Coast to Coast and back again: nearly 400 miles in 29 days (days 12-15)
By Cindy West
Over the North York Moors: Day 12 to 15
Day twelve and a twelve mile stint in beautiful sunshine from Ingleby Cross to Clay Bank Top commenced our journey through heathered moorland, up significant gradations as we climbed and descended the peaks, plateau and valleys of this ancient landscape first populated significantly by our Viking invaders. The Lyke Wake Walk and the Cleveland Way both intersect with the Coast to Coast, indeed our coastal crossing follows both of these in part. After Osmotherley, walkers need to be mindful of following the Cleveland Way signs to keep on the right track. We came across fellow walkers who started their day at Osmotherley and, if it had not been for Tony, would have followed the coast to coast signs back to where they had started from. Whilst only 12 miles, this section takes in six fell tops and we found it a challenging walk in the very hot weather. The need to stop for frequent rests and water accompanied by a fair few expletives, unmentionable in polite company, gave us lots of opportunity to admire the panoramic views. The Wainstones, a large outcrop of rocks dominate the landscape and presented us with some puzzles as to how to use both hands to climb up rocks and through rock passages whilst still holding on to walking poles. Being a little “undertall” there were times when my feet needed to be placed higher than my knees, a feat of physical contortion rarely practiced before. It was great fun and made me almost wish I still went rock climbing.
A twenty one miler across the moors from Clay Bank Top to Glaisdale was relatively easy walking but mizzle and rain didn’t allow us much of a view and wet us to our underwear. Lunch at the Lion Inn isolated high up on the moors, viewable long before it was actually reached, gave us opportunity to dry out, restore our inner selves with wholesome soup, and prepared us for our descent towards the valley of Eskdale. On the way down, just along the roadside we made an obligatory stop to feed “Fat Betty” a white mediaeval cross, looking just like a very rounded matriarch, one of a number of waymarkers for travellers across the Moors. There are many stories attached to Fat Betty but the one we paid attention to was that which tells us that our journey across the moors would be safe if a gift of food was left for her. We hoped our offerings of jelly babies, sugar, or anything else edible we had in our pockets left with many others gifts, would satisfy her and keep wrath at bay.
Our penultimate day for our west to east crossing took us from Glaisdale to Low Hawkser and moved us on from the bleakness of the moors into natural woodland that covered the hillsides and presented us with rough hewn paths or worn stone steps. Our lunch that day was taken at Grosmont station, a steam railway enthusiast’s heaven. Thanks to the North Yorks Moors Railway Society magnificent steam locos still plough their way through this lovely landscape and provide the thrill of steam travel for all age groups. The road from Grosmont starts with a very challenging steep hill that seemed to just go on for ever and brought us out once more to moorland. On, along the moorland road, passed prehistoric stone circles we walked and, low and behold, a glimpse of the sea, where we would, eventually dip our feet. But not yet, there was still a valley, trees, streams and the lovely Falling Fosse waterfall to see as we wended our way towards our goal.
Day fifteen was both our last and first day as we ended our west to east traverse and started our east to west one. The day was beautifully sunny and warm and our spirits were high as we set out from Low Hawkser to walk the last five miles into Robin Hoods Bay. Through the village we went, disregarding the quick route via a former railway track, that would be cheating, to take the scenic route along the coastal path. We were soon rewarded with views of the coastal cliffs and great expanse of the North Sea as we walked along the edge of cliffs looking down to the waves pummelling the rocks below, accompanied by the screeching sounds of Seagulls. Discarding our packs into the minibus in the top car park we were met by the east to west team and friends and relatives who had made the journey up to welcome us, some of us at journeys end and some looking forward to the exciting challenge of another hundred and ninety two miles. Clutching our precious stones that we had carried across the whole of the country we walked jubilantly down to the sea. Smiles, laughter and stories of our adventure were exchanged as we paddled at the waters edge in boots that had been through water, bogs, and over rocks on feet that had delivered on their promise to walk in Wainwrights footsteps across our beautiful isle.
Stones were hurled into the sea or dipped for the journey back to their home shore and others collected for their long traverse in the pockets of our new west to east travelling companions. Time for champagne, lunch and purchase of T-shirts before farewells and starting our return trip. For three of our team it was journeys end, for all of us, it was time for hugs and tears as we said goodbye to our companions. We were firm friends who had shared in joy and adversity, sang together, cursed together, shared and overcome moments of doubt and fatigue, always supporting each other and now determined to maintain friendships.
View report of the return trip Coast to Coast days 15 to 29
Go to the first report Coast to Coast days 1-7