I am 67 years old and live in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, New South Wales. I came across the Lyke Wake Walk when I did the Coast to Coast walk in June 2012 with my wife and another couple. It was something I’d had in the back of my mind since then and the opportunity arose when I had a few days to spare in June this year. The idea of floundering about in a bog in the dark doesn’t appeal to me so I had decided that the best way to attempt the walk was to do it when the days are longest and to spend the darkness hours in the Lion Inn. The only day in my window of opportunity that they had accommodation available was Monday 19 June so that determined the timing of my attempt. Obviously a 10 pm check-in and departure at 3 am is not common as they made me pay in advance before even accepting my booking!
So I bought the two 1:25,000 OS maps and marked the LWW on them. I then cut off the only bits I needed – luckily the LWW is completely contained in one of the 4 horizontal quarters of the map so the cut was simple but I found it very painful as I love maps! I arrived at Scarborough in a hire car on the evening of Friday 16 June and spent the week-end familiarising myself with the parts where I thought navigation would be a challenge. I also met several sets of LWW walkers who were able to advise me of conditions and alert me to problem areas – mainly Rosedale Moor where I spent some time finding the best way through and left some markers to help me find it again. I also left supplies of water in strategic places to limit the amount I’d have to carry.
I set off on Monday 19 June at 2.15 pm precisely from the LWW stone at the Osmotherley car park in warm dry conditions, although I had my waterproofs on board as the forecast included the possibility of a shower. My focus was on getting to the Lion Inn by 9.30 pm when they stopped taking meal orders! I picked up the steak and ale pie I had reserved at Lordstones café and stopped to eat it on the ridge after Wain Stones taking in the spectacular view over the flat country to the coast and Teeside. Fellow walkers were few and the only person I saw after the half-way mark at Clay Bank was a distant person in a high-viz jacket doing I know not what in the middle of the moor. However non-human life was profuse with grouse and they babies, other birds, sheep and rabbits everywhere. Conditions were excellent and my load was light so I was able to arrive at the Lion Inn at 8.51 pm, time for a shower before dinner!
I’d had a problem with the alarm on my phone so the helpful staff at the Lion Inn were able to lend me an alarm radio. I was also able to drop off and leave a bag there to be picked up so I was able to have a change of socks and other essentials without having to carry them – luxury! So I set off on plan at 2.51 am on Tuesday 20 June with my focus on getting to Ravenscar before 1.45 pm – the time of the last bus to Scarborough (or indeed anywhere else)! However the conditions were nothing like the previous day – it was very cold and I was able to see the white line and edges of the road. Luckily this was all I needed as it was all I could see in visibility of 25 yards (I was able to determine this by measuring the distance to the white line gaps as I walked – I had nothing else to do in the 5 km of road walking). As time progressed it got slightly lighter but visibility didn’t improve. If I hadn’t have walked the section over Rosedale Moor on the week-end I would probably have had to abandon the attempt as the prospect of being on unfamiliar moorland bog in fog before 4 am wouldn’t have been inviting.
As it happened I set off in visibility I was able to assess at 40 yards by measuring the distance to boundary stones as they came into view. As I approached the boggy area I found my markers set on the week-end and was able to safely negotiate it without mishap or wet feet. Visibility was no better by Blue Man i’ th’ Moss and it was not until I approached Wheeldale Road that I started to see some swirling of the mist and visibility improved to a couple of hundred yards. I also saw sheep for the first time – I don’t know where they had been lurking until then. However the handy concrete compass of Fylingdales which I had been looking forward to using was nowhere to be seen! I also met a frog – it and my left boot must have left the ground simultaneously without being aware of each others presence. They met in mid-air giving me a surprise and the frog probably the shock of its life. Luckily it was only a glancing blow and it was able to hop off after landing on the path and steadying itself.
Visibility gradually improved as I got more tired and I found myself drifting off the track for the first time going up Eller Beck – due to lack of concentration. Again the value of the week-end reconnoitre proved invaluable as I was able to recognise my error and quickly get back on track. I was also grateful that all of the water I had left was still there to be picked up, enabling me to keep the weight down. At Lilla Cross the ground was dry enough to sit down for the first time to have a snack – luxury! I was also able to appreciate the solitary beauty of the moorland – at this stage after 6 ½ hours walking the only humans I had seen were in cars on the roads I had crossed. After this I perked up and was able to up the pace with the finish (and the last bus from Ravenscar) within reach. About 1 km before the finish I met the first fellow walker – a photographer out to take pictures of the moorland flowers. Shortly after I was at the LWW finish stone at 11.29 am – 21 hours 14 minutes and 35 seconds after setting out, with exactly 6 hours of this time having been spent in the Lion Inn. I walked slowly to the Raven Hall Hotel to enjoy a couple of pints and lunch before catching the bus to Scarborough and civilisation.
I’m already thinking about a walk in the opposite direction but a winter crossing holds no appeal for me; however who knows – that may change!
Bart Beech