We woke early on the penultimate day of the walk. We had been discussing leaving a bit earlier and although we hadn’t made a firm arrangement to do so, something must have filtered through. We were both ready and we left well before eight O’Clock. It was going to be yet another long day, nearly as long as yesterdays walk, but the terrain was going to be much harder. From Ingleby Cross onwards we would be walking in the North Yorkshire Moors, the last section of the walk and, although not the most challenging when it comes to terrain, it is still a very hilly part of the world.

To compensate, we decided to make a detour which followed a different path up the first few hills of the day, we would be walking up the same hills, but taking a more gradual, if slightly longer, route to the summit. Also our old favourite, tarmac, would take a bigger portion of the route. After the early detour, we would follow the main route for the rest of the day. We found out quickly that staying on the main path was probably for the best.

We had been walking for about an hour and a half, our route split off from the road, and we started to make our way up the side of a hill. Using this path meant that we saved some time early on, making good progress. We now had to navigate along a path that was obviously never used. I am sure that if we had stuck with the main track that we would have had no trouble navigating along a path so well trodden, this path, however, wasn’t. I knew we couldn’t be too far away from our correct route because there was another path on the horizon. There were many people climbing this path. This was the main path which we should have been taking. The heat was starting to build up, and on the horizon you could see heat waves. All of bracken was dry to the tough, it clearly hadn’t rained hear for some time. The hill top was arid, and deserted, it could have been a setting for a desert film. We did follow our own path and made it to the other side of the hill soon enough, although it did take us longer than we had thought, we probably didn’t save any time by taking this route in the end.

The next major mile stone was clay top bank. This was a valley between two hills several miles away. To get to it we had to ascend and descend at least three more major hills. Each of which was right on the edge of the moors. When we got to the top of each hill there was an amazing panorama over the flat lands which we had walked across the day before. The weather that day was quite hazy, it meant that the views were restricted to a few miles, apparently on a good day the view would reach out past Middlesbrough (Jonny went to University there and liked to point out that that’s where it was).

Each hill was roughly the same height as the other and each had heathery moor land on it, with sheep grazing. Each one was also very different. One had a large plateau on the top of it which seemed to go on forever, another had a rock formation near to the top which had to be climbed over with no clear way of how to do so, the third had a very steep decent which took its toll on my knees quite badly. I stopped when my knees were hurting and let a group of walkers  pass who were going the other way. They made polite conversation and I told them where I was heading for, they in return told me about a short-cut which would take off several miles at the very end of the day, which I felt a little dubious  about, but I thanked them and went on my way.

When I got to the bottom of the hill, near to the road at clay top bank, Jonny and I stopped for lunch and a break. We had stopped a few times during the morning, but it wasn’t much more than a few minutes at the top of each hill. This was probably the only considerable break of the day. After the usual bag of sweets and a glug of water we carried on up clay top bank.

Making our way up clay top bank was the last major climb of the day, and at half past two I thought that was quite good going, not realising that once we had made it up onto the moorland there would be another slow climb that went on and on for what seamed like an age. The grasses and bracken on the tops of this moor were no different to the others; parched, dying and lifeless. Walking along with no real land marks to guide the way I had to make do with counting the footpaths that branched off of the main track that we were walking along. Where there was an intersection and a chance to put a poster on the footpath signs, the park rangers had also left notices about how it was very easy to start a wildfire in these parts of the moors. I was suddenly getting visions of the terrible forest fires that plague Australia and North America: not scary at all. I put thoughts of such nonsense to the back of my mind, after all, there was no smoke on the horizon.

Still on the same, what seamed like never ending, moor, our route started to take a deviation. It was probably the only land mark of any sort up on top of this hill. It was a dismantled railway line, which had been converted into a bridleway. I turned to tell Jonny that it was the last navigational decision to make today because our camping pot for the night was at the end of that railway line. Hang on? I had to wait for Jonny, something’s not right. I waited for him to catch up, he wasn’t looking good. He was clearly not enjoying this walk. Apparently his shoulders were giving him more than a bit of jip by now and all the pain killers in the world were not helping. There wasn’t much I could do for him. We stopped for a while so he could take the weight of his bag off for a while, but at the end of the day, we still had to get to the end. Jonny told me to carry on and he could catch me up, I had been telling him the same thing for nearly the entire trip by now, so I could hardly refuse him the same. I left him to his shoulders, looking behind every now and again, making sure that he was OK. What else could I do? I couldn’t think of anything else for him. At least we were on the home straight.

The railway track was about five miles long, it followed the contours around the side of the hills and the valley well and there was very little in the way of climbing to do. The path was also flat, and for the most part, clear of loose stones. I felt quite good about the walk, I was starting to get a little bit tired, but then again, walking for an entire day, with very few stops in the blistering heat of the sun will do that to you. I was a bit worried about Jonny though, he was falling further and further behind. I did slow down for a bit, and then Jonny began to pick up again, “The pain killers must be kicking in” I thought to myself. Then Jonny would drop back again. By the time we meandered around the railway and the end was in sight we could tell it was starting to get dark. The grouse and the Lapwings which had been making their distinctive calls all day had started to fade away by now and although the sun was still high in the sky, the heat had started to cool off. The last bend on the railway was a long one, it seamed to make the rim of a very large bowl which we had to walk the long way around. The pub, we could see was so close, but still so far. For Jonny I’m sure it was desperately unfair.

When the railway reached the back of the pub, there was a little path which went up the side of the property, to the road and made for the front door, where we would put our bags down for the evening. This was the path which our friendly walkers had told us about earlier in the morning, I did have to laugh a bit to myself as this was actully the marked route on the map anyway! Walking up the final path was for me, a relief, a slight incline gave my knees a bit of a chance to change pace and really helped me to finish the day feeling good. For Jonny, the opposite. The last thing he needed was to be walking up hill any more and although it wasn’t far, it was enough.

We went into the pub, set up a tab, got our camping arrangements sorted, and had a large glass of Cola each. I just needed some sugar I think. We then went outside and pitched out tents before going back in to get some dinner. When we got inside we sat and had a pint, while we were there  the man who had advised me about blisters, the one leading the older group, he came up and had a chat with us. I think he thought that we would have given up long ago, I’m guessing he thought I’d be the one to jack it in and Jonny wouldn’t want to carry on by himself. He seemed very impressed that we had got as far as we had, especially with our injuries , past and present. We told him that tomorrow was going to be our last day, and how we planned to make it all the way to the sea. He felt the urge to buy us a round, such was his amazement at this fact, I think both Jonny and myself felt a little bit proud of our achievements, having earned the respect of a walker, a seasoned pro, who does this route several times a year. After dinner we made for an early night, the final days walk was approaching fast.