This is the official report of the crossing of the North Yorkshire Moors along the route known as ‘The Lyke Wake Walk’ accomplished from 31st August to 1st September 2012 by Miss Tamsin Cox (“TC”), Miss Emma Jones (“EJ”), and Miss Wendy Mathers (“WM”), which was undertaken as the first stage of TC’s frankly bizarre idea of a Hen Do (“the Moor Hen”).

The said crossing was ably and amiably supported by Messrs Alasdair Donaldson (“AD”) and Adam Kendry (“AK”), who were in charge of transport, nutrition, and emotional health, and subsequently by Mrs. Kirsten Cox (“KC”) and Miss Jennifer Chung (“JC”), who received the mangled walkers enthusiastically and accompanied them for the second stage of the Moor Hen, and were very nice about the unsightly blisters and curiously loose toenails in the very necessary four-hour finishing Jacuzzi.

We would like to thank our support team, and to report our crossing to The New Lyke Wake Club, so that it may serve as a warning to others and provide useful advice on the befits of mid-walk retail therapy.  Though, to be honest, we sincerely doubt that anyone else would choose to do that as a Hen Do.

  1. Part I – The North: In retrospect, deciding to start the walk after a full day’s work, in London, wasn’t perhaps entirely wise.  Having all risen early and spent the whole day glued to computer screens and telephone handsets in daylight-free offices, by the time we set off, at about five thirty in the afternoon, we were not really in a fit state for anything other than a large glass of wine and a hot bath.
  2. Unperturbed, however, and not discouraged by the naysayers (not least AD, himself twice a dirger) we donned hiking kit and yomped along Fleet Street to our waiting support team.  Sadly something terrible had happened with the car booking, so we were obliged to drive around London for several hours, trying to persuade the car hire company that a Ford Fiesta would not be big enough for all our kit and us.
  3. By seven thirty, we had all our people, and a Galaxy, and we set off through the remnants of the rush hour.  EJ supplied excellent cakes, AD drove heroically, and the journey was uneventful save that it wasn’t really possible for anyone to sleep, because AK was delivering a breathless and lengthy lecture about the early life of the Emperor Palpatine and the non-canonical manner of his representation in the third of the recent Star Wars films.
  4. We did eventually get to Osmotherley, however, just in time to watch the fish and chip shop, on which all our hopes rested, closing.  The lady inside was very kind, however, and scraped together a portion of cold chips for us to share.  Fortified by this and some marvellous portions of bread and butter pudding (we were too late for main courses) at The Golden Lion, we headed to the car park to put on our kit and set out.
  5. Part II – To the Gliding Club: We armed ourselves with a map, three compasses (so we could take an average…) headtorches, ancient walking gear, quite a lot of chocolate and multiple copies of The Lyke Wake Guide, by Brian Smailes, whose comforting tone and air of apparent nonchalance had made us perhaps excessively confident.
  6. At 11:30, we set off.  AJ and AK heroically accompanied us for the first 100 yards, until the first ankle-deep pool of water halted them, and gave an entirely unheeded warning that the remainder of the route might not be at its firmest.
  7. From the starting-stone, we headed into the obviously haunted woods, but our spirits were kept up by frequent indications that, contrary to all predictions, TC could actually find not only her own backside with both hands and a map, but also, using the same tools, vaguely the right route.  An unorthodox method of heading ‘basically east’, was justified by the increasingly heart-warming acorn-shaped indications that we weren’t actually, horribly lost in a scary wood in the middle of the night without having had any supper and with no prospect of reaching civilisation at any time soon.
  8. WM and EJ assisted ably with frequent reference to the landmarks referred to in Smailes, which we hoped would enable a more female-friendly navigation system.
  9. It was with relief and a sense of excitement at climbing out of the Blair Witch Project woods and onto the ridge at Knolls End that we saw Middlesborough (possibly?!) in the distance, and breathed the clean open air.  Though we were having to adjust the navigation, since presumably because of incompetence or a misunderstanding of Mr. Smailes, we had been assisted in finding the proper path neither by ‘benches on the left’ nor by a telephone box.  Neither had come into view, and so the ‘basically East’ approach was continued.
  10. We enjoyed the view, fell over a hedgehog, tripped over numerous drainage ditches, but were generally very jolly.  Then the fog came down.
  11. Even absent the view, all was initially well.  But our hair become wet and lank, and the lack of sleep started to kick in.  Our conversation lurched away from the Emperor Palpatine and retreated to the repeated warning, ‘ditch’, but our buoyant spirits were still evidenced by the thesaurus of alternatives we employed from time to time: ‘ditch’, ‘ditch’, ‘channel’ ‘ditch’, ‘crevasse’, ‘ditch’, ‘aqueduct’ etc etc
  12. It was at this point, at the end of the witching hour, that we first heard the howling.  Obviously, we identified it immediately as AD and AK at the next waypoint, trying to spook us, and laughed it off.  But the massive vulpine footprints on the path were disconcerting.  Then, suddenly, MW said, ‘There are eyes in the fog!’.  Much panicking ensued – they glimmered at us from every side, flashing a preternatural green.  We prepared to meet our doom / get parts in a pre-teen fantasy franchise.
  13. We could hear the beasts getting nearer, snorting the air in search of us, their prey.  We huddled together on the path, hoping that waterproof trousers would provide some protection against a furious werewolf.
  14. ‘Baaaaa,’ said the werewolf.
  15. Once we had stopped being embarrassed, and pulled ourselves together, we were thrilled.  Never have sheep been so warmly greeted in the middle of the night on a foggy moor.
  16. We arrived, in good time, at what TC was sure was the first checkpoint, though the absence of a gliding club, a café, and the support team did give some pause for thought.  After heading on a bit, TC becoming increasingly adamant, we returned and found a shame-faced support team, full of take-away curry.  Glad not to be lost, and keen not to stiffen up from standing still, we headed on.
  17. Part III – The Stones of Doom: Apart from some boggy bits and increasing weresheep-ambushes, Part 3 was largely event-free.  The path over this bit is clear, though we hadn’t really realised in advance that we’d have to climb up and down so many terrifyingly treacherous near-vertical paths.  In many ways, not being able to see how far down it was, was something of a blessing.
  18. We had, once again, lapsed into sleep-deprived semi-consciousness: ditch, ditch, tiny stream, ditch, ditch, ditch, terrifying vertical drop, ditch etc etc.
  19.  Then, suddenly, at the top of a rise, massive stones!  Huge climbable brilliant stones!  The map informed us, without explaining anything, that they were wain stones, and that the path, which appeared to go under them, definitely went round to the left.  The fog was blowing about by now, so we spent a bit of time enjoying the view, and then TC led the way over the lower stones and round, as apparently instructed, to the left.
  20. The path, previously broad, flat, and stone-laid, had dwindled to a slippery foot-wide track with a notable downhill lean.  Unperturbed, TC pottered along it, yanking out the odd tuft of grass with her free hand as one foot slipped into the void.
  21. Then the path became a nothing.  We were just sort of standing half way up a very steep and slippery slope.  Happily, someone had done this before, and so with the same jaunty air, TC followed the muddy holes in the grass which led up to the top of the ridge and emerged triumphantly not far from the stone path which we had evidently abandoned. EJ followed.
  22. MW came shortly after, but had turned a curious shade of grey.  ‘You didn’t look down, did you?’  We hadn’t.  We’re still glad we didn’t.
  23. Shortly after TC’s attempt to kill everyone, we trundled down to the road to meet our waiting support team.  They informed us that we were preceded by four chaps with GPS who had issued dire warnings about the impossibility of navigating without it.  But we decided it would be fine, really, as long as we kept going East.
  24. he boys produced delicious snacks – pork pies, flapjacks, bananas, and informed us that they had assembled a truly marvellous picnic which would be revealed in stages.  ‘Pheasant pie’, they said, ‘smoked salmon, caviar, and all good things’.  EJ, meanwhile, using actual planning skills, had produced amazing energy bars and rehydration tablets, which were a great help.  We agreed that the next stop would be breakfast, since by then dawn would have come, and set off on the slow climb up Round Hill.
  25. Part 4 – The Railway Line: When we read Smailes, we found ourselves looking forward to this section.  A gentler climb, and then no need to navigate or leap up and down at all for miles – just plodding along on the lovely, flat, wide railway line.  Great.
  26. In practice, however, this was the most soul-destroying section of them all.  We had, I suppose, pinned a lot of hope on the feelings of wellbeing which would come when the sun rose.  As we reached the top of Round Hill the sky began to lighten, and apart from the odd frightening roadside rock masquerading as a weresheep, all seemed very positive.
  27. But dawn, when it came, was a disappointingly damp and grey affair, serenaded not by the joyous chorus of birds we had anticipated, but by half a sarcastic and apparently asthmatic grouse.
  28. The odd silence which came with the fog, the intermittent grouse-attacks, the inability to see more than about ten feet and the endlessly repeating railway-line roadway, which went on for hours, coupled with our all being a bit tired, well out of our comfort-zones and alone, lent an air of unreality to this section.  We ceased to believe in the rest of creation, and imagined that we had entered some sort of deranged purgatory.
  29. Eventually turning off past The Golden Lion (according to Smailes – we didn’t actually see it, but then you couldn’t really see anything) we hoped that the short road-section would provide more outside contact, but apart from a very disgruntled ewe and a very dead grouse, there was nothing.  No sound, nothing to see, not a scrap of breakfast.
  30. Eventually, TC decided that enough was enough, and they really must be at the checkpoint, though distinguishing one area of foggy road from another wasn’t easy.  ‘Hello, support team?’ she shouted into her ‘phone, ‘Where are you?  We’re at the checkpoint, but we can’t see any sign of you.’  ‘We’re also at the checkpoint’, said AD.  ‘Are you sure?  We can’t see you.’  ‘We can’t see you either, but I’m not using a ‘phone’, said AD, who was about 10 feet away and had, unlike TC spotted that there was no reception.
  31. The support team were tormenting one of the four chaps from the GPS-assisted group ahead of us, whose spirit had been broken by the nightmare railway and was waiting for a lift home, by frying bacon and making tea.  His ex-companions had issued more dire warnings about our lack of GPS, apparently, but we were still on track.  It was, quite honestly, the best bacon buttie I have ever eaten.  The boys themselves looked less appetising, however, and there was a row of tiny port bottles on the roof of the car.
  32. ‘The artisan cheese selection was rather disappointing with our port tasting’, said AK, ‘And the ice we were using to chill the champagne has melted all over your spare socks.’  We forgave them because of the bacon butties, and because they demonstrated that the outside world still existed, at least in some fairly disreputable form.
  33. Part V – the White Stones: We nearly didn’t make it onto the next section, because we saw a sign to somewhere which, if the bacon butties had been anything to go by, looked significantly more appealing. Just think of the delicious sausages!  But we were strong…
  34. Reason, a fear of failure, and Smailes prevailed, however, and we set off onto the moor with the warm knowledge that all we needed to do was look for the white-painted stones.
  35. At first, there was a path of sorts, but it rapidly turned into a mud-slide, and then into a large pool of water full of reeds.  The footsteps of the chaps in front could still be seen, but they disappeared into the water and there was no sign of where they might emerge.  In fact, given that neither the boys nor we saw them again at any point, it’s entirely possible that their GPS just led them into the depths and they never came out again.  We’ll never know.
  36. At almost the same time, it became apparent that the heady combination of massive heather bushes, fallen stones and thick fog entailed that we couldn’t just look for the next stone and walk towards it, because we couldn’t see anything.  So we just sort of took a more direct East-ish route, which entailed leaping over heather bushes, blasting through thorns, and narrowly avoiding getting our feet very wet indeed.
  37. Then TC spotted, like a beautiful siren, a white pole embedded in the heather.  ‘Aha!  Clearly this is to assist when the stones are invisible – let’s go over there!’ she said, springing towards it like an over-excited spaniel.
  38. As she came within touching distance of the post, however, the ground seemed soft.  ‘Are you sure that isn’t marking a drainage ditch?’ asked WM, as TC disappeared from view.  ‘Yes, yes it is,’ came the reply from TC, knee-deep in a ditch full of water.  The hours spent waterproofing boots seemed less worthwhile now that they were keeping the water in.
  39. Happily, however, the fog lifted, and the stones were rediscovered.  Lining up a compass-route along two of them allowed us, in the course of leaping over the small stream that now served as a path, to fall over the remainder, and it was with a sense of triumph that we came to Shunner Howe.
  40. Spirits duly lifted by not actually being lost any more, we indulged in a brief mini-picnic with the supplies picked up at the breakfast stop, and began to yomp downhill towards a couple of figures we thought might be the boys waiting near the car.  How very wrong we were.
  41. As we came nearer, we discovered a middle-aged couple, hereinafter, ‘the Man in the Green Jacket’ +1.  He said that his son had set off on the LWW at 3am with only a sandwich and a map of the British Isles, and was gaining on us rapidly.  ‘Where did you stop the night?’ he asked.  Endeavouring to laugh off his grating sarcasm cheerfully, we wished him well.  ‘They’ve eaten the pheasant pie’, he said.
  42. We reached the road.  They had.  But they’d also bought more supplies, including Ribena, massive scotch eggs the size of your head, and the means of making fried-egg butties.  In fact, the boot of the car was full of elegantly displayed edible wares, like a travelling corner-shop.  So we forgave them again.
  43. Part VI – The Blue Girls in the Heather: This section seemed, for some reason, to be unbelievably long, and we seemed to make no progress for a very long time.  Hardly cheered by the tombstones en route, we were now pretty exhausted from leaping over pools of standing water, and TC was developing trench-foot in her entirely self-inflicted water-boots.  Reaching the Blue Man i’ the Moss was therefore a crucial moment of excitement and relief.  The moors were turning out to be quite big.
  44. TC chirpily asserted that it was just a short hop to Bumble Wood (which, to be fair, we could see from there) and that once we had popped past that, we were nearly at the road, and making real progress.  But it took so, so long to get past the wood.  Eventually we all just collapsed in the heather.  From hereon in, it was all about the fuel.  Thankfully, the boys had stocked us up with bananas and chocolate bars from the enticing car-shop, and we had the remains of the ‘artisan cheese selection’, so we consumed those with gusto, notwithstanding pocket-fluff, and undertook a brief comparative tasting of EJ’s selection of hydration salts.  Marginally re-fuelled, we set off again, though growing thoroughly fed up with leaping from stone to stone and wading through mud.
  45. Eventually, after a curious broken-fence boundary thingy, we emerged onto the road, and set off confidently across the field on the other side, looking up towards the approaching climb.  We had failed, however, to heed Smailes’ warnings about the unbelievable drop at Wheeldale Lodge.  Our wearied limbs were barely able to cope with the steep conditions, and WM went down, her waterproof trousers (so she claimed) emitting an extremely loud and satisfied-sounding flatulent parp.  This cheered us again, and we trotted across the stepping-stones and up the other side.
  46. Now, for the first time, EJ had ‘phone reception, which she used to full advantage to purchase vicariously, via her father in an antique shop in Wakefield, a church pew to go into her flat.  This provided a surreal and confusing break from the uphill climb, which was helpful, though we were somewhat deflated again by a brief conversation with a passing cheery fellow who clearly worked on the moor, and said that at the rate we were going we’d be lucky to get to Ravenscar before nightfall.  The thought of putting the headtorches back on and facing more weresheep was simply too awful to contemplate, so we quickened our pace and reached Simon Howe somewhat out of breath.
  47. TC’s navigating was getting increasingly, though inexplicably, more sure of itself, and so the others followed surprisingly willingly as she veered off towards ‘that big pointy house’ (later identified as Fylingdales), right over the highest point of Crag Stone Rigg, through knee-deep crunchy stubble.  Path regained, injuries ignored, we slumped down to the railway line, and back up to the boys, and semi-civilisation, at Eller Beck.
  48. But first, we had to run the inevitable gauntlet of Green Jacket Man.  ‘They’ve eaten the caviar,’ he said.  They had.  But they hadn’t seen his son.
  49. And they gave us a bottle of Tokaji, and they had managed to dry the spare socks on the car somehow, so we forgave them again, abandoned the waterproofs and put on new clothes for the final push.  TC’s feet had turned to a curious waterlogged mush, but they still had sufficient solid structure to walk on.  EJ had exacerbated a previous climbing injury and had developed a curious hinged arrangement for one toenail.  WM had had some sort of anti-heather anaphylactic reaction and one of her legs had swollen to enormous size and was bright red and hot enough to toast a sandwich.
  50. After a brief lesson in how to use WM’s epi-pen should she start frothing at the mouth, and TC and EJ having agreed that, on balance, we’d probably just have to leave her to die if that happened, because we were far too tired to save anyone except ourselves, we set off again.
  51. We had told the boys that we couldn’t face another stop before the end – partly because the car-shop had been decimated by our collective raids, but mostly because stopping made us think about how mangled we were, which was neither uplifting nor pretty.
  52. Part VII – the Home Straight: The daylight cousins of the weresheep were out in force near the fence into Fylingdales, and the path/stream was even more waterlogged.  In trying to avoid the increasingly large pools, we strayed massively off-course, frequently halting altogether with no idea how to proceed.  TC’s former confidence had evaporated, and we were now going for a majority vote on what the map might mean, and which way was still generally East.
  53. When we eventually reached the track, we had to do an unexpected 90-degree turn to make our way up to Lilla Cross.  But at least we found it.  We scruffled down the last of the supplies, including multiple cans of Red Bull, to fuel our final heroic effort of will.
  54. The sun came out, which was a bit of a relief, and for reasons which later seemed inexplicable we felt as though we were now on the home straight.  There were paths with actually dry bits among the mud, and we vaguely knew where we were going.  And then we saw the sea.  As TC’s face brightened with inevitable sunburn, spirits were once again quite high.
  55. But we hadn’t reckoned on Jugger Howe.  By the time we got there, EJ had developed some kind of groin-strain, so was dragging one foot almost uselessly behind her.  TC had lapsed into a sideways simian crawl in order to alleviate the pain of a twisted knee and the amazing grating-damage inflicted on her mush-feet by crunchy dry socks since the last stop.  And WM, though still alive, still had a superheated massive leg.  And the caffeine from the Red Bull had run out.
  56. It was the worst physical and emotional crash which could have happened.  Probably the only reason we carried on was because lying down and dying at that stage would have been humiliating, and taken marginally longer.
  57. Climbing like zombies to the top of the ravine, we persuaded ourselves that it wasn’t very far from there, and staggered on toward the finish.  Thankfully, though we didn’t thank her at the time, WM put in a burst of energy, shouting, ‘Come along girls, I can see the support team!’
  58. And we could.  Two figures, outlined at the crest of the next rise against the darkening skies.  If we could only reach them.
  59. We limped over the road, barely avoiding death by traffic because we lacked the energy to move out of the way, and were entirely broken already, and crawled up the bank on the far side.  The figures were still there.  Hurrah!
  60. With WM as Sgt Major, and TC and EJ limping along behind increasingly slowly, we drew near to the two figures.
  61. With hindsight we should have realised sooner.  We weren’t near enough to Beacon Howes for this to be the actual finish.  Obviously it wasn’t the boys.
  62. ‘They’re drinking the Champagne’, said Green Jacket Man.
  63. Spirits entirely destroyed by our dashed false hopes, we thanked him for his good wishes and headed on.  We still hadn’t seen his son.  Neither had the boys.  Anywhere.  We concluded later that he either didn’t exist, or had been brutally murdered, and we were being used as some sort of curious alibi.  In any event, I think we should be told.
  64. More importantly, this time the harbinger of doom was wrong.  When we finally did reach the finish, we heard the pop of a cork, and we finished the walk with a glass of fizz, a bottle of one of EJ’s recovery concoctions, and what was left of the food.  It was quarter to seven, so we had completed our crossing in just over 19 hours, and before dark set in again.  We were, and are, incredibly pleased with ourselves.
  65. We passed out in the car, listening to AK lecturing us all about the later life of the Emperor Palpatine.  AD has subsequently assured us that we missed many hours of interim lectures.  Which was obviously very disappointing.
  66. Aftermath: We drove to York.  The Hotel pretended it was full because we smelt appalling, were not wearing shoes, and couldn’t really talk, so the support team had to reassure the staff that we would be different in the morning.  Seriously, though, without them, albeit they ate all the best bits of the picnic, we’d all be dead on the moor.  So grateful thanks to AK and AD for giving up most of their weekend to stay up all night in a car.
  67. But also many thanks to our supplementary support team, KC and JC, who met up with us the next morning for brunch at Betty’s, a tour of the Jorvik Viking Centre (a museum where you can sit down – genius), and four hours dissolving in a Jacuzzi, followed by dinner.  They looked after us very kindly and got us home when we all basically went to sleep face-down in dinner that evening.
  68. The Future: TC has foresworn any future exercise of any sort, since feels she’s done enough now, and is plotting the wedding, grateful that she hasn’t got to choose shoes which will fit over a plaster cast, though open-toes are no longer an option with her remodelled feet.  WM is planning her next LWW next summer, inexplicably, having persuaded her colleagues that the sense of relief made it all worthwhile and they would ‘enjoy’ it too.  EJ spent the following weekend cycling to Paris for charity.  Goodness knows how.  Her toenail is, we’re told, still partially attached.
  69. In light of the above, we hereby humbly request that the said Tamsin Cox, Emma Jones and Wendy Mathers, be allowed to become members of the New Lyke Wake Club with the rank of Witch.

    Tamsin Cox

    16th September 2012