Crossing Report 20th June 2015

Hi Gerry

A brief report from 2 apprentice dirgers, and an apprentice witch, along with some photographic evidence of an unsupported virgin dirgin’crossing.

The Cast – Dirgers Two and Witches One:-

Claire Newman
Ronald Stevenson
David Woodcock

This coven of 3 walkers had been talking about the LWW on and off for about 3 years, following on from my birthday canter in an unseasonably hot 28c on 1st October 2012 around the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. Indeed 3 does appear to be our lucky number in this case, and having spotted a 3 legged sheep on the drive up I was convinced that the gods would indeed shine on us on this occasion rather than micturate on our ugly phisogs – well that’s what the weather promised, according to Wetcheck and Accuteweather. Well, we thought if Yorkshire could serve up tropical conditions and great beer on the 3 peaks, why should we not give it another go on something longer and increase the thirst levels to hitherto unexperienced bibulous levels?

The plan was laid for the nearest Saturday to midsummer to maximise on daylight drinking time, as when it gets dark I am of such an age now that my hand sometimes doesn’t direct the glass to my lower lip quite as I’d like it to, and I often have to rather shamefully turn up in pubs sporting a full set of waterproofs – onlookers think I’m loaded as I appear to purchase beer just in order to wash mud off my goretex. Anyhow, we arrive in Osmotherley and pitched up at the Golden Lion where the beer was of sufficient quality to tempt a Scotsman to open his wallet far enough to see its innards, and smell the history contained therein…… ahhh the heady mixture of well cared for tenners mixing with hoppy Yorkshire Ale, I was up on the moor already amongst that musty honey heathered smell that kicks up from your boots and fills your nostrils……no I was standing at a bar wishing I was up on the moor….

Fast forward to 2am on the 20th of June, and well slaked, but not so well slept, we were up by the reservoir bobbing head torches along the track…. Dirger Dave complained of getting very little sleep, but he’s an excitable little bunny at the best of times, and had probably burnt off 40 miles of nervous energy just thinking about it whilst tucked up in his wee bedsy-by?.We soon continued up slope, me following a handily laid trail of glistening purlies of sheep poo, freshly strewn in the dew laden grass like disposable cats eyes, and emerged onto level heather with just the merest breath of wind, as weak as one’s final breath perhaps…. Our lungs and legs were now however rudely alive to the challenge, and we motored down through the woods pausing only to say hello to Bill Cowley’s stone fittingly planted at a parting of the ways….. part way down a dark tunnel of trees…..I felt like Dante descending into the bowels of the earth. Out front, navigating for our party, as I would be for the rest of the day, my nose and the soles of my feet were more awake than my eyes , and down by Hollin Hill I’m sure I caught a whiff of wild garlic on the wind as we hit tarmac for a while and proceeded to climb up to Round Hill. All the while the sky to our left was paling above the still sleeping twinkling lights of Cleveland, and at around 4am I dispensed with my head torch.

Along the top of Carlton Moor the grouse were abundant, their contented burblings emerging from the thick heather, almost as if the moor itself was speaking to us, it was a special moment as I crested the rise, turning to glance at my companions smiling in the golden rays of sunrise, contented to be there with them. At 04:50 we reached the viewpoint near Drake Howe, timing sunrise to perfection, and paused to take the view in, Roseberry Topping featuring as a giant milestone to our progress off to our left.

Sunrise from the Viewpoint on Drake Howe (see photo attached)

The Wain Stones soon became an obvious landmark, and we had opted to stay on the crest of the ridge, all the way as we wanted as pure a line as possible, the alternative down by the woods seemed vastly inferior as we reached the steps just before summiting point 402m. I spied a tent amongst the Wain Stones, and sure as we passed by their northern side a friendly wave came our way from the incumbent. All went well over Round Hill, and the smell of old tar rising from the railway line featured strong in my nostrils……. and then the rain and then the monotony of walking on the level kicked in, and then the déjà vu feeling of a couple of those bends – sure I was here 10 minutes ago, or perhaps my mind was wandering as well as my feet? Anyhow, things were to get worse as one of our party was having boot problems, so we dropped in to the Pub at the end of this section – £3 for 2 teas + a coffee on a now rainy day, certainly appealed to my keen eye for a bargain!

By the time we reached Fat Betty the rain was torrential and splattering all over the road, I was aware of a car park ahead, where the next turn off would lie. A group of goretex clad hobbits hobbled around a van which was dispensing hot drinks – eschewing the pleasures, we trudged on, making good time to the trig point at 432m and I dialled in the bearing for Shunner Howe. This section, “the boggy bit” was to take longer than I anticipated, and our pace had been ground down by the weather and the state of one’s feet. Emerging onto the next section of road the low point of the day was sitting in the pissing rain on some sort of disused brick structure yards from the road whilst eating a soggy sandwich, yet yards from us some unknown guy sat in the dry revving his engine in a mini, presumably warm and dry……. sense of humours hit a new low here, and the cajoling and moaning started.

Blue man I the moss passed by in the mist, and I remember pleasure on the descent from this section where we met not a soul, just club-heads of new season bracken for company and the smell of damp peat, as we crossed the road and down to the stepping stones at Wheeldale Beck. Reaching Simon Howe we felt robbed as the mist covered the view ahead, but this probably spared us the pain of our now pitifully slow progress. Upon reaching Eller Beck spirits were temporarily raised, however, as we retrieved some bottles of water that we had hidden (and were thankfully still there!) for refreshment purposes. The next section was a bit tedious until we reached the section of military track….. and then the sun emerged as we crested Lilla Howe, this for me being one of the highlights of the day, as I sat by the cross, the view ahead now clear and some sort of end in sight. The next section to Jugger Howe ravine seemed longer than ever, and despite being slightly downhill I could have sworn it was flat – perhaps the gravitational pull on my boots was being countered by the increased inertia being witnessed in my own body? I waited atop Burn Howe on my pals and checked and re-checked the compass for Jugger Howe ravine – the pace had dropped and we were now near the 16.5 hour mark.

A small break at the bottom of the ravine, and the last climb out – renewed energy was found by certain parties and we soon appeared onto an old road, then a new road, then less than 2 miles to go!! A couple of windswept looking trees waved in our direction on the moor as if to say “that way –you’re nearly there!” The finish had crept up on us and spirits rose as we walked together over the final section to the radio mast, the sun emerging fully now to greet us, it having shifted from being on our faces at 5am to our backs at 8pm – 18 hours and 10 minutes, not a time to shatter any records, but well within the 24hrs permitted!

Certain parties who were in great pain actually said they would like to do it again – this is mentioned here for nothing more than posterity reasons and for putting it on public record – they know who they are!!! Witches and Dirgers the lot of them!!

Ronald Stevenson 16th July 2015.