CLEVELAND WAY APRIL 2011
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Confucius
Well it won’t be a thousand miles but this is our first alternative overland trip since we sold the Toyota and we decided to do it on foot. We’ll be walking 109 miles along the Cleveland Way a National Trail, a horseshoe shaped route along the North Yorkshire Moors from Helmsley to the Heritage Coast from Saltburn to Filey.
Even with this type of trip “failing to plan is planning to fail” so JC has been training hard, trying out some of the route and organizing the accommodation along the route. We’ll be carrying a 35 litre pack each with the bare essentials for ten days and staying at Bed and Breakfast places, Pubs and Hotels. When you have to carry everything you need on your back it is surprising what you can do without!!
Day 1 – Helmsley to Sutton Bank – 7.5 miles
To get to the start of the walk our neighbours dropped us at Beverley Station and we took the train to Scarborough and then a bus to Helmsley so we had a relaxing start to our journey. Sitting on the front row of the double decker bus gave us great view of the countryside and brought back many childhood memories and plenty of time to relax before the start of the walk. We left the start of the walk at 12.15 began the steady climb through woodland up to the Hambleton Hills. The first day is always a “get used to your pack day” for me and we seemed to be stopping more often than usual, adjusting straps, having a drink, taking a rest from carrying the pack and chatting to the other walkers tempted out at the weekend in the beautiful sunny weather. We had lunch overlooking Rievaulx Abbey sitting on a little humped back bridge over the River Rye and made it to the Hambleton Inn at the top of Sutton Bank by 3.45pm – just in time for a beer and the Grand National. With about 7.5 miles under our belt we felt that was a good start to the walk. We spent the night at Cote Faw B & B just up the road from the Hambleton Inn. A small place reminded both of us of staying with our grandparents when we were younger even down to the flannelette sheets. Dinner was back to the Hambleton where the food was exceptional and after an early start to our journey we were happy to get back to Cote Faw where we fell asleep as soon as our heads touched the pillow.
Ready to go........ Maybe we'll just stay here in the sun....
Day 2 – Sutton Bank to Osmotherley – 11.5 miles
After a fantastic breakfast we were on the way by 9am into a lovely morning – dry and sunny with the views over the hills and down the valley below lifting our spirits as we went. Lots of walkers and cyclists out today – this is a popular stretch and it was great to see people out enjoying the beautiful countryside. We met a couple from Hull who walk every Sunday rain or shine and who from April to October take the special Moors Bus and walk different paths each week. We saw them later having a beer in the sunshine, waiting for their bus and looking forward to a snooze on the way back to Hull no doubt. We hit the moor just before midday at High Paradiso Farm and followed the drovers road along its edge until around 2 miles out of Osmotherley so fairly flat walking. The North Yorkshire Moors National Park covers an area of 554 square miles and there are 1,400 miles of public paths through some of the finest landscapes in England. Covered in heather at this time of year the moor is full of nesting birds with the red grouse being the most obvious. They appear to be used to the people wandering about and often just sit there when we pass. I am sure they won’t be so docile later on in the year when the grouse shooting season will be in full swing! The last two miles into Osmotherley are a bit of a challenge after a full days walking – down a steep slated path into the valley and then a long climb up narrow wooden steps back to the top again. After a short break in the bottom alongside of the reservoir we made it up to the top in one go – good for us. We’d done this walk a few weeks ago and had to stop a couple of times on the way up – obviously we are getting fitter! Our accommodation was in the Queen Catherine Hotel – friendly staff, good food, live music and great rooms with en-suite facilities – a great end to a great day.
View from the top.... Are we there yet???? "Crazy walkers".. Where's that Toyota???
Day 3 Osmotherley to Clay Bank – 11 miles
Although a slightly shorter stretch today the Guidebook states that “this is the most strenuous section of the trail where the Cleveland Hills are broken into a succession of moors in the last section”. JC had walked this part so knew how difficult it would be – but he kept that all to himself until after we had done it. Another great breakfast set us up for the day – one thing about this type of trip is that because you are constantly exercising you can almost eat and drink whatever you like without worrying about your weight - so we are taking advantage of it!! It’s a long slow climb our of Osmotherley and we had done about half a mile when JC realized he still had the hotel room key. The thought of walking back to return it was not a happy one so we rang and told the receptionist where we expected to be by 10am if they wanted to drive out and meet us there. Never thought I’d make an arrangement to meet someone at a cattle grid! When we spoke to them later they had decided that it would be cheaper just to have another one cut rather than have the cost of driving out to meet us. I guess with fuel prices the way they are I can understand that. With clear skies to start off with the views over the moor were truly memorable and we were doing well. By 12 noon we had covered 7.5 miles and with only 3.5 miles to go I began to wonder what made this “the most strenuous section”. With a farmer’s sons nose JC could smell the rain coming in and insisted we got into our water proof gear before we started the final section. With people all around us in shorts I was a bit peeved to say the least BUT not for long though – the wind got up, the heavens opened and at the second highest point on the walk we were very exposed! This was truly a test of our fitness – the trail follows a steady climb to the top of Cringle Moor over the moor and winds steeply down on a stone-pitched path (very slippery in the rain),up again onto Cold Moor (it was definitely cold), another, steep descent and then climbs up Hasty Bank to reach the rock pinnacles of the Wainstones. This is one of the few locations on the North Yorkshire Moors which offers some sport for rock climbers. It also photographed in all of the guides with someone in shorts standing on the top of the stones in brilliant sunshine looking down on the valleys below. It wasn’t much like that for us, wrapped up against the wind and the rain we managed to scramble between the jumble of boulders and bare rock outcrops before final heading along the plateau and down into Clay Bank. What a day – it had finally stopped raining but the weather and the terrain meant that it had taken us 3.5 hours to walk 3.5 miles when usually we average around 2 miles an hour. We were probably over cautious on some of the narrow, stony, downhill stretches which looked slippery in the rain. The grouse up there were probably having a good laugh at us wrapped up in our weatherproof gear. There is no accommodation here on the walk but we had arranged with the Wainstones Hotel in Great Broughton (2 miles away) to pick us up. It’s part of their service and they spend most of the Summer ferrying walkers backwards and forwards. Thank goodness for a deep bath, space to get our gear dried off and plenty of food and drink to warm us up again!
Day 4 – Claybank to Kildale – 9.5 miles
No rain today thank goodness but definitely cooler with a strong wind once we got up onto the moor. No chance to get our muscles warmed up as it was a straight climb for the first half an hour. The wind reminded what constant – we felt like we were back in Patagonia but once we were up on the top it was a steady if circuitous walk past the highest point on the moor at Urra Moor. We took shelter from the wind in one of the Grouse Butts for a while and as another walker went past JC shouted “just waiting for my gun, my hip flask and the grouse!” we certainly could have done with the hip flask. It seemed like a much longer walk, probably the wind and the fact that the route means that you appear to be walking back on yourself. It took us 5.5 miles of walking to be able to look back on our starting point which at that point was only 2.5 miles away across the moor as the crow flies. The last 1.5 miles down was on a tarmac road – a bit hard on the knees and we had to huddle up whilst we were having our lunch in the wind. Once again we had to rely upon a pick up from our accommodation that night, the Royal Oak, as there was nowhere on the trail. Whilst we waiting for Simon to collect us we had a hot drink at the Glebe Café. The wind had dropped, the sun was out and life was feeling altogether better. If you ever walk this stretch you could forget carrying your packed lunch and eat at the Glebe as long as it is not a Thursday or after 1630. The owner was in a bit of a “tiz” as a few people had all turned up together and we spent a pleasant time sitting in his garden waiting for our lift. The Royal Oak is undergoing major renovations and Simon apologized in advance on our way there. It will look wonderful when it is finished and they are almost there so don’t let this put you off. With plenty of friendly locals in the bar to recommend the best choices on the menu we had a great evening and were really made to feel “at home”.
Day 5 – Kildale – Saltburn – 14.75 miles
Our longest day and MY BIRTHDAY! Keen to get started, we are off en route by 0830 – no birthday lie in for me then! As usual the day start with a climb of around 1 mile and then a flat wander to Captain Cook’s monument. At 18 metres high it’s been in our sights for a few days now and we began to feel like we were really making progress. As one of Yorkshire’s greatest sons the landmark is well visited with paths leading in all directions. Ours took us down through a plantation and then surprise, surprise up another steep stepped path to the top of Great Ayton Moor in the direction of Roseberry Topping – known locally as a moorland “Matterhorn”. With 14.5 miles to go today we decided again taking the path to the top of Roseberry Topping and continued on to Guisborough Wood where we managed to stay on track despite the guidebook’s warning that “it’s a bit of a route-finding exercise”. (Years of map reading that did it!!). Finally after another long climb we got a great view of the sea. By 1.30 we had covered 9 miles and with another “stairway to heaven” coming up we trekked wearily down a forest track to a distant bench. Suddenly we heard someone running up behind us. A lone runner came racing past us and leapt over the five bar gate at the end of the track!! Still I bet we could have done that if we were about 30 years younger and not carrying a 35 litre pack – what do you think??? At the bottom we were glad of the extra scones added to our packed lunch by the Royal Oak – we still had a long way to go and needed all the energy we could muster. We finally left the moor behind us at Skelton Green, with some sadness as, despite the wind, the scenery had been breathtakingly beautiful and now as we walked into more urban areas the path was bordered by barbed wire, there was rubbish in the hedgerows and dog pooh everywhere!!! We even saw bags of dog pooh hanging in the trees – what’s that all about. Weary and disappointed with this part of the trail we finally broke out our emergency jelly beans! Thanks June – the blood sugar was low and we needed a boost for the last couple of miles down into Saltburn by the Sea and a welcome bath and bed! Thanks to all of you who texted, rang or emailed your Birthday Wishes it was much appreciated. From here we are over half way 52 miles to go and the sea on our left all of the way. The Spa Hotel in Saltburn is right on the walk. Once a very popular hotel in the 60s/70s it’s looking a bit sad now with lots of brass and velvet. We never saw any other residents and only 3 members of staff that night. Apparently in it’s hey day it was so popular it even had its own railway stop. Just goes to show what package holidays abroad can do to local tourism. The staff did their best to look after us, the room was warm quiet and clean and there was loads of hot water to fill the lovely big bath!
Cooks' Monument.... Roseberry Topping in the distance.. Are we lost????? First glimpse of the sea....
Day 6- Saltburn to Runswick Bay – 12 miles
From here we deviate from the guidebook. Today they have a 17.5 mile walk to Sandsend but we are on holiday and don’t need to be going at that pace plus we get to stay in Runswick Bay which is wonderful. The sun is shining high in the sky and with the smell of the sea in the air we set off along the first part of the coastal path. A few weeks ago we came to walk this section and it was a gale force wind. We were hanging on to the wire along the cliff top like washing blowing in the breeze. We even had to get down on our hands and knees at one point to save ourselves from being blown off the cliff. This time however it was a fabulous day and we had the chance take our time and look around at the scenery rather than being blown along with our heads down against the wind missing everything!! The path and the land around were very very dry – obviously there has been no rain up here for a while. The sea was like a mill pond – not a white top in sight just the soft lapping of the tide against the cliffs as we walked over the some of the highest cliffs on the East Coast. Seeing the Air Sea Rescue Team at work with their helicopter reminded us of how easy it could be to get into difficulty up here. We had thought they were on a exercise but later found out that they were looking for someone who had gone out walking a few days beforehand and had not come back – how terrible. Coming into the picturesque village of Staithes we walked through the narrow alleyways and steep steps between the cottages to sit on the sea front with an ice cream treat. JCs mum loved this village and used to come here to paint regularly, staying at a small cottage down by the harbour. Her paintings hanging in our cottage at home will always remind us of this part of the coast. Eating ice cream here you always have to be careful of the sea gulls that, on the look out for food, have been known to sweep in and steal the cones from your hands! I took pity on one with a limp and decided to donate the chocolate cake from my packed lunch to him (me – giving away chocolate cake – must be too much sun). Anyway as I knelt down to break it into small pieces for him he snatched the whole slice and it disappeared in seconds whilst all of the other gulls looked on hopefully – no chance of a crumb even for them. By mid afternoon we were both a bit weary and the Cliff Mount Hotel was an absolute oasis. A relatively new boutique hotel overlooking the bay it was perfect – my kind of place and I was able to at last have my birthday glass of champagne or two before we had a fantastic dinner overlooking the bay. Best place we have stayed so far!
Day 7 Runswick Bay to Whitby – 8.5 miles
Well rested, well fed and with a spring in our step we set off on this short day. The weather was absolutely amazing and we walked down into the bay and along the beach before hitting the highest and steepest vertical climb I think we have had so far. It seemed like we sent from sea-level to the sky! Crossing a stream and hanging onto a piece of rope to keep us upright at the start it felt a bit like overlanding but without the Toyota to protect us!! At least our packs were a bit lighter – no packed lunches required today as we reached Sandsend and the Wits End Café in time for a leisurely lunch – leisurely for us that is (30 minutes instead of 15!!). Although the cliffs look smaller and the contours softer there still lots of ups and downs to cover but we had time and made Whitby at just after1.30. Our accommodation tonight is the Granby Hotel on Skinner Street. Its accommodation only – no breakfast and not en-suite but the room was great and good value at just £45 for both of us. JC had been saving himself for Fish and Chips in Whitby and they certainly did him proud with a perfect piece of freshly caught fish so big it hung over the plate at both ends, crispy chips and mushy peas he was smiling all night and all sore muscles were forgotten.
We let ourselves out of the Granby and wandered down to a nearby café which the landlady of the Granby had recommended as doing the best Breakfast Butties in town – good enough for us. We were his first customer at 0830 and he certainly lived up to his reputation. From there it was across the bridge in the harbour and up the 199 steps to Whitby Abbey and heading for lunch in Robin Hoods Bay. Wonderful weather again and all of the walkers are out. This is obviously a very popular section of the coast as we have seen more people today than we have on the whole of the trail so far. It seems like the whole world has come out into the sunshine to enjoy the beautiful North Yorkshire Heritage Coast and we stopped to chat to many of them particularly the six ladies who reminded me of my group of school friends. Off alone for a weekend break they were enjoying their time and when we met them later in the bar at The Bay in Robin Hoods Bay there they were downing pints of beer and chatting up the only single man in the room. He looked petrified – I’ve never seen anyone eat up and leave so quickly!! They looked set for the afternoon as we left. This is JCs old stomping ground – he went to school at Fyling Hall just above Robin Hoods Bay so lots of memories here for him and we laughed along the way as he told me tales of his school days way back then. Robin Hoods Bay is the final stop on the Coast to Coast walk which runs 192 miles from Bees Point in Cumbria to here. Could this be our next challenge? Certainly on a day like today with the sun shining and having downed a glass of beer it seems like a possibility – who knows? Maybe the half of cider which I had a lunch time slowed me up, or could it be the steep climbs up and down at Boggle Hole and Stoupe Bank, because the last mile climbing up to Raven Hall our stop for the night seemed to take forever. It was worth it though – a fantastic setting right on the edge of the coast with a room looking back along the coast it was a long way from The Granby. Again here there were many memories here for JC he used to get the train here from his school and learned to swim in the outdoor pool of the Hotel. They must have been hardy boys in those days; the pool was not heated and was fed with sea water. Lots of photographs of shivering people in and around the pool scattered around the hotel made us shiver too just thinking about it. We looked and looked but couldn’t find JC on any of them. Dinner that night was delicious as the sun went down over the coastline and the young Polish bar maid was a credit to the hotel, she did an excellent job looking after us.
Day 9 – Ravenscar to Scarborough – 14 miles
What no steps to climb this morning! JC tells me that it’s all down hill from here. The sun is shining down on us again – how lucky are we and we have the path to ourselves again. This certainly seems a less popular stretch but I am sure when we get to Scarborough the crowds will be out along the sea front. Softer contours make easier walking or are we just getting into the swing of things. We both certainly feel a lot fitter and as we reached Heywards Wyke with its steep climb down to the mouth of a waterfall on the beach and its narrow rugged climb back up again, we were fairly romping along. Sometimes on the steep uphills I don’t look up to see how far we have to go just keep my head down and go for it. This could have been embarrassing at one point today when I hear someone cough and say “All right missus” before I stopped quickly with my face almost in the crotch of a man coming the other way!! Heywards Wyke is one of my favourite places on this coast – a great place to clamber down to the beach and have a picnic. Sadly not for us today – a long way to go means we’ve got to “jab on” as JC would say. Well we must have been going well because, despite the advice in the guidebook we decided to walk from the North Bay of Scarborough to the South Bar and not take the easy way out on the open topped bus. We must have looked a bit incongruous amongst the biking and shorts clad visitors, dressed in our boots with packs with walking sticks protruding as we wound our way amongst the crowds of seaside visitors. Having said that we probably didn’t look as daft as some of them in their beachwear!! We reached our stop for the night opposite the harbour to find that they were advertising Karaoke from 2pm to 1am and it was already in full swing. The thought of trying to sleep with that kind of racket going on didn’t impress so we carried on looking for an alternative. Taking the tram up to the top brought back childhood memories for both of us. I had some fantastic holidays in Scarborough with all of my family when I was small – we were there almost every year. Most of it is still the same as it was then. Up on top we went into the Grand Hotel. Built in 1867 it was once one of the largest hotels in the world. The building was designed around the theme of time: four towers to represent the seasons, 12 floors for the months of the year, 52 chimneys symbolise the weeks, and originally there were 365 bedrooms, one for each day of the year. The hotel itself is in the shape of a 'V' in honour of Queen Victoria. Like many of the other large hotels we have seen on this trip it was once the haunt of wealthy holidaymakers and both of could remember, as children, watching the comings and goings of the rich and famous at the Grand. Nowadays it is run by Britannia Hotels specialising in good value breaks for families. Our room, bed, breakfast and dinner for two cost only £60 for one night! The room was in the attic but we had a jacuzzi. The dinner was not brilliant but the breakfast buffet was great and it was a pleasure to wander around the old place – as JC said if walls could talk The Grand would certainly have some tales to tell.
We left the peace of the path behind.. The Grand Hotel..............
Day 10 – Scarborough to Filey – 10 miles
Well it was almost the end of the road for us. Just a short step (only joking) along the coast to Filey. The path never gave up her challenges and there were still plenty of steep climbs, although towards the end it wound its way around the top of each small inlet or bay rather than down to the beach and up again. Perfect weather all of the way again today and with Filey in our view we quickened our step to the end of the trail and the large stone, which marks the end of the Cleveland Way and the start of the Wolds Way, out on Filey Brigg.
We signed the book at the small café on the Brigg like many before us. We thought we had done well but when we read about a group of guys who had ran the whole way in 36 hours we felt a bit despondent until we read an earlier comment dated April 2011 “Finally finished after starting in 2009!!”
We continued our overland journey home on the train from Filey to Beverley then by the local bus back to Brandesburton.
It was a fantastic walk with stunning scenery made even better by the great weather. If you fancy it – go on give it a go – “..stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey..”