August 20 - 26, 2004
This week represented a major transition in our trip… the completion of the 190-mile Coast-to-Coast walk across England and also the end of our summer in the United Kingdom. We were in England and Scotland a total of 74 days and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. The Coast-to-Coast walk was definitely the grand finale… and much more difficult than we envisioned when we planned our trip. The difficulty wasn’t so much the distance, but the need to press on every day regardless of weather. The conditions during and after rain were especially challenging. Despite eating enormous pub meals every night, we all ended the walk in much better physical shape. We enjoyed the physical challenge, the opportunity to intensely experience several beautiful areas of England, and the people we met along the way. The Coast-to-Coast walk is definitely one of the highlights of Our Grand Tour… I know it’s something I’ll always remember!
We finished the walk in Robin Hood’s Bay late Tuesday afternoon and had a fun evening with other walkers celebrating in the hotel pub. The next day we took a train to Kingston-on-Hull, a large city in northern England, and boarded an overnight ferry to Zeebrugge, Belgium. We enjoyed spending the night on the ferry, a new experience for Kelly. We concluded our week with two days in the beautiful town of Bruges, Belgium, where we stayed in a very special B&B.
Saturday, August 20 - Osmotherly to Clay Bank Top (11 miles)
This turned out to be one of the very best days of our Coast-to-Coast walk…. great weather and amazing scenery as we crossed the Cleveland Hills. We all hiked well in terrain that would have been very difficult for us earlier in the walk. Kelly had an especially great walk today.
Kelly turned on the Olympics while we were getting ready. The British sports channel is focusing on sports where Britain is expected to do well, so we watched sculling and yachting this morning… probably not the sports Americans are watching at home! Last night we had watched some equestrian events. Unless there are Americans competing, we are rooting for Great Britain.
We had a good breakfast at the Vane House and chatted with the Group of Eight. We still haven’t quite figured out how they are all connected, or which of the Two Men is Melanie’s “partner” Chris. I told Geoffrey and Bill that the use of the English term “partner” is quite different than in the USA. In the USA (at least where we live), “partner” could mean business partner or gay partner. In Britain—in conversation and in the press—“partner” normally seems to mean a steady boyfriend or girlfriend. It isn’t quite clear to me if this is always a “live-in” partner. I actually think that for adults, I like the term “partner” better than “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.”
We got two packed lunches from Mr. Abbot (shocked to find they were five pounds each, although they did include a box of juice) and stopped at the post office/shop to get some candy for Kelly. We then hiked back up the main street of Osmotherly to the forest road… back the way we had come into the village yesterday. Osmotherly is actually about a mile off the route of the Coast-to-Coast walk, but definitely a much more interesting village than Ingleby Cross, the official stopping point for yesterday’s segment. The Cleveland Way and the Coast-to-Coast walk intersect outside of Osmotherly, and our entire walk today was on a stretch of the Cleveland Way. The Cleveland Way is a very popular long-distance walk… 108 miles. Unlike the Coast-to-Coast walk, it’s an official National Trail and is signposted the entire way.
When we reached the top of Beacon Hill, we also intersected with another famous walk—the Lyke Wake Walk. We had learned of this walk from our C2C friend Bill, who has done it several times. The Lyke Wake Walk is a 40 mile walk that must be done in 24 hours…. it supposedly replicates a walk that was done hundreds of years ago when corpses were carried as quickly as possible over the mountains for burial. The symbol for the Lyke Wake Walk is a little coffin, and Bill said that when you completed the walk in the allotted time, you get a little pin with the coffin emblem. His best time for completing the 40 miles was 19 hours—I can’t imagine! I read in my North York Moors guidebook that some years ago as many as 20,000 people a year did the Lyke Wake Walk. This resulted in the trail becoming seriously eroded, and large group walks were discouraged. Today perhaps 3,000 people a year do the Lyke Wake Walk, and this section of the C2C walk is very nicely maintained as a result… with big wide paths, paved in stone in some places. We didn’t see any Lyke Wake walkers… Bill said they start at Beacon Hill at midnight, which probably explains why we didn’t see them when we passed there at 10 am.
The views from Beacon Hill were fabulous—we ran into some local walkers on a circular hike, and one of the men pointed out to us where we’d be walking today… across the moors, up and down over several peaks in front of us. Our walk today wasn’t long but included five different hill climbs and a total elevation of 2700 feet… up then down, up then down…
This section of the walk was almost totally through the moors… treeless plains covered with a low scrub, most often heather. We are fortunate to be walking when the heather is in full bloom… today the moors were simply covered with the beautiful purple plants. As always, sheep were grazing here and there, seemingly miles away from any farm. Because of the lack of trees and the clear day, we could see for miles and miles. Geoffrey passed us early in the day and pointed out the distinctive peak of Roseberry Topping in the distance and nearby Easby Hill with the monument that recognizes the famous explorer born in this region, Captain James Cook. We could also see the industrial mass of Middlesbrough, the most populated area we’ve seen on the walk. Ahead of us we had a clear view of the peaks we’d cross later in the day. Bill was walking on the road again today, but Geoffrey hadn’t walked here before and wanted to see the scenery on the moors.
It was a beautiful Saturday in August, and we saw quite a few day-walkers out enjoying the countryside. We talked with one retired couple who told us they had hiked the Appalachian Trail a few years ago. The woman had also done the C2C. From Beacon Hill we crossed Scarth Wood Moor, then walked through woods at the base of the moors for about a mile. We saw Paul and Sue at a phone booth when we crossed an intersection—but where was Tammy? In the next section of woods we had to read the directions carefully to make sure we were on the right path. We stopped to sit on a bench at a viewpoint and the Two Men came by, immediately heading off on the wrong path. Charley asked them, “Are you sure you want to go that way?” and we showed them the map and they went off in the right direction. They told us they often just follow their instinct and end up going the wrong way!
Not much later, we met an elderly lady coming on to the path from a nearby village, walking with an elderly dog that could barely move. Kelly stopped to pet the dog, and Charley (who has a soft spot for older ladies) initiated a conversation with the lady. We ended up talking with her for maybe fifteen minutes… learned about the dog, her hip operation, and the walking trips she had made as a girl with her father in the Lake District. As we were saying goodbye to her, Geoffrey, the Two Men, and Paul and Sue all appeared from down another path. They had all taken a wrong turn back in the woods. Paul and Sue said Tammy was taking a day off—she had problems with her feet, and when she took the band-aids off, one of her toes had “exploded.” She was catching a ride with the Sherpa Van and will hopefully continue the walk tomorrow. We let them all pass us… it was a beautiful day and we wanted to enjoy it. After we came out of the woods, we climbed onto Live Moor and began what our guidebook described as “the start of a long and unbroken march over the crest of the celebrated Cleveland skyline.” We stopped to eat lunch at the cairn at the top of Live Moor and said hello as the women from the Group of Eight pass us… we watched them go down Live Moor and then head up Carlton Moor. We ended up walking among them much of the day and enjoyed the interaction. There is a gliding club at the top of Carlton Moor… we would have liked to see some gliders, but didn’t see any today.