The Moors

Ingleby Cross to Blakey Ridge, 20¼ miles, 9 hours

We have never walked in the North York Moors before, so we were really looking forward to the last three days of the Coast to Coast. The first day in particular was to be a treat: over the rolling moors of the Cleveland Hills, followed by a trek along a disused railway line to reach the Lion Inn, a lonely pub on the top of the moors.

With another 20 miles today we set off early into the woods, disturbing the sleeping wildfowl scattered all over the forestry track. We’d been having some difficulty with ornithological identification since the grouse over the Pennines, but these were clearly whatever-the-birds-in-Danny-Champion-Of-The-World-were. I had neither raisins nor sleeping pills, so they escaped unpoached.

In unrelated news, my morning B&B egg of choice is now poached.

I used to be strictly a fried man, and had a brief dalliance with scrambled (which are still great on toast), but 15 consecutive cooked breakfasts have been an instructive discovery of the joy of poached. Marvellous with runny yolks. It’s a good holiday when the light breakfast option to break up the repetition of Fulls English is bacon and poached eggs. So we climbed up into the early morning sunshine streaming through the woods, and out onto the moors.

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It was a beautifully sunny day, marking the start of truly good weather that would see us tanned and freckled by the end of the walk. This had also brought out a group of primary schoolkids climbing the moors: a really happy sight to see them enjoying the hills so much at a young age. After passing them on Carlton Bank, we dropped down to the café at Lord Stones, having been recommended by the Geordies. Definitely a good place to stop for a drink and a snack, and to watch all the dogs being cowed by a gobble of militant turkeys.

The next rise was over Cringle Moor, where we passed a new Coast to Coast couple, although we weren’t to know this until later: The Two Who Between Them Balanced To An Average Level Of Enthusiasm And Friendliness.

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We came to another group of children clambering over the entertaining Wainstones on the next rise, where we also met a young man out for a walk: “I was meant to be at work to day but it was such a nice day that I swapped for Saturday so I could come and walk in the hills”. Jealous? Not half. He was a very pleasant chap and took our photo for us.

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Coming down to Clay Bank Top we heard shooting away to our right, a grouse shoot. Having had the quack of grouse accompany much of our walking it was a sad event, especially as we startled birds out of their hiding place and they sped away with a flutter of wings directly towards the guns. Oh dear.

Now, imagine this. We’ve been walking 140 miles to the start of this day, over the hills of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. Ten days and dozens of summits. Yet before today we’d only encountered a single trig point. Extraordinary. Today, though, we had three, and Elspeth kindly posed for each of them. The first, apparently marking the start of the Lyke Wake Walk, was hidden away and inaccessible in the corner of a field.

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The second was encountered more directly on Carlton Bank…

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…and the third at a rather greater distance on Urra Moor. We didn’t bother visiting this one: another 8 miles of walking were enough to dissuade us from adding a couple of hundred metres to the day.

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Those miles passed on relatively easy terrain, although were not as flat as the dismantled railway track suggested. Elspeth very much enjoyed pretending to be a train. The normal “time for a rest?” turned into “is this a station?”. Here we are enjoying, for once, a delay to our journey.

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Despite a great day of walking, we were very happy to see the Lion Inn emerging on the horizon.

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It had been a fantastic day: up and down over the fingers of the moor, the beautiful weather, and the knowledge of a job well done at the end of the day. Maybe my favourite day of the whole walk, and with views like this, who can argue?

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Blakey Ridge to Grosmont, 13¼ miles, 5½ hours

A relatively late start to a relatively short day, and a very reasonable pace to the day. We were to feel the effects of the 40+ miles over the last two days though, and this one felt like tough going at times, particularly with creaks and aches on the relentless descent into Glaisdale. This was only a small niggle though, with sunshine aplenty and fun to be had in Grosmont at the end of the day.

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The day started well…

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…and we were rewarded with lovely views North, much less hazy than they had been the preceding day.

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I actually find myself with very little to say about the walk itself: pleasant but not particularly diverting. Grosmont was arrived at for afternoon tea (in fact three times), and to watch a steam train arrive on the North York Moors Railway: a pleasure for Elspeth in particular as she is rather fond of trains. It was very nice to have enough time after a walk to sit around and watch the world happening.

Some fire buckets and Elspeth at Grosmont station:

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Dinner was taken at the only place in town: the Station Tavern. Although if you find yourself in Grosmont at dinner time you will find yourself with very few options, I can very much recommend this pub: a nice place to while away the evening, some of it in the company of the Wellie Americans. Then home (a converted garage) to contemplate the last day, tomorrow.

Grosmont to Robin Hood’s Bay, 15½ miles, 7½ hours

The last day dawned bright again, and we were up with it, having opted to miss breakfast to give us plenty of time to cover the miles to the coast and enjoy our destination before being driven back to Kirkby Stephen this afternoon. Don’t worry, we took breakfast with us.

The day started with a very stiff climb up to Sleights Moor, dropping down the other side to a very lovely bit of woodland walking. This was very pleasant indeed, and the perfect kind of day for a walk in the woods: not too hot, but bright enough for the sunlight to stream through the canopy. The path wound its way up and down the side of the hill, eventually reaching the Hermitage – a cave cut out of the rock – and then the waterfall I’d been looking forward to, Falling Foss. I’d packed my tripod and everything. This turned out to be a bit disappointing: it was plenty big enough but not very interesting. I’d seen better waterfalls.

This was our designated breakfasting point (Eccles Cakes, mmmmmm), but we pushed on for another five minutes to stop beside the river instead, which did allow me to try some long exposure photos, which was a lot of fun. Sufficiently so that I forgot about the promised breakfast. Only for 5 minutes, but this in itself is an astonishing thing.

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It was as we climbed out of the valley with the waterfall in that we first saw Whitby to the North, and by extension the sea. I was expecting to be amazed to see the East coast having walked every single step since the West coast, but at this point there was still walking to be had, and my focus was on enjoying the remaining miles rather than thinking about the destination. This could wait until Robin Hood’s Bay!

The miles to the coast were very wet in places: we met a pair of backpackers who had just started East to West and were looking rather perturbed as we waded through a marsh with a grin on our faces, as they picked their way across.

We had the pleasure of seeing an adder on the last bit of moorland. Yes, you can see my bootprint very close to its tail: no wonder it’s coiled up ready to strike. I didn’t fancy getting any closer than this for a photo.

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This stretch also provided our last “alternative route”. I’m sure that the overgrown lane down which we picked our way isn’t the route used by the thousands of Coast to Coast walkers each year, but I’m not sure quite where we went wrong.

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And so we emerged to the coast, through a caravan park (nice views, shame about the caravans). It was really incredibly pleasing to have made it here: we now had only a few miles and hours to do it in, so the grins started appearing.

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The walk finishes as it started, with a stretch of coastal walking. Playing with the destination as a cat with a mouse, as Wainwright has it. It was a glorious way to finish, and the grins took on a slight self-satisfied slant as we passed by the daytrippers wandering along the cliffs.

Robin Hood’s Bay is a very picturesque place, and it was teeming with life on the last sunny Saturday of the summer. We wandered down to the beach: considerably busier than the one at the other end. Dipped our toes in the first saltwater pool we came across, and we were finished. 192 miles. The route is variously quoted with different mileages: 190 and 192 being the most common. We started off thinking of it as 190 miles, but by the time we got to the end we feel that nobody would begrudge us those last two.

We had a few odds and ends to finish up. Our pebbles from the Irish sea, carried with us each step of the way, had to be given back to the North Sea.

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We had a pint (lemonade: hydration was a priority!) in the Bay Hotel and signed the book to put our name down in history. We even parted with a pound of our cash for a Coast to Coast fridge magnet. An ice cream and a proper pint followed.

Here we are with The End sign. I like to think that we look considerably healthier and fitter than the photo taken on St Bees beach.

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An incredible fortnight and I just didn’t want to stop walking. I spent most of the ride to Kirkby Stephen with tears in my eyes.

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