Crossing Report, Saturday 3rd June 2017

Crossing Report

It’s 1.30am, Saturday 3rd June. A sleek black car wheels noiselessly into Sheepwash car park and out step four large men, all in the prime of life. A small, red empty car is the only other thing there. Chatting quietly, the men grab teas and coffees from flasks and sort their equipment for the day ahead. They seek out various locations in the car park to relieve themselves before setting off. Some stand quite close to the red car. Mysteriously, laughter is suddenly heard. Oh dear, it seems the car wasn’t empty after all; when we arrived the two occupants must have been in a prone position for some reason. What on earth had they been doing at that time of the night? And what were they laughing at now????

Anyway, leaving that aside, we set off on the journey. Three were returning for their 2nd crossing – Chris Wood (2013), John Bamford (80s sometime), and Nick Coombes (2013). Joining them for his first attempt was Derek Lunn, who’d come down from Hawick in Scotland, with a previous best ever effort of 20 miles, completed over his local Scottish hills, by way of preparation.

The walk through the woods by headtorch was atmospheric to say the least. Before long day broke cool and cloudy – ideal walking weather, in fact. The pace was steady, the rucksacks were full and, as we discovered afterwards, we were all thinking “Not gonna make this!” but no-one actually said so. By the time we hit Urra Moor and began the long plod towards Bloworth and on to the Lion at Blakey, the sun was well and truly in control, the clouds were receding and the suncream was going round like a pass-the-parcel present.

The moors were glorious; a riot of birdlife. Curlews, grouse, quail, lapwings, skylarks and many others beyond our capacity to identify, were in abundance. Truly delightful.

Checkpoint 3 to 4 passed without incident – everyone kept dry feet, thanks to the recent dry weather. The “Startled Me Clean Out Of Me Boots!” award went to Chris, who on several occasions found a grouse shooting out from almost under his feet, where they had hidden until the very last moment before fleeing with a loud squawk and a flurry of wings.

4 to 5 seemed to take forever, perhaps because it did. 5 to 6 was a killer too – it never seemed to end. By this time our pace had slackened somewhat and we had all turned a brighter shade of pink. Derek and John had for some hours been assisted in their progress by powerful painkilling remedies for painful hips and knees. The prescription medication had had a profoundly beneficial effect on John in particular, who floated effortlessly some 2 feet above the heather for the last 27 miles of the trip, singing songs by the Bee Gees, Status Quo, Level 42, Roy Wood and anyone else for that matter.

At long, long last, however, the beacon was reached, the stone was patted, photos were taken, and the Ravenscar hotel bar was treated to an olfactory assault to the dismay of the well-dressed diners, and we quaffed a few watching the sun bring down the curtain on a fabulous day. Skilful navigation from John and Chris had kept us on course throughout. Special thanks must go to Nicola Coombes in particular and to Julie Wood for tireless support at checkpoints 3 and 5, and for the lifts home at the end of an 18 hour epic. The last word, however, goes to Derek Lunn, who had attempted the walk knowing it was far beyond anything he had previously undertaken, and who refused to yield to the heat, the pain, the tired legs, the frankly ridiculous quantities of English flatulence, and the appalling jokes of the assembled company, and never once complained! What a great effort, and what a grand day.

Leave a Reply