Lyke Wake Walk – 11 & 12 JUNE 2017 Anita Thompson

At 54, it’s been a long time coming, but after years of being “too busy” and putting it off, the plunge was taken and the room at the Lion Inn booked in February of this year. I had to do it now, couldn’t cancel and had 4 months to work my way up to the challenge. I’ve always loved walking and living so near the North York Moors has been a blessing, it truly is God’s Country. What could be more life affirming, more joyous, than taking 24 hours away from everyday life and rambling across this wonderful landscape? I’d be following in Denny & Kenny, my uncles’ footsteps, literally, on one of their favourite treks of the 60’s and 70’s – Denny completing one walk, then turning round and doing it in reverse, according to just one family legend.
I have always puzzled over how people can do 40 miles in one go and been constantly amazed at some of the stories of how it was done, especially given the weather seemingly always being harsh at some stages, even in midsummer. Triumphant tales of man over nature, was I up to it? I had decided that maybe not, 12 miles previously being my limit. But, keen to carry on the family tradition, tried to think outside the box. 40ish miles, with 24 hours to complete it – infinitely more possible with a break in between, I was sure I could do it in two 20+ mile stages. So it was decided. Maybe this might help anyone who thinks, like me, that they can’t do it in one go, so they won’t do it at all. That would be a shame, so with 24 hours to crack it, why not use them all??
Setting off, full of beans, at 12.50 on Sunday afternoon, the weather was perfect. Sunny, but lots of fluffy white cloud cover and a breeze. I’d worked my way up to 23 miles in one go, so I knew that stamina wouldn’t be a problem – a few climbs and descents en route to Blakey, yes, I was going to enjoy this. I’d decided on a solo crossing, with my hubby and doggy checking in with me en route. I realise this isn’t recommended, but in my case it was just what I wanted to do. I’d practiced my hill climbing, so getting up above Swainby and along the top of the Cleveland Hills was not so difficult, with nice dry conditions underfoot and the Cleveland Way well signposted. A little teeny bit of rain didn’t dampen my enthusiasm and the magnificent views along the way made for a great start to the trek. That was about it however for the joyous experience of “rambling”. As the wind got stronger, so the numerous ascents and descents along the hills became trickier and my ideas of a gentle ramble along flew away, along with my hat. I hadn’t counted on so many steep ups and downs, the downs slowing me up considerably, as I tried not to lose my balance and crash down to the bottom.
I sailed alongside the Lord Stones Café and scrambled up the next hill. The wind was by now really strong and I had to shelter behind the wall at the top to avoid being blown off. Spectacular views, but I hoped there weren’t any more descents or ascents ahead until checkpoint 2 at Clay Bank. Hah. Each brutal descent bashed by the wind was matched by another slog on all fours up another “mountain”. This wasn’t so much fun anymore and at one point, halfway up a slope, I really thought I couldn’t go any further, the wind was pushing me so much. I asked Denny & Kenny, sure they were watching over me (probably laughing), to help me through. So they did. The wind that seemed determined to push me over now pushed me forward instead. Losing the path a little, meaning I did a little rock climbing (don’t, just don’t look down..), I made it to Clay Bank, just one more death defying descent to get me there, knowing that after this it was plain sailing all the way to Blakey. Do people really do this for enjoyment I wondered?

I’ve walked the path from Clay Bank to Blakey lots of times before, so rather than find it a little boring, I love it, especially as it’s heavenly flat and with the now gentle summer breeze tickling my rather red face. I reached the pub tired, but happy and ready for a hot mineral salt filled bath, a few cheeky ciders and a hearty tea after 7 hours of “rambling”.
I worked out I would need to leave the pub at 4am to stand a chance of making it to the end by 12.50pm on Monday, so that’s what I did. The pub kindly left me some milk and cereal out to set me off to a good start and it was lovely to see the sun rise and light my way. The weather, as it always is around there, was misty and chilly, but at least it was dry. I knew this was the boggy part, but again, having done it before, was prepared for that and initially it was OK. Heavy rain the previous week however meant it was indeed a boggy, up to the knees in mud section and needing my wits about me to try and find the least muddy way through. The only saving grace – no hills around these parts… The path is more difficult to locate after checkpoint 4, but again, I had done this bit before, so chugged on making good time. No big hills (hurrah), but rocky rocky paths taking up all my concentration and would do for the rest of the day. A bit of rain appeared of course but I cracked on towards the Roman Road and then – what a shocker, the steep descent to the stepping stones. I realised then why the walk is not a waymarked long distance route, it is seriously hardcore scary! Joyous ramble? What was I thinking??!
Still, I was still on course to finish on time, but only just I reckoned. No time for hold ups, so I marched on and over to Fylingdales. Here, I lost the route, jumped over the beck at least twice and wept a bit as I realised I was lost and was probably going to miss my deadline. I really did not want to go through all this again to achieve my goal. I was wet, muddy and flagging – I needed my uncles’ help. There, in the shape of my woolly companions on the moor, who seemed to be standing on a path above me, it came – I was literally shown how to get back on track. If I speeded up a little, I might, just might, be able to do it. It seemed to take forever to get to Jugger Howe and I was dreading it for miles before, as my book had said how steep the ascent was. But, by the time I got there I could smell victory and was up those steps like a rat up a drainpipe. I can bloody well do this! I jogged for 50 steps and quick marched for 50 steps until I reached the A171. No time for checkpoints, and with my uncles seemingly stopping the traffic I marched straight across, onwards and upwards – it was tight, but I just knew I could do this!! Where the sudden burst of energy came from I still have no idea, I’d been on the road now for almost 9 hours and here I was, jogging to the finish line!! 12.46pm Monday, legs gone, a little cry, but I’d made it – thank you, Denny & Kenny, this one was for you – and my pedometer somehow recorded 45 miles!