Crossing Report: Monday 27th August 2018

Having lived in Helmsley for the entirety of my childhood, and also having a ‘witch’ for a mother, the Lyke Wake Walk had always been something on the agenda of things to do which I knew, in reality, would probably never get done. However, with four close family deaths within the space of nine months, including two grandparents, I believed that there was no better time than now to complete the Dirge in their memory.

I had once made an attempt as a spry 15 year old, only to resurrect a knee injury at the half way mark. Now as an infirm 20 year old, it was finally time to put aside all doubt that I could endure such physical and mental hardship. Moreover, in the time since my naïve teenage attempt, I had become a student in London, and was now on the committee for the Barts and the London Alpine Club; specializing mainly in country pub jaunts over any kind of physical endurance (it is a student organization after all!).

Joining me for the challenge was my father. He had just recovered from flu the week before and, in his still delusional state, had proposed the crossing. (A decision he would later come to regret.) Mum took on the role of support, a witch who could impart her wisdom, and Tunnock’s wafers, whenever required.

The decision as a student to get out of bed at 5am is never one which is taken lightly, nor without sincere conviction. The start time from the stone at Osmotherly was 06:15, much later than we would have liked as it would mean finishing in the dark (if we got that far!). The mantra was just to think about getting to the Lion Inn, as this is where we would have our first support from Mum, and also because even if we had to bow out there, it would still have been a lovely day out.

The up and down along the early sections of the Cleveland Way were no obstacle for my mountaineering background; unfortunately no Eagle Owl was spotted at the Wain Stones (the bank holiday is probably his day off). We actually found the flat monotony of the old train line from Bloworth Crossing to be more agonizing on the legs. We made good time to the Lion, only stopping once for the little boys’ room at the Lordstones country park. We had our first rendezvous with Mum at the Lion, topping up our water and wolfing down the cheese and pickle sandwiches provided.

However, it was at this point that Dad started to regret his decision to undertake the walk so soon after having had the flu. His pace was slowing from the Lion, and he was forever checking his pulse, worried he might have overdone it for a 56 year old.

Mum had always said that from Shunner Howe, you can see RAF Fylingdales far off in the distance, however it is imperative that you must never gaze upon it, for as a watched pot never boils, a watched RAF Fylingdales never gets any nearer; this advice is quite true. With quite a lot of encouragement to Dad, we finally made it to Eller Beck. It was here that Dad realized that if he carried on, we wouldn’t be finished until late into the night. It was here that he reluctantly (and in my opinion very wisely) pulled out of the Dirge. It was now up to me to complete the final 8 miles, solo, while Dad and Mum went for hot chocolates at the Raven Hall Hotel.

The light was waning as I looked out from Lilla Cross toward the finish, just being able to make out the mast that marked the finish in the fading light. It was also at this point that I noticed that my headtorch wasn’t working, and also that the lid on the Ribena in my rucksack had decided to unscrew itself; all remaining food and clothing was now soaked and sticky. Naturally navigation became an issue on the descent from Lilla Cross to Juggers Beck. (The one section of the walk – and probably the whole North York Moors – which I had never walked before.) I could easily take a bearing on my compass but it was not being able to see the map and compass itself which was the issue. With some luck, I made it down into Jugger Beck. According to Mum, this is the point which most people find the most difficult, as it really is like a ravine, (not that I could see that it was). I must say I quite enjoyed using some different muscle groups to the previous 20 miles.

Making it to A171, I knew that there was only one last effort over the moor to go. Mum called me from near the finish, and asked if I could see her headtorch in the distance. I could! And it only looked to be a few hundred metres away! But, just like Fylingdales, and just like so many other things on this walk, it never seems to get any nearer. It was a long 2 miles. But that headtorch eventually transformed into Mum, and the Dirge was over. The total time was 16 hours and 15 minutes.

I think I should like to do the Dirge again, maybe even a winter crossing is in the offing, but for now, I’ll let my feet rest a while longer.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Thorn

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