Brig o’ Dread Indeed

4th of August 2023
Start – Osmotherley Village
Finish – The Victoria Hotel, Robin Hood’s Bay
Start time – 6pm
Finish – Too traumatised to note
Distance – 46 miles

Dirgers – Phil Renshaw and Andrea McCartney

For our second and this time, unsupported crossing of the LWW we opted for different and with the retrospective value of hindsight, highly inadvisable, timings.

The weather forecast was not, it has to said, ‘great’ but the trend was towards improvement and it seemed that the wet weather fronts were shifting Southerly.

We struck off from Os at 6pm Friday 4th August with a hopeful plan to finish our efforts with a sunlit morning descent to Stoupe Beck Sands and a revitalising dip followed by a gentle beach stroll into Bay for the revitalisation proper through the medium of several worthy pints.

Eastings and Northings noted and bearings taken it was anticipated that the two awkward sections of the moor crossings during night hours would not be a problem and in any event would be compensated for by the splendid views along the Cleveland hills to the Wainstones.

The drizzle drifted in just before Scarth Wood Moor and looking up and across, the hills frowned darkly under a decidedly ominous brim of cloud.

Ever the eternal optimists we shook off any dark and disturbing notions and pressed on and up, and down, and up, then down again and up again, with a few along and arounds, heartened by occasional vistas across to the twinkling lights and fleshpots of Teesside.

Drizzle was bearable and this was almost certainly tomorrow’s weather front moving in early (as it transpired this was Storm Antoni which had, unbeknownst to us, changed its plans).

We left the railway line above Esklets, the visible path petered out and thick swirling mists were now about us and coating my glasses, visibility dropped in the reflected headlamp light to a few short miserable yards. Eastings, Northings and bearings were cold comfort as we trudged and occasionally re-trudged around pool, bog and gully trying to keep course.

Reaching Fat Betty at last we wrapped our arms about her weighty girth in humbled gratitude and indulged in the comfort of a Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer apiece. The crossing hereon to Hamer House would be a doddle.

Shortly after leaving the road section, the thick swirling mists became thicker and swirlier and drizzle became steady rain.
Glasses, map case and compass were constantly obscured by fine droplets and my sudden face first plunge thigh deep into a stinking morass did little for morale. I could’ve wept.

Somehow we reached the smuggler’s causeway but soon after were again wildly adrift in the sedge. All we needed was one boundary stone to give us the way.

Dawn broke reluctantly and gloomily over Hamer House and as far as the initial descent into Wheeldale we were spared any further damp.
But the respite was all too brief and the rain was soon of the hard and horizontal variety. We stumbled into a shepherds hut, evicting two tups and a pair of swallows in the process. Andrea’s lips were turning an alarming shade of bilberry blue and we nose bagged the trail mix like delinquent goats. A detour to Goathland was considered and then unconsidered as the E numbers in the M and M’s kicked in…we pushed on, cheered by breaks in the clouds and a patch of blue sky, we would make the coast in glorious morning sunshine! All would be well!

Just before Ellerbeck Bridge stealthy clouds caught us unawares and without even the decency of an introductory drizzle, the heavens opened with a deluge to shame Niagara. Waiting for the worst to pass under the scant shelter of the birch trees my eternal optimism found me announcing that there is always a ‘last hurrah’ with any storm and that surely this would be the finale.

Wading through the rivulets up to Lilla Howe in the pale sunlight and a faint drying breeze we assured ourselves that the ordeal was now truly at an end. Hopes and dreams of beer and crisps were now in our hearts.

Hopes and dreams that were to be cruelly dashed when after descending a rocky waterfall down to Jugger Howe Beck with the home strait of the tank track and Stony Marl Moor ahead, we faced a swampy lake, raging though the middle of which indicated only by the alders was the fearsome torrent the beck had become with the bridge somewhere in its awful depths.
Brig o’Dread indeed.

Great was the wailing and gnashing of teeth!
How cruel could circumstance get? (Quite a bit crueller as it transpired).

Any attempt to cross had tomorrow’s headlines written large above it in mocking sans-serif tabloid headlines, ‘Lyke Wake Walkers drowned in deluge’, so we opted to follow a route North up the steep valley in the direction of the OS map’s promised legend…FB.
Wading knee deep, thrashing through bracken and a nerve jangling traverse across a slippery wet shale clay river cliff above a mean and desperate end in the swirling peaty waters we managed to reign in our frustrations and push on until the way forward became totally impassable. The only option was back up to the top. Flailing steeply upwards through bramble and heather, putting our last vestiges of faith and strength in precarious and ill-advised holds we made the top.

And finally, providence showed us a warmer side, below was a footbridge and beyond a good, solid, hard farm road. Descending to Boggle Hole we barely noticed that the beck resembled the Orinoco.

After the final climb up to the Vic from the bay, our entrance was less than elegant and to the wide eyed onlookers, possibly amphibious. I fear I may have forgotten my manners in my urgent lunge at the bar but there you go, another crossing done and something to look back on through the rosy spectacles of hindsight.

Yours in dread,
Phil Renshaw