12 – 13th August 16 – On through the night, and on, and on…

“@XX% it, we’re stuck in heavy traffic and we’ve booked a taxi to Ravenscar for 4:30pm!”…

And so began an eventful Lyke Wake Walk crossing for 3 silly buggers from West Yorkshire.  So, we put back our trip with the ferryman until 5:00pm and set the wheels in motion for what would become a series of not entirely excusable mishaps.      

Landing at Ravenscar Visitors Centre at 6:30pm we were in high spirits, looking forward to our planned arrival in Osmotherley at midday latest, giving us more than enough time for a good rest before some light alcoholic refreshment and a good feed; ahh, bliss…

Best laid plans of mice and men and all that..

Setting off under the gaze of a beautiful glowing sunset at 7:00pm, with the good path surrounded by dense purple heather, it felt almost as if we were walking into a painting of the North York Moors in its proudest moment.  Passing a number of carved symbols in boulders lining the path it does give the sense of a spiritual crossing, making it hard to think of anything else one would rather be doing on a Friday evening.  It was therefore, safe to say that any anxieties we may have had about the walk rapidly disappeared, to be replaced by a sense of companionship and calm. 

Descending the steep ravine of Jugger Howe saw the dying embers of the day passing us by, ushering in what was to become a long night of judgement.  I will say now that we thought we were well prepared, each carrying what can best be described as a small citadel on our backs, with portcullis, court jesters, questionable street venders and cloak and dagger machinations all present and correct.  It is safe to say we weren’t travelling light. 

Head torches at the ready we approached the Flyingdales Moor section and made our first error, completely missing the path off across the moor which kicks out from the military track.  Luckily for us the most observant member of our little group spotted a sign that made clear we were off-piste, so a quick look at the gps was followed by a turnabout and retreat to find the right path – that’s one extra mile we owed the walk.  Things didn’t get much better after that, with the moor proving to be boggy with the path through being almost impossible to discern in the dark.  After a number of pratfalls and incoherent mutterings we stumbled across a walled enclosure which did us proud for our first half hour break.  “Well then chaps, I don’t think we’ll be making it to the Lion Inn for last orders!”

With the path becoming (somewhat) clearer after refreshments the next item of note was to be the trek into Goathland and down to Eller Beck, which saw us once again completely lose ourselves.  This was to mark the start of what was to become a running of the gauntlet that saw us desperately scanning the ground for hidden paths, stepping knee deep into bogs, trailing through chest high heather in an attempt to rectify a further screw up, and generally turning the air a very dark shade of blue.  This lasted right up until we hit the blessed relief of Rosedale Head around dawn.  One may think (as we did) that as long as you keep walking west you can’t go far wrong but be warned, in the pitch black of night with nothing in the way of line of sight, the flaws in this philosophy become all too apparent all too quickly.  All that said, a highlight of this section was seeing all the frogs basking in the occasional glimpses of moonlight bouncing off the rocks (we didn’t stand on any of them!).

The walk along the road and then up the old railway line felt like it had been dialled in just for us and we could all three have kissed the tarmac and thanked the heavens.  Disappointingly we were too early for any breakfast at the Lion, but even so our spirits rose as we trundled along the metalled paths, once more allowing ourselves the thought, “you know what, this isn’t so bad, at this rate we’ll be at the finish for midday, back on track!”

Best laid plans…

Passing a jolly group of fellow travellers towards the end of the track, who were (wisely) going west to east, we passed the time of day and wickedly took some pleasure in informing them that the walk was “a bit boggy”, to which came the reply, “we’ll we’ve got the bogs and you’ve got the hills”.  Hills?  Woah, stop right there, being the idiots that we are and thinking we knew the (coastal) Cleveland Way pretty well, we presumed that it was mild undulations but nothing too strenuous for three pairs of dog tired legs.  Never presume. 

Although we all like to think of ourselves as seasoned hillwalkers, making very favourable training times in the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge and various other training exercises, nothing prepared us for the physical and mental wall we hit as we went up and then down (wash, rinse, repeat) across the hill range of the penultimate section.  The gps seemed to be enjoying itself a little too much, with what appeared to be miles spawning from nowhere as we scrutinised each ‘point’ of a mile.  It is safe to say that collective tempers were frayed, along with any number of ligaments you care to mention.  It is however, worth acknowledging as others have the tremendous views and our crossing was blessed with a lovely day to enjoy them, particularly the delight that is Roseberry Topping.  Also, later happening across the Lord Stones Café was quite literally, a life saver, giving us respite and a chance to refuel before the final push. 

On this trip through purgatory we met a pleasant lady who asked “when are you next meeting your support team?”  Bugger, we knew there was something else we forgot!  After a final slog through the woodland we eventually crawled into Osmotherley on Saturday at 6:45pm having done a total of 45 miles, a mere 6.5 hours later than planned, but thankfully within the allotted 24.  Although we only had the energy for one beer, the fish and chippy was a gift from the gods.

On reflection we all agreed that we were caught out on this occasion.  Through all our focus on physical and logistical prep we overlooked the blindingly obvious; you need to know where you’re going before you get there.           

So, would we do it all again?  In a heartbeat, but never east to west and never through the night.  Lessons for the future are to travel fast and light.  We’d set off from Osmotherley around 3:00am and stop at the Lion Inn for breakfast, before facing the moors well fed and in the comfort of day light. 

Best laid plans…

Tim Wilkinson, Richard Graham and John Graham, a.k.a three silly buggers