Wainright’s Coast to Coast – 2nd-17th September

Editor:

Wainright’s coast to coast walk (devised by renown fellwalker Alfred Wainwright) follows a long distance footpath that crosses northern England from the Irish to the North Seas, passing through three national parks in the course of its 192 miles: the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks. Wainwright suggested doing the walk in twelve stages, and the route he outlines ends each day near some form of overnight accommodation.

Rachael has organised an IOG trip lasting a fortnight that is walking what the BBC has claimed is the second best walk in the world – and thirteen IOGers set off on Saturday 2nd September from Ipswich to take part. They spent Saturday night at Ennerdale Youth Hostel then drove down the next day to St Bees on the coast, to pick up the start of the trail.

For those of us who would have liked to join them but couldn’t – or would not have liked to join them but would like to follow their adventures – the Newsletter will be publishing a daily blog of their activities over the next fortnight – contributed, no doubt, by whoever can stay awake long enough to put together a report and send off maps and pics. And we’ll certainly understand if that is a bridge too far on occasion. Still,  I, for one, can’t wait to hear what they get up to: an excellent opportunity to armchair (or deskchair) travel with a big bunch of friends on a truly gruelling adventure!

Bon voyage guys!

1. Sunday 3rd September: St Bees – Ennerdale Bridge – 13.8 miles

Contributed by Rachael and Toby.

The route started with a walk along the coast towards Whitehaven before turning inland through the villages of Moor Row and Cleator.  The first climb of the route was up Dent 352m. Then we headed down into the valley beyond and along towards Ennerdale Bridge.

Day One, map of route.

The thirteen brave IOG members doing the whole adventure, and two more along for the day, walked down to the beach, dipped their toes in the Irish sea, chose a pebble to take to the other side and set off north along St. Bees head. The weather was windy and threatening rain, and the sea looked grey and cold as we left, but we donned our waterproofs and carried on. There were plenty of fellow travellers on the way; we will no doubt see some of them again over the next two weeks.

At the north end of the cliffs, we turned inland and headed east, following country lanes and footpaths, dipping under railways used and disused until we came to the only major climb of the day, a hill on the western approach to Lakeland called ‘Dent’ – at 350 metres on a good day it provides views back to the coast and the mountains further east; sadly the wind and rain picked up and the hills were just vague shadows.

We didn’t linger long, and headed down from the tops to a pleasant winding valley of streams and fords that took us back towards Ennerdale. Our accommodation, Low Cock How Farm, is a bunk house in Cleator, just before Ennerdale, where we were shown into a comfy lounge with a warm fire to dry our boots and clothes. Dinner was a very tasty mushroom or veg wellington, followed by sticky toffee pudding. We may all end up putting on weight this trip…

Many thanks to our organiser Rachael for excellent navigation and planning and the delicious food she prepared for us.

2. Monday 4th September: Ennerdale Bridge to Honister Hause

Words contributed by Torben; pics. maps and 1st caption by Rachael

The route passes through Ennerdale Bridge and then follows along the south side of Ennerdale water. It then continues on through Ennerdale Forest past the remote Black Sail Hut hostel before climbing up the side of Liza Beck onto the plateau between Haystacks and Brandreth.  A short distance down the old tramway it arrives at Honister Hause.

After a hearty breakfast, and the inquest into who had relocated Paul’s boots had closed, we set out in relatively dry weather into the remote Ennerdale Valley.

Today’s route took us along the southern shore of Ennerdale Water, then headed up the forest track past the hostel where we stayed on the first night and on towards Blacksail Hut, the now legendary YHA hostel that has to be booked over a year in advance.  A pleasant lunch stop was taken overlooking the River Liza and the mountains lurking in the gathering mist.  By the time we reached Blacksails the wind and rain convinced us that a cup of tea was good reason to take shelter in the ambiance of one of the smallest and most remote hostels in the British Isles.

Unfortunately we had to accept that Blacksail’s cosiness would not extend to a night’s stay and headed out into the howling wind and rain at the top of the valley.

A slow ascent up Loft Beck and a traverse around Grey Knott’s took us to the dismantled tramway for an old quarry and the welcome view down to the slate mine and Youth Hostel at Honister Hause. After flooding the lobby, bar area and drying room with soaking wet kit, the group has dried off and settled into a relaxing evening of drinks and board games with the hope of better weather tomorrow.

3. Tuesday 5 Sept – Honister to Grasmere – 10 miles

Words contributed by Pete; pics and 1st caption  by Rachael.

From Honister Hause the route drops down into Borrowdale to Rosthwaite.  From here it continues along Stonethwaite Valley past Eagle Crag, climbing gently up onto Greenup Edge.  Weather permitting I would like to take the high-level route along the ridge over Calf Crag 537m, Gibson Knott and Helm Crag, 405m.  From here there are great views. There is then a steep drop down into Grasmere.

The outside door from the porch finally banged shut behind them, and a quiet peace settled over Honister Hause. The young manager breathed a small sigh as he continued to towel off the breakfast juice glasses behind the reception bar. The group had arrived the previous night, utterly drenched, though in surprisingly high spirits, all things considered. He’d been rushed off his feet, with demands for towels, heating, food and the incessant drink orders. None of them seemed to appreciate the fact that there was an England match on. Still, he mused – it could be worse. Their leader had been inundated with the most mundane questions from each and every member of the party, many times over. He wouldn’t trade roles with her for any sort of money.

The group had headed back out into the murky gloom of a wet, sodden morning. The cascading waterfall at the rear was hidden by the mist, and they had been quickly swallowed up – the atmosphere damping their raucous chatter as soon as they headed down the road. He knew their route would take them down into Borrowdale. The running water down there was moving fast and they would have to climb along the path by the side of the river, even using the chain anchored into the stone at one point to help them clamber along.

If things stayed as wet as he knew they would, he guessed they might make it past the youth hostel but he’d lay money that they would hunker up in the tea shop in Rosthwaite for a hot drink. Oh, well, at least they could take some comfort from the little ‘home for children’s toys’ in the moss display that surprised most people. As the rain hammered against the window panes, he idly wondered if one of them might have been a rain god.

[Here I think Pete takes over in person from the imagined musings of the YHA employee – Ed.]

It was brightening up – I know this because Rachael told me so, several times. My waterproofs seemed to counter these statements, but she was quite insistent. Once we’d crested the top, we were surprised to find ourselves being given an advertising pitch from a hardworking National Trust man, covered in mud-stained overalls and surrounded by large stones. There were three of them who were toiling away as part of the worthwhile Fix the Fells (www.fixthefells.co.uk) project. We unfortunately had to decline their offer to muck in and shift some slabs, but we left them a donation in their charity box.

Soon after, when faced with the option of heading down into the valley, we opted instead for the hardcore route along Calf Crag, Gibson Knott and finally Helm Crag. I questioned the wisdom of this, but I was again reassured that it was totally worth it. We plodded along through the murk, watching for the occasional breaks which would give us a glimpse of an awesome world below. And then our patience was finally rewarded!

No, the weather didn’t lift.  Instead a wail arose, followed by a loud slurp to disturb the quiet.  All eyes turned to watch Paul go past his knee into the bog.  Rachael was proved right again!  Granted, we probably should have jumped to his assistance but Jayne, who was closest, was laughing so hard all she could get out was, “I think I’m going to wee!”

 Paul’s hilarious sacrifice for team morale was much appreciated for the remainder of the slog and kept us all going, even as we charged down the steep slope into Grasmere.

4. Wednesday 6th September – Grasmere to Patterdale – 7 miles

Text contributed by Pete E. and Rachael; pics by Rachael.

The route so far.

From Grasmere the route gradually climbs up along Great Tongue to Grisedale Hause and Grisedale Tarn and back down to Patterdale. 

Today began, like most other IOG events, with a lengthy delay for faffing. In the end, people were losing boots, waterproofs, some standing inside waiting for the rest of the group who were, in turn, standing outside waiting for them and, in the midst of all this, Peter was viciously attacked by a savage wasp. Even an attempt to get the obligatory group photo was thrown into chaos, as Heather emerged and revealed she needed to stop at the co-op which was in the opposite direction to where we were headed.

We gave in and diverged before we even started – a new record. Heather and Ruth agreed to catch us up at Grisedale Hause later in the day.

The bulk of the group pressed on to the Great Tongue, which would prove to be as slippery and uninviting as the name suggests. We flipped a coin several times (until we all finally agreed what route each side represented) to choose the left route up. It seemed fairest to let the Queen (or her head, at least) make the decision for us, as getting the group to agree was probably a challenge none of us felt up to facing.

 

Then we slogged up a hill. A Big Hill. Like. Really. Big. I realise whilst you’re reading this, you’re thinking that this sounds like a big hill. I really cannot overstate it. It was actually a massive, huge hill. We dragged our way up, every man and woman for his or herself. We met up with the familiar faces of the other group, also walking the coast to coast path, that we’d encountered several times over the past few days. We swapped a few war stories on the way up, but by the time we reached the climb proper, most of the chatting had tailed off.

Eventually, we all staggered grimly up to Grisedale Hause, where we hunkered down for lunch and were delighted when Heather and Ruth arrived soon after.

​It was to be a short reunion, however. We all skirted around Grisedale Tarn before reaching Brothers Parting which was to prove aptly named, as our group parted ways once more. We had already ruled out attempting Helvellyn, as the weather would have made sure the effort would not be rewarded.  Instead, half our group followed Grisedale Beck straight down to Patterdale, whilst the hardiest and best of us (plus Toby who was dancing along with a day-sack) soldiered on to St Sunday Crag.
As we climbed steadily upwards we could see the other seven below us becoming smaller and smaller dots until they disappeared completely as we reached Deepdale Hause. The walk along the ridge was rather blowy; hats and waterproof covers blew off and we had to walk leaning into the wind to stay on our feet. The climb was worthwhile though; the views were great and the walk exhilarating.
We made it along the ridge to the summit of St Sunday Crag where we managed to get a self timer photo. Continuing on we were lucky to find a suitable sheltered spot for our second lunch break.
It was pretty slippery on the steep descent and many of us took a tumble on the way down.
From there it didn’t take long for us to catch up with everyone else at Patterdale Youth Hostel, to start our preparations for day five.

 

[Ed. there was a bit of a delay on the next two installments – out of internet contact.]

5. Thursday 7th September- Patterdale to Shap – 15 miles

Text contributed by Paul W.; pics by Rachael.

 

The start of the day at Patterdale Youth Hostel
From Patterdale the route climbs up past Angle Tarn towards High Street.

​Highest point of the day: Kidsty Pike (792m), also the highest point of the walk.  ​From the summit there is a continual steep descent to Haweswater.

​Having descended the hill, we spent much of the afternoon walking the northern edge of the reservoir enjoying grey vistas across the lake.
​A map welcomed us part way through the afternoon, confirming our location beside Haweswater. One of the group was determined that the map was the wrong way round, and spent some minutes trying to convince us of his hypothesis. His theory was greeted with puzzled looks but, undeterred, he refused to accept defeat!

Destination of the day: From Haweswater, we first reached Burnbanks ​and then went on to Shap.

Weather of the day: Wind and rain. More rain, and more wind. Oh, and more rain!

High point of the day: The climb up to Kidsty Pike was accompanied by strong winds and sheeting rain, making for an exhilarating ascent and adding to the group’s sense of adventure.

Slip of the day: A few slips were always likely on such a wet day, the most dramatic of which was missed by yours truly. However, the funniest was possibly Jayne’s. In a heap, she tried to right herself only to fall onto her side and slide into a hole. Weighed down by her pack, Jayne’s feeble attempts to get out of the hole and get up were accompanied by squeals of laughter, and a hand was raised in submission. Help was soon forthcoming.

Conversation of the day: Overheard snippet whilst waiting for team members not yet ready to leave. Discussing rucksacks, one individual mentioned to another that they didn’t like green rucksacks, to which the second responded that purple rucksacks were their favourite. No mention of technical specification, or similar. The individuals concerned shall be nameless and their gender kept a secret!

Low point of the day: Walking to the pub in the evening, after a wet day, getting soaked yet again. Not having donned waterproofs (being an idiot), made this group member a less than happy bunny. The British weather sometimes has a lot to answer for!

Meal of the day: After a long day, a pub meal in Shap proved very welcome. Tummies were suitably full and appetites sated!

Pot of the day: Six hardy adventurers found a pool table after the meal, and Torben & Rachael challenged Steve & Paul to the best of three. The shot of the day was, undoubtedly, Steve’s squaring up to the black ball with victory in sight. Brow creased in concentration and team honour at stake, Steve cued the white with aplomb to be rewarded with the sweet sound of the black ball plonking into the corner pocket. Unfortunately, the white ball proceeded to make exactly the same sound as it found the other corner pocket. Foul shot and frame over. What a shot!

Leader of the day (and everyday): Only one candidate for this one. Rachael continued to lead her trusting followers with patience and a ready smile to brighten an otherwise exclusively grey day. Her assertions regarding the wet stuff descending from the sky being liquid sunshine, rather than rain, were met mostly with disbelief, but her perpetual efforts to brighten the day were much appreciated!

Thought of the day: There are occasions when few pleasures rival a hot shower and dry feet!

 

[Ed. The following report came as I have uploaded it: apparently Rachael’s laptop is not to hand and David T-F’s phone battery is running out. Oh yes, and they are going to dinner in ten minutes. There is something pleasingly reminiscent of, say, Scott’s diary, about the handwritten note so rather than digitalising I will leave it up to readers to decipher … The pics followed a few days later.]

6. Friday 8th September – Shap to Kirkby Stephen – 20 miles

Words and Ravens Seat pic contributed by David T-F; map,  elevation, remaining pics by Rachael.

Route map to date
Today’s elevation

 

Taken near Ravens Seat

7. Saturday 9th September – Kirkby Stephen to Keld – 10 miles

Words, maps and pics contributed by Rachael.

Route map to date
Today’s elevation

Our plan for the morning was to set off at 8.30am but as usual a considerable amount of faffing meant we finally left the hostel at around 9.00am. We said our goodbyes to Ruth who had planned to finish at Kirkby Stephen.

The morning walk began, as expected, with some drizzle and cloud.

From Kirkby Stephen we followed a small winding road up past a quarry and onto the moor.

The climb up the grassy slopes of Hartley Fell was rather wet. We had to negotiate an underwater bridge on the way up the Nine Standards Rigg which at 622m was the highest part of the day.

The nine cairns suddenly appeared in a brief break in the cloud as we approached.

 

Soon after we left the summit a man appeared from the mist, a huge figure in a grey cape bellowing, “Is this the road to Keld?” in a strong American accent. Big John felt reassured by the fact we knew where we were heading and ended up joining us for the rest of the walk.

From the top the route headed across a very boggy section of moor. There are many reports of people falling into deep peat bog up to their waist here. Fortunately for us this has now been slabbed and although our feet ended up sinking into boot high water everyone made it across successfully and down to Whitsundale Beck where we stopped for lunch.  By this point the sun had come out and the cloud had lifted.

It was a tricky winding route following the beck, with numerous awkward river crossings of adjoining streams. There were a few dodgy moments for people carefully balancing from rock to rock. At one point Paul was left perched on a boulder in the middle of the stream not knowing how to proceed. While some of us got our cameras out with expectations of a good photo, Heather passed over her poles to help him.

At the end of Whitsundale we came to Ravenseat farm, where we stopped for a cream tea. This is the home of Amanda Owen and her large family, the author of the book, “A year in the life of a Yorkshire Shepherdess” which Miriam has read.
From here fully refreshed it was just a gradual descent to Keld following the upper reaches of Swaledale to reach our accommodation.
The yurts provided a little bit of luxury for us. They had comfy beds and woodburning stoves and we were given a fantastic meal. But the highlight for me was spending the whole evening in the hot tub with views out across to the hills opposite.

8. Sunday 10th September – Keld to Fremington nr Reeth – 11.5 miles

Words contributed by Miriam; pics by Rachael.

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Setting off in soft misty rain, we passed the official half way point of the walk in Keld village, encountering many other coast to coast individuals and groups; we had begun to recognize some familiar faces. 

We climbed up past Crackpot Hall, the remains of a lead mine and Swinner Gill, enjoying the lush purple and greens of the hillsides.

Much was learnt about lead mining of old from Glen, another coast to coaster, whose friend had been injured falling into a river. 

We settled down for lunch by the ruins of an old smelting mill during a sunny spell enjoying our various cereal bars; some even had the latest aptly named ‘Faffer’ bars. 

Day 8 Walking tip: When reversing into an old mine shaft for a comfort break you’re advised to check its not already occupied by a fellow walker.
More rain soon got us moving again, following Hard Level Gill and Old Gang Beck, up over Novel Houses Hill, with stunning views of Swaledale, before descending into the pretty village of Reeth. 
The group scattered to delight in either Yorkshire ice creams or the village shop, a source of many essential items such as maps and more Compeeds.  With further rain, becoming heavier by the minute, we marched on to Fremington and our accommodation at The Dales Cycle Shop with Cake Cafe incorporated, offering unlimited access to cakes (with an honesty box). 
They were still glowing from hosting the passing Tour de France in 2014.  Evening saw us marching (the fastest so far to avoid the rain) back to Reeth to  a tasty meal at the Buck Hotel.

9.  Monday 11th September – Reeth to Brompton-on-Swale

Words contributed by Toby; pics by Torben.

Breakfast at the Dales Cycle Centre was quickly and cheerfully provided by our host Stuart, and we gathered outside in the morning sun to continue our journey down Swaledale. Cautious optimism about the weather led some of the group to shed their jackets and don sunglasses…

We followed the Swale for a while, then turned to climb up the sides of the valley towards the villages of Marrick and Marske. The lower Swale is pasture land, and in contrast to the barren rubble left behind by lead mining that we had seen the day before, the walking was easy across grassy rolling hills.

Amongst the other walkers we met were our American friends from previous days, John and Vance, still keeping pace with us.

Lunch in the sunshine seemed like a good idea, so we had an early stop near some cliffs with a view of the river, and then followed the river to Richmond – a pretty market town with a ruined castle.

We had a quick stop there, some took the opportunity to shop for supplies or ice cream (or both); others had a look around the castle. But all too soon we were on our way out of town, and headed to Brompton. As we entered the Vale of York, the paths became flatter and we could see the North York Moors in the distance, and signs of a long military presence around Catterick that ranges from Roman forts to the modern day garrison. Roadworks on the A1 meant we had to follow a diversion but we got to Brompton and our bunkhouse before our feet gave out.

We were welcomed at the bunkhouse with tea and biscuits; the farm also had lots of dogs, ducks and old farming equipment on display as it is still a working enterprise.

The weather was better than we have experienced so far, and we were all very glad to arrive at our accommodation dry and warm for a change. After a pub dinner and a quick check of everyone’s horoscopes we called it a night.

10. Tuesday 12th September – Brompton-on-Swale to Osmotherly – 20 miles

Words contributed by Torben; maps and pics by Rachael.

The route so far
Today’s elevation

The dreaded transfer day across twenty miles of flatlands from Brompton-on-Swale beside the A1 to Osmotherley at the foot of the North York Moors started in glorious sunshine a record breaking 6 minutes behind schedule at 8.21am.   After much back-slapping and safely negotiating the killer geese at the farm entrance we headed back out under the A1 in a 4-3-3 formation like a well oiled machine.  (Heather had departed the night before for a C2C sabbatical on a two-day training course).

Unfortunately the back lanes of North Yorkshire proved quite busy with cars, tractors, horses, Lycra clad cyclists and a particularly focused DPD delivery driver who thought he was Colin McRae whilst crashing past us four times on roads, bridleways and footpaths – no terrain was off limits for this particular Mercedes Sprinter!

The fine weather and the allure of two planned lunch stops together with the crack of Rachael’s whip generated a good pace across the plains and we found ourselves on Danby-Whiske village green outside the White Swan before it had opened.

Once opened this highly specialised walkers pub, positioned two-thirds of the way along the coast to coast route offered us a wide range including blister plasters, coast to coast t-shirts and hats.
Beyond Danby-Whiske the fertile plains of North Yorkshire continued to offer more arable and livestock pasture that we thought would never end.
The monotony was broken when a frequently mentioned member of the group tangled himself in a kissing gate and had to resort to roping himself up and employing an ice axe to escape its clutches.  Meanwhile Toby, the strategist, smoothly transitioned through the adjoining conventional gate.  For the lucky onlookers the contrast between Toby’s joyous facial expression and the climber’s told the full story.

Another major obstacle lay ahead. The four- lane A19 at rush hour looked more like a game of frogger than part of a long distance walking route and stress levels rose as we realised that roadkill was a very real prospect.  Fortunately thanks to some excellent preparation (some members of the group has opted for running shoes at the start of the walk) and the mercy of a lorry driver who employed a blocking strategy in the outside lane, the IOGers were released safely into the foothills of the North Yorkshire Moors.

A painful (don’t mention Miriam’s little toe!), slow ascent through Arncliffe Woods led us to the fringe of Osmotherley and on to the recently refurbished Cote Ghyll Hostel where check-in was interspersed with beer guzzling, sandwich ordering and the general relief of having made it across 21.5 miles of treacherous lowlands.

Our reward was a fine meal and free flowing beer at the Golden Lion in the beautiful stone village of Osmotherley where even a drenching on the way home from the pub didn’t dampen spirits.

In fact the A19 dice with death seemed to inspire a new level of empathy in Peter who found a toad in the road and promptly picked up the bemused amphibian and offering a kiss and a cuddle to Rachael before releasing it safely to the other side.

Bring on the Moors!

11. Wednesday 12th September – Osmotherley to Chop Gate – 12 miles

Words contributed by Pete; maps and pics by Rachael.

Today’s elevation

“I think I heard a Grouse”

Today was intended to be a fairly easily-paced day, which was fortunate as pretty much everyone was sporting heavy damage from yesterday’s mammoth trek.  We made a ragged line-up for the morning photo, each of us looking somewhat the worse for wear.

 

The private Osmotherley youth hostel had provided us with an excellent drying room overnight and we were sent off with a hearty breakfast. We slowly climbed up the Cleveland Way, pausing to adjust boots and clothing to ease the early pains and blisters earned the day before. Well, most of us did – following on from the dramatic Rachael vs Torben (with Peter lagging behind) sprint yesterday evening, Steve challenged Torben to a mad dash up the hostel exit road, this time with boots on. The results are still being hotly contested.

We watched as Bob, one of our regular trailmates, marched swiftly passed us along the road. On one of our earlier meetings, he told us that he re-walks the coast-to-coast route every three to four years. We were too polite to ask if his sanity was as regularly tested. Bob took the road route, whilst we branched off into the woods which soon revealed a gorgeous view of the surrounding lowlands that we had marched across to bring us here.

We were much too exhausted to pay attention to it as we arrived in the early evening, so it was nice to have the chance to take it in again, now that we were a little less weary.

We continued along the way, heading up on to the western edge of the North York Moors. There were plenty of other walkers along the route. We bumped into a pair as we descended to the road near Scugdale who were looking for the way up to Carlton Moor. After walking up and down the road a while, we realised that our own maps suffered the same problem – the footpath had been diverted, causing some frustration for the unwary coast-to-coaster.

At the top of one of the climbs on the way to Cringle Moor, we came across a bronze age memorial cairn. ​ We weren’t allowed to add any more stones, but we grabbed a few more photos. 
We did the same when we found a giant stone chair, just as the wind began to build.

The exposed journey across the moorland was very soon a highly blustery affair, across a landscape of heather with the occasional grouse surprising us to say Hi.

Despite the wind, we were rewarded with many excellent views across Middlesbrough and the surrounding areas, culminating in excitement when we had our first glimpse of the sea!

After coming down from yet another moorland peak, we found a section of the path out of the wind and declared lunchtime. We all sat down, aired our feet and boots and generally getting in the way of the other walkers who were trying to get past. Many of them asked the question about the owner of a boot which was strewn casually quite some way from our group. Rachael was forced to admit each time that it was hers, but we had made her quarantine it after she stepped in dog poo, and it was putting us off our lunch!

Shortly after wolfing our sandwiches, and a thorough deep clean of Rachael’s trusty boots, we stumbled down to an unexpected tea shop. As we had more time to spare today, we permitted ourselves the luxury of a quick drink. We caught up with an incredible number of familiar coast-to-coast walkers, whilst we stopped: some who were just finishing up, others who arrived as we left.

We soon moved on to Cold Moor, heading for our goal for the day – the Wainstones, a prominent rocky outcrop which would serve as our final peak for the day. Unfortunately, our journey’s luck with the weather caught up with us before we could reach it. We were still several “blips” (as Rachael calls them) away from the Wainstones, when the thunderclouds rolled in. The heavens opened and we were bombarded by large hailstones as we trudged miserably in our now sopping gear.
We made it to the summit in a brief interval from the rain, which was enough time for us to congratulate ourselves, grab a few photos and, more importantly, call in the choppers.

Not that we had air support available, but the friendly German owner of The Buck Inn in Chop Gate had kindly offered to come and collect us from the trail. We put the call in, and headed down to the parking layby where he would be waiting.

Except he wasn’t … so we were forced to stand around in the freezing rain, awaiting for the arrival of transport, trying to avoid getting in the way of the council works trimming the grass around the layby. After ten minutes or so and several false alarms, a large car with the pub name branded on the side finally arrived. We quickly worked out that that it was never going to fit all eleven of us in and thus we descended into a Lord of the Flies-style anarchy as we tried to decide who would get in and who would have to wait for the car to return. We eventually settled on sending the ladies first, then the older gents, leaving three of us sat in the layby in the pouring rain. We tried to make conversation with some other stragglers, but their lifts arrived first and we were left to ourselves amidst the deluge.

The happy ending is that we were all finally delivered into a very warm pub which, fortunately, had an excellent range of beers for us to drown our sorrows with.

12. Thursday 14th September – Chop Gate to Glaisdale – 18 miles

Words contributed by Heather; map and pics by Rachael.

Almost the last leg.
Today’s elevation

Hi – it’s Heather here. My first attempt at writing the blog.

I rejoined the group just last night, after a two day & night absence due to work commitments. It was interesting to hear what had happened in the meantime, contrasting the 20-mile mega-hike with the supposedly easy 11.5-mile one following – both had taken their toll.  What was really apparent was that everyone seemed 2 days more knackered, with feet deteriorating more.

Once in the girls’ dorm that night we compared blisters (we know how to enjoy ourselves!) and now the foot count included Miriam, Jane and Maria. Meanwhile, Pete had given his feet a day in trainers as a treat, which provided some relief from the familiar pains – but also produced new blisters.  Feet, boots and wet socks are now a constant topic of conversation.

Returning to today, we were up early for a 7.15am cooked breakfast at The Buck Inn, and then we were transported by our friendly pub landlord Wolfgang back up to where the coast to-coast route crosses the road and everyone else had finished the day before.  We had to travel in two shifts of six people, which meant a couple of folk being rammed into Wolfgang’s estate car boot – but it worked. 

A short walk uphill took us up onto the heather moorland plateau, with magnificent views to the north; the industrial structures of Middlesborough gleaming in the sunlight, and the fantastically named (and strangely shaped) Roseberry Topping hill providing a useful land mark. My two days off had obviously given me a much-need rest (particularly the blistered feet), and apart from the fact that I’d actually been ready on time this morning (for a record one time only), I was now towards the front of the pack, rather than near the rear.  How novel!

The vast moorland was spread out in front of us, the largest continuous area in England, where the UK has ~75% of moorland worldwide. So think on, as we say in Yorkshire.

The views meant that we could also see the weather systems sweeping towards us.  Patches of sunlight, interspersed with vertical columns of torrential rain heading towards us in succession. The first area of moorland (Urra Moor and Greenhow Moor) had people dotted around seemingly at random, but as we approached they turned out to be connected with the grouse shoot, with dogs ready and furled flags, ready to indicate to ‘the guns’ when we’d passed and it was safe to shoot. As we continued a convoy of smart 4x4s transported the posh paying clients past us on the track up to the grouse butts. Various unlucky and unsuspecting red grouse rose and clucked alarm calls as we left. Could be a lot quieter tonight!

The route across the moor was a mixture of well-stoned stalkers’/beaters’ tracks, a disused railway line (beautifully contoured around the steeply indented valleys) and a few unavoidable sections of minor roads.  It was to be a fairly well-surfaced day, of gentle inclines.

After getting wet at least once (I’m trying to blot out the rainy details) we reached the Lion Inn and had a break. A curious mix of clientele though, with hungry wet walkers rapidly stuffing their faces with cream scones and tea before heading back on the moor, and well-dressed (and dry!) car-tourists enjoying a leisurely lunch. 

Heading north up the road (literally) we had lunch in the sun on a grassy bank, looking down the little valley of a River Severn.

Lunch eaten, and we were soon trudging through torrential rain bouncing off the tarmac along past the boundary stone Fat Betty.

But by the time we’d gone another mile to Trough House on the next track, the sun shone out and we steamed as the midges drove us on.

We skirted the southern edge of Great Fryup Dale (who makes up these marvellous names?) taking photos of the drumlins down in the valley, and the splendid views below. 

(What gets me, again and again, are the big grins all round – what troopers! – Ed.)

Two miles later though, just after identifying our final destination across the valley, we were drenched again, and looking forward to the end of the day.

Our Tesco delivery van (with the crucial ingredients for the evening meal, lunch – and alcohol) was visible – getting lost in the lanes – but ultimately making it to our bunkbarn.

By now, I was feeling it and so were most of the others, so with only a brief stop to pick some path-side damsons and blackberries to liven up the apple crumble we arrived here – Bank House Farm bunkhouse, which has everything we need:  dining/kitchen, hot shower, drying room and an 11-bed room upstairs (with Pete nobly volunteering to kip on the sofa).

And so it’s good night from me, after a wolfing down a fantastic African sweet potato stew with rice and naan bread, then the apple/blackberry/damson crumble. So, well-fed and lubricated with a selection box of Classic Ales and box of red wine (amongst other delights), I’m sure we’ll sleep well. Need to, because tomorrow is a 20 mile + final day to reach Robin Hood’s Bay, and Steve-the-Enforcer has already stipulated that we leave at 7.45am!  ‘Night.  Heather

13. Friday 15th September – Glaisdale to Robin Hoods Bay – 20.5 miles.

Words and pics contributed by Rachael.

Today’s elevation.

“We can see the sea!”

Our last day was going to be a long one so the plan was to set off early once more.  After the usual faffing around, clearing up, and taking of the usual group photo we set off around 8.15am.

Rather than detouring back on ourselves into Glaisdale village we decided to follow the route suggested by the the bunkhouse owner up a forest path. It was a little drizzly as we climbed the steep squelchy track up into the woods. It was obviously less well walked that the official coast to coast route and so was pretty overgrown in places. We finally emerged onto a larger track which provided great views across to Glaisdale.

We then followed a little road straight back down through the Delves where we rejoined the route and continued on to Egton Bridge. The path then followed alongside the River Esk via an old toll road to reach Grosmont.

Soon after we reached Grosmont village we heard the “hoot” of a steam train approaching. I excitedly rushed up the road in time to see the train arrive into the station. We took a short break on the platform for photos and afterwards at the station tea room for a morning coffee/tea/hot chocolate.

The route left Grosmont by a very, very long steep road. Steve and Toby were keen to get this part of the walk out of the way as quickly as possible and passed me running.

From Sleights Moor at the top, there was a great view across to Whitby and the sea.  It looked so close but was still 10 miles away.

We stopped for lunch break #1 in the tiny village of Littlebeck.

As the name suggests there is a little stream that flows through here which is also named Little Beck. Jayne was pleased to see that she had grown to at least 5’2” at the measuring point. Perhaps it was all the watering she had had during the last two weeks!

We followed the muddy path along the valley up past the hermitage.  

Continuing on along the valley we reached Falling Foss, where the stream plunges 30ft into the pool below.

The woods became much thinner and lighter as we progressed up stream.

There was another short climb up the road onto the final section of moorland with the sea ahead now looking much closer.  A bit of a sting in the tail here, as the path across Low Moor proved to be one of the wettest of our whole route. Numerous detours back and forth around the boggiest sections meant a relatively short section took double the expected time.  

We stopped for lunch #2 at the end of the moor. It was now sunny and warm and for once we were able to prolong the break to enjoy it. Continuing on it was just a short walk through Hawsker, to reach the cliff tops and just two more miles to go to Robin Hood’s Bay. The views along the coast were great. There were just a few more ups and downs and wiggles before we saw our destination ahead.

With the knowledge that the end was close, Steve started the race to the finish. Five of us ran the last quarter of a mile down through the steep lanes of Robin Hood’s Bay to reach the beach. It was a close finish but it was the ones with the smaller bags that managed to get there first. 

After the finish photo was taken there was another challenge to complete. A swim in the sea! It was extremely cold and painful and so it was rather brief. However there was a great sense of satisfaction of completing the walk and swimming at both ends.

We all then headed into the Bay Hotel for a celebratory drink and warming meal.The final challenge for the evening was to navigate to Boggle Hole Hostel, where we were staying for the evening. It was not easy finding the start of path in the dark, however we were soon on our way like a caterpillar of head torches wiggling along the cliff top.  After a few more celebratory drinks, we could finally rest knowing we didn’t have to walk far tomorrow.

14. Saturday 16th September – Final Day and Farewells.

 Words contributed by Miriam; pics by Rachael.

Mileage – Quarter of a mile walking, then 195 driving.

After a night at Boggle Hole YHA hostel, decorated imaginatively in the style of a pirate ship, (I’m sure the timbers were shivering that night, it was certainly chilly), some staying up into the early hours at the bar (I don’t know how they managed it), we had a more leisurely breakfast than we had been accustomed to.

We collected together our damp belongings and braced ourselves for the final frontiers. Rachael took Heather and Jayne to the bus stop in Robin Hood’s Bay for their journeys; Heather heading back to Preston via St Bees and Jayne to Suffolk. The rest of us then trudged, probably under a quarter of a mile, up the hill to the hostel car park. There is very little flat land at Boggle Hole and certainly not enough for a car park by the hostel.

We split into Rachael’s and Trevor’s cars and headed west, stopping en route for lunch at the Kennedy Chocolate Factory in Orton. We didn’t quite have a Willy Wonker experience, but they did offer a tasty lunch menu, hot chocolate and a vast array of chocolate creations for sale.

Several heads were observed to nod off on the final leg of the drive, fortunately neither of the drivers’. After rendezvous-ing once again at St. Bees we split into Steve’s van and Torben’s and Rachael’s cars for our respective journeys.

Steve and his van load headed south, while Torben, Rachael, Peter and myself headed via the scenic route through the hills to Keswick YHA for a relaxing evening and more sleep before the journey home.