Special Crossing report August 26th 2021…………and another …………….. “Great to be 50” !

3 for the price of one!

Special Crossing report August 26th 2021…………and another …………….. “Great to be 50” !

March 27th, 2022

Fifty Years & Forty Miles – 2 Crossing reports (for the price of one!)


To misquote a famous hymn : Fifty years and forty miles, I’ve been dirging in the wild, Fifty years and forty miles, Blistered yet undefiled.

On August 26th 1971 I was 15 yrs old, 10 stone wet-through and crossed the Lyke Wake Walk for the first time – solo & unsupported – in 14 hours. More of that later.

August 26th 2021 was 50 years since I set out on my first Lyke Wake crossing as a ‘fond youth’ (for those not of a Yorkshire heritage or persuasion that means a ‘naively foolish teenager’). So I just had to attempt to a 50th anniversary crossing motivated by a combination of nostalgia, an ‘I can still do it’ delusion and a desire for a day out alone on the moors. After an early morning misty start my first crossing had been in bright sunshine from Clay Bank eastwards with the abiding memory being of the astonishingly beautiful high moors of north-eastern Yorkshire. In 1971 I managed (despite a couple of navigational hiccups) to thrash my way across from dawn to dusk in 14hours. Diplomatic negotiations with the Commander-in-Chief (she who must be obeyed) and a realistic assessment of my fitness resulted in the attempt having to be overnight 25th/26thAugust. I had decided on an ‘old school’ style crossing and in the late afternoon strolled up to the Trig Point on Scarth Wood Moor to start and looking eastwards it dawned on me that the weather might play a factor in what was to occur. The Beeb’s forecast was for sporadic showers & a stiff breeze which meant a distinct possibility of fairly rough conditions ‘on the tops’. And that’s what I got; from Scugdale onwards the weather was wet with driving rain from the north – not very ‘August Bank Holiday’ in style. By the time I got to Rosedale around midnight I was soaked through so I sought shelter until it got light and then recommenced in somewhat better conditions. From the Millenium Stone onwards it was pretty much a regulation crossing in still showery, breezy conditions. Because of the extended break in the middle of the night the start to finish time was 23hours to Beacon Howes and then a further half hour to the Ravenscar Tea Rooms to sign the Book of Condolences.

Having written umpteen crossing reports over the years I have to sum this up as a regulation crossing apart from resting up & drying out in the middle of the night. However, I have attempted to recollect as much detail as possible of my 1st crossing:


It is one on those moments that changes your life forever & for the better. On 26th August 1971 I stood in very thick pre-dawn mist next to Trig Point 983’ on Scarth Wood Moor and made a final mental note: OS N.Y.Moors 1” map – check; Silva compass – check; rucksack with flask of milky coffee, cheese sarnies & chocolate –check; and finally, my newest physical possession – a copy of Bill Cowley’s Lyke Wake Walk book acquired two weeks previously with the proceeds of my first ever pay packet from my first ever summer job. I briefly acknowledged my Dad standing there who repeated his wisdom gained from route marching in the Army that I should change my socks half way and then he headed downhill back to the car. Boots tied & cagoule fastened I turned to the north-east, noted the time to the minute & set off into the early morning gloom. So began my first experience of ‘dirging’.

The day had started at 3am when my (ever indulgent) Dad made good on his commitment to transport me from our home in the 2-dimensional East Riding to Osmotherley on the edge of the moorlands of north-eastern Yorkshire and the start of the LWW. As we drove up the A19 in the pitch dark there was a looming, somewhat menacing. Ink-black silhouette of the moorland bulk to the east – I was filled with nervous anticipation, very nervous anticipation. I was a complete newcomer as far as moorland terrain was concerned – I’d never been on the high moors, anywhere, I had no knowledge of this area and hadn’t walked a single step of, or otherwise reconnoitred, the LWW. My qualifying experience for this attempt on the LWW was a number of perambulations, up to 20 miles in length, in the Vale of York and on the Yorkshire Wolds. We drove through sleeping Ossie and drew up at the bottom of the farm track up to the TV booster station – it was still nearly 2 hours to sunrise so we waited. Almost immediately headlights appeared from ahead and a police car drew up next to us. My Dad explained that he was in the process of delivering me to the start of the LWW to which the police responded that most people now walked up to the starting Trig Point from the reservoir car park, so we accepted the advice, drove on the extra mile and walked westwards uphill into the dark to try & find the start. In short order our uphill progress through the sodden heather & bracken was halted by a drystone wall running north-south athwart our desired westward uphill course with no inkling of where we ought to go except I knew from Bill Cowley’s book that “on no account was there any need to scale any drystone wall anywhere on the entire route”. So we retreated, drove back south and walked, as originally intended, up the farm track to the booster station, found the Trig Point & waited for the first glimmer of daylight.

I set off into the mist & gloom never having walked in thick mist, nor having navigated in open terrain using map and compass nor really having walked in terrain with substantial relief. I sincerely hoped youthful energy and enthusiasm would see me succeed!

Got to Scarth Nick and saw the encouraging ‘Ravenscar 39 Miles’ sign, found the shale heap at Coalmire and descended into Scugdale, straight forward until I got to the base of Knoll’s End and the ascent up the sheep drift to Live Moor. The steep slope seemed near vertical and was also a quagmire chewed into slippery, glutinous mud by the passage of thousands of boots. The only way I could get up the slope was to use the fence on the eastern side of the drift as a hand-rail & haul myself up on to Live Moor – could have been anywhere, couldn’t see more that 10 yds ahead. The visibility worsened & the wind picked up as I got on to the barren plateau of orange brown muddy soil and stones that formed the glider runway on Carlton Moor – still could hardly see my hand in front of me but navigation was easy even for a novice, keep walking just don’t fall over the cliff to the left. Eventually descended to the ‘col’ at the Three Lords’ Stone and a slight clearing in the mist. Ahead I could see the menacing grey clouds clinging to the slopes of Cringle Moor. It hadn’t rained but I was already sodden from the effects of the wind driven mist and walking through sodden vegetation. Only 6 miles in but I wondered if I should quit – I felt totally vulnerable and out of my depth in terms of terrain, weather & navigation. Anyhow, bit the bullet, re-ascended into the mist and was soon standing next to the stone seat atop Cringle but could only sense the precipitous drop to the Cleveland plain that lurked a few feet to the north in the cloying mist. Descended from Cringie and then commenced uphill again and soon found myself amongst rocky pinnacles and realised from the pictures in Bill Cowley’s book that in misty confusion I’d actually by-passed Cold Moor and arrived at the Wainstones. As I nervously climbed through the cliffs and on to the plateau I was conscious of Bill Cowley’s warning that the point for descent on Hasty Bank was easy to miss in poor weather conditions. As I commenced the descent the mist began to clear so I sat down in the sunshine for breakfast and studied the route now clearly visible ahead – descending to Hagg Gate & then re-ascending through the crag onto Carr Rigg. Now in bright sunshine I quickly reached & passed the parade of monoliths on Urra Moor: Round Hill trig point, Hand Stone, Face Stone, Rud Stone. Walked on the remnants of the packhorse causeway to the north-east side of the firebreak and reached the railway to make rapid progress along the flat cindery track-bed. Got to the pile-of-lime & descended to the Esklets ruin and stopped for a snack.

Recommencing a succession of Lyke Wake landmarks came & went, Old Margery, Ralph’s Cross, Fat Betty and then followed the boundary stones with the various ruins of the Rosedale Ironstone industry visible on the valley sides below and with the famous (but soon to be doomed) Rosedale chimney on the south-west horizon. From Loose Howe the path ahead through the bogs was clearly visible as a broad scar across the moor and beyond a first glimpse of the Fylingdales golf balls, 12 miles distant. Youthful energy carried me across the bogs without too much difficulty though I went knee-deep in the black ooze a number of times before I got to the ruins of Hamer House. Sat down for a break & suddenly (now 23 miles ‘in’ & already having walked further than I had ever done before in 1 day) I felt very weary and it was an effort to get going again. Ahead was Wheeldale Moor (as Bill Cowley had warned, ‘the crux of the walk’). The path ahead was still a broad gash through the peat and as I progressed I was now singing to myself to keep motivated and maintain momentum. Halfway between the road & Blue Man I was suddenly surprised to hear words of acknowledgement from behind me interrupting my song – there was another young bloke (somewhat older than me, a student or twenty something I’d guess) who was clearly progressing faster than me at this stage. We exchanged a few pleasantries both of us acknowledging that we’d ‘missed out’ Cold Moor. Then the other walker resumed his faster pace & progressed ahead. Got across Wheeldale and the Roman Road, descended to & crossed the stepping stones. Met the other walker again who had taken a detour to the Youth Hostel to fill his water bottle. I followed suit – not sure why because I’d been drinking beck water all day. Over Howl Moor with the Golf Balls now looming large on the next moor ahead. From the road passed the menacing MOD signs and struggled to find a clear path to Lilla Cross the next target. In short order I ended up on the military gravel track adjacent to the Early Warning Station fence and nervously progressed past the signs warning of radiation dangers, fully expecting an uncomfortable encounter with military police at any moment.

Got to Lilla Howe unchallenged and there ahead was the sea & for the first time felt like I might make it. An easy downhill plod brought me to the lip of Jugger Howe ravine – for someone weary after walking 37miles and who lived in the flat East Riding it looked like the Grand Canyon. Sat down and drank the remains of my coffee, ate my last chocolate before tackling the ‘wicked’ defile. Emerging on to the moor to the east my intention was to progress directly eastwards via Helwath but the OS map was not wrong when it described the route here as ‘Lyke Wake Walk Undefined’. Several hundred yards into the trackless moor of waist high heather convinced me to take a direct line to the Whitby road. From there found a track across Stony Marls Moor & ended up at Beacon Howes before following the road down into Ravenscar. Reached the Café with its sign ‘Lyke Wake Walkers Sign Here’. Entered the café to sign and the chap I’d met earlier was sitting there drinking tea chatting to the proprietress. Signed the book and bought a bottle of lemonade and was about to leave when I heard the chap say to the café lady ‘I’ve heard that school kids do this walk’ so I added ‘I’m still at school, I’m 15.’ to which I received acknowledging glance from both as I left to sit outside on the grass verge & await the arrival of my Dad (hoping I’d have time to get my boots off & change my socks before he arrived!).

Time taken: 14hrs (I think – neither my Condolence Card nor the signing book for this date has survived). Did my second crossing a week later in 12&½ hrs.

Dirger Evans (MoM, DoD, PM)


And as it turns out, the other Lyke Wake Walker on that Thursday in 1971 has recorded his thoughts for posterity. Professor Nick Bingham recalls:

The Lyke Wake Walk: 26 August 1971


The longest `day’s march’ I ever did was the Lyke Wake Walk (26 August 1971).  This 40-mile walk crosses the North York Moors National Park, from Osmotherley (off the A19, south of its junction with the A172) in the west to Ravenscar (south of Robin Hood’s Bay) on the coast (or vice versa).  The name and the walk commemorate the need to carry coffins of those who died in this remote area for burial on consecrated ground (OED, lyke-wake: the watch kept over a corpse; lyke, lych or lich = corpse, from Leiche, German; cf. lych-gate, the covered arch at the entrance to a churchyard, where coffins could await burial).  The family was in Nether Poppleton at the time; Jane was living there, the rest of us were on holiday.  Jane (with whom I was getting on well then) kindly got up early, drove me to Osmotherley, and saw me off (6:35am).  I walked to the trig-point which is the official start, and left at 7:00.  I blasted the first ten miles to the first of the two main roads one crosses (B1257, HelmsleyStokesley), getting there at 9:32.  The next road has a pub, which I reached at noon.  I confined myself to one pint, but wished I had made it two.  The rest of the walk was moorland, pleasant but not spectacular, with an already beaten track (no doubt much wider now) to guide one.  I remember seeing the `golfballs‘ of Fylingdales (large concrete spheres, part of our `early warning system’ against nuclear attack) over to the left.


During the afternoon, the lack of proper preparation began to catch up with me.  I wasn’t carrying enough water, so became rather dehydrated, and my socks decided to shrink under the strain.  I kept stopping to pull them up until I got tired of doing so, but then my heels became exposed, and ended up rubbed raw.  I made one way-finding error, which landed me in a bog, just short of the second main road (A171, Scarborough – Whitby), near the coast.  I got wet to the waist.  Nothing daunted, I crossed the road and walked down the lane to Ravenscar and the finish, which I reached at 6:55pm: 40 miles over hilly country inside 12 hours; not bad.  I then had a well-deserved and much-needed cup of tea.  As I went to get another, I realised that my leg muscles were not up to the task, trivial as it was.  Of course one is going to be stiff after walking 40 miles, but I was sure that walking the last few miles with my trousers wet had done the damage.  I knew I couldn’t walk back to the main road to catch a bus back to York, and had to phone my father and ask him to pick me up.  He kindly did this, but did not appreciate the longish drive at zero notice.  That apart: the North York Moors are lovely, and I highly recommend both the area and the Lyke Wake Walk.  I had hoped to do it again, from east to west, but it didn’t happen (and won’t now, as I am 75 at the time of writing; one needs logistic support, and reliable moving parts).


I was contacted in August 2021 by Ian Evans, the only other person to do the LWW on the same day as me (from the signing-in book, which I had forgotten about).  We met.  I’d forgotten this also, which surprised me: he was a teenager then, and I must have been impressed by his youthful gutsiness.  I picked up from him an Army hint about long route marches: change your socks half-way.  I wish I’d known that then!  It will save your heels, gentle reader.