I am writing to inform you of the sad news of my crossing on Saturday the 21st of May, A.D. 2016…

The decidedly ungodly hour of 3.35am found three of us setting out on our journey from the Lyke Wake stone at Osmotherley. Obviously, it would have been 3.30am on the dot but the photo opportunities at the stone sneaked in and stole 5 minutes of our precious time. Waving a fond farewell to our trusty support driver (heading back in her support hearse to sanity and the civilisation of her cosy bed), and with promises to meet up at the Lion, we headed into the darkness of Quarry Lane. A few light raindrops felt rather refreshing at this point – later on the torrential driving rain was to prove somewhat less refreshing. With the sky lightening quickly, we were a little disappointed not to put our new head torches through their paces for too long. We put that right in the latter stages of our journey, though (oh dear). My main concerns at this point were: would my dodgy knee hold out for 40 miles; would my stomach bug from earlier in the week make a drastic reappearance at an inopportune moment; in which case had I brought enough toilet roll and Imodium; and would I wilt under the weight of the kilos of chocolate in my rucksack?
It’s the little things that keep the spirits up and early on we were heartened by the sight of a giant orange jelly baby by the side of the path. I had two packets of normal sized jelly babies with me. Where can one purchase such enormous babies, we wondered?
Previous accounts had mentioned a phone box at Huthwaite Green. Luckily we didn’t need it as, much like our sanity at times, it had ridden off into the sunset. Beyond the Huthwaite gate we trotted along the well defined path of the Cleveland Way – and how gloriously well-defined the Cleveland Way is compared to the pathless swathes of moor we had yet to meet after Blakey Ridge.
The walk up the “stairs” through the Live Moor Plantation was surprisingly fine – we had heard it was a bit of a killer but us Scots (well, I was the only Scot in our party so “us” is a bit of an exaggeration) are made of stern stuff when it comes to wee slopes. We then spent a fair part of the journey to Checkpoint 1 (and beyond) cursing the paving of the Cleveland Way and its slippy surface. Us Scots aren’t that into paving. We do appreciate and support the efforts to deal with the erosion though 🙂
I had invested in a set of poles but hadn’t really bonded with them prior to the crossing. I spent the first half of the walk alternately waving them randomly (some may have said dangerously), tucking them awkwardly under my arm and generally being irritated by them. By the time I touched the Ravenscar stone I could have kissed them and couldn’t imagine life without them.
Onwards and upwards led to the trig point at Carlton Bank and its stunning views (when the wind eased off for long enough to let us stand up straight and have a look about). The descent from there down to Lord Stones, hammering down on my crunchy complaining knee, was the first time I wondered if I had indeed been deranged when agreeing to this madness. To be fair, I did agree to it under the influence of a few sherries and with the promise of a coffin badge (never could resist a badge) waiting at the end. My nose was pouring uncontrollably, the downward “stairs” seemed interminable and the call of a warm bed and some buttery toast was deafening.
We’d had a mixed bag of weather to start with but up on Urra Moor the mist descended, the rain changed its angle to horizontal and I wished I’d reproofed my perhaps-not-so-waterproof trousers. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a huge hound looming out of the gothic gloom. Obviously the inclement weather wasn’t encouraging other folk out for a walk and we met relatively few people along our route. Actually, this proved to be rather nice because it was peaceful with a real sense of remoteness and it made us all the more friendly to those we did meet.
The long cinder track leading us to Blakey Ridge wasn’t boring as we’d heard (but this was our first crossing). It made for fairly pleasant walking. I felt a slightly surprising wave of euphoria as we headed across the Lion car park towards our efficient hearse driver who ladled out mouth-watering veggie sausage casserole as the heavens opened with rain (again) and the wind howled. Socks were then changed and gaiters fitted as we set ourselves up for the much dreaded bog section. Sadly we lost one member of our team as she elected to stay at Blakey with the hearse and the resolution to cross again another day.
Heading to the bogs with fear in our hearts we found Fat Betty appearing on our horizon. She seemed to have quite a few healthy option snacks so I cheered her up with an offering of a square (just one, mind you – I only had the 3 kilos) of chocolate.
The bogs were fun. At first. Buoyed up by hot food plus a break in the biblical rain and wind and fuelled by some of the Lion’s finest Coca Cola, we bounced cheerily on the springy black surface. Sadly that playful surface soon changed to dead ends of solid-ish ground surrounded by pools of sludge. Back and forth we trudged as we worked our way round the maze of options to escape to the road at Hamer. “That’s the worst of it over now!” my companion exclaimed. Sadly more than once.
The hearse was waiting for us at Hamer again in case we needed dry clothes and it offered up some excellent almond slices which gave us a much needed boost before we headed out across the moor once more. We’d both read accounts of other folks’ crossings and at this point we crossed paths with a fellow Lyke Wake Walker heading in the opposite direction to us. We realised that he was none other than the chap who had written of lifting his Rottweilers over a stile – and one of the beautiful, friendly Rotties was with him. Neither of us much fancied the idea of attempting to lift her, though. So we didn’t.
This was the last human contact we had before the A171. From here on in it was just us and the moors – and of course the Blue Man-i’-th’-Moss. He was easy enough to find but the path to the North Yorkshire Railway proved a little more tricky – the sun came out (I thought Scotland was the only place that did four seasons in one day) and we let ourselves be enticed by the sight of an obvious pathway and for once didn’t double check our position (Ordnance Survey app, I think I love you). The upshot was the addition of an extra mile or so as a result of a surprisingly wild deviation to the right.
Spirits lifted again at Eller Beck because we knew that Fylingdales was only a 5 mile leg. Foolish first time crossers. Fylingdales gave us a repeat of the Bog Maze Experience and for every 10 steps forward we had to retrace 5 back and try another route. The muddy surface was alternately black gunge, beige sludge and super slippy grey clay. Into the mix were thrown clumps of grass cunningly concealing their enormous traps of dark water waiting beneath them. We knew sunset was creeping up on us and with no desire to do Jugger Howe in the dark we did what any self respecting traveller on moors always does. With a quick nod to Lilla Cross, we ran. Now I can add moor running to my list of accomplishments.¬
Jugger Howe in the pitch dark (we didn’t run fast enough) with a head torch was surprisingly okay on the way down. It had a clear pathway – oh joy! A while since we’d seen one of those. Over the concrete bridge and then up the other side. Even that steep other side, compared with the mud maze we’d left behind, was doable – although for the first time I really began to feel the tiredness in my quads. Not bad going, I reckoned, for a late 40s deskbound woman with a chocolate habit. A routine of 26 steps and a pause, 26 steps and a pause (don’t ask me why 26. I have no idea) got us up the other side of the ravine. The cry of, “Where’s the road?” had become a bit of a recurring theme towards the end of each section and yet again we found ourselves wondering if someone was quietly moving the road further away as we neared it. We reckoned it was the same person who’d been moving Fylingdales earlier.

We caught up with the phantom tarmac eventually and met another couple of walkers who’d decided to give the trip to the mast a miss. We ploughed on, though, for the last interminable two miles. My companion suggested we had inadvertently entered hell and would be doomed to travel eternally towards a constantly shifting road. Thankfully a hazy glow of headlights beyond us proved him wrong. The hearse was close at hand and our support driver and our third team member were waiting with congratulations and – crucially – the offer of a lift to our accommodation where lashings of food and champagne awaited. After the obligatory Lyke Wake Stone photos we figured we might as well take them up on the offer.
Fiona Stewart, Glasgow

– we got carried away (not literally, thankfully) and made ourselves some t-shirts to commemorate our crossing: