Friday 23rd July in the year of Our Lord 2021.

Dear Sir,

It is with deep regret that must report the crossing of three unfortunate souls, Rob Thorpe, Malcolm Walker and myself, Chris Bunney, on Friday 23rd July in the year of Our Lord 2021.

       

After a robust last supper in the Golden Lion Hotel, we duly made our mark in The Book of the Dead in The Queen Catherine, where much dutch courage was imbibed, by both crossers and mourners.
         

After an all too brief, fitful night filled with nightmares and visions of angry souls (I stubbed my toe on my partners bed waking her up and incurring the wrath of the Senior Mourner), four of us stole into the night at 03:30 leaving the hearse at the reservoir to be collected at a more godly hour by the mourners.

In black drizzle we touched the stone at 03:57 and descended into hell (actually a plague of mozzies – which we didn’t expect). Our fourth potential dirger, Andy Bottomley tripped over his shoe laces in the Coalmire Wood falling full length but no blood spilt, thankfully. We started the ascent of Round Hill as the night was giving way to a ghostly dawn, swathed in mist and low cloud.

We passed Lordstones, where all was quiet and picked our way through Wain Stones before arriving at Hasty Bank where we were greet by our mourners. Unfortunately not with tea or coffee as they had risen late and only just arrived at the stop before us, siting an over indulgence the previous night. Stiff upper lips all round and an adjustment of footwear etc, before striking up for the old railway line,
      

The weather had settled into a warm, oppressive, but overcast aspect – very much like us. By the time we got to Bloworth Crossing, Andy was lagging, a flaring up of an old rugby ankle injury was apparently to blame. Matters had not improved by the time we turned off the track up to Ralph Cross and thankfully he did the right thing and pulled out the Webley, or rather said he would call it a day and be joining the mourners in the hearse at Ralph Cross.
      

Your correspondent had been setting a good pace and we were distraught that we would only be a band of three for the second part of the purgatory, but Andy would slow us down and we were happy to be rid of him (insert evil smiley emoji here)

We gratefully inhaled hot drinks and sausage sandwiches by Ralph Cross and it bucked us up no end. We set off at a jaunty pace on the road, giving our best wishes to Fat Betty as we passed. Heading off the road we were in trepidation of the evil bog to come.


Our fears were thankfully unfounded and recalling the words of the late lamented Brian Smailes, we bounced across the peat with glee, then chastised ourselves at our merriment.

We caught up with the mourners at the road after Shunner Howe and refreshments were partaken. Our former fourth sufferer was now giving us encouragement but with a smug expression that betrayed his relief that for him at least the pain was over

We caught up with the mourners at the road after Shunner Howe and refreshments were partaken. Our former fourth sufferer was now giving us encouragement but with a smug expression that betrayed his relief that for him at least the pain was over.

I had detected no signs of tiredness or strain in Rob, indeed he seemed as fresh and chipper as he had at the start and I had begun to wonder if he was a robot. Our unhappy band set off again for an appointment with The Blue Man, who we all thought was looking a bit faded and sorry for himself and vowed if we ever passed that way again we’d bring a pot of blue paint and a brush. We paid our respects and pushed on. The track became very rough and tiresome, just like Malcolm’s language.

As we approached the road, before Wheeldale Beck we encountered a sheep, on the track, on its back. Sheep have flat backs and are unable to right themselves if they end up upside down. We managed to turn her over and get her back on to her feet, but she would take some time to recover – time we didn’t have – so we headed off hoping she would be all right and that our good deed may help us get out of purgatory sooner
.       

The sun showed his face as we struggled up to Lilla Cross but the stoney trek down to Jugger Howe was indeed torturous however Malcolm led the way having miraculously got a second wind – or just wind.


After hearing the horror stories of Jugger Howe in truth we didn’t find it too bad and we were soon at our final support stop confident by now that we could pull it off. Half an hour later at 18:30 Rob, Malcom and I touched the stone in relief and jubilation

       

In fear of getting lynched I suggested that we carry on to The Raven Hall Hotel for some “refreshment” which resulted in a lively debate but I am please to report we staggered down into the village and sat on the lawn, at the hotel, pints in hand somewhat incongruous with the guests dressed in morning suits and posh frocks for a wedding that had taken place earlier that afternoon.


      



We were tired, sweaty, but very pleased with our achievement and I humbly ask that we are now granted the status of Dirgers for our efforts.

I hope to lead another set of unfortunate souls in a crossing next year, if I can summon up the will.

As a footnote, pun intended, I had considered “doing” the Lyke Wake Walk some 40 odd years ago when it was in its heyday but thought I was too unfit. This successful attempt came about due to a drunken zoom session during lockdown mulling over things that we should do when it was over.

It just goes to show that with a bit of practice, determination, planning and good company what three fellows in their 60’s can achieve.

I hasten to add my thanks for our wonderful back up team, The Mourners – Gillian, Wendy, Sarah and Maggi who will be repaid in heaven but for now will have to be content with a magnificent dinner at Mademoiselles’s in Whitby we had on the Saturday night.



Yours in memoriam,

Chris Bunney

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