An Emotional Farewell

Crossing Report by Martin Leach, 11th June 2023.

Well, not long after my little brother Jonathan Leach and nephew Jack Leach had finished in about 18 hours, we gathered at Cod Beck reservoir for our start at 6.00pm, Saturday 10th June. 18 hours, no, we were going to finish in 15!

It was a beautiful evening, and we made quick progress through the forest, down to Scugdale and then up and over Carlton Bank. It was a bit breezy, but remained warm. From the trig point, we could see the event Jonathan had eluded to. It turned out to be a mountain bikers meeting and they seemed to monopolise all the fields around Lordstones, but did, under sufferance, allow our support party to park near the road. Anyway, suitably refreshed we headed off up Cringle Moor.

We had made exceptional time up to this point, was 15 hours on? It was late evening, but still light, and we had a good view from the top down over Teesside. Somewhere on the way, we decided to take the low road around the second and third peaks, which was, perhaps, a good move, as the wind was picking up. This route was dry, but we were being constantly whipped by the low hanging branches. Just as well it was still light.

Another relatively quick stop at Clay Bank, and we were off on the longest and, arguably, the most troublesome section. The wind was quickly becoming our enemy. Do we risk getting cold by not adding layers, or add layers and then get hot and sweaty. I chose the first, and it was OK, but the headwind was punishing. We had planned to be on this section in the dark, as it was the easiest to negotiate by lamp. We also planned to drop down into Esklets and rise up and meet the road at Ralph’s Cross.

All best laid plans etc. All was going well, and we found the beginnings of the track out of Esklets, and then lost it, which meant heather hopping up a steep incline, in the dark, until we did meet the path, and on we went. We had walked this section before in preparation, so, having saved the route on GPS came in very useful. Finally, we met the support group at the crossroads above Ralph’s Cross and all was well, but, at this point I bailed out. I think reality took over the desire to finish. So, my report from here is from the perspective of a rather sleepy support party.

Next came Rosedale. Jonathan said this was dry. Who was he kidding? David Campbell certainly wasn’t laughing when he went in up to his waist and had to be pulled out! Anyway, no damage done and the section was completed in good time, although is was becoming clear that 15 hours was slipping. We also experienced the blood red moon, but at this point, the sky was becoming light, but the sun wasn’t up yet.

The route was starting to take its toll and our second walker dropped out at Hamer Ho. The next section included the drop down to Wheeldale Beck. I was thankful I wasn’t walking. I drove one of the support vehicles around to Ellerbeck by the Fylingdales early warning station, in order to give Olly time to sleep. This again, was a long section, but is provided time for us to sleep and prepare the full English breakfast we had promised. Walkers came, ate, and left, many now determined to finish even though their bodies were telling them to stop.

This was the final long stretch. An hour up to Lilla Howe and a bit longer to get down to the Scarborough Road. It may have been about 7.00 in the morning, but the rising sun was strong meaning sun tan lotion was now a necessity. It turns out we had probably chosen the hottest day of the year, on the coast, to do the walk. Who said 15 hours? 17 to 18 was now realistic!

At the Scarborough Road layby, we met the walkers who were getting further apart as the aches and pains, and blisters, took their toll. Most didn’t stop but just ploughed on. The road was getting quite busy, particularly with bikers, so, I think, the speed camera van just along the road near the Flask Inn, would have had a good day! Mick donned his high vis coat to shepherd one or two slower walkers across the road, because some vehicles were travelling so fast. This was a good move. Anyway, the walkers plodded on and the times came in at 18 hours give or take!

This had become an annual event in memory of my father, Walter Leach, and friend of Bill Cowley, who passed away 4 years ago. We have raised a tidy sum in aid of Cancer Research UK, and in memory of all our friends and family members who have been affected by this. You know what everyone always says at the end, ‘never again’ well, this IS the final time we will be doing the LWW in it’s entirety.

When I first did the walk about 50 years ago, the route was mainly peat (or bog) and this was kind on the legs and feet. I appreciate the need to restrict ground erosion, but the constant pounding on hard surfaces, when it affects the ‘youngsters’ so badly, is just a step too far. Good luck to everyone who follows in our footsteps, but for me it is an emotional farewell to LWW which has been a massive part of my families life for as long as I can remember.