Winter Crossing – Walk 4: Graeme Noble

General Information

Date & Start: Wednesday 28 February 2024 (starting time [from the LWW finish/start stone at the beacon at Ravenscar 9.30am] – Thursday 29 February 2024 [ending time 6.42am] at the LWW start/finish stone above Cod Beck Reservoir.

This is a winter crossing

Walking time: 18hrs 40min

Actual crossing time 21hrs 10min 8sec

Total Walking Distance: 40.6miles

Dirger: Graeme Noble (no assistance or companion)

Weather: From daybreak until 4pm there was good visibility during daylight hours with some sunlight appearing through broken grey clouds (particularly early morning. Initially, quite windy conditions which gradually increased into a full storm, low cloud from 4pm and loss of visibility from 5pm to less than 6ft at the George Gap Causeway (path) (East:470577 – North: 501030) with swirling mist, rain and accompanying gusts of strong winds. 

The final two miles of the bog were accompanied by very little light and it was a boon to see new ground structures along the way, in my head I associate them with grouse shooting or feeding grouse? Between 6pm and 3am a storm burst began with a severe whirl of rain heralded by gusts of accompanying wind with exceptionally poor visibility. This was the pattern of the weather to follow for the next 9hrs.

Temperature: cold throughout the day with the need to wear my waterproof as an extra layer. It became very cold after 10pm and I put this down to the inclement clime and exposure to some quite interesting weather conditions of torrential rain showers with constant windy conditions with low visibility.

The Walk

The start of the walk began with snippets of blue sky falling through silvery grey cloud formations. At the start/finish stone at Ravenscar, the weather was dry and I hoped I had the promise of holding out for the day due to the regular blue in the sky and the incredibly daybreak sun over the sea from the hotel window at Ravenscar Hall Hotel at 7pm. The first stage surprised me regarding the ground conditions – in comparison to September (lots of flowering heather) there now was quite a burn of heather on Stony Marl Moor which gradually petered out toward the A171.

I love Jugger Howe Beck and would be quite content to have my ashes scattered there. The greenness and the surrounding woody nature of the beck around the bridge into each side of the valley, the succulence of the greenery is a great seductive reason for not moving from the spot, especially with the buds showing the sap rising on the trees. But, I broke out of the mesmerised moment and moved on being surprised by the lack of water over High Moor toward Lilla Cross. Here I met a father and son taking refuge to the north of the Cross due to the cold windy conditions. They continued eating and I moved on to cross Ellerbeck. I didn’t hang around during the day due to the chilliness.

Yet, during my crossing following moving away from the gate to cross the footpath which follows Little Eller Beck I again heard voices gurgling in the beck’s waters, Mark Pearson & Gordon Leithhead’s distinctive tones were there, although I couldn’t get the gist of the story, primary school days came flooding back. This time from my childhood days and these hearing moments were only altered when a birch tree close to me creaked and broke the spell. I find this area to be truly mystical, more so than Jugger Howe yet less beautiful than the valley.

I had decided to follow different routes on this walk depending on how waterlogged the ground was up to and around Wheeldale Lodge, but, the surprise lay in the fact that although the ground was wet, particularly around Wheeldale Beck and the Stepping Stones, the actual stones were not covered by water and I hopped across to Wheeldale Road, although the hill climb up to the Roman Road I found tiring.

Here was going to be my first change of route from the classic Lyke Wake Walk if the ground had been saturated but (after a quick text to my team at home) I chose not to take alternative suggested routes as described by Bill Cowley on pages 34 & 35 of his Lyke Wake Walk book published by Dalesman (fifth edition 1971) which I’d planned to do and carried on to  Blue Man-i’-th’-Moss (has someone or something been out recently with a paintbrush, the spotless whiteness on it seems to be fairly recent) and again instead of potentially moving on to the Traverse Moor road I contacted base and said I was going to cross over the Rosedale Moor route via Shunner Howe.

Again, there wasn’t as much water as I expected and the going was easier than I expected. However, at 4pm the light dropped around the George Gap Causeway (Path) and the memory of the walks I had completed previously helped as low visibility due to heavy rain, swirling mist and the arrival of early night caused me to be cautious about getting my exit right to the Rosedale Road exit.

Near the tumulus at East: 470118 North: 501111 with the light now becoming total night and my wandering mind looking for the trail down to the road I accepted that as long as I hit the road, I could make my way to the Lion Inn but, as good fortune came my way, I arrived on the track with the Lyke Wake Walk stone and the two arrows pointing towards me. Relieved I headed to the Inn and tea. I met no traffic until the Rosedale West side road and as the weather deteriorated further (I was now walking southward through quite a storm with little visibility) I was surprised by the lack of good driving skills through the closeness of the vehicles passing by to me. With a head torch and hand-held torch, I was clearly visible but the vehicles passed me by sometimes with a foot to spare. One van came so close, and then the driver seeing me swerved off, stalling the vehicle. The hiccupping of the vehicle summed up my good fortune at being alive and the poor driving that was afforded to the vehicle. Fortunately, I wasn’t road kill!

Eventually, I arrived at the Lion Inn, where over an hour I had tea, a homemade steak and ale pie with chips accompanied separately by two pots of Earl Grey tea. I had become dehydrated. But, I couldn’t eat the chips due to feeling so knackered! This was the saddest moment of the walk. I remembered why I usually eat Jam Roly Poly. Anyhow, the food was good it was me who was physically out of it.

But, after an hour’s rest, I donned the waterproofs, which, had largely done a good job with only a slight amount of dampness on the shoulders showing as I put it on and I made my way around the side of the building to find my route to Osmotherley following the former railway line.

Continuing the doleful report through the woeful weather.

It was with some relief that I arrived at Bloworth Crossing (those metal gates are very helpful landmarks, and a good reference amidst the centre of a disused railway line with little visibility, swirling mist and belting rain, even the wind added a tortured note during the storm and the effect of the torch’s beam being reflected in the mist left a sense of walking dejavu mile after mile with no viewpoint to take stock of my position, although walking north the weather was behind and westward on my left side, odd to use an imprecise bearing in such a situation, guessing the curve of the Dales heads and my location when trudging amidst the centre of a disused railway line) guided by rain.

This was the one of two accompaniments for many hours as frogs would crouch motionless as I passed by and they were caught in the beam of the torch. Every so often a blown piece of heather and twig would come to rest on the track and twist and turn on its own route after resting for a moment. I sort of copied this routine during moments of rest.

After leaving the Lion Inn at 9pm on the Wednesday evening this continuance of weather and walking/swimming/croaking landscape lasted until I began to drop down after Round Hill. At this stage, I had decided to vary my route and this time I chose to follow Bill Cowley’s alternative route (found on page 20, fifth edition, Galava Printing Co., Ltd., Hallam Road, Nelson, Lancashire). So, I began the descent to Chop Gate, via Medd Crag, towards Bilsdale Hall.

Descending, I came across some grouse shouting hides and in the third hide I took refuge for 15 minutes with a flask of peppermint tea and some biscuits while the wind whipped past and over me. Writing this I feel a bit of a hypocrite as I don’t like the purpose of the hides association with killing but, in the circumstances, I needed some respite from the weather. The rain didn’t stop.

At the exit off Urra Moor toward the hall the path deteriorated to that of deep pitted uneven rivets and slushy mud. I found once I got onto the road beyond the hall that walking became easier, of course on the tarmac, picking up speed but, following Raisdale Mill and arriving at Mill Lane the path (which I had assumed would be easier to walk than over the cliffs to Clain Wood) which is also a cycle route became a downhill sliding exercise through uneven terrain, a torn track of mud, unevenness of ground and sludge for a good half-mile of heavy going, which finally ended at the gate of Scugdale Hall.

Bill Cowley on the same page above describes this route as a lady’s walk. I can only say he must have known some interesting ladies who would walk this route. (In a previous night-time extravaganza, I found it equally challenging to follow the Wain Stones across to Carlton Moor). At Raikes Farm, I found thereto be enough outside lighting to navigate for quite a distance.

But, there was an uplifting moment which raised my spirits on hearing owls in Clain Wood whilst I stopped for a further drink and some food at the public seat above Hollin Hill on the road to Huthwaite Green (NZ 49280 00720, East: 449280 North: 500720) and the conversation between at least three owls in quite different parts of the wood lifted up my spirits for the final trek to the end. I was tempted to alter my route and walk through the wood but decided against it as I’d be altering the route I was walking and at home, my wife would be expecting me to follow another. (By now she was in Bo-Peep land). So, a good decision in some ways, onwards to Mill Farm, Coalmire Lane, through the quarries, now disused, but which I found as daybreak appeared and the landscape became clearer were interesting in themselves for their left architectural design and shape.

Arriving at the LWW starting/ending point I found it to be rather odd as I still had to walk to the bus stop in Osmotherley where I was to be picked up at 8am by my wife. So, I walked down the west side of Cod Beck Reservoir onto Quarry Lane and into town, stopping at Damside for a final cuppa and remembered that I still had the head torch wrapped around my head. Tiredness caused forgetfulness as I’d switched it off earlier next to the sheepwash.

Would I do the Lady’s alternative again, yes, but not as part of the LWW. I’d be tempted to do it again as a circular, from Osmotherley, to see what the views were like that I’d missed in the dark on this walk, going up to Round Hill on Carr Ridge and then back via the classic route over Hasty Bank, past the Wain Stones and then up to Carlton Bank, followed by a midnight favourite of Clain Wood down to the start point at Cod Beck Reservoir. A grand day out!