Category: Walking

First walk of the new year

I know what your thinking. New year? But it’s February. That’s true. I just haven’t been for a walk so far until now. I had mentally been telling myself that I needed to get walking again. I have been lounging around at home doing very little and slowly the numbers on the scales are creeping up. This will not do. On top of that I have been neglecting the blog, hardly posting more than a handful of times a year. I uaed ro excuse myself for not posting because my phone was terrible but I have a new one now, and a good one at that. This is supposed to be the turning point. New year, new phone, new posts.

The route out of town.

The route out of town.

So I woke up this morning to bright sunlight streaming into the bedroom. I instantly thought that today would be the day that I’d finally get back to walking. I was ready to go in half an hour.

New phone in tow I set about turning on the GPS tracking app. Last time I had used one of these was two phones ago and drained the battery in a few hours. This phone should do better. Being the size of a dinner plate it can afford a huge battery. One which so far has been lasting several days at a time. Will the power hungry GPS put pay to that? We’ll just have to find out.

I left hime by the path that skirts the edge od the woods. The path leads out to Steppingley is muddy on all but the driest of summer days. I was going to get muddy today anyway so why pussyfoot around the first path? The wind was quite strong and there was a bit of a chill in the air. Wet, muddy, cold. What a great day.

I was in a bit of an inquisitive mood and took a lot of paths that I wouldn’t ordinarily use. The first was on the way into Steppingley. Usually I’d take the road past the Drovers Arms but today I took the back way, taking the footpath past the church. As I walked up the path a girl came the other way walking a dog. She was talking to herself and crying almost uncontrollably. What do you do in this situation? Do you ask if everything is OK? If you do you have to sit and listen to a tale of woe that I really wasn’t that interested in. If you don’t are you just a bastard? I decided just to smile. She tried to smile back but it was clearly difficult for her. I’m sure the dog will keep her company.

Steppingley postbox

New post box design

Walking into Steppingley from this direction is new to me and I never realised what fantastic houses there are around here. Some are clearly very old indeed. I covet these places dearly. Moving on I passed the church and the pub. The village bus stop has now got a small library in it. I’m not sure why you would leave books in the minimal shelter of a bus stop but there you go. Just down the road the village postbox has been revamped. I don’t know if this is the new desing being rolled out across the country of if its just here but I like it.

My destination was the Rose and Crown in Ridgemont. And to get there was no more than an hours walk from Steppingley. I walked out of the village via a country lane with high hedgerows on either side. In the distance was a Red Kite circling overhead. I had hoped to catch up to it but, alas, it was gone.

Most of the route from Steppingley to Ridgemont was fairly uneventful. I said hello to some cyclists. I followed the usual footpaths. I crossed over the roaring M1 on a farm bridge. I paused for a moment, as I often do, just to marvel at the motorway. I find it amazing that we all get in these little tin boxes and ride up and down these thin strips of tarmac at a steady speed, smoothly all getting to our destination without crashing (mostly).

Segenhoe Church

Segehoe’s abandoned church

I also marvel at how quickly the roar becomes a murmur. A small background noise that van be drowned out by the wind in the trees. By the time I passed the abandoned church at Segenhoe I could barely hear it at all. I don’t know what it is about abandoned churches that I like so much. Perhaps it’s that you get to appreciate the beauty of the building without the fear of being accosted by a member of the clergy, trying to bring you into the fold. Anyway, I couldn’t stop. I wanted to make this a fairly quick walk as the weather report wasn’t great after three o’clock.

Rose & Crown - Ridgemont

The Rose & Crown in Ridgemont

The Rose and Crown in Ridgemont has been on my list for a long time. It’s so near and yet so far. I wasn’t expecting anything special but its another one tick off. When I arrived I noticed a cask marque sign (good start). I scraped my boots on the scraper by the front door (must be walkers friendly, even better) and walked in. The bar maid was friendly and helped me with WiFi. A pint of Directors went down too quickly as I talked to the girl behind the bar and before I knew it I was back on the road going home by another route.

Millbrook Warren

The path around Millbrook Warren

I crossed the M1 and the A507 simultaneously as a new footbridge crosses them both. This is the new route of the Greensand Ridge path, a route I want to do in its entirety one day. I followed the GRW as far as Boughton End and turned to take its original route back across the main road. This path soon took me to the edge of Millbrook Warren or as most people now call it Centre Parcs™ – Woburn Forest. I have mixed feelings about the holiday resort on my doorstep. On one hand the Warren is now fenced off, only accessible to paying customers. The rights of way have been striped and we, the public can not enter. On the other hand employment is up and the nearby towns are prospering from the tourist money. On top of that there are new footpaths replacing the old routes through the Warren and other existing paths have been improved considerably. These are obviously good things, but it doesn’t mean I have to like the heart being ripped out of what was once a peaceful place.

I took one of the new bridleways to the road and one of the improved footpaths via a new bridge over the railway into Ampthill. Us walkers have never had it so good, and neither have the train spotters who use the bridge to get a better spot for taking photo’s of trains. Two were sitting on the steps by the up line with a camera and a big telephoto lens. They were to engrossed in train chat to even pass the time of day.

On the other side of the line is an industrial estate. It’s dirty and unkept but we need somewhere to put the scrap metal merchants and the digger merchants. As I walked through I heard the sound of a train passing. I could tell it was a diesel freight loco. Good, I thought to myself, I’d imagine the trainspotters on the bridge will be pleased with that.

The final part of my walk took me back to my teenage years as I followed the route I used to walk home from school. It has changed quite a bit in the intervening years. A new housing estate, the petrol station has been towrn down and replaced, there is a football academy on the field I used to use as a shortcut and they seem to fit in new houses in the smallest of gaps. Progress I suppose.

Total distance: 11.93 mi, Max elevation: 410 ft, Min elevation: 190 ft, Total climbing: 4718 ft
Total descent: -4741 ft, Average speed: 3.07 mi/h, Total Time: 04:29:50,
Download .gpx ile of this route

We woke up at our own pace today, there was no rush. All we had to do was be gone by 11 a.m., this was not a problem because we woke by ourselves at around 9. It was the heat which woke us up, the heat of the sun through the canvas of the tent. Every other day so far we had been up before the sun could get that high. We took our time this morning, it was a novelty for us to be able to lounge about and eat slowly, not worrying about getting to the next overnight stop. Jonny went off to charge his phone in the camp sites laundry room while I ate my sweets, which I had decided was going to be my breakfast.

After an extremely long time Jonny returned to find me packed  and lounging on the comfortable grass in the sun. WE then packed the tent and leisurely made our way to the bus stop. From the stop at Flyingthorpe we would then get the bus into Scarborough and from there, trains via London, back home.

We got onto the bus, which was absolutely packed, we deduced that because of all the hot weather we had been having, many of the people on board would have been impromptu holiday makers. By some very good fortune I happened to have the exact fare for the bus left in my wallet. The bus left Flyingthorpe and winded its way up the steep hill which we had walked down the night before. When we got to the top there was another bus which had broken down. Our bus pulled over to see if anything could be done. There was no space on board to put their passengers on board with us, so we carried on, leaving all the passengers on the top of a moor, in the searing heat, with no food and no water. It was at this point that I thought how lucky we were that Jonny’s phone takes so long to charge. The bus then flew back to Scarborough, there were a few hairy moments where I had hoped the driver would slow down a bit (he didn’t), but I suppose he needed to get back to help those stranded.

Arriving in Scarborough we collected our tickets from the station. Our train wasn’t going to leave for about five hours, so after a quick browse round town, we searched out a pub to keep us entertained.  We sat at  table with plugs near it, so Jonny could charge his phone some more. We had lunch, watched the TV, found some apps to play on our phones, read the menu, anything to pass the time until we could reasonably think it time to walk over to the station and wait for the train.

We got on the train, which left not soon after. Again, nothing to do, so back on the apps for entertainment. The highlight of the journey back was probably when the trolley came past with some food on it. I had a can of Strongbow and a Mars bar. A little while later the train went through our home town, Jonny pointed out his flat as the train careered past. We knew this was going to happen, but it still was a bit depressing to know we were about five minutes walk from home and yet the train wouldn’t stop until we were in London.  When the train got into London, we swapped to another train which got us home about two hours after we originally passed through our target destination. All that was left to do was to walk from the station back to our houses. We parted company after nearly a fortnight outside the doctors and went our separate ways.

That was our coast to coast journey.

We had decided that we had to make the most of the early morning breeze before the weather got hot as it had most of the other days. We therefore got up as early as possible, as soon as the light had made its way into the tent. We were up by around half past four. We had eaten breakfast and packed up soon after and just before 6 a.m. we left the Lion Inn and made our way up the lonely moorland pass, which at this time in the morning had hardly any traffic on it at all.

The road was quiet, even the birds hadn’t started making their usual racket yet. We followed the roads and paths along the top of the moors for some time, there are some roads which seam to go nowhere up in the moors, it was puzzling to think about why they were tarmac’d in the first place. A single track road branched off from the main, which we followed for several miles, going further and further from the Lion Inn and what had been our only check-in with the rest of the world for some time by now. It felt that we were just walking further and further from reality. It wasn’t until we made it over the top of another hill much further on, where a new valley presented itself to us, there at the far end of the valley was the village of Glaisedale.

Walking down the hillside and into the valley should have been the most simple of things, we could see our target. It was right there and the map said to just follow the footpath all the way down the hill. It was getting on by now, we had been going for about three hours, the heat hadn’t really picked up but we were ready for a rest. We said that we would stop in the village, so we just needed to get there. Could we manage that? Hell no! The path just seemed to stop at a wall. We looked around for where the path might go round or over, nothing. Every time we thought we had found the path, it would stop at the edge of a cliff. Blind luck and stumbling through fields eventually bought us into the village.

After stopping for a rest on the bench in the village we carried on, passing the railways station which serves the village. Passing the railway station we also had to negotiate the works which were taking place to shore up the railway bridge. We did not have to get too involved in these as we soon followed another path which lead into the cooling shade of some woodland. It was pleasant in the woods. The temperature had started to creep up and it was welcome relief in the shade from the trees, especially as the woods were steeply banked and there was lots of up hill sections. After a mile or so, the path came out of the woods and we followed a country road to, and then through, the village of Egton Bridge. Egton Bridge is a very quiet village, and on such a nice day it seemed wrong, us tramping through, making undue noise with our footsteps and conversation. I’m sure the locals are used to seeing walkers pass through though.

From this village there was one last footpath of about a mile which lead to Grosmont. This was a footpath which was as pretty as Egton Bridge. There were lovely views of the river, and of the railway, with sheep in the fields between. The sun was out and it was getting warm. It was a very pleasant walk and made a nice way of reaching our lunchtime stop.

At Grosemont we sat out the front of a pub and sheltered under a parasol. We ate our lunch and enjoyed an ice cold drink from the pub. As we sat, we watched as the road was closed off periodically to allow steam trains to pass through the village, crossing the main road in the middle of the village. This was the north Yorkshire steam railway, where they filmed a lot of Harry Potter, just to let you know.

After we had lunch, we made our way out of the village. We knew that the next section was going to be one huge uphill slog. Jonny went on ahead, as he did in these situations, and I engaged low gear and crawled my way up the hill. As we left the village the trees and buildings cleared and we began to see more and more of a view. By the time we were two-thirds of the way up we could see the sea on the left, and next to it Whitby. This was a moment I don’t think I’ll forget, the sea! We had turned our back on the sea ten days ago and now here it was again in front of us. It was now it began to click in my head just how far we had come.  We only had a few mile to go now and we were going to do it, I could feel it.

When we got to the top of the hill, we were back in familiar territory, the sea had moved out of sight and we were back on the moors. Another vast expanse of scrub and bracken on the top of a windswept hill, with one track snaking aimlessly through it, that we were following. The path met the main road between Whitby and Scarborough, which we crossed during a gap in the traffic. On the other side, my heart sank, there before us was another valley which we had to descend and then reascend. This valley was never ending, I’m surprised that we’re not still climbing back up the other side of it now! The path down was long and windy, the path back up the other side was no where near as long, but almost vertical. For those who have done the walk and do not remember this part of the walk, that is because you turned into a wood and took the easy way up the side of the valley, passing the hermitage and falling foss, Jonny and I had seen the time and realised that we had only a few hours of day light by then. This may be one of many deviations to the official route that we had taken, but it was the only one which deviated from the spirit of the route, we knew we had to do it to catch up with our shortcomings earlier in the walk, I didn’t really want to, but we had no choice.

At the top of the valley, we could almost feel the end. We knew that it was only about four miles from the end, and it was no that my feet decided to tap out. My socks had formed some sort of solid section, god knows how, and this was scraping the under side of my toes and causing a lot of discomfort, much more than my, now subsiding, blisters. We stopped twice in the late afternoon so that I could rearrange my footwear, but it was no good. I just had to lump it all the way to Robin Hoods Bay. For those interested in the route, we followed the road all the way from the top of the valley, all the way to Flyingthorpe, which was where we had planned to camp.

There isn’t much to say about the last part of the walk, it was down the side of a fairly busy road for the most part. The very last uphill section of the walk was to be on this road, which was narrow and busy and winding. We were constantly having to cross the road to keep an eye out for traffic with the blind bends the road produced. When we reached the summit, we knew we were very close to finishing now. There before us was the whole of the North Sea with no interruptions. This spurred me on to try to catch Jonny up, at least for a bit, before I had to slow down again because the decent towards the sea was killing my knee so much.

Jonny had waited for me at the junction in the road in Flyingthorpe. We walked the half a mile or so together and made our way to the camp site. We walked in to the reception where we were greeted with “let me guess, you’ve just done the walk?” I wonder how they could have ever guessed! It certainly won’t have anything to do with my limp and Jonny’s stance, which took the pressure off his shoulder, which was by now fit to burst. We pitched our tent quite slowly, knowing it would be the last time we would have to do it. By now it was about seven o’clock. We through our things into the tent and made our way down the path which linked the camp site directly to the sea front. This was literally the final few minutes of the walk and it was such a relief to do it without the weight on our backs. Such a relief!

When we reached the sea front, we were right next to the Wainwright’s bar in the town. Next to it was a ramp for the RLNI to use for launching boats. We slowly walked down the ramp until we were close enough for the sea to lap around our shoes. I was expecting some sort of beacon of light to shine down upon us through parted clouds, upon which we would understand the meaning of life (or something at least!). All that happened was that my shoes got a bit wet. All that remained was to throw the pebble, that we had picked up in St. Bees, into the sea. I had a marker pen with me, so I wrote on mine “J & L. Coast to Coast. 2012”, so you will know where that came from if you find a pebble like that on Robin Hoods Bay beach. I was thinking, during the walk, of some cleaver words to say at this point just before I threw the pebble. Words failed me in the end and I just said something like “Good Riddance”, like that one small pebble had been what was weighing me down the whole time, and causing all my trouble. I wish I had said something nicer now, because it doesn’t sum up my feelings about the walk at all, I guess I was tired and irritable.

After all of the necessaries finishing-the-walk procedures were done with, we had officially done it, it was over, so we went to the pub where we had a beer.