Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Lyke Wake Walk, Jan 2012

40 miles across the rugged terrain of the North York Moors. Up hills, down into deep valley, across moorland, through fields, peat bog, over heather and along the road. What a walk!

the Lyke Wake stone marking the start

Together with Claire and out mate Dave we decided a few months ago to try the Lyke Wake Walk challenge this January. We were supported by a couple of Claire's colleagues Julie and Mark to whom we were extremely grateful! Due to the unpredicatable nature of weather at the time of year it was only a couple of days before the event that we gave it the final go-ahead and from then on we were all excited and apprehensive about the walk ahead.

Section One: Osmotherley to the Lion Inn
This section covers almost the first twenty miles of the walk. We headed off from the starting point at the Lyke Wake Stone outside Osmotherley at around 10.15pm. It was freezing cold but we soon warmed up once we had set off. After following the road for a short while we soon branched off into woodland and onto the Cleveland Way.

moon shining through the trees

This was a really pleasant nighttime walk, and we were soon in the open field. The head torches soon revealed two glowing points in the distance and on closer inspection they were sheep eyes! After looking a while longer, they were joined by another pair, then another before we realised we were being observed by a big flock of sheep!

no it's not sheep, it's my walking colleagues

We then headed up the long ascent onto Carlton Moor. From here we had a massive view over Middlesbrough to our north, which accompanied us for a while. Our first stop was at the OS trig point on Carlton Moor, with a steep drop down before us. After stopping for a short while though we soon got much colder and had to press on.

cairn on Carlton Bank

We came back down the Moor to reach the Lord Stones Cafe, and this rock with a plaque describing the Samaritan's Way.

We carried on along the Cleveland Way, choosing to walk in the woodland around the next fell tops. We rejoined to main path after the Broughton Plantation, once again climbing steeply onto the moorland that led to the highest point on the walk at Round Hill. We were occupied for the next couple of miles keeping an eye out for the tiny access path on our right that would lead us onto the Railway Path. This is a five mile section along a disused railway track that was tough going - it twisted and turned and gave the impression we weren't really making progress. Once again those ghostly sheep eyes appeared on the sides of the path! After what seemed like an eternity we saw the support team's torchlight in the distance and after a final tough section we made it to the Lion Inn, where we stopped for a welcome hot drink and I applied a blister plaster.

Section Two:  The Lion Inn to Hamer

looking back at the moon and a distant Lion Inn

This section was approximately six miles long but felt much longer (a bit of a theme for the walk from here onwards). It also gave us a spectacular sunrise. We took the road for a couple of miles turning towards Rosedale, turning off the road just after the signpost for "Fryup" (a hamlet in the NY Moors before you ask!) and onto the infamous peat bogs. Here our Winter gamble well and truly paid off - the harsh cold meant that the bogs were all frozen over and none of us went in any deeper than the ankle!

This wasn't a place of complacency though, Claire managed to get one of her walking poles a metre deep in the bog! Our timing was perfect too, as the sun was just coming up so we were able to see where we were putting our feet.

The bogs went on and on until we reached the tumulus at Shunner Howe.

Shunner Howe

After stopping here for a couple of minutes we soon spotted our fabulous support team in the distance and so we had another chance for refreshments. Here we also decided to ditch our rucsacks, which seemed like a great idea, but by the end of the next section we were very thirsty!

Section Three: Hamer to Fylingdales
The Lyke Wake Walk guidebook suggested that this 8.5 mile long section often feels longer due to the rough terrain, well we weren't going to argue with that assessment! This started off with a boggy section, in fact we had to make large detours away from the path at times.

Blue Man I' Th' Moss

The path itself was waymarked by a number of standing stones including the impressive sounding Blue Man I' Th' Moss, which wasn't quite as spectacular as the name implied, although it did help keep us on track.

road crossing just after the Wheeldale Plantation

We then headed gradually downhill alongside the Wheeldale plantation, where the boggy path was replaced by a path strewn with rocks. Eventually we came to more lush ground, crossing a Roman road before reaching the very pretty but steep ravine at Wheeldale Beck.

stepping stones across Wheeldale Beck

If we had more time on our hands the beck and stepping stones would be a great place for a long break and a picnic, but to stop here would have meant seizing up completely so we pushed on.

the impressive cairn of Simon Howe

As always with these walks what goes down must come up and so we had a steep climb out of the ravine before climbing gradually to the tumulus at Simon Howe.

Fylingdales Early Warning System

This was a great viewpoint where we could see the still very distant Flyingdales which was our next checkpoint. Our descent brought us across the North York Moors railway but no trains for us.

Section Four: Fylingdales to the A171
We only stopped for a few minutes here for a drink and a sandwich, not wanting to lose our stride or let our legs sieze up. By this point there were only seven miles to go but it felt like twice that. Due to the military area the section around Flyingdales involves a confusing detour, where paths disappear only to reappear on the other side of Eller Beck at random places involving beck jumping, map reading, using the compass and generally trying to find a good way through heather and water.

Lilla Cross

Eventually we could see Lilla Cross on the horizon and we were back on track. Lilla Cross is a really impressive viewing point, and from here we could finally see the radio mast at Ravenscar - which was just a tiny spot in the distance! The next couple of miles took us back down heading eastwards, although the path was good I was starting to get really tired and the blisters were getting on top of me.

too tired to hold the camera straight

Tougher things were yet to come, as we reached the top of Jugger Howe. This is a lovely ravine that is scenic, picturesque, and at this point in the walk absolutely the last thing you want to see! I'd love to come back here and appreciate the beauty of the place!

me climbing Jugger Howe

It was a hard trek down and a slog back up, before the final walk of this section to take us to the A171 Whitby Road

Section Five: the A171 to Ravenscar Radio Mast
At this point light was starting to fade and so with around two miles left to go we didn't stop, choosing to head straight off for the finish. I really was on my last legs at this point, and didn't enjoy the section to be honest. As the sun went down it got very cold, and I had no strength left and blisters to cope with. The couple of miles felt much longer and just keeping going involved a lot of mental strength. Finally the mast loomed up just ahead of us and with it our support team appeared, we had made it!! The failing light and falling temperatures meant that we quickly touched the stone, then headed for the car without time for photos. 19 hours after heading off, we had completed a Winter crossing of the Lyke Wake Walk.

We spent the night at the lovely White Horse Farm Inn, in Rosedale, not far from the middle of the walk. The hotel was an absolute godsend and we had a fantastic evening there recounting tales of the walk we had just done. Of course the Lyke Wake Walk is completed by hundreds if not thousands of people each year, nevertheless we all had a real sense of achievement on completion and it is a little moment to be proud of. That evening sat in the hotel I was saying "never again!", but the next morning at breakfast we were already discussing our next attempt at the walk - it just gets under your skin!

tired but happy!

For further information: 
The New Lyke Wake Walk Club - This club website is well worth vising. Their stated objectives:
  • promoting interest in the North Yorkshire Moors, their history and folklore.
  • assisting in safeguarding the moorland environment.
  • encouraging the sports of long-distance walking and running.
  • providing advice and fellowship for those taking part.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A Cook & A Topping, North York Moors

The North York Moors will be the main topic here for the next couple of weeks, watch out for my Lyke Wake Walk report here next week!

After a mild spell at the end of the year, a bank holiday offered an excellent opportunity to test out the fresh air of 2012. My first walk of last year was a dawn walk up Roseberry Topping with my mate Stu AKA the Darlo Llama, and so it seemed fitting to return with the Llama to the North York Moors.

We parked up at Great Ayton, and headed out on a 6 mile circular. This would take us directly up to the Captain Cook Monument, down through the woods of Coate Moor then up to Roseberry Topping.

The sun was just coming up as we arrived with the roads leading to the Forestry Commission car park still icy in places. It was a cold start but we soon warmed up on the climb through the woods towards the Cook Monument. As the trees gave way to the moorland, we were greeted with an odd sight - an evergreen tree complete with Christmas decorations!

A few steps further and we were on the top of the hill at the Monument.

From here we were treated to some great views over to the icy tops of the Cleveland Hills, which I would be crossing just a couple of weeks later on the Lyke Wake Walk.

It was still cold and windy but the sun was slowly pushing emerging from behind the hills and by the time we reached the woods we had a bright blue sky. We were treated to the sight of a deer crossing the path less than a hundred metres ahead of us and a couple of squirrels dancing in the trees - unfortunately they were too quick for the camera.

We had joined the Cleveland Way for a short while, but when we reached a farm track, we headed northwards up towards Great Ayton moor. This was slippery and muddy in patches but we were soon on the well maintained bridleways, heading up through the heather.

We started passing more and more people as we headed up the path which eventually rejoined the Cleveland Way.

Once again we diverted off the long distance path, to head over to the summit of Roseberry Topping. This small but spectacular hill is a treat every time. It offers a lot of reward for the minimal effort of the climb to the summit, its isolated position means that it gives big views in all directions.

Always a popular one, there were huge crowds up there on this occasion so we did not stay for long.
We headed back down the way we came and back over to the moorland. Just as we were approaching the drop back down to the car park, cloud and a few drops of rain threatened to put a dampener on the day, but the cloud soon passed and the storm never materialised.

When we arrived there was just one other car parked up, but on returning, the car park was full to the brim and more. Well worth the early start!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Marske Valley, Swaledale

What a fantastic way to end a great year - an early walk, beating the crowds before heading back to New Years Eve celebration preparations.

I decided to have a further exporation of the area surrounding the picturesque village of Marske, having previously done a walk to Applegarth Scar from the village. Marske is just a couple of miles from Richmond and sits on the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. This also gave me a chance to try out a walk from a book that I recently picked up, Paul Hannon's "Swaledale", published by Hillside.
The walk is a 6 mile circular that takes in a very varied range of scenery within just a few miles. I parked up behind Marske church and headed up through the village.

The road soon turns into a track, heading through Clints Woods and some very cosy looking holiday homes dotted around the countryside. The woodland must look spectacular in Summer and Autumn so this gives me one more reason to return.

After a short pleasant walk in the woods, the trees give way to a wide open vista when you enter the moorland, with limestone cliffs high above at Clints Scar. The path carries along to a farm, and here I turned downhill towards the footbridge crossing Marske Beck.

This is a prefect place to stop for a breather to look upstream and admire the waterfalls. Of course there are many famous falls in the Yorkshire Dales such as the falls at Aysgarth but the Marske Falls are a hidden gem.

After a short break I headed up the other side of the valley up along Telfit Bank and then onto Skelton Moor.

The walk along the valley offers really spectacular views, gazing ahead you can see the landscapes of Throstle Gill and the head of the valley, and behind you the scenery has opened wide with the North York Moors in the distance.

Skelton Moor feels like an incredibly remote place. Of course being only a few miles from Richmond, this isn't remoteness in the true sense of the word, but it felt like another world and is a peaceful place.

The moor rolls on as far as the eye can see, with a cluster of houses down in the valley at Helwith. Beyond the end of the moor is Fremington Edge, towering over the village of Reeth.

Upon reaching a farm, I took a wet and muddy track that took me back across the moor.

This brought me back to the top of Marske valley and a fine view of the first half of my walk. The final surprise of the walk lay just ahead, as the footpath dropped down to meet Marske Beck.

An old waterwheel stands beside the Beck just beside my crossing point of Pillimire Bridge. Once again Swaledale reveals its former life as an industrial working valley, as seen earlier with remains of some bellpits on the moor top.

The final stretch back to the car was a very muddy riverside path with a brief stop beside the Bridge back in Marske where I stepped into the water to clean the bulk of the muck off the boots.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Druids Temple, North Yorkshire

Although this wasn't the actual goal for my recent walk around Masham District, this oddity certainly made for a worthy detour. I'm talking about the Druid's Temple on the Swinton Estate. Just a few hundred feet from the car park, I walked up along the estate track and this bizarre sight was just round the corner.

As you approach the Druids Temple a number of standing stones mark a ceremonial avenue that leads the way.

The Druid's Temple is a folly, built in the 1820s by William Danby, the squire of Swinton. He paid locals one shilling a day to build his temple and generate work. He also offered a salary to someone willing to live at the site as a hermit for seven years. The story has it that one man attempted this and lived there for five years but did not manage the full seven.

You enter the temple through the archway and as well as a mini Stonehenge you get to see altars, menhirs, dolmens and a cave at the back of the temple.

An impressive column of stones is situated atop a small incline just over the Temple and reigns over the scene.

 It really is a fascinating site, and it is always surprising to come across such features in the landscape, and this is a fairly well hidden curiousity worth seeking out. Similar to the follys close to West Burton, this is another example of the strange and eccentric structures you come across over the place and well worth hunting out.