Travel North - 37: Walk on the Wild Side, Test Your Mettle Across the High Moors to the Coast
After a night in a snug bed and a filling Yorkshire Breakfast, take the challenge of the Lyke Wake Walk (at least as far as the Lion Inn at Blakey)
East or west, Ravenscar's best (after a hard hike across the Moors)! First things first though... Let's get started
Some have run it - both ways. Some have done it by night (not such a good idea unless you've got eyes like an owl), some have walked all the way and felt every stone under their feet, every mile along the way, every ascent and descent.
Make sure you're well prepared, make sure you take it at your own pace, don't force it. It might take longer, but you'll remember it better for that. Make sure you're well prepared: good boots, weatherproofs, thick socks, woollen shirts. Wear cord trousers not jeans - squalls, frosts, hot sunshine, downpours can all happen in one day on the Yorkshire Moors.as on all upland walks. I've witnessed it myself, getting caught by all four seasons within a couple of hours walking! That's why it's a challenge, not a walk in the park. Are you up to it? After all, it can take as much out of you as a marathon, and it's another fourteen miles longer.
Bill Cowley and the way ahead to walkers willing to take chances
The Lyke Wake Walk
A long, tough route across the central North Yorkshire Moors, it was started by local farmer Bill Cowley in 1955. He claimed it was possible to walk the 40 miles (64kms) across the moors from west to east across heather all the way, but for crossing a few roads. The gauntlet was thrown down for walkers that was taken up with great gusto by all and sundry.
The challenge is in doing the route from Scarth Wood Moor above Osmotherley (near the A19) to Ravenscar (or Peak) on the North Sea coast, on the southern fringe of Robin Hood's Bay. With predominant winds from the west - went the theory - the walk would be easier starting at Osmotherley, and the lie of the heather was easier for those walking eastward. However, contrary to walk founder farmer Bill Cowley's enthusiasm for crossing the heather, using the footpaths preserves the now threatened heather species - including the 'ling'.
For those not 'in the know', the walk takes its name from the Lyke Wake Dirge (see my Hub page 'West to East Over the Moors'), North Yorkshire's oldest dialect verse. The 'dirge', such as it was, tells of the soul's passage into and through the afterlife - similar to the more comic West Yorkshire 'anthem' "On Ilkley Moor" - bar t' 'at (without the hat). The walk follows routes taken by coffin-bearers between churches. Conditions met on the walk can be grim and the final part of the walk, downhill off the moors to Ravenscar is best described as 'elating'.
The early years saw difficulties facing walkers with no worn track to follow, but in recent years alternative routes have been mooted to preserve moorland tracks - reduced in rainy weather to boggy channels. I followed part of the way many years ago between the Egton-Rosedale Abbey road and the Egton-Pickering road. I was forced to walk along a turf 'ledge' between black standing water (peat, who knows how deep!) on my right and ankle-deep mud on my left! After a while there were 'duck-boards', wooden slat walkways like at Ypres in WWI. That led on to stone infill on the track. Problem was many of the stones were inset end up - painful after a while in rubber-soled walking boots.
Bill Cowley died on August 14th, 1994 and the old Lyke Wake Club was wound up in October 2005, the 50th anniversary of the walk. A new club was founded 8h May, 2011, set up to preserve the traditions set by Bill, and to take over the old club's functions of recorded crossings, holding 'wakes' and communicating with local authorities. The new Lyke Wake Club can be contacted through www.lykewake.org/ and follows the traditions set by Bill back in the mid-1950s.
The Lyke Wake Walk Guide Book gives advice on what to wear, but it is generally accepted that aside from warm weather, jeans are not recommended, nor are shorts or mini-skirts/dresses. The weather changes quickly at times and you could be left cold and miserable - prone to hypothermia. Good walking boots, trousers and weatherproof wear are not expensive and worth the investment over the years.
There is no official route. Provided you take the start at Scarth Wood Moor as your datum point, keeping as much as possible to the higher ground, you should take any safe option close to the original. There are no medals for getting lost or soaked in mud. There is a recognised route, described in the guide book, and there should be someone in the know about your approximate whereabouts, and where you should be at a given time (experience improves). In some locations you will not have a signal on your mobile/cellphone. The message comes up on your screen as "Emergency calls only". If your call is an emergency your call will be cleared.
From the starting stone at the large car park take the road north, crossing the cattle grid after less than a mile and then the Cleveland Way that started in Helmsley. It's a well-signposted route that takes you 11 miles (18kms) on to Blowath (marked on the Ordnance Survey Map OL26 as 'Bloworth', Blowath is from the Norse 'Blaa Vatn' [pron. 'Blow Vatten')) Crossing. From here the Cleveland Way heads north and the Lyke Wake Walk follows the old trackbed of the Rosedale Railway eastward about 4.5 miles (7kms). You will see the Lion Inn at Blakey before coming to the point where the Rosedale Railway divided after a road-over bridge. Southward the railway followed the 'horseshoe' dale to Rosedale West Mine above Rosedale Abbey village. North and then eastward the line went to Rosedale East Mines.
Something I must warn you about - you might not read about it in guide books - is the 'roak'. 'What',' you ask, 'is that?' The roak (a derivarion of a Norse word meaning 'smoke') is a reasonably fast-travelling mist that begins on the coast and moves inland over the moorland. When it comes across you don't try to walk on, like I did once, otherwise you miss landmarks you need to 'navigate' by, like I did once and finished up almost where I started from near Commondale on a different route. Visibility isn't very good, so stay put. It won't last long and you'll be on your way again within ten minutes. In some places it's downright foolish to carry on, so be warned! These moors can be dangerous if tackled badly equipped or with the wrong mind-set. There's nothing wrong with staying put, and might save you frustration in the long run, if not your neck!
Some say the route of the Lyke Wake Walk passes a few hundred yards/metres north of the Lion Inn, the majority agreeing that the route passes close to the inn. Take the weight off your feet and enter (leaving your muddy boots on the floor of the porch).
The Lion Inn
This 16th Century freehouse is sited on the highest point of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park at 1,325 feet above sea level. Open fires burn the day-long in the old ings (fireplaces), and the original low-beamed ceilings add to the cosiness of the inn. The bar offers an extensive menu which includes vegetarian dishes and children's dishes. Weddings, Christmas parties and conferences are catered for and the inn offers three-course family Sunday lunches with lower prices for children's menus.
The inn is fully residential with nine rooms to let, each with its own individual character and there is a honeymoon suite with four-poster bed. Campers are also catered for, breakfast provided if needed and dogs are allowed in rooms by request.
The Lion Inn can be found in both the Good Pub Guide and Good Food Guide
The Lion Inn, Blakey, Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire YO62 7LQ, ph: (Lastingham) 01751 417420; fax: 01751 417717; www.lionblakey.co.uk/
Mystery of the Lion Inn
On Blakey Rigg (Ridge to non-tykes) between Rosedale and Farndale stands the Lion Inn. There are few such remote inns - another being Tan Hill Inn above Swaledale, which is much higher -
but there is evidence around Blakey that hints at the site being known to wayfarers since man set foot around these parts in Neolithic times. A Neolithic burial mound known as Cockpit Howe lies just behind the inn.
During the reign of Edward III a house and ten acres on Farndale Moor were given to the Crouched - or Crutched - Friars. It is thought these monks founded the inn, being associated with hostelry keeping, around 1553-1558 to ease their poverty. Around the mid-18th Century farmers from Commondale, Danby and Fryup (there is such a hamlet) to the north established a market beside the inn to sell surplus corn to horse breeders from the Ryedale district.
The first known landlord was John Portus, who with his offspring kept the inn for several generations. John May and James Maw kept the inn during early Victorian days. Trade flourished with the coming of the iron mines, when first the navvies lived here whilst building the Rosedale Mineral Railway (later taken over by the North Eastern). The mines began operating in the mid-19th Century and the Lion Inn drew miners and farmers alike, as well as those who dwelt at the small community around Blakey Junction a short way to the south. The Maws enlarged the inn, then migrated across the Atlantic leaving Mrs Potts to run the inn from 1870 until marrying a mining engineer who worked at the nearby Sherrif's Pit.
Until they began to decline around the turn of the 20th Century, the mines brought increased prosperity to the inn. Escalating costs and cheaper imports rendered Rosedale's quality magnetic ironstone uncompetitive and times were lean. The last wagons of calcine dust (by-product of drying the ore prior to movement to Teesside's chemical works) rumbled past Blakey to Ingleby Incline in the early 1920s and the track was lifted. Everyone went their own way, some to America's (North and South) and Australia's mining industries.
With the improvement of roads and communications, the development of the motor car and paid holidays the Lion Inn saw its fortunes revived. Summer traffic is unbelievable, believe me!
Ancient waymarkers 'Fat Betty' and 'Big Ralph' are crosses erected for moorland wayfarers to navigate by at all times of the year, bearing witness to continued use since ancient mankind's first crossings of the - then thickly forested - uplands. Much of the earliest history of the Lion Inn still remains a mystery, however.
Onward to the eastern moors near Fylingdales: from Blakey, follow the road north around the head of the dale. Ahead of you is 'big Ralph', a tall wayside cross that points the way north-west to Westerdale and straight on for Castleton. Take the right fork heading downhill for Rosedale Abbey. On your left above the sheep-cropped vegetation by the roadside you will see 'Fat Betty', a wayside 'cross' daubed white. Pay her a visit by all means, but if you do there are some points of etiquette to follow. You will see around the top of the base a selection of wrapped (and sometimes unwrapped) delicacies, sweets perhaps, apples possibly, snacks likely. If you see something that takes your fancy make a swap for something you are carrying in your pocket or backpack - or leave coins. It's a walkers' tradition, you understand.
Carry on eastward on this narrow road and look for the Fryup turnoff. Past this is a less well defined track to Wheeldale that roughly follows the boundary stones (and District Council Boundary) to the 'Blue Man i'th Moss', a tall (probabably Neolithic) set into the surface of the moor. Follow the watershed to the Wheeldale road, taking your time to navigate - the Guide will help you get your bearings. Near the eastern side of the road are the remains of a Roman road, with an information board to learn of the road's history. You are asked not to walk on it, to help preserve it. Who knows, there are some who - seeing you walking on it - will get carried away and others seeing them will do the same. Pretty soon what's left of the road will be worn away.
You will have gone 10.5 miles (17kms). The 3.5 miles (6kms) from the Wheeldale road to the A169 at Ellerbeck - not to confuse you, there is also an Ellerbeck between Northallerton and Osmotherley, close to the A19 dual carriageway - is popular with weekend walkers and therefore better marked. Bypass the historic Roman road and descend to the stepping stones over Wheeldale Beck. I warn you, if you don't fancy crossing by the stepping stones the water in the beck is freezing cold (done that in bare feet and got numbed in seconds, got the T-shirt)! Pass the Wheeldale Lodge hostelry and look to the east towards Fylingdales Early Warning Station past Goathland. It's not as obvious as it was, now looking more like a small sandcastle, compared to the three 'golfballs', the radomes built in the early Sixties.
Cross the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) near Moorgates bridge. Care should be taken between Easter and the schools Autumn Half Term Holiday (end October) when the NYMR operates a frequent passenger service. Santa Specials are run in the run-up to Christmas as well as loco movements between Grosmont and Pickering. Watch out for signals 'coming off' in the distance (north towards Goathland or south towards Newtondale), and listen out for either diesels or steam engines. From the railway you cross Ministry of Defence (MoD) land up to the A169. Pass the roadside car park and take a left turn along the main road. Leave the road by a military track before the bridge. climb gradually on wide track a short way to pass through a wooden gate (SE859 983) and carry on with the wire fence on your right The track bears wide right (to.Point SE862 985) where the grassed-over main track takes a left turn and drops down to a beck.
Go on a path that begins grassy and shortly afterward pass a small wooden hut. At SE866 934 the ground gets boggy again. In dry weather carry on and cross the beck where a tributary enters. In wet weather follow the beck as far to the right as necessary to cross it. At a post keep on ahead to detour the beck. Bearing right follow the path which becomes narrow soon after where it passes between banks of heather. There is a line of white stakes to the right that you should ignore, following instead along the path. Keep to the left-most path that clumbs gently and becomes gradually stonier. At SE88076 98616 there is a grassy path and a small beck or gill. Cross this to the mound of Lilla Cross that you can see on the horizon ahead.
Down to the Sea - Another military track merges with the path you are on by a cairn. Turn left and at SE88881 98679 cross the military track on a gradually graded path through damp ground and pass a pair of wooden posts. Where the path forks take either to pass by Lilla Cross. There is a plaque on its northern side. To the north-east you see the North Sea, and the radio mast at Ravenscar.
There are about 2 miles (3.5kms) to Lilla Cross and four miles (6kms) to the A171 near Jugger Howe. This part of the moorland from Lilla Cross to your destination is managed by the Hawk and Owl Trust. Their website, www.hawkandowl.org/ holds a wealth of information on the area. The North York Moors National Park authority, www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/ has completed a major restoration affecting the Lyke Wake Walk at Jugger Howe. Badly worn sections just north of the A171 Scarborough road and down either side of the dale of Jugger Howe Beck have been provided with a pitched stone path. Added drainage work and vegetation management has also been undertaken.
You will need all your reserves of energy to make the last mile and a half (2.5kms) to the trig point by the radio mast. It can be done, and many live to tell the tale! The original tradition took you the extra mile to the bar of the Raven Hall Hotel, the total distance walked being 40 miles. Breathe in the strong, salty sea air, take in the sights - the view north-west to Bay town in the north-west corner of Robin Hood's Bay featured on many railway travel posters. A little further south of Bay Town is Fyling Hall. If you ever saw the film 'THE MADNESS OF KING GEORGE' with Nigel Hawthorn in the title role, this is where the real 'Farmer George' spent some months recuperating from his bouts, talking to the trees (so that's where Charlie gets it from). South-eastward from here is Hayburn Wyke and Staintondale, through which the trackbed of the Whitby-scarborough railway - now a cinder-based foot and cycle path - passes on its way to Scarborough via Cloughton and Scalby. I followed this path from Hawsker near Whitby before Larpool viaduct was made safe for walkers and cyclists to follow the trackbed from Prospect Hill, where the Whitby & Scarborough Railway met the Whitby, Redcar & Middlesbrough Union Railway end-on in 1888 and Whitby Westcliff became a through station for Scarborough trains until May 3rd, 1958.
Queen Catherine Hotel, 7 West End, Osmotherley, DL6 3AG, 01609 883209
Three Tuns Inn, 9 South End, Osmotherley, DL6 3BN, 01609 883301,
Golden Lion, 6 West End, Osmotherley, DL6 3AA, 01609 883526, www.goldenlionosmotherley.co.uk/
Lion Inn, Blakey, Kirkbymoorside, YO62 7LQ, 01751 417320, www.lionblakey.co.uk/
Raven Hall Hotel, Raven Hall road, Ravenscar, Scarborough, YO13 0ET, 01723 870353, www.ravenhall.co.uk/
From York - A64 to Scarborough, A171 Scarborough-Whitby, turn off right at the small roundabout for Staintondale at Cloughton where the A171 climbs to the left. Drive on past Staintondale, almost to the end of the road and turn right where Ravenscar's railway halt used to be for the Raven Hall Hotel.
From York - A19 to Northallerton turn-off, turn right under the A19 for Osmotherley on a minor road heading east.
From York - A19 to Thirsk, turn right in Thirsk town centre at a roundabout for the A170 to Helmsley up Sutton Bank (warning: unsuitable for caravans, take the diversion via Kilburn and Osmotherley and join the B1363 for the A170 past Sproxton); on to Kirkbymoorside and take the road through Hutton-le-Hole to Castleton for the Lion Inn on Blakey Rigg.
Abbotts Bus Service 89 hourly Northallerton-Osmotherley-Stokesley;
Moorsbus M10, M16 Saltburn-Osmotherley Summer Sundays only, once daily;
Express coaches to Northallerton
York/Darlington-Northallerton: enquire at main stations or online through Virgin East Coast
Lion Inn at Blakey Rigg, one-time meeting point of road and rail - having stayed several times, I'd recommend a few nights here.
Crossing Point - take great care, sometimes you can't hear the engines when they coast downhill from the crest of the line near Moorgates.
The North Yorkshire Moors National Park, relief map
On from the Lion Inn...
Did you enjoy following this walk?
(This is just the online version, get your walking boots on and enjoy the real thing)
© 2012 Alan R Lancaster