 ½ miles to walk back to Boggle Hole Youth Hostel where we were staying the night …..
Emma Cope ( Cambridge ), SallyAnn Hardwick ( Liverpool ) and Carole Pitts ( Hertfordshire )