Coast to Coast Walk 2018

Author: George Tod

This walk is illustrated with photographs. Click on small photo to enlarge in situ, or click caption to enlarge into new window.
Part 5 - Blakey to Robin Hood's Bay


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Day 13 - Sunday 8th July 2018 - Lion Inn, Blakey to Littlebeck - 17.7 miles 1590ft ascent (including losing way)

Accommodation - B&B, Intake Farm, Littlebeck

There was a German couple from Munich staying at the guest house, so I chatted to them over breakfast. We had agreed for breakfast at eight so that we could all be taken back to the Lion Inn together to avoid our host Michael having to make two trips. It was about 9.30 before I had changed into my boots and got started. Michael is a great joker and regaled us with all sorts of wind-ups he had done mainly at the expense of Americans. I set off up the road from the Lion Inn, still amused at all his tales and neglected to notice where I should have turned off. I passed Young Ralph Cross whereas I was expecting to see Fat Betty (White Cross). A while later, things didn't look right on the map and I realised that I had gone wrong and missed a turning off the road to the east before Young Ralph Cross. I had another rather long day's walk ahead so this was the last thing I wanted as it meant that I would either have to backtrack or take the other option of heading across the heather moor to re-join the route further on. I decided on the latter which was no easy option and a lot of hard work, but after a long struggle I managed to join a track very close to where I needed to be, past Fat Betty on the way towards Great Fryup Dale. In hindsight, however, it would have been a lot easier to go back along the road even though it was a bit further.

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Young Ralph Cross at Rosedale Head
Young Ralph Cross at Rosedale Head
Great Fryup Dale from Danby High Moor
Great Fryup Dale from Danby High Moor
Great Fryup Dale from Glaisdale Moor
Great Fryup Dale from Glaisdale Moor

The weather was rather overcast but still very warm as usual, though the walking was fairly easy once I had reached the proper track. There was a long trek over the moors to Glaisdale but despite my navigation error I was making reasonable progress by managing a good walking speed on the easy tracks and roads. There were quite a lot of walkers about including a lot of Coast to Coast walkers, possibly because I had now caught up with many who had started off at a weekend on a gentler schedule. Near Glaisdale Moor, I finally caught up with the Germans who had gone off ahead of me. Despite being somewhat overcast it was still very warm and I was hoping to get to either a pub or a shop to get some more to drink and something to eat for my lunch. However as I made my way through Glaisdale, the village shop had already closed at midday, it being Sunday, and there appeared to be no pub so I was wondering what to do but then, as I turned over to my next map sheet, I saw that a pub was marked further along by the railway station so, after a short walk, I was there. It is not a good idea to drink too much alcohol when there is a lot of walking to do but a pint of shandy often works well, being refreshing whilst not being too strong. I also picked up a few snack items to have later on.

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Glaisdale from Glaisdale Moor
Glaisdale from Glaisdale Moor
Old Milestone on Glaisdale Moor
Old Milestone on Glaisdale Moor
River Esk near Carr End
River Esk near Carr End

Feeling suitably refreshed I topped up my water supply and continued on my way with a steep climb following the Esk Valley walk which climbs up through the woods above the river. Rather than helping me to keep refreshed, the pint of shandy had the opposite effect, making me sweat heavily and feel more run down, showing that my technique of regularly sipping water was a better approach. The scenery, though good in places, was not particularly good, sometimes lacking sunshine and sometimes being obscured by trees, though some long distance views across valleys were very good. Having been spoiled by all the sunny weather and amazing scenery earlier in the walk, I was now easily disappointed, either by a patch of cloud or somewhat restricted views, which is one of the disadvantages of starting with the more spectacular scenery coming first. The next village was Egton Bridge which is where the Germans were heading for an easy day. These villages attract a lot of people, particularly at the weekend, because they have stations on the route of North York Moors Railway, which runs steam trains through the magnificent moorland scenery, so the place was crowded as I passed through. Some easy walking led to Grosmont where another station is situated and this was particularly busy as one steam train was waiting at a platform and another one was just arriving, causing the level crossing to close.

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Through Woods on Esk Valley Walk
Through Woods on Esk Valley Walk
River Esk at Egton Bridge
River Esk at Egton Bridge
Steam Train at Grosmont Station
Steam Train at Grosmont Station

On the way out of Grosmont came the hardest part of the day's walk with a very steep walk up the road onto the moor, at one point a 33% slope, so it was quite an effort in the heat but I managed to keep going without too many stops. Once over the top of the moor I was on the home run to Intake Farm in Littlebeck where I had booked B&B plus evening meal. On the way there was a view across to Whitby with its abbey and, of course, the North Sea. Intake Farm was a little way off the route, and I had found footpaths on the map to get me there, but they were not easy to follow as they were overgrown in places though they were at least waymarked. I arrived at 6.30 in time for the meal at seven. There were other Coast to Coast walkers in: the young chap Alec who I had met on my way to Osmotherley and an Australian couple who had been taking an easier schedule with rest days.

We all enjoyed a home cooked dinner with dessert and coffee and there was a lot of conversation about various aspects of the walk until we decided to call it a day and retire to our rooms. With various extra bits of distance added by my poor route finding I had done sixty miles in three days, which was not a good idea because of the constant need to press on which was quite a strain on the feet. It would have been better to add another day and split the walking differently, but I had been more or less following my walk of 1992 without stopping to consider whether the schedule could have been improved. Also, the change from Grosmont to Littlebeck for accommodation added about 3 miles to today's walk though it reduced tomorrow's walk by a slightly lesser amount.


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Day 14 - Monday 9th July 2018 - Littlebeck to Robin Hood's Bay and Boggle Hole - 12.4 miles, 1620ft ascent

Accommodation - YHA Boggle Hole

I had a fitful night's sleep as is usually the case with a lot of aching from the soles of my feet, which was not surprising considering how much walking I had been doing. However, by the morning this had largely gone away, and they were feeling much better. As I looked at the window in the early hours, I saw a strange phenomenon. There were droplets on the window pane and the ground outside was wet. Looking at the weather forecast it gave 10% chance of rain for most of the day with 50% chance around midday as well as a considerable drop in the temperature. The temperature drop would certainly be a great relief for walking but the the cloud and rain would not be good for the scenery, though it would finally break the seemingly endless heat wave. In many ways this is not surprising on the east coast, as the weather often comes in from the cool North Sea even when the rest of the country is fine and hot.

I had breakfast with Alec and the Australian couple. Alec was one of the few walkers I had seen carrying a heavy pack with all his camping gear, making it heavier than mine, whereas nearly everyone else was using baggage transfer services. However, it had reassured me that at the age of 73, I was still capable of doing what I did 26 years ago with the added difficulty of being in one of biggest heatwaves on record. It was very hot at times in 1992 but only for short periods. True, I had taken slightly longer by splitting the first day into two parts, but this also added a few extra miles. I also made a few less detours to nearby mountain tops, but these were generally not too far off route and without too much extra ascent. However, this was compensated for by my extra asecent of Helm Crag to search for my lost GPS.

The breakfast was all very good and there was a lot of lively conversation. With not so far to walk today we were not in a great hurry to get started and it was 9.20 before we all set off together down the farm road to re-join the route about half a mile from the farm by the tiny Methodist Chapel in Littlebeck. We had been offered a lift down there but we all declined the offer. Obviously some people are reluctant to walk even a small bit that isn't on the route but none of us were in that category, and on occasion I have walked as much as 6 miles off-route to find accommodation. It made a great change to be walking in cool conditions but the disadvantage was that everything looked rather drab. The rain had stopped but there was mist and drizzle in the air, which our hostess described as mizzle.

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Me, Alec and Australian couple at breakfast
Me, Alec and Australian couple at breakfast
Methodist Chapel at Littlebeck
Methodist Chapel at Littlebeck
The Hermitage Shelter carved out of Rock in 1790
The Hermitage Shelter carved out of Rock in 1790

The route ascends alongside two becks, Little Beck and May Beck through woodland, passing a shelter called the Hermitage which is cut out of a huge sandstone boulder and dated 1790, then Falling Foss, a waterfall with the nearby Midge Hall and Falling Foss Tea Garden selling teas and snacks. We stopped there to have a rest and I ordered something to take for my lunch whilst the others went ahead. It isn't always ideal walking in a group, as people want to go at different paces and if someone wants to stop for a rest, others tend to do the same in order to stay together. I find it good to have some company from time to time but prefer to go at my own pace and keep meeting up with others along the way.

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Falling Foss Waterfall on Little Beck
Falling Foss Waterfall on Little Beck
Bridge over May Beck
Bridge over May Beck/td>
Path alongside May Beck
Path alongside May Beck

A little further on, May Beck joins Little Beck and it is May Beck that the route then follows, still through woodland until reaching a car park where the route follows the minor access road, doubling back up the open hillside heading north. It then follows a lot of open moorland which, in a mist and fine drizzle, was not very inspiring, but it was at least cool to such an extent that the Australians up ahead had stopped to put on their jackets. Despite it being cooler and not very difficult going I was feeling rather weary, probably because the long walks of the last few days were catching up on me, so I dropped behind the others and went at my own pace (the Australians had only small packs as they were using the baggage transfer service).

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High Hawsker Village
High Hawsker Village
NW along Cliffs from Maw Wyke Hole
NE along Cliffs from Maw Wyke Hole
Towards the headland at Homerell Hole
Towards the headland at Homerell Hole

After some miles over the moors I found a sheltered place to stop for my lunch and found that there was enough drizzle to be making me wet, so I had to dig out my waterproof jacket for the first time on the walk. It was not long before it started to dry up a bit, but I kept my jacket on just in case it rained again. However, it started to make me too warm so I then took it off. There was a village green in High Hawsker where I had another rest before setting off again towards the coast at Maw Wyke Hole past a holiday village. The coast path goes around a headland before coming back round to Robin Hood's Bay. This is one of the odd things about the Coast to Coast walk in that it sets off west round a headland before going east and does the opposite at the end of the walk by rounding the headland before heading west to the finish. There is about three miles of coastal path with a number of viewpoints overlooking the cliffs where waves were breaking over the rocks below. For the first half, the coast runs roughly southeast towards Homerell Hole, then rounds the easternmost headland at Castle Chamber before swinging round to the southwest.

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Headland near Castle Chamber
Headland near Castle Chamber
Looking back North Eest
Looking back North Eest
Robin Hood's Bay
Robin Hood's Bay

Eventually, the very picturesque sight of Robin Hood's Bay came into view and a steep road through the village led me down to the sea. Some people I had met earlier offered to take my photo dipping my boots in the sea as Wainwright says you should. I was then reminded that you are supposed to carry a pebble from the start and cast it into the sea at the finish. I had forgotten to do this so I said I would just have to nip back to St Bees and get one! Whilst I was phoning home, one of the walkers took a candid photo of me, which was much nicer than the posed photos with feet in the sea. She e-mailed it to me with a caption of 'Happy Man'. I then went into the nearby pub where the Australians were just entering their names into the book of those who had completed the walk. I added my name and joined them for a pint. Of the beers on offer the only one I could possibly choose was the Wainwright bitter.

Phoning Home at End of Way Phoning Home
from
Robin Hood's Bay

After a good chat we parted company, with me heading along the beach to Boggle Hole Youth Hostel, which is possible at low tide, whilst they made for their B&B. The young chap Alec had gone to meet friends before I got there.

It was bedlam in Boggle Hole Youth Hostel when I arrived with large parties of schoolchildren everywhere. However, I was in a new annexe up the hillside where it was much more peaceful and there were parts of the hostel where people could sit away from the school parties, so I was able to have a pleasant relaxing meal and a few drinks.


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Day 15 - Tuesday 10th July 2018 - Boggle Hole to Robin Hood's Bay and Return Back Home - 1 mile, 310ft ascent

After a good breakfast I got off to an early start at 8.20, setting off along the coast path over the cliffs to Robin Hood's Bay as the tide was a bit too high to risk the beach route. I walked quickly along, as I was hoping to catch an earlier bus to Scarborough in case there were any hold-ups that might make me miss my train. Making my way up through the village, I found the bus stop and sat on the wall waiting for the bus to arrive. I had made it just in time for the 8.57 bus, but I waited and waited and nothing came. The next bus was at 9.27 and would still be in time for my train and I could only assume that the earlier one had got there just before I did but had carried on without waiting until the appointed time.

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Boggle Hole Youth Hostel from Annexe
Boggle Hole Youth Hostel from Annexe
Towards Robin Hood's Bay from Coastal Path
Towards Robin Hood's Bay from Coastal Path
Robin Hood's Bay showing Finish by Sea
Robin Hood's Bay showing Finish by Sea

Whilst I was waiting, I saw the elderly ladies I had first met on Nine Standards Rigg. They were awaiting a bus going the other way to Whitby to catch their connection down south from there - I didn't think at the time, but they may have gone that way so as to catch the North York Moors Railway from Whitby to Pickering, which would make a fine end to the walk. I had wondered about their ages, as I discovered that they had kept a very difficult schedule including one day with a 25-mile walk, so I ventured to ask the question but didn't get an answer, either because it wasn't heard properly or was conveniently ignored. Most old people are proud of their age, especially if they are capable of doing more than many younger ones can do. However, there was also an era when polite people would never ask a lady's age, so I left the question alone. One of them certainly looked like she was in her 80s, though the other looked somewhat younger.

The bus made good progress most of the way, but I think a number of passengers should have been on the earlier one as I heard complaints from those who were going to be late for hospital appointments. Apparently, the bus services were not very reliable. The last few miles into town were rather slow because of the busy traffic but I reached the railway station in time to catch my train to York, though I was somewhat confused as there was an earlier train going to Manchester whereas I was booked to go to Manchester via a change at York. I queried this and found the earlier train, though going to Manchester, didn't stop at the station I needed, so my booking was correct.

At York, I found that my train to Manchester was running 13 minutes late, but it didn't worry me too much as I had an open ticket from Manchester to Rhyl. It appears that a vehicle had hit a railway bridge in Middlesbrough and the train had to wait for the bridge to be inspected before it could continue. The delay was affecting some Manchester passengers who would have to change trains but fortunately this didn't affect me as it was going as far as Oxford Road which was where I needed to change anyway.

At last I was on the Holyhead train on the last leg of my journey to Rhyl, expecting to arrive at 3.30. An announcement came saying that passengers to Holyhead would have to get off at Llandudno Junction as there was a terrible smell from near the toilets. I wondered if it could have been from the pile of sweaty clothes in my rucksack, which was in the nearby luggage rack, but it turned out to be just a blocked toilet. I don't often travel by rail; in fact, it is generally only when I am starting or finishing a long-distance walk and not always on those either as I sometimes get there by car, either by getting a lift or by driving there myself if it is a circular walk. Sometimes the railways run very smoothly but my experiences this time just confirmed what most regular rail users are always complaining about: unreliable services. They also complain about overcrowding and high prices, but this wasn't the case for me as I was travelling at off-peak times and had booked well in advance to take advantage of lower prices on some parts of the journey.

Finally, I reached Rhyl to be greeted by my younger daughter and my 12-month old granddaughter to take me and my dirty washing, both of which should have been deemed an environmental health hazard, back home. A couple of days later I had the news that I was now a great grandfather as my adopted granddaughter had a baby boy. It makes you feel old being a grandfather but being a great grandfather takes it a stage further to being positively ancient. However, I don't let this worry me so long as I can keep on doing the things I could do when I was a lot younger.



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Afterthoughts

It had been both a very magnificent walk because of the amazing weather for most of the way, but also a very difficult walk because of the heat and the amount of water needed most days. On the last day which was cool, I only drank half a litre of water whereas I would have needed about three litres for the same distance on one of the hottest days. I still have reservations about the direction of the walk from west to east and think that the opposite way is better provided that the weather is not too bad. In predominantly wet and windy weather blowing from the west there are some advantages in not walking into the wind but in a reasonable summer period this is not such a big factor.

It strikes me that now, since Wainwright's death, there is nobody who can claim to be able to define what is the 'official' route, so I am not quite sure how this is arrived at. Presumably, each new guidebook or edition of a guidebook has to look at the latest situation on the ground, such as footpath diversions and SSSI sites where walkers in large numbers are either banned or discouraged. There are also new routes that are devised as walks in their own right but happen to meet or cross the route in places and these may prove to be more attractive alternatives. This inevitably means that several different alternatives can be taken, and it is just a matter of personal choice, or more likely the choice of guidebook, that determines which one to take. In my case, I was mainly trying to follow my 1992 route and did so in preference to following any of the newer routes that I had discovered recently. I also took the option of going back even earlier than my early Wainwright guide to what he initially intended over Orton Scar before hitting a right-of-way issue that no longer exists. I feel that the diverted route was not very much to his liking but forced upon him in the circumstances. However, I can also see that it may cause damage to a fragile area if hordes of people were to go his original way instead of the newer routes. The initial diversion was nearly all on minor roads, but more recent changes use more footpaths, which do improve the situation, though it is not such an attractive option unless you are seeking accommodation or refreshment in Orton.

My only real regret about this walk was that I didn't bring a tool box with me and a few spares. Wherever I have been there have been lots of maintenance jobs that have needed doing; dripping taps, loose door handles and catches etc. Without any tools the only thing I was able to fix was the shower drain in Keld Bunkbarn which was clogged up with hair. It is one of the things that I find in places offering budget accommodation (and some more expensive places as well) that things are not very well maintained. Even small jobs can cost a lot of money when they involve calling out a tradesman, so replacing a 20-pence tap washer can easily cost 50 if you do not do it yourself. Fortunately, I can do most jobs myself, so I am not faced with this problem.


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