From Here To Eternity: Graeme Noble

Date: July 2nd 2023 July 3rd 2023 (6.22am)
Dirger: Graeme Noble
Start: (Cote Ghyll Mill) Timed from Lyke Wake Stone, above Cod Beck Reservoir
Time: 20 hours 50mins 9 seconds (the last four hours from here to eternity)
Moving Time: 19 hours 25 minutes 9 seconds
Weather: extremely blustery, with one heavy shower at the beginning of the walk, becoming cold and windy but good visibility throughout and some sun and warmth but mostly cold conditions throughout
Temperature: overall cold, like hell had frozen over
I survived! to tell the tale…
This was my first attempt at the Lyke Wake crossing and hopefully there will be a second report in August of this year when I attempt a further walk with my brother in law, Mark Harris.
I had been thinking of making a crossing for nearly forty years but never got around to it. The intervening years of study, work, eating cakes, drinking coffee (sometimes beer and wine) and looking after cats, getting married, moving around the country and making homes had taken the initiative of making the effort to do the LWW. Yet, when I read the alternative ending to Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk I felt the need and challenge to do the forty miles or so from Osmotherley to my final resting place of the Raven Hotel, Ravenscar.
So, I purchased a head torch with two surplus batteries, took my two cycling torches with me (just in case anything should go wrong) and installed my wife in the hotel with strict instructions of no intervention. As she used to play in Hull City Youth Orchestra her vista was going to be Scarborough during the day and revisiting youthful memories as that was where she’d played violin many years ago.
I thank the Cooperative store in Helmsley for supplying me with four packs of chicken and bacon sandwiches in their meal deal and which kept me clucking along during the walk. My skin texture has changed to that of a cooked piece of chicken (however, that is another story for another place in a science magazine). I also thank the staff at the Lion’s Inn for preparing me a tasty Jam Roly Poly with custard (more of that later).
I started walking earlier than I had planned to. This was due to a snory beast at the YHA. The walls amplified and made real the sense of impending doom, death and potential destruction of my psyche. However, after the third episode of chronic hearing indigestion I got out of bed at 4.50am, showered, dressed and put on the clothes that I had considered best for my Wake. Locked out of the room I made my way to the kitchen to make up my flask, fill my rucksack with sandwiches and fruit and get the water bottles filled. I had considered that if I was going to go down in a bog I needed that extra bit of weight to keep me there.
The walk around the right hand side of Codbeck reservoir produced hundreds of froglets jumping across the path in front of me and I walked slowly and on tip toe not to offend any reincarnated witches or wizards that may have been passing me by. So, I got to the LWW trail stone and started to count down from 23.59.59 on my watch timer. At first it was dry and the weather seemed to be promising what the BBC app had suggested. Cloudy but dry. Not to be. It began to rain. Having walked in the Lake District when it starts to rain I was tempted to get the waterproofs on but the area of Coalmire and Clain Woods beckoned and I largely managed to miss the downpour. Rain falling on leaves and branches has always had a calming effect on me. When the drops hit dead centre on the head other thoughts come to. But I’ll leave that thinking out here and you the reader can fill in the gaps. After this it was bone dry and became warm for a while but on Carlton Bank the wraith clouds, found in the Lord of the Rings movies (the ones with the curving fingers) beckoned a further bout of rain and the wind blew in and accompanied me for the rest of the walk. Quite tiring. One moment the clouds went towards Roseberry Topping, the next moment they were spiralling into me and then they passed by behind. Dry.! Then for twenty seconds or so when all had become calm they poured down onto me. The Wainstones were no protection. So I got the top out and it stopped raining! I wasn’t amused but it helped to give me a pause which I took for a breather.
And the walk continued, the incessant length of the railway above Carr Ridge to the Lion Inn provided great views if quite cold and the windiness rustling through heathers and grasses sounded like a multitude of snakes hissing. I had been reading about new snakes found in the English countryside complimenting our humble adder and the snarling tongues of speech accompanied me until well past Rosedale Head. Quite a lengthy journey with no silence to contemplate the beauty of the place. The views of each dales head are splendid in summer when the weather is kind. On Saturday late morning through to early afternoon the walk became difficult due to the strength of the gale.
Looking at my photos of the walk I realise that there are not any of me. Not even a selfie. I was on a mission to complete the walk and snapping photos was somehow a luxury but I’m glad I have those from 10pm onwards. A local photo (i.e. only of the area visible) gets the monument/stone but the longer views went from 10pm. A little cloud, overcast and the head torch went on. But I’m jumping forward.
After Bloworth Junction I came across a spread of three Coast to Coast walkers and the weather had certainly finished off the last person in the group. She wondered how far the Inn was as she wanted a cup of tea. I offered her peppermint but she wanted something stronger. So did I! but not until the end of the walk. Eventually I saw the red roof of the Lion Inn and knew that there was about a mile to go. Being coherent is a matter of energy level for me (health issue switches off my speech) and when I walked into the public area I looked for a table with a number on it. However, a women, being kind in her own way, thought I needed the toilet and beckoned me right to the gents. Like Brett, from Gone with the Wind, I said, ‘it’s not a toilet I want but a cheesecake and a pot of Earl Grey’, thanking her for her support in regards to the workings of parts of the body that had ceased to exist at that time.
At the bar I ordered Lemon Cheesecake (without looking at the menu) and came away with Jam Roly Poly. A product that was enjoyed but by this time my voice was hoarse and the chap behind the bar probably heard Jam Roly Poly with additional custard. A carbohydrate hit was needed and in any case cheesecake wasn’t on the menu. I don’t recommend the chocolate sundae there, when I ordered one, three weeks previously I received plain vanilla ice cream with chocolate bits. Perhaps there’s a food demon following me about?
So, with a thirty minute break and my having lost total coherence through my voice going, the stressors of 20 miles catching up with me and my body feeling like it was travelling at two speeds I put the rucksack back on and left the premises (after actually using the toilet on the right). The wind was still accompanying me and I as I walked up to Fat Betty, passing Old Margery and taking a look at Young Ralph’s Cross I’m sure I saw my shadow passing me by and asking why, why are you doing this, or was that the sensible voice of my wife?
Anyhow, I carried on and got my pace back up to a reasonable speed. The LWW stone pointed outwards to me and beckoned me onto or into the bogs. Fortunately, global warming has had a positive impact on the walking experience concerning dry feet and due to the dry June weather conditions the bogs (over the next five miles or so) were mainly dry. I’m not sure about the benefits for the local tundra but the landscape reminded me of the scenery above Orton (without the chocolate shop) and my next stop was at Hamer House. I had wanted to do this section in light and here I was doing it in light. Now, I felt kindly towards the hoary snorer.
Here I was walking through interminable, yet beautiful heather, waiting to be bitten by an adder. Occasionally there was the cry of bird song but then the appearance was caught in the wind and lost. Occasional tufts of cotton grass suggested watery pools to be missed. Indeed, there was little water and the stream’s dry running was concerning for the future of the wet landscape. From the point of turning off to walk through the bogs I never met another person until the hotel at Ravenscar. Even traffic was heard and initially not seen but as darkness descended lights would shoot around me and in front of me. Will of the Wisp? At Hamer House I ate my last chicken and bacon sandwich. From now on it was apples, water and peppermint tea. Mainly water from midnight.
I found the section of walk from Blue Man I ‘th’ Moss next to Wheeldale Plantation to be very depressing with the constant noise of the wind, writing this I wonder if the souls of the locals who have parted this way are in turbulence due to climate change? But, carrying on I eventually stopped above the ravine leading down to the stepping stones. Here I had my first apple and applied Savlon to the underside of my left foot toes. Also, placing padding around bits and pieces of both feet. It was still sunny and I knew that I had to move out of my sheltered spot returning to the ever so windy reality that I had managed to escape for 20 minutes or so.
It was hard to raise myself and walk down to the steppingstones crossing Wheeldale Beck, a place I had frequented many times with my wife’s family. I remembered that on those very stones my wife’s mother had fallen many years ago cutting herself badly. I took no risks (mind the beck was low) and jumped across safely onto ground that was wetter than the bog area. Very squelchy. My pace improved again after Simon Howe and I was half sad that no trains came past as I moved upto Eller Beck and of course Fylingdales. Quite a sinister place. As a youth I remember the tennis balls but I’m still not acclimatised to the pyramid. A red light beckoned me onwards from the pyramid and I saw the sun leave me, a warm moon began to accompany me and for me night began to fall and the torch was switched on. This section through to the end of the LWW presented the most difficult challenges. I’m sure I heard voices and movements of little people. But, the sound may have been the gurgling of the beck. This stage of the walk I found difficult to navigate and relied on my Garmin to get me through until the gate onto the moors and the path to Lilla Cross. The main monuments on the moor footpaths I saw, the surrounding scenery was focused shadows of trees and I’m sure someone or something was out there talking and accompanying me. Just after Lilla Howe my head torch switched itself off. There’s nothing quite like that in pitch black to sharpen the senses of being by oneself and being alone. Carefully I took my rucksack off opened the top zip and hunted for a cycle torch and then finding it decided to have my last cup of tea, some water and put the last apple into my trouser pocket for later. Setting up my head torch again was quite a task as it wouldn’t respond. And getting the small bulb to work was a bonus. But, the cycle torch I found had a better beam. At this stage a determination had set in to finish the walk at any cost. The cost was Jugger Howe Ravine. Here I found that the initial path down onto the placed pavement footpath was quite slippery and sheer. So, putting on gloves I clambered down on my bottom. There was a determination to do the walk. And, I should imagine that the surrounding scenery in daylight is beautiful. Later there were a number of parked caravans before the A171 so civilisation was returning but at 1am nobody was out apart from me.
The last section to the trig point, the finishing stone and Beacon Howe is still remembered as something surreal. An amber light beckoned me and yet it didn’t seem to be getting any closer. The walk over Stony Marl Moor seemed to be incessant and I had a notion that the locals were moving the beacon into the sea luring me to a watery exit. The next moment the beacon is there in front of me and I’m underneath, the trig point is to my right and there in front of me is the LLW stone I’ve been seeking out and latterly searching for. I’ve arrived at the destination (well, the walk sort of ended here for me as tarmac encroached onto the moor) and accompanied me to the hotel. Mission accomplished…or was it.
At the hotel I wasn’t allowed to proceed beyond the entrance. It was sort of fair as I could have been anyone and I understood the issues of safety and security that the two men at the desk were talking of. The senior man (in age) explained his stance of how before in another position he had allowed a man in to a room who said he was meeting his partner and he had eventually trashed the room. I’ve worked with issues of safeguarding most of my working career. But, what came to mind is that of Kate (my partner) not kindly be taken to minding to be woken up if she’s asleep and the is c2.30ish am. The duty man couldn’t find my name on the resident list, fortunately, I was carrying the information required. And, then the call to the room, the reply and me being followed and directed to the lift. So, there was more excitement from the big people in the hotel than the little people outside. I suppose he had a job to do but I could have been running a bath and making a drink 15 minutes earlier. The celebratory drink would wait until Whitby in the afternoon. Kate said come in, went back to bed after congratulating me with the comment, ‘when you didn’t ring after 9pm I knew that you were going to finish by yourself.’ 36yrs of marriage has produced aspects of understanding that even still surprise me. It was good to have arrived, finally!
Many thanks and best wishes