Crossing 09th/10th September 2020.

Didn’t rate our chances of completion very high. Harriet has suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and, while loads better than she used to be, can still go flop when pushed too hard. The problem is she is very determined to do stuff and does all the pushing herself! I was pleased to step in as a late substitute when her walking partner cried off as I had meant to do the Lyke Wake years ago but somehow never did. Although I haven’t done this distance for over 20 years my recent Covid-related job as a relief bin collector has got me quite fit but I was worried about a dodgy knee which has suffered from jogging on pavements in safety boots.

Early September is usually a pretty good bet for the weather and it was very fair. No rain, not too hot, wind perhaps a bit brisk but at least it would be behind us most of the time. Harriet’s mum, Jane, had kindly volunteered to drive us to the start and pick us up when/wherever and also joined us for the first section. It was sunlit and scenic with gorgeous views, purply heather, browning bracken and a few ripe bilberries still around. Mostly stony or slabbed paths so I was quite glad of previous pavement conditioning. Enjoyed plenty little breaks for nibbles and fags. We had started about 13:20/13:30 so really got the benefit of the views. Local livestock obviously used to walkers and hang about to be admired.

The disused railway line was rather monotonous underfoot but provided easy miles-per-hour and was also where we saw a cute little stoat. Here Harriet revealed that she doesn’t actually like walking much but was doing this only for the challenge! It was dark and chilly before we finished that bit so the next stop was for a more substantial feed and change into ‘nightclothes’. Then came a stretch of road, then the boggy moor.

Really, I suppose we had it pretty easy. Arriving at the end of a dry summer we never found ourselves above ankle-deep and the clear night made spotting the white-topped boundary stones no problem. Harriet was still leading the way most of the time and full of bounce. I suppose hopping around looking for a dry-ish passage is a sort of entertainment and I wasn’t bothering with checking the time any more. There were toads! We saw several, in various colours and sizes, just sitting in the path. Also large spiders making their web across the path, I guess ready to catch an early morning breakfast before men and beasts trampled the webs. We did make an effort to step over, not through, especially for the finer examples.

‘Ware grouse butts! Up here, instead of mounds for the shooters to stand behind, they have dug great pits to trap unwary errant night travellers.

The moon was high in front of us now, helping visibility and atmosphere. We tended to have our little rests near standing stones where possible and it felt a bit special.

The rest of the way should have been simple but there was a bit by some streams after Fylingdales where it was annoyingly difficult to find the path. I suppose that could have been a lot due to tiredness and being up at a time that man was not meant to wot of. And maybe singing to keep the spirits up distracted attention from route-finding. Hint – learn some songs properly so you don’t have to keep conferring about the next verse.

And all was not well with Harriet. Her dicky metabolism was playing up again. The first symptoms were stomach bloat then belches of awesome volume. Mind, after my hi-cal rations of cheese, sausage and chocolate I was competing with quieter but more noxious emanations. Harriet’s belly had more or less packed up work. She was even struggling to take water. Fortunately in her bag of many things there was some isotonic sugar/salts powder and that helped the water go down. Still couldn’t take food though and the remaining distance without it might be too much of an ask. We went slowly, very, very slowly. Dawn happened with its usual uplifting effect and that helped a bit. When the way was dry enough to be worth putting on clean socks we did that too and it was another boost. Slower and slower yet. Then H sent me into the Bag for some energy gel thing and managed to get most of it down. Quite disgusting, apparently, but it did the trick and we made it to the end. No skipping off to do the extra bit, stone to stone was quite enough, and our 8:30 or so finish time is hardly one for the annals but we felt very, very proud.