Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Lyke Wake Walk, Jan 2012

40 miles across the rugged terrain of the North York Moors. Up hills, down into deep valley, across moorland, through fields, peat bog, over heather and along the road. What a walk!

the Lyke Wake stone marking the start

Together with Claire and out mate Dave we decided a few months ago to try the Lyke Wake Walk challenge this January. We were supported by a couple of Claire's colleagues Julie and Mark to whom we were extremely grateful! Due to the unpredicatable nature of weather at the time of year it was only a couple of days before the event that we gave it the final go-ahead and from then on we were all excited and apprehensive about the walk ahead.

Section One: Osmotherley to the Lion Inn
This section covers almost the first twenty miles of the walk. We headed off from the starting point at the Lyke Wake Stone outside Osmotherley at around 10.15pm. It was freezing cold but we soon warmed up once we had set off. After following the road for a short while we soon branched off into woodland and onto the Cleveland Way.

moon shining through the trees

This was a really pleasant nighttime walk, and we were soon in the open field. The head torches soon revealed two glowing points in the distance and on closer inspection they were sheep eyes! After looking a while longer, they were joined by another pair, then another before we realised we were being observed by a big flock of sheep!

no it's not sheep, it's my walking colleagues

We then headed up the long ascent onto Carlton Moor. From here we had a massive view over Middlesbrough to our north, which accompanied us for a while. Our first stop was at the OS trig point on Carlton Moor, with a steep drop down before us. After stopping for a short while though we soon got much colder and had to press on.

cairn on Carlton Bank

We came back down the Moor to reach the Lord Stones Cafe, and this rock with a plaque describing the Samaritan's Way.

We carried on along the Cleveland Way, choosing to walk in the woodland around the next fell tops. We rejoined to main path after the Broughton Plantation, once again climbing steeply onto the moorland that led to the highest point on the walk at Round Hill. We were occupied for the next couple of miles keeping an eye out for the tiny access path on our right that would lead us onto the Railway Path. This is a five mile section along a disused railway track that was tough going - it twisted and turned and gave the impression we weren't really making progress. Once again those ghostly sheep eyes appeared on the sides of the path! After what seemed like an eternity we saw the support team's torchlight in the distance and after a final tough section we made it to the Lion Inn, where we stopped for a welcome hot drink and I applied a blister plaster.

Section Two:  The Lion Inn to Hamer

looking back at the moon and a distant Lion Inn

This section was approximately six miles long but felt much longer (a bit of a theme for the walk from here onwards). It also gave us a spectacular sunrise. We took the road for a couple of miles turning towards Rosedale, turning off the road just after the signpost for "Fryup" (a hamlet in the NY Moors before you ask!) and onto the infamous peat bogs. Here our Winter gamble well and truly paid off - the harsh cold meant that the bogs were all frozen over and none of us went in any deeper than the ankle!

This wasn't a place of complacency though, Claire managed to get one of her walking poles a metre deep in the bog! Our timing was perfect too, as the sun was just coming up so we were able to see where we were putting our feet.

The bogs went on and on until we reached the tumulus at Shunner Howe.

Shunner Howe

After stopping here for a couple of minutes we soon spotted our fabulous support team in the distance and so we had another chance for refreshments. Here we also decided to ditch our rucsacks, which seemed like a great idea, but by the end of the next section we were very thirsty!

Section Three: Hamer to Fylingdales
The Lyke Wake Walk guidebook suggested that this 8.5 mile long section often feels longer due to the rough terrain, well we weren't going to argue with that assessment! This started off with a boggy section, in fact we had to make large detours away from the path at times.

Blue Man I' Th' Moss

The path itself was waymarked by a number of standing stones including the impressive sounding Blue Man I' Th' Moss, which wasn't quite as spectacular as the name implied, although it did help keep us on track.

road crossing just after the Wheeldale Plantation

We then headed gradually downhill alongside the Wheeldale plantation, where the boggy path was replaced by a path strewn with rocks. Eventually we came to more lush ground, crossing a Roman road before reaching the very pretty but steep ravine at Wheeldale Beck.

stepping stones across Wheeldale Beck

If we had more time on our hands the beck and stepping stones would be a great place for a long break and a picnic, but to stop here would have meant seizing up completely so we pushed on.

the impressive cairn of Simon Howe

As always with these walks what goes down must come up and so we had a steep climb out of the ravine before climbing gradually to the tumulus at Simon Howe.

Fylingdales Early Warning System

This was a great viewpoint where we could see the still very distant Flyingdales which was our next checkpoint. Our descent brought us across the North York Moors railway but no trains for us.

Section Four: Fylingdales to the A171
We only stopped for a few minutes here for a drink and a sandwich, not wanting to lose our stride or let our legs sieze up. By this point there were only seven miles to go but it felt like twice that. Due to the military area the section around Flyingdales involves a confusing detour, where paths disappear only to reappear on the other side of Eller Beck at random places involving beck jumping, map reading, using the compass and generally trying to find a good way through heather and water.

Lilla Cross

Eventually we could see Lilla Cross on the horizon and we were back on track. Lilla Cross is a really impressive viewing point, and from here we could finally see the radio mast at Ravenscar - which was just a tiny spot in the distance! The next couple of miles took us back down heading eastwards, although the path was good I was starting to get really tired and the blisters were getting on top of me.

too tired to hold the camera straight

Tougher things were yet to come, as we reached the top of Jugger Howe. This is a lovely ravine that is scenic, picturesque, and at this point in the walk absolutely the last thing you want to see! I'd love to come back here and appreciate the beauty of the place!

me climbing Jugger Howe

It was a hard trek down and a slog back up, before the final walk of this section to take us to the A171 Whitby Road

Section Five: the A171 to Ravenscar Radio Mast
At this point light was starting to fade and so with around two miles left to go we didn't stop, choosing to head straight off for the finish. I really was on my last legs at this point, and didn't enjoy the section to be honest. As the sun went down it got very cold, and I had no strength left and blisters to cope with. The couple of miles felt much longer and just keeping going involved a lot of mental strength. Finally the mast loomed up just ahead of us and with it our support team appeared, we had made it!! The failing light and falling temperatures meant that we quickly touched the stone, then headed for the car without time for photos. 19 hours after heading off, we had completed a Winter crossing of the Lyke Wake Walk.

We spent the night at the lovely White Horse Farm Inn, in Rosedale, not far from the middle of the walk. The hotel was an absolute godsend and we had a fantastic evening there recounting tales of the walk we had just done. Of course the Lyke Wake Walk is completed by hundreds if not thousands of people each year, nevertheless we all had a real sense of achievement on completion and it is a little moment to be proud of. That evening sat in the hotel I was saying "never again!", but the next morning at breakfast we were already discussing our next attempt at the walk - it just gets under your skin!

tired but happy!

For further information: 
The New Lyke Wake Walk Club - This club website is well worth vising. Their stated objectives:
  • promoting interest in the North Yorkshire Moors, their history and folklore.
  • assisting in safeguarding the moorland environment.
  • encouraging the sports of long-distance walking and running.
  • providing advice and fellowship for those taking part.


  1. Already done the walk 3 times and failed twice both times at Blakey Ridge due to adverse weather conditions.In the process of planning my next crossing.Will avoid the BOG this time and hopefully get to Hamer via northdale rig.This walk is a monster but something about it makes you want more.Sucker for punishment but now OAP got to keep going while you can.

  2. Hamer via Northdale Rig sounds like an interesting route. I guess we were really lucky to be crossing over frozen bog. We had perfect weather conditions - any colder and we would have been too cold, any warmer and the bogs would have been all juicy and evil...!