A Memorial Crossing

This was to be the 3rd LWW in memory of my father, who was an enthusiastic Lyke Wake Walker. Each year we raise funds for Cancer Research UK, but this year took on a new significance as 3 friends or family had been lost to cancer in the last 12 months or so.

We set off as a group of nine, from Osmotherley at 12.45am in cool, but thankfully dry weather with a quite encouraging forecast for the day to come. The nine starters were enthusiastic and keen to get started. We wanted to make use of the long summer’s day and finish early evening, so this seemed like a good time to start.

The early part of the walk was in the dark with some help from an almost full moon, but we all carried lights to assist through the forest bits. As we climbed up the firebreak from Scugdale, we experienced the wind for the first time. It was strong and bitter, but our backpacks kept our backs warm as it was a following wind. This, it turned out, was to be with us all day.

Our first supported stop at Lordstones was brief but welcome, and we were soon on our way, having lost one of our group. As we ascended Cringle Moor, the skies started to brighten, and, as we circumvented Wainstones on the forest track, the sun started to rise in the East. The sky was bright to the East, but looking back, the sky was black with the clouds hanging down to the ground. We all hoped that these would not catch us up with the likelihood of a drenching.

We were fortunate to have a support party complete with motorhome, so comfort breaks were a little more civilised than the alternative. The support party was waiting for us at Hasty Bank. We had a quick snack and a drink and set off again, in the knowledge that Kevin the Campervan would be waiting for us just above the Lion at Blakey Ridge, with a full English breakfast on offer. This stretch was to be the longest single stretch on the route, incorporating the infamous railway section.

Well, I reckoned on 3 hours but due to losing the track for a while after we left the railway just beyond Esklets, I feared our timescale was slipping particularly as we had spent what felt like a considerable time heather hopping in search of the track.

We reached Rosedale Head, mercifully not too far off target, to the welcoming smell of breakfast cooking. We lost our second team member here, but both re-joined at various stages. We took a little more time to have our windswept breakfast and then we were off, looking forward to Rosedale Moor, and the bogs.

Well, it had been quite dry of late, so the bogs, with well-established vegetation were not the challenge they were 50 years ago, when they were just peat bogs. This was a quick section, and the support team were ready for us at Hamer. A quick stop, and we were off again towards Wheeldale.

This section, in my opinion, is the worst as it is impossible to get into any rhythm due to erosion of the peat exposing random rocks all along the path, for miles! This is where I fell when I chose a wobbly rock to stand on. This didn’t seem significant at the time, but later, I realised that damage had been done.

We passed the Roman road and started the descent to Wheeldale Beck. I was starting to suffer, but, as it turned out, more than half the group were experiencing knee problems. My feeling is that the hard surfaces over such a long duration, was taking its toll on our bodies.

The descent to Wheeldale Beck stepping stones and the climb on the other side was slow, but once on the flat again, we could make good progress. Mercifully, the support team had managed to park on the new hardstanding by Ellerbeck on the A169.

Because it had taken us so long to get here, a few of the party had already left, but we were now on the home straight, so that was ok. The climb up to Lilla Howe was uneventful although we met our first person going in the other direction, on a bike, and three ladies in running gear walked past us on the way up.

My thoughts moved to Jugger Howe, knowing this to be a steep descent and even steeper rise. The only saving grace was the beck and little wooden bridge looking idyllic in the late afternoon sun. Just before the descent, me and my fellow struggling straggler, were met by two friends who coached and coaxed us down the slope at a snail’s pace.

We got down, spent a few moments on the bridge and set off half a step at a time until we got to the top and the level tank roads. No stopping at the layby on the Whitby/Scarborough road, I was met by my 13 year old grandson who walked with me to the end. I remembered I had done the crossing 3 times at around his age.

We were nearly there, but not before I had fallen again, losing my balance on the very narrow track between the heather. Either that, or my knee had given way. At this point I was heavily dosed with ibuprofen, as it turned out, most of us were, and I didn’t care.

The mast was ahead of me, and I was determined to get there, as prosecco was waiting! So, seven of the nine did the full 42 miles and we all came in at between 17 and 18 hours.

On a serious note, our attempt last year was unsuccessful as we had to miss out a section, but we all passed the finishing post. We were met at the end by one of our friends who we knew to be terminally ill and who subsequently passed away. His wife was one of the two who joined us yesterday at Jugger Howe and walked and talked us to the end.

Martin Leach, June 2022