The Cleveland Way. Somewhere on the North York Moors to Kildale
Day 2. 23 miles
Sometimes, I will just never learn. On my previous Pennine Way blog I’d mentioned my uncanny ability to underestimate the difficulty of certain days and therefore manage to do too much, go too far and leave myself with a physical and mental battle to successfully complete a section. Today was undoubtedly one of those days. The day was 23 miles of walking with a good couple of those at least in the midst of seriously painful rear-chafing, several hundred feet of climbing, almost tripping over a sheep, getting my bag trapped under barbed wire, falling into a ditch and finishing in the pitch black of night. At least it means I’ve a story to tell, handy for someone who is putting a blog together. Whenever I start a walk I wonder if I will have a tale to tell after, whether the day would start and finish with simply walking in between. Not here, not today.
The day began later than I intended. I’d woken up during the night at 2:30 with quite a bit of condensation in the tent and being only around four degrees outside and that there was no sign of my nodding off again, I brewed up a hot chocolate which went down a treat. Opening the tent door to get the stove going, I looked up to a clear sky full of twinkling stars. No wonder it was cold but christ it was beautiful to look at. Still awake long after finishing my drink I seriously contemplated packing up and making a move, even if it was pitch black. Common sense prevailed and knowing I’d be half asleep on the trail tomorrow if I didn’t get any more sleep, I closed my eyes and eventually nodded off again, waking up at 7. I made a cuppa and enjoyed a slow start to the morning, and knowing there was a cafe four miles away in Osmotherley, I only had a cereal bar to eat as I wiped the tent down before packing it away, still damp, which no doubt added a few grams to my pack. Nevertheless, the morning was beautiful. The sun was out, it was chilly but there was no wind as I headed over the last couple of miles of moorland before descending down to the carpark at Square Corner and following the path through a beautiful, autumnal nature reserve with ferns galore all on the turn, from green to brown with the purple heather on the horizon beyond. Some field walking then led into Osmotherley, the centre appearing after a lovely introduction to the village via narrow cobbled lanes with well cared for cottages and gardens. I decamped immediately to the tea and coffee shop and downed some tea and toast. If I’d done my research properly and knew what was to come, I’d certainly have had something more substantial.
I rejoined the trail, via a quick pit stop at the village store for bananas and sweets, and I soon quickly experienced the admittedly not unfamiliar feeling of some painful soreness in ones rump. At first it wasn’t too bad. Leaving a steep climb out of the village the path follows a quiet track and then onto a very muddy and boggy field that was compounded by there being numerous cows in wait with no obvious escape from there should they turn nasty, and all my concentration was directed thusly at them. Luckily, they were as docile as they come though my heart was in my mouth as I walked within a couple feet of a couple in particular who were grazing right next to the path. The mud swiftly ended and a narrow and sheltered track is followed for a another mile until the scenery opens out again onto a beautiful landscape with the Cleveland hills that I’d be soon climbing in the near distance, and below were beautiful patchwork fields. It was around this point that the pain in my rear was such that every single step was a painful one, and with twenty miles to go, I was genuinely trying to figure out how on earth I’d manage it. Stopping to consult my phone, any advice on the internet seemed to consist of some jelly or cream rubbed into ones posterior, of which I had neither, and another suggestion was to “air” the area. I’m not sure how this was a realistic option being as I was still on relative low ground, and it was Saturday which meant people around and I am sure as hell that they wouldn’t appreciate a half naked walker in their vicinity. “Don’t mind one, I am simply airing ones derriere! Carry on!”. I took a few more steps of teeth clenching pain before thinking, and hoping, that taking a couple of paracetamol would suffice. This surprisingly did the trick, and with my attention also distracted by several minutes of lovely conversation with a couple of old ladies walking their dogs, the pain cleared up and I could enjoy the mostly flat path and extensive views pretty much pain free. Moral of the story is buy baby wipes, and cream and maybe invest in more appropriate undergarments. Your arse will thank you.
The views ended, albeit temporarily, as the path descended to Coalmire Lane which is swiftly crossed and it’s into the woodland of Scarth Wood Moor. Thankfully, downhill then flat all the way. And then for a couple of miles on a flat, narrow path with dense woodland either side and it’s advisable to make the most of it, as once you’re off Green Lane, it’s the start of the climbing which for the most part takes up the next few hours. But climbing means hills, and hills mean vistas and today especially, being as clear as it was, the payoffs were beautiful views that also include your first sight of the coastline. That wouldn’t be reached until tomorrow evening at Saltburn, but just being so close to the sea, even in the far distance is such a tonic. But back to the now, and the first major climb of the day begins, to Carlton Bank. Naturally, you are led into a state of false security as to begin with the trail is lovely and flat with the dense forest on your shoulder, but you’re soon thrust into a section of rocky steps and the panting begins - something I’d been warned about not half an hour before by a friendly dog walker who I passed on the way to Green Lane and pointed out how far I’d still got to traverse before reaching Kildale. Bloody far, as it transpired.
Once up the steps though it’s only a long and slow burning ascent through the heather lined moorland up to Carlton Bank. Superlative views from 1339 feet, and easy walking on dry track and flagstones. Naturally, being on higher ground it was somewhat chilly up there but the constant movement kept me warmed up and even in early October I was attired in just base layer and shorts. What was surprising was how quiet it was. The man I’d chatted to earlier caught me up due to my stopping to do some filming but him aside, I had the moors and the views to myself. It was glorious.
The descent down eventually led to a more populated part of the path - I knew the peace and quiet wouldn’t last - and I crossed the Raisdale Road and took advantage of the toilet block in a car park to fill up my water bottles. I passed a few families en route up Kirby Bank at the top of which is an information plate pointing out the sights beyond, of which there were many. In the distance I could see the civilisations and suburbias of Middlesbrough, Stockton and Hartlepool and winding away in the distance were the hills I’d be navigating today, and the distinguished pike of Roseberry Topping that I’d have the option to scale tomorrow. Wanting to escape from the hordes I didn’t hang around, and fifteen minutes later found a quiet spot off the path on a grassy bank to indulge myself in one of the delicious pies I’d bought the previous day in Helmsley. The afternoon air had turned very cold, and windy, so it was on with the down jacket and with not wanting to turn to ice, as soon as the last flake of pastry had disappeared down my throat it was back on with the faithful bag and onwards along Kirby Bank with a steep descent at the end down rocky steps. Still though, the views were spectacular. I may have overdone it today, but this stage is certainly one of the great days of walking.
In this neck of the woods, so to speak, a descent usually means they’ll be an ascent soon after and sure enough I was climbing up Cold Moor on the way to the Wainstones on Hasty Bank. The steep climb up a grassy bank leads to a scramble through rocks and boulders that isn’t too dissimilar to the rocky formations up on Kinder Scout. Due to the erosion of the land over centuries, the weather has left only a rough surface along the formation and without a clear path, it’s a case of picking a line and trying to both not injure oneself and also to avoid climbers and walkers coming the other way. Once I’d wearily reached the outcrop at the top I was met yet again with a vista that stretched for miles, though more concerning was the presence in the near distance of those pesky cows that were spread out along the trail. I looked at my watch and was equally startled to read that it was gone 4:00, and Kildale was still ten miles away with sunset only just over two hours from now. It was around then that I had to make a plan. I knew I wouldn’t reach Kildale in daylight, and with heavy rain - torrential rain in fact - forecast tonight and most of tomorrow, the question was whether to cut the day short and camp somewhere on the moors beyond Clay Bank, or find some reserved energy and speed along to a farm in Kildale that had the option to sleep in a barn or byre for only a few quid. I decided to at least get the last climb out of the way at Clay Bank and go from there.
A lovely, steep descent over one hundred foot led down to the carpark at Clay Bank, with, naturally, an equal amount going back up the other way as I clambered up the flagstones to Carr Ridge, with another brief climb through the heather to the highest point of the whole Cleveland Way at Urra Moor, just shy of 1500 feet. Which meant today I’d climbed approximately 3000 feet in total since leaving Osmotherley. Memo to self: study the maps and points of elevation to avoid surprise. It was gone 5:00, less than two hours of daylight remained, though a little stroke of luck came my way when I realised that the farm I could spend the night at was this side of Kildale, which knocked two miles off what I assumed to remain. A phone call to the farm confirmed there was copious room available and so with the atrocious weather that was coming my way - already I could see threatening clouds into the distance - I decided to run the risk of some night time walking to ensure I’d have a solid roof over my head tonight.
From where the extra energy came from I still don’t know, but the remaining eight miles were completed in around two and a half hours. The landscape was barren. For miles around once the views over the valleys below disappeared were that of brown and purple heather, and desolate moorland. I couldn’t have been happier and part of me was disappointed to not be camping tonight. I passed a couple of water sources and topped my bottles up just in case the weather and the ever increasing dark sky beat me - thankfully this wasn’t required. Anyone seeking some introspective thoughts and feelings on this section will be disappointed due to the speed of my walking which was in failing light. The miles were crossed off quickly as I sped over Bloworth Crossing and Tidy Brown and on to Battersby Moor. Those several miles had two hundred feet of descent picked off, and the darkening sky was producing several spots of rain, and a biting wind as Kildale approached. The easy walking on a wide, rough track led onto a smooth, tarmacked road for what should have been an easy last half an hour. Wrong.
The pitch black of night meant I was walking by phone torchlight, which due to the lack of battery power was now plugged into a heavy phone charger which I was also carrying, with Google Maps on my phone to ensure the turn off to the farm wasn’t missed. The winding road I assumed would eventually bring the lights from the farm in to view as the descent continued. Also, wrong. Hidden away beneath fields and trees, both the farm and the turn off were completely invisible and checking the map meant I missed a bend in the road and found myself falling off the edge of the tarmac and into a shallow ditch, the immediate shock of losing my footing thankfully meant my outstretched arm found the side of a grassy bank rather than going completely horizontal. I stepped back on to the road to find I’d also gone past the turn off. I corrected my steps and found only a gate with a field beyond that should lead to the farm. No clear path could be seen in torchlight. The gate was permanently locked, indicated by the barbed wire stretched along the top of it and the fence either side, so my weary legs clambered over with the bottom of my bag being trapped on the barbed wire itself. Even with the torch, I could barely make out anything more than a few feet in front of me, and the sheep I nearly ran into was probably just as startled as me going by its baaing, which notified me of its existence. My next thought was the scary realisation that I could quite easily walk into a cow, though those fears were completely unfounded. The farm came into view but there was no visible way in, and another couple of minutes was spent walking around the perimeter which eventually led to a gate. I reached the farmhouse. The lights were on, but no one was home. I stood for a minute, desperate to have a shower and lie down, somewhere, anywhere. Eventually, David turned up. I heard the car but not the man, and the phone in the farmhouse wasn’t answered due to him having rushed into the house to use the toilet. He appeared, full of heartfelt apologies and told me I was the only guest at the farm tonight. Rather than sleeping on the floor in the barn, for a less than a tenner I took the byre - a full on apartment to myself. It was freezing cold in there but contained a kitchen annex, a sofa and a double bed. And, thankfully an electric heater which I wheeled next to the bed. The roof and the walls weren't insulated at all so this was essentially a barn with furniture. I peeled off my clothes and headed to the shower and toilet block next door. The shower was on a meter - £1 for ten minutes of hot water that dribbled out the shower head, but I stood under there and didn’t waste a penny. I was so tired I could barely put my feet on the ground never mind clean myself, but the fresh, hot water was the realisation of a dream I’d had for the latter half of the afternoon, and I boiled the kettle and enjoyed a rehydrated spaghetti for dinner which I ate in bed in my hoodie and underneath several blankets.