Across England on the Coast to Coast walk-visiting Whitby

Our walk across England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea may be over but we’re not in a hurry to leave North Yorkshire.

So we stay an extra day and take the local bus up to Whitby.  I’d visited the town in 2000 with our oldest daughter and wanted to show it off to John.

What I found was a town that had been discovered by the masses.  In 2000 there were tourists, sure, but it certainly couldn’t have been described as congested. Nowadays I’d say the locals would have a real love-hate relationship with the hordes that descend.

For those of you who don’t know, Whitby is a seaside town in North Yorkshire on the mouth of the River Esk.

The day we visited the sun was warm and the sky a bright blue with no clouds. It was gorgeous and we ambled around taking in the sights, enjoying just being able to stroll and not be anywhere in particular.

One of the features of Whitby is the Abbey.  In 2000 I was able to ramble through the ruins but today it’s walled off and you have to pay to get in.

Whitby 10Back in 2000 my daughter and I overnighted in the YHA converted stables alongside the Abbey.  We were the only occupants for the night.  They’re now being converted into five star accommodation.

Whitby 6

One of my intentions while in Whitby was to buy something made of Whitby Jet as a momento of our walk.  While exploring the laneways we chanced across W Hamond, Jet Merchants, whose claim to fame is that the jet they use is actually Whitby jet.  Shock horror that not every store in Whitby sells the genuine article!

I bought a lovely sterling silver and jet bangle, but I’m not going to post a photo of it because it was stolen about three weeks later and I still get angry thinking about it. But here I am inside while buying it, and then outside, clutching the bag with a very pleased grin.

After that we mooched riverside for a while people watching and contemplating, but deciding against, the Captain Cook Experience on the Bark Endeavour.

It’s a lovely spot, as is North Yorkshire generally.  If you’re in the area take the time to visit.  You’ll be pleased you did.  There’s much more to do than we did as we had only three hours.  Next visit we’ll factor in the time to at least have a day out on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

The next day we boarded the train for home and enjoyed first class travel and benefits all the way to London!

Across England on the Coast to Coast walk, part 8

 

Where we spy the North Sea and Whitby, and at the end of a very long day we make it into Robin Hood’s Bay and have a beer to celebrate completing the walk.

 

At times during this walk it felt very much like we were in a time warp that would see us roaming the countryside forever. It was a rather pleasant feeling, being so totally outside our normal life with only new experiences and sights to fill our thoughts and conversation.

I can recommend the sensation.

If you ever watch the UK TV program Escape to the country you’ll know that at some stage during what seems every episode the host will say to the camera something along the lines of,

‘… and this area is designated as one of outstanding natural beauty.’

John and I have a regular chuckle about it, as they make it sound as though everywhere in the UK is ‘… of outstanding natural beauty.’

But, you know, it’s true. The UK countryside is gorgeous. And our final days of this walk are no exception.

This morning we get our first, rather hazy, glimpse of the North Sea.

1--We see the sea!

Our very easy path today is a disused rail track.

2--An easy walk along an old railway route

After our few days on the Moors I felt I could see where Harris tweed weavers may have got their colour inspirations from.

3--The Moor colours

We spot our next overnight stay, the Lion Inn, Britain’s 4th highest inn.  Can you see it?  Orange roof.

4--Can you see the red roof?  It's the Lion Inn

5--The Lion Inn

The inn claims to date back to 1553 and once we saw inside we thought that might be entirely possible.

The dining room6--Lion Inn dining room

After a very quiet night and sound sleep we’re more than ready to get back on the road. This is our last glimpse of the Lion Inn, sitting alone, but never lonely—as it’s a very popular spot—high on the Moors.

7--Goodbye to the Lion Inn

From the inn it’s a 14 mile stroll down the Esk Valley with moorland scenery that makes your heart swell. The heather is just starting to bloom.

8--The heather is starting to bloom

And then there’s a complete change of scenery as we descend into the valley and enter East Arncliffe Wood where we walk along the river until finding the turnoff to our next port of call, Egton Bridge.

9--What a change in scenery!

On the outskirts of Egton Bridge. Now to find our accommodation!

10--Outskirts of Egton Bridge

After a bit of backtracking, circling and wondering where we cross the river, we finally find the right road and our lovely hotel, Broome House.

Broome House from the road

Once settled in we gravitate to the patio for the ubiquitous cup of tea—except in England you always get a pot. Can you see me?

11--Broome House. Can you see me on the patio?

And then our last day is upon us!

The easy walking continues and by lunchtime we’ve arrived at Grosmont where we’re diverted for an hour while watching preparations by the North York Moor Railways to get the Harry Potter Hogwart’s Express under way. We were among quite a crowd taking photos. I’d hazard a guess we were the only ones who weren’t train enthusiasts—but I took the photo for my brother-in-law back in Oz as he’s a diehard train tragic.

12--Grosmont scenic steam train

Then munching our lunch of bananas bought from the local grocer we continue on our way through the village to the open countryside beckoning from the distance.

13--A photo of Grosmont village

A short pause to check the route.

14--Checking the route

And then we see the sea! And Whitby Abbey ruins on the clifftop.

15--Whitby in the far distance

An artistic self portrait.

16--An artisitic shot

We stop at Falling Foss tea house for a much needed cup of tea and scone each.

17--Falling Foss tea house18--There's always time for tea

It’s the North Sea, people! Do we look a bit knackered? We certainly felt it. Still a few miles to go!

19--We make the north coast

The path along the cliffs.

20--The path along the coast to Robin Hood's Bay

And, at last, Robin Hood’s Bay comes into view.  What a gorgeous looking little spot!

21-Robin Hood's Bay

This was one of the longest days of the walk. Not the hardest, thank goodness, but even so, we were feeling decidedly wobbly by the time we arrived.  This photo was taken looking back to land.

22--A landward shot of Robin Hood's Bay

We wet our boots and drop our Irish Sea pebbles into the North Sea as tradition demands.

22--We drop our Irish Sea pebbles into the North Sea

Then head to the pub for a tall beer!!! Nothing beats a coldie as a reviver!

23--A well-earned beer

And, as they say, that’s all folks!

Except I will write one more post because the next day we took the local bus up to Whitby and spent the afternoon looking around—and the photos are worth posting.

Across England on the Coast to Coast walk, part 7

We’re on the downhill slide, figuratively speaking, on our epic UK Coast to Coast walk. We’ve been on the road for 14 days, having traversed the Lake District of Cumbria. We’re now well and truly on the Yorkshire Moors.

My last post saw us leaving Richmond, the largest town on the route.

17--Leaving RichmondThis post takes us as far as Great Broughton where we spent the night listening to revelers celebrating a 40th birthday party.

Once out of Richmond we set off for a day of tramping through fields with scenery that’s pretty but not stop-you-on-the-spot-to-admire gorgeous. Pretty pedestrian, if you excuse the pun.

That maybe explains why we got lost, which added a couple of hours to our day! On autopilot, not paying attention. We should have followed the River Swale—we still don’t know how we lost it—and by-pass Catterick, an army town, by a very wide margin. Instead we found ourselves smack bang in its centre, scratching our bewildered heads. Fortunately a local put us back on track.

Roman Catterick signboardNext stop was Bolton-on-Swale churchyard—intended this time because we wanted to see the monument to Henry Jenkins, a local supposedly 169 when he died. Can you hear my yeah, right. The church in which he’s buried dates back to the 14th century. It’s worth a short stop to check out surviving bits from Saxon and Norman times.

From Bolton we were supposed to cut across a field occupied by a herd of steers and we had every intention of walking through them. We’d already braved herds of cows along the way, so we figured we could handle neutered bulls.

Err, no, we couldn’t.

The closer we got the more interested in us they became. It was when they started coming towards us our courage failed and we did a smart right angle turn, hopped across a stream, and fought our way through what seemed to be a never-ending patch of shoulder high stinging nettles. Were we relieved when we spied a fence with a road on the other side! Whew. Never want to repeat that!

Sorry, no photos of that experience!

I’m not going to say anything about our next B&B, Rawcar Farm, except that we didn’t want to leave the next morning. The photos say it all—those rooms are just the guest accommodation! It can accommodate two couples and as we were the only guests we had the place, and hosts Ian and Jane, to ourselves. Five stars all the way!!

Ian told us we would have been perfectly safe with the steers—which apparently have very curious natures, hence their interest in us—as long as we didn’t break into a trot. Run and it’s, as they say, all over Red Rover.

On from the farm there are miles of more flat land with the promise of the Cleveland Hills hanging like a beacon in the distance.

Cleveland Hills in the distanceBefore we reach them though, there’s the A19 to negotiate, which means dodging cars and trucks as you hare across the four lanes. That got the blood pumping!

To our relief—short lasting because we were soon puffing—we eventually started slowly upwards into the hills.

You know how sometimes it’s better not to know how far you’ve still got to go? This was one of those times. The road seemed to just keep winding and going ever upwards!

But then, hey presto, we were there. Park House B&B, with the hostess welcoming us with glasses of bubbly.

A comment I feel bound to make is that generally the B&B rooms that greeted us were all small. Park House took that to another level with just enough room to manoeuvre around a double bed.

Rooms are pretty smallCouldn’t fault how well we were looked after though. Dinner that night ended with the biggest and creamiest Eton Mess I’ve ever had the misfortune of having to work my way through. Felt thoroughly sick by the time I’d finished. But it would have been downright rude to leave any, yes?

About a mile up from Park House our walk the next day was broken by a visit to the Mount Grace Priory ruins. If approaching via our route it’s down and around a few logging trails, so it took us a while to find. But worth it.

Mt Grace Priory ruinsDid you know those monks’ cells we hear about were in actual fact more like small townhouses!  Two storied with small gardens.  These monks even had servants.  So no more feeling sorry for those poor chaps in what I thought were small, dark and damp, bare stone one-room cells with barely enough space to move around.

Mt Grace Priory monks' cellsLook at the views we had on our walk today; 12 miles of absolute as-far-as-the-eye-can-see beauty.

At the end of which, at a spot called Clay Bank Top, we rendezvoused with our complimentary ride from our next accommodation, Great Broughton’s The Wainstone’s Hotel. No-one would stay in the town if they had to walk to it; much too far off the track.

Wainstones Hotel, Great Broughton

Wainstone's HotelAnd that’s where we laid our weary bones to listen to party noises until the wee hours. Ah well, some you win, some you lose.

 

 

Across England on the Coast to Coast walk, part 6

Over the last few weeks I’ve been recreating a walk my husband John and I did in July 2013. We hiked for 18 days across England, following the famous Coast to Coast walk from St Bees on the Irish Coast to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea coast.

In the last post we had made it to the halfway point having traversed Cumbria and the Lake District to enter the Yorkshire Moors.

In this post I’ll take you from our last overnight stay in Keld, deep in the Pennines, to Richmond on their eastern side.

Once again I’ve loaded the post with photos. I hope you enjoy them.

From Keld to Reeth we had a choice of two routes: one high, one low. The guidebook suggests the high route for anyone interested in seeing the scars and ruins left from lead mining days. We opted for the more scenic Swaledale Valley route which takes in several little villages, one being Muker, where we took time out for a pot of tea in the local teashop.

A tiny, lovely, place with a claim to fame of being one of James Herriot’s favourite places. It’s just off the C2C path and involves walking through meadows of incredibly fragrant pasture land. Signs at the entrances ask you to stick to the paths and not trample the plants.

2--Walking through pasture

Walking through pastureland

3--A close-up of the pasture plants--they smelled wonderful

Pasture plants. The aroma is wonderful.

Once back on the road we noticed the trend towards increasingly hard to get through stiles and the ever-present abandoned stone buildings. Any takers for this duplex doer-upper?!

Our next stop, Reeth, is a quintessential Yorkshire village that featured frequently in the 1980s TV show All creatures great and small. It’s old enough to have got a mention in the Domesday book and has long been prosperous because of past lead mining and its role as the main market town for Swaledale.

Our B&B had the very grand name of Springfield House—before seeing it we thought we were in for something grand! Turned out to be a small private residence. Very nice though, with hosts who couldn’t do enough for us.

Next morning it’s on with the boots and once more on the road to head off to Richmond, a busy market town that’s the largest on the walk.

One of the things we never quite became used to was that the path often took us through farms, to the point where we’d be walking past the house and among the buildings. Always close the gates, is the motto.

8--On our way to Richmond. The path leads through yet another farm

Always close the gates behind you!

The walk is an easy one with a bit of a climb to Marrick, passing along the way the ruins of Marrick Priory, which have been absorbed into an Outdoor Education Centre.

We didn’t stop, content to take a photo from the path before continuing on and up through the woodland on what is known as the Nuns’ Steps. So-called because nuns are said to have laid the 375 steps as a walkway to the abbey.

The trail then becomes a long walk through farmland, heading towards Marske, half a mile out of which the guidebook told us to start looking for a white-painted cairn towards the top of Applegarth Scar.  Blowed if we could spot it!  After a minute of squinting I spied what I thought might be it only to find, through binoculars, that it was a reclining cow.

We ended up taking a punt, headed for the nearest hill and got lucky; it was the right hill!

Fortunately the rest of the walk into Richmond was straightforward, along paths alternately giving views of farms, the River Swale and woodland.

Until, at last, we spy Richmond from our lofty position above the town.
13--Our first view of Richmond

We have two nights booked at a B&B in the heart of the town. 17th century oak-beamed Willance House is just off the main square and it takes us only as long as a shower and change of clothes takes before we’re off and out exploring.

The town boasts the ruins of an 11th century castle built by Alan the Red. Not much remains as the stones were scavenged over the years by locals to build houses.

We could easily have stayed another day but our accommodation is pre-booked so we must be on our way.   We therefore bid farewell to Richmond.

17--Leaving Richmond

 

 

Across England on the Coast to Coast walk, part 2

Across England on the Coast to Coast walk part 2

Well … today’s the day.

The first of 18 that see us walking from the west coast of the UK to the east coast. Through Cumbria and Yorkshire. Following Alfred Wainwright’s famous Coast to Coast walk.

The start

It’s been organised for us, so all we have to carry are our backpacks. Luggage will be transported between our nightly accommodation.

We’ve got B&Bs, hotels and farm stays lined up, some in the middle of towns, some in the middle of nowhere, and we’re looking forward to them all.

Recommended backpack inclusions are emergency medical supplies, water, lunch, snacks, raincoat, and little shovel/wipes/plastic bags for if you’re caught short.

It doesn’t take long—an hour or two on the road—to realise that’s WAY too much. In subsequent days we reduce it to band-aids, water and the minimum amount of food we think we’ll need.

As for being caught short—just make sure you do your ablutions before you head off in the morning and you can ditch the shovel etc as well.

Oh, and make sure your backpack is lightweight and waterproof—because if rain doesn’t soak it your sweat will.

But all that knowledge is in the future. Today we fortify ourselves with a full English breakfast (part of the package) and sandwiches packed by the B&B host.

Then it’s off and into the great outdoors, heading for the Lakes District. That’s those mountains in the distance.

On to Dent Hill

The first day covers 14½ miles. Mid-morning sees us puffing and doggedly panting up our first slope, Dent Hill.

Nearly killed John who began to feel very poorly early and didn’t improve for hours. At one point as we were slogging it to the top I had visions of calling in Air Rescue! But being a man he said he’d manage, and he did.

That smile on my face, you may notice, is definitely forced. In fact, our kids commented on our smiles after a few days of receiving photos, asking:

‘Are you having fun yet!’

Top of Dent Hill

The Lakes District is a hike of five days through the toughest countryside on the 4 out of 5 difficulty-rated walk, so we know we’re not in for an easy time.

Dent Hill turns out to be the worst we encounter that day; the rest is along tracks and over fences, this one deer-proof.

The sheepUp and over a deer-proof fence

We make it to Ennerdale and our overnight accommodation mid-afternoon, but as our hosts aren’t home we find the nearest pub and have a beer. Boy! Does it ever taste good—though as you can see, those smiles haven’t re-surfaced yet.

Ennerdale B&BBoy, that beer tastes good!

This becomes the pattern for the next 17 days. Hitting the road early so we arrive at our next destination at a reasonable hour.

Next week: Through the Lakes District with gritted teeth.

Across England on the Coast to Coast walk

Two years and a few months ago I was following Alfred Wainwright’s coast to coast walk across England, starting at St Bees on the Irish Sea coast and finishing at Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea coast.

I wasn’t alone. I was with my husband John. He’s my mate (in this context I mean good friend). In fact he’s my best mate. There’s very little I do without him.

I kept a daily diary on my iPad with the intention of writing some blog posts about it but the iPad was stolen before I made it back home to Australia. And back then I hadn’t come to grips with iCloud so when I lost the iPad I lost all the data on it.

I downloaded photos onto the iPad every day but–phew and thank goodness!–I didn’t delete them from my camera. So at least I have a visual record of the walk.

And at long last I’m putting pen to paper, so’s to speak, and will reconstruct the walk from the photos.

It was the summer of 2013 and the weather, except for our days in the Lakes District, was glorious. You’re never alone on this walk as it’s popular. We met plenty of UKers but also a lot of internationals. The UKers, being locals, have the advantage of being able to break the walk into two or more segments but the internationals were to a person doing it in one hit.

John and I had our itinerary organised by a company called Mac’s Adventures and they did a great job. It was one of those walks where your luggage is transported between your nightly accommodation so all you have to carry is a daily backpack–which became increasingly lighter as the days progressed! Amazing how heavy even a few items become after a few hours.

How tough is the walk? The guide book says ‘Undertaken in one go the path is a long, tough walk with some fairly steep gradients’. Most of those are in the Lakes District.

In total the walk is around 200 miles. Mac’s arranged each of our days into varying lengths the shortest being a stroll of 7-1/2 miles and the longest 23 miles (37 km to us Aussies). There were three days of 20+ miles and they were shattering.

This walk is do-able but it’s testing!

We spent two nights at St Bees, thinking it would give us a chance to have a look around the town. That took us all of a couple of hours! so we took a taxi (no train or bus service on the weekend) to Whitehaven, 8 miles away with the intention of walking back along the cliffs, which is in fact the track we’d be taking the next day on the start of ‘the walk’, only in the opposite direction.

Whitehaven’s a small port and used to be a centre for coal mining. We came across the water works building on the wharf and were immediately enthusiastic, for a moment, about buying it and doing a Kevin McLeod’s Grand Designs project.

The walk back to St Bees was a taste of what we were in for over the next 18 days. Along the cliff, perilously close to the edge at times, overgrown, we were both silently thinking, ‘Is this a good idea?’ We resolutely kept our smiles plastered on. So much so that the next morning our eagerness had us up early and down at the beach picking up pebbles and wetting our boots. Tradition demands these gestures. The pebble is to be carried to Robin Hood’s Bay where you drop it into the North Sea. And the boots are to be wet again in said sea to mark your completion of the walk.

Overgrown path

The walking path between Whitehaven and St Bees

I think I’ve waffled enough for now. In the coming weeks I’ll take you up and down mountains, through bogs and across heather-laden moors to give you a taste of what the walk shows and gives you.

Cheers and Bye for this week.

Alana