Sunday, 6 September 2015

Photo Essay: Day Fourteen of the Coast to Coast Walk (the final stage)

"If you are walking to seek, ye shall find."
- Sommeil Liberosensa

Day Fourteen: from Glaisdale to Robin Hood's Bay (19.5 miles/31 km)

Summary of Route: Well, here we are — the fourteenth and final stage of the Coast to Coast Walk. It's not all easy-going. And it's quite a long stretch. But you get distracted from that reality by several novel features today — a stroll through a lovely woodlot (Little Beck Wood), and a walk along the coast, for example — and the thought that soon it will all be over. 

In one field, just outside Glaisdale, we came upon a field with about three dozen pheasants!

The landscape continues to feature moorland and roadways. And ends — bookend-style — with sea cliffs and a climb down to the beach at Robin Hood's Bay.

This stage starts nicely with a gradual hike downhill from Glaisdale into the picturesque hamlet of Egton Bridge, one of the most attractive spots on the entire Walk.

A home in a former Post Office -- it still has the post box in the wall

Two miles further east is the equally interesting hamlet of Grosmont — less picturesque, in a traditional sense — but notable for its associations with steam trains (the North York Moors Railway).

An old-fashioned train station in Grosmont

But now there is the final very steep climb — about 700 feet (230 m) — up to Sleights Moor. On the way up you can glimpse a view of Whitby Abbey to the north. At the top you pass the five High Bride Stones, the remnants of a Bronze-Age stone circle. 

Village sign constructed out of bicycle parts

Then you descend gradually through more heather and across Sleights Moor, until you reach the small village of Littlebeck. Just south of the village you begin a long stroll through the lovely Little Beck Wood (not so little, actually — it's 65 acres). Half way through the woods you encounter Falling Foss, a 20-metre-high  waterfall. There's a tea garden next to it — should you fancy a cuppa.

Falling Foss

A "cream-tea" at Falling Foss

At the end of the woods, you turn sharply north along a road for a bit, and then strike out across the Sneaton Low Moor and the Graystone Hills. Continue north to Low Hawsker; and then east to High Hawsker. Soon enough you'll meet the Cleveland Way right on the coast, overlooking the North Sea.

Checking the route in Stedman's book and the Harvey map

From here you turn south-east and follow the sea cliffs into Robin Hood's Bay. Climb down to the small beach and dip a hiking boot into the North Sea. Hallelujah, you're done — 190 miles (304 km) across England on the Coast to Coast Walk, through the Lake District, over the Pennines, and across the North York Moors. Head for Wainwright's Bar in the Bay Hotel. Sign their visitors' book; and down a pint, or two, in celebration!

Well we made it! This was the fourteenth and final day of the Coast to Coast Walk. And it wasn't an easy end to the adventure: we hiked for about twenty miles today — the second longest stage in our journey.

A few more colours of heather on the North York Moors

The hiking today featured a little bit of everything we've faced so far: some walking through the woods on muddy paths (thanks to a couple of days of rain); a fair bit of road-walking on hard tarmac (not good for the feet); two steep ascents (especially the one out Grosmont); some walking across fields and meadows; and trails across the wind-blown, heather-clad moors of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.

Getting closer to Robin Hoods Bay -- it's now on the road signs!

This final stage also served as a bookend to the first day's hike: from St Bees, on the Irish Sea coast, we had hiked north — on that first day a fortnight ago — along the cliffs of South and North Head; today we approached our destination — the beach on Robin Hoods Bay — by hiking south along the dramatic cliff-top south of Whitby.

The cliff face north of Robin Hoods Bay

On most of this trip's stages we experienced those "are-we-there-yet" moments, when the physical and mental fatigue really kicks in during the final two hours. Today was no different. Despite the anticipation of finishing our fourteen-day trek, and the exhilaration of completing this ambitious adventure, this day's walk still ended with a tiring hike south along the wind-blown coastal path. Some of the vistas of the rocky coast were spectacular, but soon we couldn't help but wish that the shelter of Robin Hoods Day would come soon.

Quote of the Day:

"... how often do any of us walk 14 miles in a day, let alone continuously for two weeks?"
- Henry Stedman (explaining that the Coast to Coast Walk is tougher than some people think)

Finally, Robin Hoods Bay is visible from the cliffs north of the village

Eventually, it did. We marched down the streets of this attractive village towards the beach — the "official" terminus of the Coast to Coast Walk. The final stretch in the oldest part of the village was very steep going down — and I couldn't help thinking that we would soon have to climb back out on our way to our B&B.

The final step of the Coast to Coast Walk  -- a hiking boot each in the North Sea

And then we were at the beach. There were a couple of "obligatory" rituals I wanted to document with my camera. We each stuck one of our hiking boots into the Water of the North Sea — as we had at the very beginning of the Walk in St Bees. And then we took the pebble that we had selected from the strand in St Bees and tossed it ceremoniously into the North Sea. From west coast to east coast. Our journey was complete.

Michael tosses his pebble into the North Sea

... then Tony

... my turn

I looked for someone to take a photograph of the three of us on the beach. There was a threesome nearby. One of them agreed quite readily to do so — especially when I explained that we had just completed the 192-mile Coast to Coast Walk. He was very impressed, and we had a brief chat as he went about the business of documenting this final moment.

Michael, Clive and Tony (left-to-right) at journey's end
That done we walked off the beach and into "Wainwright's Bar" in the Bay Hotel. We trudged tiredly upstairs and ordered three pints of Wainwright Ale. Before taking our drinks outside, in order to relax for ten minutes in the fresh air, we signed the Visitors Book. We were tired, but triumphant.

The Wainwright Bar is in the Bay Hotel -- next to the beach at Robin Hoods Bay

And then it was time to head up the steep hill to The Villa — our B&B for the night in Robin Hoods Bay. My legs felt like they were going to seize up. It was as though they had decided, independently of my will and spirit, that one-foot-in-front-of the-other was finally over — walking was done for now and forever!

After a long, soothing bath at the B&B, the three of us walked down into the old part of Robin Hoods Bay again, to enjoy an excellent meal at the Smugglers Inn. There was much talk amongst us about the thoughts and feelings that filled our minds and hearts after this incredible fortnight walking across the north of England — truly one of those "once-in-a-lifetime" experiences.

Michael signs the Visitors Book

Cheers! We're done!

Thanks to my good friends Tony and Michael for their companionship and support throughout this challenging fortnight. We made a good team. And we achieved our goal with virtually no problems or difficulties — thanks to careful planning and the dogged pursuit of our goal.

"I finished the Pennine Way with relief, the Coast to Coast Walk with regret."
- Alfred Wainwright

Alfred Wainwright, who created the Coast to Coast Walk in 1972

This hike is dedicated to Bill and Barb Cannon.
(see the end of my blog post for Day One for details)

Henry Stedman

Resources: I am deeply indebted to Henry Stedman's Coast to Coast Path - Sixth Edition, published by Trailblazer Publications, for much of the detail in the route summaries; I also used A Coast to Coast Walk - Revised Edition (2003) by A. Wainwright, published by Frances Lincoln, London; the sectional maps come from Harvey Map XT40: Coast to Coast West (St. Bees to Keld) and  Harvey Map XT40: Coast to Coast East (Keld to Robin Hood's Bay); the B&B and hotel bookings, and the daily luggage-ferrying was done by Macs Adventure. The books and maps can be purchased via or 


Friday, 4 September 2015

Photo Essay: Day Thirteen of the Coast to Coast Walk

"Hiking is just walking where it's okay to pee."  
- Demetri Martin

Day Thirteen: from Gt. Broughton to Glaisdale (18.5 miles/30 km)

Summary of Route: The day begins with a two-mile climb out of Clay Bank Top, followed by about six miles of level hiking across moorland to Blakey Ridge. The level ground continues for the next three miles, and then it's a five-mile gradual descent down into the village of Glaisdale.

Walking in a cloud on top of Cleveland Way morland

The long hike down the Esk Valley into Glaisdale is one of the most beautiful sections of the Coast to Coast Walk. For charm, it certainly rivals the best that the Lake District has to offer.

A very wet day

At the beginning of this stage, you walk south for a couple of miles from Great Broughton, in order to re-join the Coast to Coast trail. Almost immediately you face a steep descent down to the Wain Stones — an outcropping of rock marked with Bronze-Age carvings. Then you pass Hasty Bank and make another steep descent — this time into the village of Clay Bank Top.

Grouse shooters' vehicle

Coming out of Clay Bank Top, you climb south-east for about two miles up to the Carr Ridge. This, thankfully, is the penultimate steep ascent of the Coast to coast walk; only one more left! Then you follow a flat trail east across the Urra Moor to Bloworth Crossing — which marks another intersection with the Cleveland Way. From here, the Cleveland Way veers north; you don't meet it again until you reach the seaside cliffs at Robin Hood's Bay.

Bloworth Crossing

From Bloworth Crossing the path now follows a disused railway track — that of the former Rosedale Ironstone Railway, employed by the iron mines near here during the 19th. century. About a mile down this track, you get a great view looking south across the Farndale Moor. Then you are on High Blakey Moor for another mile, before you leave the old railway track, to by-pass Blakey Ridge.

It's fairly level now beyond Blakey Ridge as you walk north, and then east, round the southern side of Great Fryup Dale to the eastern end of Glaisdale Moor. There's a mile of hiking along a road to the Glaisdale Rigg. Through here you can see various ancient standing Stones. And then you're in Glaisdale.

This penultimate stage of the Coast to Coast Walk began as yesterday's hike ended — with lots of wind and driving rain. And it also featured immediately a steep climb from the road up and over Carr Ridge.

Once we got to the high point, and began walking across the moorland, we spent a couple of hours in constant wind and drizzle. It was like yesterday — walking through cloud, which completely obscured any decent view of the surroundings. 

Marshals for the grouse shoot

In the late morning we encountered a couple of guys who were working as marshals for a grouse shooting party. They had a small pack of dogs around them — probably about to be used to grab the downed birds and bring them back to the "picker-uppers".

There were about a score of men waiting to go out on the moors with the young "beaters" — whose job is to scare up the grouse. It's tricky to shoot the birds, apparently, because they fly very low to the ground. As we walked off into the distance we could hear the loud reports of the shotguns behind us.

A Red Grouse

Today's stage included a lot of road and track walking. Quite easy hiking, really, because after the first steep ascent, the rest of the day's paths were mostly on level ground.

Red Grouse

Quote of the Day:
"I can see clearly now, the rain is gone."
- Michael (breaking into song as the rain disappeared
 and the hidden landscape emerged)

Sherpa carrier van

 We stopped for lunch at the Lion Inn — purported to be "the fourth highest pub in England". Outside the Inn was a minivan owned by the Sherpa company — this is the carrier company employed to carry our suitcases from one accommodation place to another over the past fortnight. Ironically, the driver's next stop was Glaisdale, where we would arrive in three hours. Our cases, ironically, were probably inside the van. The stop at the Lion was a chance (like yesterday) to dry out somewhat. A pot of tea and a sandwich certainly perks you up for the afternoon session. 

Lion Inn

When we got back on the trail, the weather had improved dramatically. We could now see clearly into the distance. After a very long stretch following a main road, we got off onto a track across moorland. For the last couple of hours we could see the valley of Glaisdale below us. We descended slowly into the Glaisdale village.

Hiking along the road

Tomorrow is our last day! Our final day of walking will still be inside the North York Moors National Park. We will be walking for about eight hours — arriving about 5:00 p.m., I reckon. I hope the weather is good.

Happy hikers - the rain has stopped

“Jumping from boulder to boulder and never falling, with a heavy pack, is easier than it sounds; you just can't fall when you get into the rhythm of the dance.”
- Jack Kerouac

This hike is dedicated to Bill and Barb Cannon.
(see the end of my blog post for Day One for details)

Coast to Coast Path (Sixth Edition - 2014) by Henry Stedman;
Coast to Coast: West - Harvey Map XT40