Crossing 02nd July 2018

40 plus years since I first wanted to do the crossing and almost a year since a gruelling failed attempt, Georgia my daughter and I set off from Osmotherley at dawn on the 2nd July. Georgia had flown in from Dubai and we had driven up from Hertfordshire.

We enjoyed the climbs of the first 10 miles, so much so that I was distracted by the warning sign about the territorial Eurasian Eagle Owl and went off the path. We ended up scrambling round the Wainstones into the very lair of the beast which seemed preferable to me than casting around with a terrifying drop behind us (gentle slope my daughter said). But we avoided the bird and came across the main path and wondered how we could have got off what looked like a motorway.

Our first stop, at Clay Bank Road, found us sitting on picnic chairs at a table where a camping stove was brewing tea and cooking bacon thanks to Malcolm and Colin of Weathergoatwalks. The walkers arriving on their minibuses for the next stretch of Cleveland Way or Coast to Coast must have wondered who these lightweights were. Last year we had tried the walk unsupported and it had been hard. I asked Malcolm if we were cheating but he, always able to say the encouraging thing, said we were doing it properly. It didn’t take long to dispel our doubts!

The railway section was hot, very dusty and boring and the Lion Inn was an oasis. The stretch on the road to the bog felt long as we hurried to our nemesis. In 2017 the section from the Lion Inn to the Wheeldale Road had taken us 5 hours as we wallowed and splashed and walked every way but in a straight line. This time we bounced across in 3 hours, not even a wet boot sole. The Wheeldale Road marked the point in 2017 when as darkness fell we decided not to continue over unknown ravines and moors with headtorches. This time we were in good time and a cup of tea and some fruit cake gave us rocket fuel.

At this point Georgia seemed to be upping the pace and when asked why said that her feet (in new boots) were hurting and she wanted to get to the end. This gradual increase in pace continued till the last 2 miles of the whole walk were almost done at a run! The sections to Eller Beck and Jugger Howe were just enjoyable walking – much more enjoyable than 2 weeks previously when Georgia’s brother Toby had helped me try the final sections of the walk and we had been subjected to an unbelievable tropical deluge where every piece of waterproof equipment failed and dry paths turned into torrents.

The only clouds of the day had rolled in from the sea over the first set of hills, so we never saw the Beacon, just took it on faith that it was there and ploughed on, me in Georgia’s wake. Malcolm and Colin were there at the end to cheer us on, take the photos and drive us in style to the Falcon Inn, where we were just in time for a pint and a glass of red wine.
After – a year of obsessive preparation; a whole new suite of waterproof kit ( unused); about 20 litres of water and 4 cups of fresh brewed tea; and just over 15 hours of walking we were left with a buzz which 6 weeks on is still there and a little voice which is telling me to do it again!
John & Georgia, Hertfordshire

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