The title clearly states it- we completed the Lyke Wake Walk; a 40 mile linear crossing of the North Yorkshire Moors. Wahoo!
A few of weekends ago, Zoe of Splodz Blogz, Allysse of Beste Glatisant and I spent two days fantastic days hiking the less popular trail, and it was awesome.
Bloggers being bloggers, we spent valuable daylight time taking a gazillion photos of our journey and as a result this account is crammed with photos. Not that I want you click of this post but I’ll warn you now; if you have limited data on your device while reading this right now, it may be best to bookmark the post for later!
So here we go…
I collected Allysse from the station in York and drove to the beautiful Sevenfold House B&B at Rosedale Abbey, close to the halfway point of the Lyke Wake Walk. Zoe had arrived shortly before us and had already settled in with a cup of tea and a biscuit.
The B&B was stunning; a huge period property bulging with original period features and decor. The proprietor, Linda Sugars provided a warm welcome to her home and showed us to our bedrooms. They were huge, well laid out and very comfortable. From just £36 per person, per night and with a scrumptious full cooked breakfast, fruit and cereals included, I truly recommend it to anyone.
That evening we went to the White Horse Farm Inn, just a 4 minutes walk from the B&B (which was also fantastic), and indulged in a large, 2-course meal while reassuring each other we needed the calories for the the two days of endurance that lay ahead. With bellies full of food and butterflies of anticipation we headed back to the B&B for a good sleep.
The faffy part of the challenge was negotiating the transport. Being a linear hike over two days with a a night’s stay half way along meant leaving a car at the end point of each day then driving to the start, only to do the reverse after completing the day’s hike. I was concerned I’d be too tired to drive after hiking 20 miles but I was actually perfectly fine due to being on a high from our achievement.
Day one of the Lyke Wake Walk began in glorious sunshine in a car park just outside the quaint tourist village of Osmotherley. On the opposite side of the road a modest standing stone with ‘Lyke Wake Walk’ carved on its front stood proudly from the ground, marking the start of the trail. After a few photo snaps of the stone we set off with a bounce in our step. My stomach tickled with a mixture of excitement and anticipation, knowing that 22 miles lay between us and the other car. It wasn’t the distance or the endurance test that concerned me, it was the time. It was 9 days into October and the nights drew in around 7pm. We had around 9 hours to the car before nightfall. Thousands of people have completed the whole walk in darkness so I reassured myself with this fact. Still, getting stranded on the moors in the darkness would be frightening and dangerous.
The trail followed the Cleveland Way for the first 12 miles or so, meaning our way was clearly marked by wooden signs at each turning. Up until recently, the Lyke Wake Walk wasn’t way-marked but now there are small, hand painted black coffin plaques along most of the way. Interestingly, there isn’t an official route. As long as you start at the start and end at the end (or the other way around) then you can claim the crossing. We were following the recognised route detailed in the Lyke Wake Walk Book-a small, black book written by Brian Smailes, a walking author. This little black book proved to be invaluable to our expedition. The detail in which it described each step of the way meant our two beloved OS maps made an appearance just twice (yes, the walk covers two OS maps from one side to the other- eek!). The moors are a dynamic environment meaning the route description goes out of date quickly. The book is in its fourth edition and ours was sent with a one sheet insert noting recent changes to the route. I am incredibly impressed by the dedication and creativity of the New Lyke Wake Walk Club who produce the book and collect records and information about the walk. For the full two days, Zoe carried the little black book in one hand for the whole walk, reading directions from it at each turn, often while moving, frequently stumbling while she did so.
The first section followed the edge of the moors overlooking the flat expanse of Cleveland to the North. The little black book warned us of harsh winds as we climbed the first assent but instead we were welcomed by blue skies, sun and clear views. Noon passed and we decided to stop for lunch before crossing a main road. As we walked out of a wooded area we were met by a man I dint recognise. Zoe’s greeted the man enthusiastically indicating she knew him and for a moment I was rather confused. ‘This is my husband’ Zoe explained to Allysse and I. He had traveled up from Lincolnshire on his motorbike to tie in a motivational greeting and a ride around the moors. It was a pleasant surprise to meet him and we enjoyed our packed lunches before he waved goodbye as we began our march for the afternoon.
Our path joined a disused railway which marked the end of following the Cleveland Way. The scenery was unchanging and the regular wide path was somewhat mundane but the level surface enabled us to cover ground quicker than before. Distance grew between each of us as we found our own pace and became lost in our own thoughts. Walking provides me with an opportunity for self reflection, The rhythm of my body moving and the allows my mind to zone out and approach my thoughts from a different perspective. We we silent for some time but it wasn’t awkward. Without the need to explain or compare, the three of us knew we were in a similar state of deep thought. We passed a man set on the edge of the track tucking into a chocolate bar while taking in the views of the valley below.
After what felt like several an eternity we took an unmarked path leading away from the disused railway and across the heather. We hesitated a few times, unsure of where the path was but I lead led the way, following a tunnel through the heather which could have equally been a sheep path. It was a shortcut that had been shut for several years according to the paper insert in the little black book. I’m not quite sure how the path could be ‘closed’. It would have still been there and doubt there would have been a police officer posted at the start ready to stop anyone who attempted to cross it. The odd footprint in the soft ground reassured us we were on the right path and our enthusiasm returned knowing the car wasn’t too far away. We passed a huge standing stone with markings that were to weathered to read. The little black book refereed to this landmark but sadly nothing is known about the purpose of the stone.
The car came into view and our pace picked up while twilight set in. When we reached our endpoint for the day I watched on as Zoe and Allysse created funny shapes with their bodies as they stretched their limbs. We had completed our first leg of the journey!
The drive back to Osmotherley was filled with giddyness combined with exhaustion. Having visited Osmotherley several times before I recommended we find a place to eat there before returning back to the B&B at Rosedale. We found a cosy pub serving good food where we could relax and discuss our accomplishment.
We started the day an hour earlier on the Sunday; heading down for breakfast at 7am. Taking a car to the end point and returning to the start (the reverse of the day before) would eat up two hours of crucial daylight. Although time consuming, the scenery along the journey was beautiful so it didn’t feel too much of a chore. We returned to the parking space where we had finished the walk the evening before and set off across the open moorland. We knew from the little icons on the OS map and the detail in the little black book that that the first few miles of the way were going to be boggy. I didn’t fully expect the depth of water we faced. The marsh grass was a sign of moist ground but it disguised the water beneath it well.
The ground sunk as the weight of my feet pressed against it and the water rose up like a squashed sponge. Like a game of hopscotch, we leaped about from one foot to the other trying to avoid the water and land on the tufts of vegetation. This method worked for a short distance. The landscape before us became dominated by marshy grass. No heather: A sign of lots of water. The three of us halted and stared in silence into the distance towards the painted white topped standing stones that marked the path at intervals. All we could see was open moorland. And a lot of bloody marsh grass. We stood some more, periodically looking at the ground around our feet then returning our gaze to the distance. ‘Well, we will just have to take our boots off’ I said in an enthusiastic tone. I bent down, untied my laces and pulled of each boot and sock in turn while trying to keep my balance. Zoe and Allysse also removed the boots and we stepped forward into the water, Our faces screwed up and we all yelped followed my ‘ohhh ohhhh eeehhh ehhh’ sounds- the water was freezing! I really cant comprehend that many people have crossed this section in the dark.
It wasn’t long until we reached firmer ground and could march on with our feet back in our boots. The full day was spent on the top of the moor in typical upland heath- a habitat that is dramatically declining in the UK. We rarely made a turn the whole day, instead following a lineal direction. The day felt more of a slog than the first, probably because the scenery didn’t really change. I would say some of the paths were only walked by those walking the Lyke Wake Walk given the conditions of them.
The ‘ravine’ as noted in the little black book was as steep as promised. It required getting down and on all fours and carefully edging ones bottom down the slope. At the bottom we were treated to an idyllic crossing of a river via stepping stones before ascending the opposite bank.
We ate our lunch a short way from the Moors Railway and disappointingly we were just out of view of the steam train as it passed. We could see the steam pummeling above upwards but the train was lower in the valley.
After scaling many more miles of heathland the endpoint came into view- the radio mast at Ravenscar. Our spirits picked up for a last time as we came within two miles of the finish. Allysse serenaded Zoe and I with typical French walking songs and we passed a packet of Jellybabies between us. Moments before reaching the mast we turned round to be taken a back by a beautiful pink and red sunset. It was as is Mother Nature was giving us a ‘well done’ sign. We reach the trig point by the mast just after 6.30pm. We had done it. We had completed the Lyke Wake Walk.
This is a short video Zoe recorded along the way giving a better perspective of the views as well as a sign song from Allysse.
For those two days I spent pretty much every second I was awake with Allysse and Zoe. We experienced the whole walk together and we talked along the way together, yet reading their own accounts of the walk gave me a deeper insight into their feelings and thoughts along the way.