The 9 things I learned on the Lyke Wake Walk

I wish to report a successful crossing on 27 May, 2017, undertaken with three companions Fiona Stewart, Steven Darbyshire and Kate G. I was unacquainted with all three until very recently. Fiona and Kate I had met a handful of times, through a friend of a friend, but I had never clapped eyes on Steven until the evening prior to our crossing. I was therefore wandering about the moors in the middle of the night in the company of virtual strangers.
So you will understand my relief at making it safely to my final destination.

Fiona and Steven completed an earlier crossing about a year ago and, for some unfathomable reason, wanted to do it again. Kate and I were first timers. Our support driver Leslie McKitterick, who thankfully I have known for many years, dropped us off for a 2.24am kick-off at the Lyke Wake Stone just outside Osmotherley. We kissed the last stone at Beacon Howes at 8.22pm, giving us a total time of 17 hours and 58 minutes. With stoppages for vegetarian sausage casserole at the Lion, coffee and lemon cake at Hamer
and a bowl of Scotch Broth, also in vegetarian format, at Eller Beck, plus assorted breaks for the purposes of changing socks and powdering noses, We estimate our total walking time to be 15 hours, 58 minutes.

At 52, I am almost the oldest in the group, though not necessarily the wisest. Trust me, however, when I say that I am now far the wiser for having walked the 40 miles of the Lyke Wake Walk. It was an enriching experience that has taught me some valuable lessons in life. Here, by way of my report, are the nine things I learned on the Lyke Wake Walk.

1. The early morning should be cherished
We had a spring in our step as we headed out into the dark of night with our head torches to guide us. Those first miles as we romped through Cringle Moor and up along the hilltops with the sun beginning to rise, the sheep stirring and night slowly turning into day were simply magical. We could see the world from those peaks and for those precious moments it all belonged to us. We resolved to go out early more often.

2. Take one bit at a time
But the magic soon turned to dust. A long five mile section of an old railway line awaited. The sun shone brightly and the skies were a glorious blue but, otherwise, this trudge along an interminable dusty track was tough and there were still so, so many miles to go. Kate and I decided early on our strategy was to forget the silly notion of 40 miles and take one section at a time. It paid off. We stayed focused on our sausage casserole which awaited at the Lion
Inn and we were there in no time. Later we kept our spirits high with the prospect of cake. Even a promised change of sock in four miles time was just tantalising enough to make it a little further. When it came to the last two miles, the longest two miles of our lives, Kate confessed it was the thought of slipping on her fluffy pink slippers that got her through.

3. The right support is vital
No, this is not about how I wore the wrong bra. This is about Leslie our wonder woman of a driver. Three times she met us, each time with arms outstretched, a smile on her face and hot home-made food that nourished both body and soul. We couldn’t have done it without her. We met a chap crossing in the other direction who cut a cheery figure as he skipped across the moor. Turns out he likewise had a great support behind him, Julie, with whom Leslie compared notes as she waited for us at Hamer. Julie was something of an expert as her husband Gerry had crossed an astonishing 209 times. I cannot ever, under any circumstances, imagine doing the Lyke
Wake Walk without a Leslie or a Julie.

4. Never become complacent (particularly in the boggy section of the Lyke Wake Walk) Ah yes the boggy section. I thought I had proven those doom merchants wrong as we bounced across the bogs with no sign of anything more than the odd puddle way over yonder. Until I stepped into a bog and sank. And then sank a little further, and then further still until the mud reached my thighs and
held me there in its filthy grip. Apparently it was very funny if you weren’t me. But it’s no laughing matter really being stuck in a bog and then having to walk nearly 20 miles caked in mud. Beware the bogs; they sneak up on the complacent.

5. Keep calm and check where you’re going
Fylingdales has clearly been put there around mile 33 to disorientate and exasperate. Well it succeeded. It’s marshy and pathless and makes no sense. But we had map apps and a compass, and we had Fiona and Steven who remembered this section’s wily ways. We kept calm, checked our maps regularly and stuck close to the route Fiona had carefully plotted beforehand. And slowly we picked our way through and up on to a stony road that led us
out of this wilderness. Oh the relief.

6. You are always stronger than you think
The Lyke Wake Walk is spectacular in places. It is nature in all its glory as you cross the vast moors in the sun and wind with nothing but the flap of the odd grouse and the cry of the curlew above. But it is also long and empty and there are stretches you think will never end, particularly the miles between Lilla Howe and Jugger Howe where the path is rocky and hostile. The sun had earlier turned to thunder and torrential rain and now settled to a miserable drizzle. Fiona, who had taken a tumble, sported a grazed cheek and suspected sprained wrist. Kate had sunburn on her neck, Steven shin
splits. I was muddy and sore. Dig deep I told myself, dig deep. And somehow I did. Somehow, Fiona, Steven, Kate and I, each of us, dug deep.

7. Ups and downs are no bad thing
Jugger Howe ravine appeared around mile 37. It drops down steeply and then climbs even more steeply up a stony staircase. It is clearly designed to scare the bejesus out of you but actually it makes a welcome change from the trudge and drudge of rough, flat paths. Which just goes to show the ups and downs of life are no bad thing.

8. Believe what you need to believe
Steven said a mast we could see in the distance was the end of the walk. Fiona said it was too far away to be the end. I am glad I believed Fiona because right then it looked as far away as my home town of Aberdeen. Steven was right. The mast we saw was the end. And I walked all the way there believing the real end was much closer.

9. Pink is a wonderful colour
The t-shirt Fiona, an artist, designed and gave me as a souvenir of our Lyke Wake Walk adventure 2017 is pink. It is a beautiful garment. But it is more than that. It talks to me of the day I woke up early, went out in the darkness for a walk and finished 17 hours and 58 minutes later with one glass of Bolly in my hand, three new friends and 40 miles of memories that I will carry with me to the grave.

Yvonne Flynn