Archive for the ‘Crossing report’ Category

Sheep or Aliens? Graeme Noble

Tuesday, September 12th, 2023

Date & Start: Tuesday 22nd August (starting time [from the LWW stone at the beacon at Ravenscar 8.48am] – Wednesday 23rd August 2023 [ending time 6.08am] at the LWW stone above Cod Beck Reservoir

Walking time: 19hrs 10 minutes, actual crossing time 20hrs 40 minutes

Total Walking Distance: 41 miles

Dirger: Graeme Noble (no assistance)

Weather: initially slight wind conditions which gradually declined towards 10pm with slight gusts through to 5am on the tops, good visibility during daylight hours with some sun exposure and remaining dry during the walk but underfoot more wet in the bog areas since I walked across during early July

Temperature: warm throughout the day becoming unpleasantly cold after midnight, particularly following the climb from Hasty Bank. Throughout daylight – fairly warm and cloudy, after sunset – gradually becoming chilly and cold

I was a little concerned that walking east to west with bright sunlight in my face, due to the pace of the progression of the sun, would hinder visual progress as the day progressed. The sun travelling faster than I anticipated I would be walking east to west. This wasn’t the case. Cloud at times hiding the sun.

With a full English breakfast stomach (curtesy of Ravenscar Hall Hotel), later followed by toast, butter and blackcurrant jam and pots of coffee I left the comfort of breakfast at 8.20am. I was joyful at leaving the hotel and getting on my way. I commiserated my choice of beginning this sojourn much later due to my conclusion that walking from Hasty Bank via the Wainstones to the LWW stone would be walked in the dark even if I began walking at 3am and so it was better for me to walk on a full stomach toward the midnight /early morning Wainstone wilderness than rush out and still have to walk through such terrain in the dark in any case.

I began walking from Ravenscar Hall Hotel in warm, sunlit skies with occasional perched clouds that offered promise of a dry and warm day. This was the case during daylight hours.

This time I thank the Sainsburys store in Scarborough for supplying me with food for the walk (previous day purchase). This saw a change of diet from the previous walk’s fare. Bacon and cheese sandwiches saw the light of day and barbecued chicken for the darkness of night.

Arriving at the beacon and LWW stone I felt slightly odd due to having walked the reverse direction from the Flask Inn bus stop over Stony Marl Moor late the previous afternoon following alighting from the Scarborough to Whitby X93 bus. I had been expecting to see the first part of the walk from the beacon afresh in the light for the first time as the two previous crossings had been completed in the dark after midnight but I was not disappointed due to the fact that I was walking the route this time in reverse. My thoughts here may be disorganised but they reflect the reality of recovery after completing the mission.

What can one say apart from how beautiful standing at the LWW stone beneath the beacon and looking forward and behind seeing sea and rolling hills and knowing that this is what was missed previously in the darkness even when wearing a head torch.

All peace until reaching the A171 and the fast flow of traffic. Here was a new daylight juncture and oddly a meeting with a man and a dog whom I’d met on the moor yesterday when walking across to the hotel at Ravenscar from the X93 bus. We greeted each other and chatted for a while about the area and what we were up to, his holiday break and my walk. He’d worked as a taxi driver in Hull and my wife’s family had lived there for nearly 50yrs. So, we talked about the Anlaby and Hessle Roads, Hull City and Hamlyn Avenue. I have a fondness for that area as much as the North Yorkshire Moors due to my wife’s mother taking the family to the area every year until she became incapable of travel. Time pleasantly stood still for 10 minutes then it was time to push on. Being transported emotionally is as great an accomplishment as walking 40+ miles!

The day’s walking was further rewarded on the descent into the valley of Jugger Howe. It’s odd how one can be distracted by movement and looking down during the descent I saw an adder scurry from one side of the step in front of me to the other and into the heather. Evidently sun bathing but deciding not to take part in the dirge with me. The highlight of this part of the walk for me was definitely the valley between the ravine sides of Jugger Howe. The lushness of the greenery on both sides of the path with occasional willow and birch is truly beautiful and I felt rewarded for walking the route in reverse as I’d never seen before this outlook in the darkness when walking. Truly stunning! And, the rest of the route to the stepping stones offered more gems. Great views from Lilla Howe towards Flylingdales and the MOD building and the final view back to the coast and the beacon before descent to Eller Beck Bridge. I was quite fired up with the beauty and immersed in the walk until I met two women who were walking near the bridge at Eller Beck. We talked for a while and they said they were getting into training for the Coast to Coast walk they were attempting to do in a couple of weeks time and when I was asked about the walk I was doing one of the them mentioned that wolves were being considered to be released in the highlands of Scotland and when they came down here in a couple of years I’d need to take care as they would tear someone to pieces during nightfall if they came across them. I said that I was glad to be walking the route now and we parted company. My wife says she is not quite sure how I manage to come across such folk! Neither am I!

I stopped at the stepping stones for lunch following a photoshoot of me at Simon Howe where a mother and son passed by. Quite normal people. I met no one again until before Loose Howe where a chap was walking the LWW in stages (west-east) and wild camping over three to four days. This was the first person I’d come across on this side of the walk and we parted after discussing the situation of the bogs we’d crossed. Quite wet in places. Definitely more wet than I had met in July of this year.

And onward on tarmac to the Lion Inn. I’m not sure if the road here is any less dangerous than the bogs? Cars travel very fast and there was quite a lot of road kill alongside. At the Inn it was time for Jam Roly Poly, a pot of Earl Grey (with extra water) and this time to break tradition but to celebrate my future success in completing the walk I had a pint of Old Peculiar and settled down for a 40 minute stop. At 8.50pm it was time to move on. I phoned my walking assistant, Kate, informing her that I was moving again and after a brief chat I was off.

The evening to late night light while I was walking around Farndale tops and the accompanying colours throughout the valley were stunningly deep, from purples, greens, yellows and reds. Occasionally there would be a rustle of grasses and heathers but it was mostly silent and then the beacon lights of Bilsdale mast began to glow (sometimes 1 light, sometimes 5 lights) forming an accompaniment all the way to Cod Beck Reservoir. Also, homestead lights began to appear and I decided to move away from using a hand torch and switch on the head torch.

There is one positive aspect of walking the old railway line in the dark and that is with a good clear sky (such as the one accompanying me) it is possible to walk dead central without using a head torch and this was the case until Bloworth Crossing when cloud became more prevalent. The wind had dropped at this point as well and faster walking speed took place.The trig point on Round Hill on my right cast its grey figure as I passed it and solitude became more apparent.

And from here to the Wain Stones there was only one oddity. Approaching the Wain Stones there was a coned object, black and white. I first associated it with the microlight aircraft and kit left behind. However, when the shape moved I wondered if it was a UFO and was slightly taken aback. Fortunately, it was none of those things. A herd of Belted Galloway had moved across and one was very close to the edge of the cliff and turned to greet me. Odd hearing cattle munching in the middle of the night with no other sound to disturb their night pulling of grasses, herbs, reeds and nettles. (I had one more sandwich left and must have been feeling hungry). Anyway, like the earlier adder they weren’t interested in me and I walked through them to have the second excitement of the day happen. For some reason, probably being tired, it took about 15 minutes to clamber down the Wain Stones. Initially, I got the route down but doubted the accuracy of my memory. I should have stuck with the original plan. Once down the rest of the walk became a hard slog on the tops even when I met a yellow frog/toad. I said to myself no you’re not in the Amazon, that’s a standard English frog. However, it was that cold I made a decision not to get the phone out and take a picture.

From there and past the Bronze Age burial mound the walk seemed interminably long until the descent and arrival at the minor road through Hurhwaite Green where there is a nice seat to take a rest. Here was the last sandwich eaten and the last peppermint tea drunk. Between here and Clain Wood I came across two foxes, initially, I thought they were sheep dispersing in front of me but when whistling came across the field, almost surrounding me as they ran away from each other I thought I’m hearing the cry of foxes. This sound accompanied me for a large portion of the walk through the woods and then disappeared to be replaced by the hoot of an owl. As I reached the steps leading up to the road and cattle grid I realised that my energy levels were low. Every 50 steps going uphill I had to stop and rest. Then I was on tarmac and crossing the road with another slight climb but I knew I’d make it to the end and just kept going. Dawn crept up fast and as the beacon had disappeared so a beautiful day awaited me, clear skies if somewhat cold. Reaching the LWW ending/starting stone above Cod Beck reservoir I took my final photo of the walk and carried on to Cote Ghyll YHA where I’d arranged a bed for the night. At 6.30am I hit the pillow setting the alarm for 8.50am and the promise of an bacon, egg and sausage sandwich at the Coffee Pot Cafe in Osmotherley which I’d arranged to do with my wife when she came to pick me up with a set of clean clothes, shoes and more importantly, herself actually checking me in safely in person rather than at the end of a telephone. A great way to end such a challenge.

Just one additional thought – sheep in the dark when lit up with a head torch look like aliens. Only the animals eyes light up until you get closer to them. I can see primitive Man being quite afraid of unexplained creatures as they walked across the mountains, moors and bogs.Did Bronze Age humans carry burning logs as torches?

I’m getting ready for the double crossing next year in the summer?



Owls, Frogs, Snakes and Nightjars: Graeme Noble & Mark Harris

Wednesday, August 30th, 2023

Date: Tuesday 8th August (starting time [from the LWW stone at Cote Ghyll reservoir 4.30] – Wednesday 9th August 2023 [ending time 1.45]

Dirgers: Mark Harris & Graeme Noble 

Start: (Cote Ghyll Mill) Timed from Lyke Wake Stone, above Cod Beck Reservoir

Moving Time: 21hrs & 15 mins

Weather: wind conditions slight throughout, good visibility during daylight hours with some sun exposure and remaining dry during the walk 

Temperature: before sunrise – cool, throughout daylight – fairly warm, after sunset – chilly 

This walk was somewhat different in terms of weather and temperature I had completed by myself nearly a month ago. 

This time I thank the Sainsburys store in Northallerton for supplying me with food for the walk (previous day purchase). Again, I clucked (chicken) and snorted (bacon) along the way until the Lion Inn Hotel and then again afterwards. 

Mark, like myself had always wanted to attempt the walk in an earlier life and this was his attempt with me. This was my second sortie with a solo third attempt (east to west) on the 22 August 2023 from Ravenscar Hall Hotel. Mark’s wife, Sue, was our backup and I have to say hot coffee, tea, black pudding and sausage rolls followed by Mr Kipling Bakewell Cakes were well received along the way. Sue drove many miles that day to satiate stomachs. I will decidedly miss this input later in August on the east to west attempt.

With commiserations and condolences, Mark and I began walking from the YHA at Cote Ghyll in somewhat dark skies but were offered a few gifts on the way to our LWW starting point; a beautiful tawny owl or barn owl perched on a fence post very calmly lifted itself away from us as we passed by, it is highly unlikely that we would have noticed it if it hadn’t moved as we were intently immersed on watching the path with our head torches lighting up the path in front of us. The owl lifted itself onto a nearby branch of a tree and watched as we crossed through its lair. A truly beautiful experience. This early meeting with nature sort of framing the day’s uplifting moments before us leading into the following morning as well. Before the LWW stone we came across a lone frog frozen in front of us and just at the top of the reservoir a lonesome deer, captured in our head torches and of which eventually showed itself and then disappeared into the bracken next to the water.

Quickly, the sunrise moved through to dawn and our pace became faster. Negotiating our way across the cliffs following Coalmire and Clain Woods was quite interesting as I’m slower going up hills and Mark is faster. So, we agreed that we’d both keep going at our individual paces but stop if the other became out of view. This was the routine between us until the end of the walk when my pace was stronger on the flat. We found this type of negotiation to be helpful especially when crossing Ellerbeck, an area Mark had walked in daylight and which I’d crossed in the dark. I’d followed the rule about staying to the left of the white posts and in some places found the going hard. Mark was able to show the route over the foot bridges toward Lilla Cross which actually takes a route (west to east) south of the posts. So, on this occasion I didn’t hear any little people talking on the horizon but only Mark saying where’s that white post, keep right and it’s a bit wetter than last week. 

So, we arrived at the same LLW stone and after photographs of our beginning we began the walk at 4.30am. No rain today, but the experience of seeing a sunrise and the accompanying vista of a developing horizon is one of the most memorable experiences I will remember. It was great to share it with Mark. 

So, the walk was quite straightforward from Osmotherley to the Lion Inn and our helpful assistant, Sue arrived and we had lunch together which lasted for the remarkable time of nearly one hour and a half. Even after Mark’s burger, Sue’s scampi and my Jam Roly Poly was there a sense of not completing the walk in the 24hr time limit. Although, I did have the bit under the teeth after the first thirty minutes of pause due to a concern of physical tempi seizing up.

At checkpoint 4 where we’d decided to take a 10 minute stop we were waved off by a grass snake as it passed us by. It trailed its course in front of us as we turned around and we all wandered off into the grasses following our own differing directions.

One of the highlights of the walk for me was the sausage roll, cake and coffee before Ellerbeck. One needs substance before tackling past mental difficulties and placing feet on the ground. Well, I do! A good meaty sausage roll prevents early commiseration. 

This walk was kinder than my first experience due to there being a very light breeze and a warmth that was lacking over the Farndale through to Rosedale section and the area of the bogs (on the first occasion). Mind the bog seems to stretch across to Lilla Cross. On reflection the section after the stepping stones feels wetter than what has gone before.

I still haven’t seen the section from Ellerbeck to the end of the LWW in light but, I’m hoping to alter that experience when I walk the route east to west on the 22/23 August 2023, hopefully, arriving at Cote Ghyll around 4am. But that is another story.

The odd thing about the ending of the walk on this occasion was that the beacon light didn’t flash its welcome this time around and after awhile it was apparent, I’d have to do a check with the OS map. Oddly, it seemed to glimmer for a few moments and then nothing and it’s quite odd to know that the route you’re on is correct but not to have it corroborated visually. Strangely, even with a head torch it is possible to get a glimpse of a shape of the beacons structure at 2am in the morning.

But, if there wasn’t a beacon light for us what did uplift our bodies and brains was a Nightjar (we think) flitting through the sky. It’s phosphorus beak lit up by head torches as it was caught flitting across our way. Our contact with different creatures across the LWW had uplifted us at times and the Nightjar became our beacon finally leaving us as we approached an end to our plod. It’s fairly easy to understand where fantasies of night creatures, ghouls and other supernatural phenomena come from when the natural environment offers such gems as a glowing light, zooming through the air to make one consider reality.

Sue had arrived at the end of the walk and was waiting in the car but, importantly she had two beers as a celebration of celebration. She was, also, our beacon due to her having the car’s interior lights on and the car being stationed under the beacon. She wasn’t too thrilled at taking our photograph next to the completion stone at Ravenscar (it gets cold out there after midnight) but accommodated our egos to have one, beers then being finished. Another walk completed. I preferred the company and the altered pace. I tend to keep going and not to rest so it’ll be interesting to compare the pace on my return and reverse route.

Finally, I have to say sharing bottles of beer at the end of the LWW is a great way to finish off a walk which in its sobriety of course needs commiseration at the end! I can see why it is possible to get hammered after completing the walk. The whole point of walking 40+ miles is to lift depression, doom and despair. That’s what I’ve been told, anyhow!