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On the Wild Side – The Dorset Coast Path Day 3

10 Aug

The following morning at just after 5 am I was up and about. It must have been a warm night as the inside of the tarp was damp with condensation despite all the air movement that using a tarp allows. Next time, I’ll raise it higher so that there is even more space for ventilation.

The moon was still up and there was just a hint of pink in the sky – the sun was still in bed – and there was a slight sea mist across the bay. I wondered if the mist might account for the dampness of the tarp! It was a peaceful morning again as I sat having breakfast watching the light gradually grow.

4.30am

In the Early Morning Light

By the time I had finished breakfast, the sun had appeared and it threw the most beautiful light across the headland and across Golden Cap in the distance. It was a fleeting light that I had to make the most of so I tried to capture the unique early morning atmosphere as best I could. It was truly, truly beautiful and I felt totally inadequate to even try to capture either in words or in camera something of what it felt like that morning!

Sunrise on Stonebarrow

Sunrise on Stonebarrow

Early Morning View from Stonebarrow

Stonebarrow with Charmouth and Lyme Regis Across the Bay

I decided to try to get a view down into the valley that Charmouth sits in and leaving my gear where it was, I headed down the western slope of the headland in order to get clear of the trees and shrubbery that covered that side of the hill. I was very quickly treated to the most amazing sight, a cloud inversion that completely filled the valley below me and washed out to sea almost as if it was water running down a channel and spilling out at the end.

Charmouth Cloud Inversion

Charmouth in the Mist

On Stonebarrow

Dropping Down Lower

I wanted to get clear of the shrubbery so I dropped down further still in an effort to get some better shots although by the time I managed to get a clear view, I was a little too low. But still the sight was amazing!

Cloud inversions are caused when the temperature in the valley is lower than the temperature above causing the air in the valley to become denser. It is one of those awesome natural phenomena that creates beautifully atmospheric scenes……which of course photographers love.

Charmouth Cloud Inversion

Cloud Inversion

I was conscious that all my worldly possessions, well some of them, were still up on the headland so I headed back up the hill. The sun had by now risen fully, and the warmth had at least partially dried my tarp. The problem with wet equipment is that it weighs more but often when you are up and out on the trail early, you have no choice but to pack everything away still wet.

Cloud Inversion at Sea

Mist Rolls out to Sea

Wild Camp

My Drying Camp

Although I was reluctant to leave my headland, I wanted to see if I could get some more pictures so I quickly stowed my gear in my rucksack and headed back down the hill I had just climbed up. In the short time it had taken me to climb up and pack my things however, the mist in the valley had completely lifted. The River Char was totally clear and reflected the blue of the sky and beach huts beautifully. I wondered what this scene would have looked like had the cloud inversion lasted a little longer.

Charmouth

Blue

The next few miles were unfortunately the low point of this walk. Cliff erosion necessitated the coast path being closed many years ago so there is no choice but to walk through Charmouth and follow the main road most of the way over the next headland and down into Lyme Regis. The powers that be have tried to find more interesting paths and there are short stretches away from the road but overall it is not a great section.

It was again an extremely hot day and I stopped for a time in a small wooded section just to get some shade. It was something of a relief when I finally arrived at Lyme Regis sea front.

Lyme Regis Beach

Lyme Regis Seafront

I continued my usual pattern of following a snack breakfast with a more substantial brunch and stopped at a seafront eatery. The day was still young so there were not many people about in this normally popular resort and it was pleasantly relaxing sitting looking across the bay. Normally my route from here would take me around the bay and past the famous Cobb which I could see in the distance but on this occasion, my route was to take me inland.

Lyme Regis

Brunch

Leaving the coast, I followed the River Lim that winds its way down through the town past the old cottages and houses that line its banks. This is such a pleasant and interesting walk because it passes through the older part of the town before exiting into some beautiful woodlands. All the while, the gentle rippling of the stream was my ever present, and ever pleasant, company.

Lyme Regis

The River Lim

Part way through this wooded area, I passed Uplyme Mill, an 18th century textile mill with its overshot mill wheel still in place. It always amazes me how a little stream could be harnessed to provide sufficient power to drive the machinery that would have been within. These days of course it is silent and peaceful, its working life having long since ceased.

The Old Mill, Up Lyme

Uplyme Mill

Beyond the mill, and still climbing steadily up through the valley, I once again entered the woodland that was lit by the most beautiful dappled light. The stream still babbled along beside me as it made its gentle way down the route I had come up.

This was my third day without any opportunity to shower and I looked for a way of perhaps getting down into the stream to splash water over me in a crude form of bath, but unfortunately I could find nowhere suitable. My wash would have to wait till later!

A Walk in the Woods

Beautifully Dappled Woods

Eventually I cleared the mixed woodland and for a time I followed the road, catching sight of the old, disused Cannington Railway Viaduct in the distance. This was part of the Lyme Regis Branch line than ran down to the coast from Axminster main line station. The viaduct was built around 1900 using materials that were carried by ship to Lyme Regis harbour and then transferred by 1,000 foot cableway to the site. The line unfortunately fell fowl of the Beeching axe and was closed in 1965. So here I was some 51 years later having to walk inland to Axminster to pick up my train home as a result 🙂 !

Interestingly, there were proposals in 2002 to reopen the line as a narrow gauge railway so that the service to Lyme Regis could be re-instated, using some of the old track bed, but so far the plans have not come to fruition.

Holcombe Viaduct

Cannington Viaduct

I continued to climb, entering yet more woodlands and passing an interesting sign that read Prescott Pinetum. Carrying out some research later, I discovered that a pinetum is a plantation of pine trees and conifers for scientific or ornamental purposes. You learn something new every day 🙂 !

The final part of the walk was through a more recent conifer plantation, following wide gravel forestry tracks, not the most interesting scenery! And surprisingly, with the sun so high in the sky, with not much shade either! It was hot! From there, it was narrow country lanes to end my three day walk. I did pass one pretty sight over that last mile or two, and that was a pair of gates with the most delightful light filtering through the trees above. As a photographer, I am always looking for nice light!

The Gate

Beautiful Light

On reaching Axminster, the end of my three day pilgrimage, my first port of call was to a cafe for a cup of tea and some water to replenish my lost hydration! Then I walked to the church and sat on the grass in the shade of a tree and I had a ceremonial washing of my face, hands and feet. This felt as good as sitting in a spa bath in an expensive hotel – in fact, much better than a spa bath in an expensive hotel! I sat leaning against the tree just drying off naturally in the gentle, cooling breeze.

Welcome Relief

Ceremonial Washing

My final port of call and the one on which I ended this idyll before boarding my homeward bound train was to enter the church. Here, amongst other things, I gave thanks for the last three days and for the continued ability to walk these distances and the freedom that we enjoy in this country. I will always maintain an attitude of gratitude for comparatively good health, and especially that my ‘enemy’ Arthur Itis remains under control.

St Mary the Virgin, Axminster

Axminster Church

What a fantastic three days this has been. Glorious weather, awesome scenery, amazing wild camping spots, fabulous walking and another all round great experience. Writing this blog just brings back all the wonderful memories I have and I consider myself truly blessed!

Thanks for walking this way with me – I hope you have enjoyed it and that I have conveyed something of how awesome it was…..and maybe inspired you a little to try it if you haven’t done it before.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

I HAVE NOW SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE DORSET RAMBLER AND THERE IS A LINK ABOVE. THIS IS TO BRING TOGETHER MY THREE PASSIONS OF DORSET, WALKING/THE OUTDOORS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THESE OR YOU ENJOY MY BLOG, PLEASE DO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK PAGE.

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

 

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On the Wild Side – The Dorset Coast Path Day 2

4 Aug

I woke the next morning at 4.30am as the first light appeared in the sky and immediately leapt out of my sleeping bag, eager to start my day – it seems so much easier when camping than when at home in a soft bed. Half an hour later the sky turned a delightful shade of pink, red and orange as the sun broke through. The sheep on the hillside were already eating breakfast and there was a beautiful stillness. The scene before me was mesmerising and I captured it as best I could, wishing I had my tripod with me!

Abbotsbury Sunrise

5am – Sunrise over Abbotsbury

I had a quick breakfast of cereal bars and tea watching the ever lightening sky and listening to the sheep and cows that surrounded me. I was still alone on my hilltop although the village below me was starting to stir.

I packed up my things – well there wasn’t much to pack really – and before leaving I went into the chapel again. The doves were also stirring for the day, and one conveniently posed for me in the east window. I think that picture with the dove in silhouette was a fitting picture on which to end my stay at that amazing place of peace and pilgrimage and I bade my farewell.

St Catherine's Chapel

The Interior of St Catherine’s Chapel

Peace

Peace!

Making my way across the hilltop, I dropped down the other side towards the coast path again, looking out across the Fleet with its swannery and the Chesil Bank that provides its  protective south bank. The day was already warm despite the clouds that had now gathered. It was to become even warmer later despite the earlier forecast of cooler weather!

The Fleet and Chesil Beach

The Fleet and Chesil Beach

Reaching the Coast

Joining the Coast Path

It was barely 6am and there was no-one else around apart from a few fishermen farther along Chesil Beach. From a distance, I could see them reeling in fish so it looked like it had been a successful night. The skies cleared once more and the early sun threw long shadows across the deserted beach. There was a lovely stillness in the air and it was wonderful to be out walking so early in the day.

Beach Walk

Early Morning Shadows

Along the Beach

Looking Back

On the Beach

Shingle and Surf

The first few miles of the day were hard going because they were either on hard but broken tarmac, or worse still, on shingle as the path follows the edge of the shingle beach. It was like constantly walking uphill and it was a relief when at last the path turned slightly inland to skirt along the edge of a nature reserve. Ahh, solid ground underfoot!

It was at this point that two walkers passed me – the first contact with humanity today. They waved a cheery good morning and continued on their way but we would meet again later in the day.

Solid Ground

Walking on Solid Ground

Gradually the day became busier! This was in part because the morning was drawing on but also because I was now entering a more ‘touristy’ section of the walk, with a number of towns, beaches and caravan parks. The first of these was Burton Bradstock, a popular beach with a caravan park just further along the coast.

Burton Bradstock

Burton Bradstock

It is at the caravan park that the River Bride enters the sea on its somewhat serpentine route. The river is not wide……but it is wide enough to need a footbridge to cross it, and that footbridge is half a mile inland. So at this point, my route detoured inland along one side of the river to reach the bridge, and then followed the other side back again.

Serpentine

The Serpentine River Bride

Generally though the walking along this section was not difficult as the headlands are not majorly high. That would all change later but for now, I could enjoy great views without too much effort.

On Burton Cliff

On Burton Cliff

There is one particularly interesting feature here though, and that is the Bridport Golf Club. Now I’m not a golfer but the hole in the picture below must be a challenge especially on a day when a stiff sea breeze is blowing. The tee off point is on the headland beside where I am stood and the hole is in the valley some 150 feet below! That must be difficult to gauge!

What Hole?

A Hole in One?

In terms of climbing, this was the first challenge of the day as I dropped down to almost sea level and climbed again up the other side. I stopped at the top to catch my breath….although it was of course in the guise of taking a photo. There are benefits to being a photographer 🙂 ! The view back was clear all the way to Portland, the ‘island’ that juts out into the sea.

An Awesome Coastline

Awesome Views

I arrived in a very busy West Bay in time for brunch – cheeseburger and tea which I ate sat along the harbourside. It always seems somewhat incongruous being in such a busy, tourist hot spot after walking along some remote coastal parts and it was only afterwards that I realised I didn’t take a single photograph there.

Having replenished my food and water supplies, I moved swiftly on, keen to be out on the wild coast again. I knew that the afternoon would be far more challenging than the morning with much higher headlands and steep climbs to negotiate, and the day was hotting up too! This was very quickly evidenced by the number of paragliders that habituate this part of the coast.

Freedom

Paraglider

Even on the lower headlands I often found myself looking down on them rather than up, as they swooped from almost sea level to soar over my head. I was entering Broadchurch land (for those of you who watched that series on television) and I dropped down into Eype Mouth. Ahead of me I could dee my first major climb up over Thornecombe Beacon!

Broadchurch Land

Eype Mouth with Thornecombe Beacon Beyond

The day was by now extremely muggy with very little breeze to give any relief and I drank copious amounts of water as I made my way up the steep climb. The views were awesome and as I looked west I could see my next, even bigger, challenge in the shape of Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast.

From Thorncombe Beacon

From Thornecombe Beacon to Golden Cap

Before that climb though I had to drop down to sea level to reach Seatown, another popular beach with a nearby caravan site. For once I was happy about that though because I knew there was a shop there and that would be my last opportunity to replenish my supplies until tomorrow.

Climbing up out of Seatown I stopped to look back across Thornecombe Beacon.

Climbing Golden Cap

Climbing Golden Cap

The view from the top of Golden Cap makes all the hard work worth while and I dropped my pack and just sat drinking it in. For a time I had the place to myself although that rarely lasts long as many walkers pass that way, sometimes arriving from easier inland routes. I didn’t yet know where I would spend the night but it occurred to me that right there would be good. The day was still too young though so I continued on my way.

Golden Cap View

The View East from Golden Cap

Dropping down off the headland, I detoured slightly inland to walk through the almost deserted medieval hamlet of Stanton St Gabriel with its derelict church, dedicated to St Gabriel, and few remaining cottages. This was once a thriving fishing and farming community but making a living was hard and gradually people were lured away to the larger town of Bridport where there were mills and rope works. It became a smuggling area where contraband was stored and now provides holiday homes, even the old manor house being divided into flats.

I just find these villages so fascinating and I stood wondering what life, and the people, were like when it was in its heyday. If only Apple could add time machines to their phones so that we could at will go back and stand observing life then.

St Gabriel's Church

St Gabriel’s Church

Stanton St Gabriel

The Old Manor House, Stanton St Gabriel

I was woken from my reverie by the first drop of rain! And in many ways, it was welcome rain to cool me from the warmth of the day. I continued on my way knowing that there were no higher climbs to come although this part of the coast is still a switchback of ups and downs. Behind me Golden Cap gradually faded further into the distance.

Golden Cap from the West

Looking Back to Golden Cap

The day was drawing on and I started looking for somewhere to stop for the night. Nothing suitable materialised though until I summited the last headland before Charmouth which was flat and grassy. Here I would spend the night. There was even a seat there for me!

I sat alone in my ‘bedroom’ eating the food I had carried and brewed a cup of tea thinking that I would be able to sit and read for a time before settling down for the night…..but that wasn’t to be! First of all four people arrived carrying picnic chairs and settled on the cliff top. Then over the next hour others arrived until I was sat on my headland with a hundred or more people – it turned out that the Red Arrows, the RAF aerobatic team, were giving a display that evening as part of the RNLI celebrations in Lyme Regis across the bay from me. So I spent the evening chatting to various people and enjoying a display that I had known nothing about 🙂 !

Two of the people I chatted to were the two walkers I had passed at the beginning of the day. They told me that they were walking to Land’s End to raise money for charity. They had started as a trio but the third member had taken a tumble and broken his ankle so the two were continuing alone. I bade them good luck and they continued on their way.

 

Red Arrows

The Red Arrows Display

After the display had finished, people gradually drifted away and ultimately I had my lofty bed place to myself again. Almost as if I had given a cue, it was at that point that the clouds parted again and I was treated to the most amazing late light display that bettered even the Red Arrows. The sun slanted across the top of the headland where I would sleep, picking out the brightly coloured heather on the cliff edge.

Stonebarrow

Stonebarrow  with Golden Cap in the Distance

Stonebarrow Sunset

Stonebarrow Sunset

The sun soon dropped below the horizon and as the light faded, I set up my bed for the night. With the clouds still lingering and the recent rain, I decided to set up my tarp in case it rained in the night.

Stonebarrow Sunset

The End of Another Perfect Day

In the darkness, the lights of Charmouth and Lyme Regis twinkled below me. I would be passing through both of those places tomorrow but for tonight, I was content to be once more sleeping right in the midst of nature. What better place is there to sleep? I drifted off to the gentle sound of distant waves below me.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have enjoyed walking with me again today and that you will join me for another great day tomorrow.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

I HAVE NOW SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE DORSET RAMBLER AND THERE IS A LINK ABOVE. THIS IS TO BRING TOGETHER MY THREE PASSIONS OF DORSET, WALKING/THE OUTDOORS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THESE OR YOU ENJOY MY BLOG, PLEASE DO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK PAGE.

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

On the Wild Side – The Dorset Coast Path Day 1

2 Aug

Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know that I have just been on a short (well 50 miles) wild camping trek along the Dorset Coast – well I thought I would blog this amazing trip.  This is Day 1 when I walked from Weymouth to Abbotsbury.

The day was hot, really hot, and I got off the train and made my way to the seafront. I have completed this walk numerous times and each time the day starts the same – with a bacon bap and cup of tea on the seafront overlooking the beach. This sets me up well for the walk to come. I sat under the shade of an umbrella.

Breakfast

Bacon Butty Breakfast!

Leaving the beachside cafe I made my way around the beach to the harbour where my next transport awaited me – the rowing boat ferry that crosses the harbour entrance. This ferry saves a mile or more of walking to reach the nearest bridge but for me, it is much more about the quirkiness of being rowed across to the other side. Its just such a great start to the day and is worth more to me than the £1 it costs.

Weymouth Harbour

Waiting

The Ferry

Row Boat Ferry

Reaching dry land again, I made my way through Nothe Gardens and around the headland with views across Portland Harbour entrance. This was once a major Naval Base and still retains the features that were at one time so important to its operation.

Portland Harbour Entrance

Portland Harbour Entrance

Military connections continue for a time as the next feature on the walk is Sandsfoot Castle, built by Henry viii in 1539 to protect this part of the coast. The now derelict castle has recently been made safe so that visitors can walk around it, and it is surrounded by the most beautifully colourful gardens, including a tea room. Resisting the temptation, I walked on!

Sandsfoot Castle Gardens

Sandsfoot Castle

I joined the Rodwell Trail that follows the old railway that once ran from Weymouth to Portland. This was easy walking along a tarmac track until reaching Ferrybridge where I finally left civilisation behind and joined the winding track that follows the shoreline of The Fleet, a nearly landlocked tract of brackish water separated from the sea by the famous Chesil Beach.

The Old Gateway

The Start of The Fleet

The Fleet is fed by the sea at its eastern end and by a number of streams along its 8 mile length. It is therefore almost a lake but rises and falls with the tide. Its southern shore is straight and bounded by Chesil Beach, its northern shore winds in and out of various coves and inlets, as well as one or two military establishments including a firing range and a bridge building centre where the army practices building bridges. One of its most noted military connections from the past is that it was an early testing area for Barnes Wallis’ famous bouncing bomb.

The Old Jetty

Langton Hive Point

For the most part these days it is just the most beautiful and peaceful place to walk. The walking is flat and easy with much to take in along the route, including a number of old jetties. The most photographed of these is the one at Langton Hive Point which sadly now has few timbers remaining. I decided to stop here for an early lunch with lovely views out across The Fleet with numerous rowing boats moored along its shore.

The Fleet

Beside the Fleet

Lost in the Grass

Rowing Boats and Grass

The early afternoon sun was becoming hotter still and I was having to drink copious amounts of water to keep hydrated. With nearly 20kg on my back, the walk was tiring despite its flatness – I knew though that there were hills aplenty to come before my 50 mile trek would be complete but the forecast suggested that it was to cool over the coming days. I hoped so!

Moonfleet Church

Fleet Church

I always think one of the most interesting features along this stretch of the Dorset coast is the hamlet of Fleet which has an interesting and somewhat tragic past. In November 1824 there was an almighty storm and the sea breached Chesil Beach that had until then protected the tiny hamlet. The devastation was massive as huge waves washed inland destroying many cottages and most of the church. Only the chancel of the old church was left standing. A local boy observed the scene and wrote:

“At six o’-clock on the morning of the 23rd I was standing with other boys by the gate near the cattle pound when I saw, rushing up the valley, the tidal wave, driven by a hurricane and bearing upon its crest a whole haystack and other debris from the fields below. We ran for our lives to Chickerell, and when we returned found that five houses had been swept away and the church was in ruins.”

The hamlet and what is left of the old church is delightful and I always stop here for a time of reflection. It is so peaceful that it is hard to imagine the events of 1824.

Aside from those catastrophic events, the village has been immortalised by J Meade Faulkner who based his book Moonfleet on the area.

Moonfleet Church

The Ever Open Door

Leaving ‘Moonfleet’ behind I continued along the shore and met another backpacker walking the other way. We fell into conversation and the girl, a young Swiss student, told me how she was walking the entire South West Coast Path having started some 5 weeks earlier. She was on the latter stages and was to finish the walk the following weekend after 630 miles and 6 weeks of walking. I was impressed, not only that someone so young should take on what is a serious undertaking alone, but that she chose to backpack it, sleeping in a tent each night. Most people choose to use hostels/B&B, and use baggage transfer companies.

We stood looking at the view below chatting for probably half an hour before parting to continue on our separate ways. These brief meetings along the pathways are partly what makes these walks so interesting. Common interests are shared albeit briefly and most people are so friendly, creating a real camaraderie that you find in few places. Afterwards I wished that we had swapped contact information as I find myself wondering whether she finished and how her last few days went.

The Fleet

The Fleet

Leaving my Swiss friend, I walked on, passing Fleet House, built in Georgian times, now the Moonfleet Manor Hotel. Skylarks serenaded me as I made my way around the last part of the Fleet Lagoon before reaching the point where the path turns inland.

Fleet

Moonfleet Manor Hotel

On the Fleet Path

Beside the Fleet

From here, the route took me across farm land to climb steeply onto the inland ridge which would take me the remainder of the way into Abbotsbury. As I climbed higher, the views opened up all around me.

Turning Inland

Turning Inland

Abbots bury is a town that sits at the west end of The Fleet and it is a delightful town with honey coloured buildings. I passed the entrance to its world famous swannery, its ancient tithe barn, its derelict abbey, its tropical gardens, and its beautiful church, dedicated to St Nicholas. I paused for a moment of reflection at the gateway before entering the town itself as I was nearing the end of my first days walk.

St Nicholas, Abbotsbury

St Nicholas, Abbotsbury

With the exceptionally hot weather, my water was spend so I called at one of the pubs to buy some bottled water and to ask if they would fill my water bladder. One of the problems with wild camping is that there is often no water supply so I knew I would have to take enough with me to last overnight and through the next day. I carry an emergency water filter which is so useful but the streams I was passing on this walk were all low level and on farm land, making them less than ideal.

Having replenished my supplies, re-hydrated myself and splashed some water around my face (there would be no washing facilities where I would be sleeping), I made my way on through the village. I still hadn’t any idea where I would spend the night. One possibility was to climb up to the ridge inland of Abbotsbury and look for a flat grassy area there, another was to continue along the coast path and hope I would find some flat grass there, a third was to spend the night on Chesil Beach although I was not sure how comfortable shingle would be to lie on! Ultimately I decided anyway to climb up Chapel Hill to have a look at St Catherine’s Chapel before deciding which way to head.

On Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill with Strip Lynchets

With the sun now getting low in the sky, the chapel looked absolutely beautiful standing proud high on its hill like a beacon of hope to the world below. The slanting sunlight picked out the strip lynchets that run along the hillside which would once have contained crops. Half way up I turned to look back to the town with its own church tower standing sentinel over the surrounding cottages. Around me were sheep and cows grazing the hillside. It was such a delightful scene and it entered my mind that maybe that would make a good stopping point.

Abbotsbury

Abbotsbury

I continued to the top to look around this stunning chapel, standing seemingly solid against all the elements that had been thrown at it over the centuries, its delightful warm coloured stone standing out so clearly against the deep blue of the sky. I went inside the empty and disused chapel with its equally solid door – I say empty although it was in fact occupied by a dole of doves (yes, that’s the group name). It seemed totally fitting that this place of peace should now be occupied by doves, the symbol of peace.

There are no records of the construction of the chapel but it is thought to date from the 14th century. It was built as a place of pilgrimage and retreat by the monks of the Benedictine Monastery that once stood in the village far below and it seems to have survived the Dissolution although the abbey itself did not. It was dedicated to St Catherine, the patron saint of spinsters, and became a place of prayer for those seeking a husband. Occasional services are still held there.

St Catherine's Chapel

St Catherine’s Chapel

The Old Church Door

The Church Door

Outside, I settled myself down on the grass in the still warm evening sun and over the next couple of hours I passed the time of day with a number of visitors to my lofty bed place. One couple, strangely also from Switzerland, spend the evening picnicking there. They told me they were on holiday travelling around the UK and that they were staying in Abbotsbury.

There was a lovely cooling breeze gently blowing across the hilltop and there were amazing views in all directions. In addition to human visitors, I shared my hilltop with sheep, cows, doves, rooks, and mayflies – there were hundreds of them flying about.

St Catherine's Sunset

Sunset at St Catherine’s

I watched the sun set, with the sky turning gradually orange, then pink, then deepening red until the light finally faded. I was left alone on my hilltop and the words of the poet, Thomas Gray, came to mind, ‘And all was left to darkness and to me’. I spread out by sleeping bag and with the chapel sheltering me from the now cooling breeze, I lay watching the nearly full moon rise across the valley.

A Bed for the Night

A Bed for the Night

Moonrise

Nightfall

Today has felt like a pilgrimage and this ancient holy place seemed a fitting place to end my day. The moon provided a little light and the stars were a canopy over my head. What could be better than spending the night in this awesome place on a balmy night such as this. I drifted off to sleep, contented and wondering if tomorrow could possibly better this!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have enjoyed today’s pilgrimage and that you will join me for another great day tomorrow.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

I HAVE NOW SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE DORSET RAMBLER AND THERE IS A LINK ABOVE. THIS IS TO BRING TOGETHER MY THREE PASSIONS OF DORSET, WALKING/THE OUTDOORS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THESE OR YOU ENJOY MY BLOG, PLEASE DO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK PAGE.

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Why Walk?

9 Mar

Setting off for a destination, having only what you are carrying on your back and no real plan is true freedom

The poppy field

For views such as this!

As you may know, I set up this blog so that I can share three of my passions with others, and one of these passions is walking. My motivation for sharing my walks is partly for the enjoyment of those who for health or age reasons are unable to get out into the countryside themselves, partly for those who do get out into the country and who still enjoy reading others’ experiences, and partly to encourage non-walkers to just give walking a try.

Some will ask the question, ‘Why Walk?’, and I know that some will be unable to see any benefits to something that to them might seem quite laborious and slow. There will be those who think only in terms of arriving and who will see the journeying as just an evil necessity, so ‘lets get it over in the quickest way possible’! But as T S Elliot said, ‘The journey, not the arrival matters’!

Watching the Sunset

Walkers enjoying a rest

So why do I use Shanks’s Pony as my preferred mode of transport? Well the short answer is that I enjoy it, I enjoy the mechanical process of just putting one foot in front of the other. But obviously there is much more to it than that! So here are some of the benefits.

I think one of the first, over-riding things is that anyone can do it, whatever your age or fitness level……and it doesn’t have to cost a thing.

It brings health benefits, both physical and mental. On the physical level, it keeps the body fitter, tones muscles, is good for weight loss, keeps the heart strong. On a mental level, it pumps blood round the brain, improving memory and mental agility. It also has the effect of improving mood and has been shown to be effective in combatting depression. In short, you feel better mentally and physically for walking. Hippocrates was right when he said, ‘Walking is man’s best medicine.’

It definitely helps stress and I know people who were off work with stress but who soon recovered after spending some time walking in the countryside. It is a great de-stresser and can be preventative as well as curative. Coupled with this, it can help you sleep better – the pure sleep of a tired body and a satisfied mind.

Great Fryup Dale

To enjoy an amazingly diverse landscape

It can be tailored to suit the individual. Doctors recommend 150 minutes a week but if you have never exercised before, you can start with just a short stroll and build up from there to as much or little as you want. Anything is better than nothing!

It is gentle on the joints. For someone like myself who suffers from arthritis, this one is quite crucial. Recently I have tried a bit of running but my ankles soon complain because the weight on limbs increases considerably.

You don’t need any special equipment. OK, there is a whole industry based on walking, providing all manner of high and low tech gear to aid walking and in some ways the industry has created its own market. The fact is you don’t NEED anything specific – my parents walked many miles when they were alive and they did it all in their day clothes and ordinary shoes. Even the famous Alfred Wainwright didn’t have expensive equipment and he spent his life walking. I guess some equipment helps, but you don’t necessarily NEED anything fancy to start walking.

OK, so that has covered some of the factual issues, but there are many more emotive reasons for walking.

You will see things that you would never see otherwise. You can drive through the countryside but most of your focus will be on the road so you will miss much of what is around. When you are on foot, you can stop often, and paths will take you to places that a car just cannot reach. And you will be richer as a result.

DSC00581-41

To see things you would never normally see – new born lambs

You will be away from the daily grind. In this computer and social media age, there is often an imbalance between time spent outside and time spent at technology screens, whether they be computer, tablet, games machine or smart phone. Even as a walker I struggle with this – between blogging, processing photographs, writing, planning walks and researching my family history, I seem to spend more time than I want at the computer screen.

Just being in the countryside, on the coast, or on the hilltop is sheer joy. There are views aplenty, lovely varied landscapes, and even with a cheap pair of binoculars you see wildlife that you would not normally see. You can surround yourself with trees, wild flowers, animals, birds, bugs of all shapes and sizes and be lost in their midst. It is just the most amazing place to be and puts everything into perspective. No one ever achieved that in their office.

The bluebell woods

To walk amongst nature is a joy

You meet some lovely and like-minded people. I always think it strange that you can walk through a town surrounded by people and speak to no-one, but get out on the coast path and you will say ‘hello’ to everyone you pass, and stop to pass the time of day with many. There is such a community spirit in the countryside and it is one of its great pleasures.

It is great for thinking…..and talking. I find that I think better when walking, that is a simple truth, and I often put the world to rights in my mind whilst climbing a hill. Somehow it is easier than when I am just sat at home. But it is great for talking too. If you have a problem to share, it is often easier to talk over it whilst walking than it is when just sat opposite each other. Sometimes I think there should be more walking and talking counselling services for those who have issues to talk through.

One area I think can be particularly enjoyable and beneficial is the end to end walk, or thru hike as they call it in America. With these walks you basically leave the world behind and it is just you and what you have on your back meeting challenges as you go with just your own problem solving skills to get you through. And you meet those problems head on whether they be to do with bad weather, finding places to sleep, finding food on the way, difficulties over route finding and so on. OK, so this is the UK and not the wild jungles of Borneo but challenges will still arise and you need to meet those and overcome them.

Setting off for a destination hundreds of miles away and having only what you are carrying and no real plan is freedom in its truest form!

Drying Time

Just me and what I have on my back!

I love my walking and as far as possible, I do it very day. Some days they are long walks, some days they are shorter walks, and some days perhaps just a half an hour power walk and I have tried to put into words why I do it.

So how about you? If you have never really tried it, I would encourage you to give it a go. You may be surprised at what benefits it brings you and how it will enrich your life.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

I HAVE NOW SET UP A FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THE DORSET RAMBLER AND THERE IS A LINK ABOVE. THIS IS TO BRING TOGETHER MY THREE PASSIONS OF DORSET, WALKING/THE OUTDOORS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THESE OR YOU ENJOY MY BLOG, PLEASE DO ‘LIKE’ MY FACEBOOK PAGE.

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Coast to Coast – Day by Day

14 Jul

If you have been following my posts, you will know that I recently walked the Wainwright Coast to Coast Path, a 200 mile route across the north of England. I have already blogged my experiences but I thought I would post one last entry giving a very brief summary of each day as I remember it, mainly for anyone who is thinking of completing this great walk. The idea is to just give a flavour of the paths, terrain, difficulties on the route etc to help with your planning.

Day 0 – St Bees to St bees Head – 3 miles

A day spent mainly travelling up so just a few straight forward miles along the coast path to reach my first accommodation.

Day 1 – St Bees Head to Ennerdale Bridge – 13 miles

Good cliff top path to start, some roads, some slightly muddy paths at Stanley Pond, steep climb up Dent Hill (350 meters), steep drop down other side, lovely walk through Nannycatch, road/roadside into EB. Some tiny kissing gates to negotiate, plus one high stile. Care re route needed at Stanley Pond, when leaving Cleator and at Dent Hill.

The path beside Ennerdale Water

The path beside Ennerdale Water

Day 2 – Ennerdale Bridge to Borrowdale – 18 miles

Road to Ennerdale Water, rocky path beside lake, wide forest track to Black Sail, steep and rocky climb to Brandreth (600 meters), old tramway down to Honister, good paths or road into Borrowdale. Care re route needed when leaving Black Sail Hut and when crossing the top from Brandreth to Honister in bad conditions.

Day 3 – Borrowdale to Grasmere – 9 miles

Good but rocky path along valley, steep rocky climb up Greenup Gill, boggy across the top of Greenup Edge (600 meters), good ridge walk, steep drop into Grasmere. Care re route needed when crossing the top of Greenup Edge as it is boggy and the path can be indistinct.

The path to Angle Tarn

The path to Angle Tarn

Day 4 – Grasmere to Patterdale – 8.5 miles

Road and good track to Great Tongue, steep and rocky climb to Grisedale Hause and Grisedale Tarn (600 meters), rocky but good path beside Grisedale Beck down to Patterdale, and then mainly farm track or road into the village.

Day 5 – Patterdale to Shap – 16.2 miles

Generally good paths via Boredale Hause to climb steadily to Angle Tarn, good path to the Knott and across Kidsty Pike (760 meters), steep descent to Haweswater, rocky and undulating path alongside lake, flatter and lower level paths to Shap. Last part can be muddy. Care re route needed on Boredale Hause and on the approach to High Street in order to not miss the Kidsty path.

On Kidsty Pike

On Kidsty Pike

Day 6 – Shap to Kirkby Stephen – 22 miles

Roads and fields out of Shap crossing railway line and motorway, boggy across Crosby Ravensworth Fell, road and fields to Sunbiggin, moorland tracks to Smardale, more moorland tracks with some road and fields into Kirkby Stephen. Care re route needed on Crosby Ravensworth Fell.

Day 7 – Kirkby Stephen to Keld – 13 miles

Road and then wide moorland tracks out of Kirkby Stephen, extremely boggy with indistinct paths across much of the Pennines (depending on which route you take), some road walking on the Green Route, better paths after Ravenseat Farm. Avoid the high level route in bad weather. Expect lots of surface water if the weather has been wet. Great care re route finding needed on the boggy moors.

Day 8 – Keld to Reeth – 14.4 miles

I took the low level route where there are good straightforward paths mainly beside the River Swale, some climbing, many narrow gated stiles to negotiate, many small fields to cross. No real route finding problems on the low level route although some care is needed on the high level route.

Narrow gated stiles

Narrow gated stiles

Day 9 – Reeth to Bolton-on-Swale – 20 miles

The day starts with a lovely walk beside the River Swale and part way up the valley side with lots more narrow stiles to negotiate, followed by farm land across mainly rolling hills plus some road walking. Richmond is a busy and bustling town. From Richmond, the walking becomes a bit tedious with A roads to negotiate and flat farm land to cross. There is currently a detour near Colburn/Caterick Bridge but no real route finding issues.

Day 10 – Bolton-on-Swale to Osmotherley – 19 miles

Country lanes, wide farm tracks and flat farm fields mostly until Ingleby Cross, then steeply climbing forest track followed by road into Osmotherley. For me, the most tedious day on the whole route. No route finding issues to speak of.

Day 11 – Osmotherley to Blakey Ridge – 18 miles

A day of two halves. The first half tough with many steep climbs – a roller coaster – but most on very well paved moorland tracks. The second half much flatter on high level wide moorland tracks. No route finding issues. Good way marking.

Looking back to Cringle Moor

Well paved paths on the North York Moors

Day 12 – Blakey Ridge to Littlebeck – 19 miles

Wide moorland paths or roads again for first 10 miles and all downhill till Glaisdale. Lower level walking along good tracks or road to Grosmont but a steep climb up roadway over Sleights Moor (700 feet) before dropping down to Littlebeck. No real route finding issues.

Day 13 – Littlebeck to Robin Hood’s Bay – 12 miles

Lovely walk along good paths through Littlebeck Wood, climb on roadway to Sneaton Low Moor, very boggy section across the Graystone Hills, mainly road walking from there to the coast, good walking along the coast path to finish. Care re route needed on the Graystone Hills.

In Littlebeck Woods

In Littlebeck Woods

This is not intended to be an exhaustive detailing of the route, just a snapshot of the route. The walking can be difficult with sections which are either very boggy or very rocky, paths which climb or fall steeply, paths which are indistinct and not way marked etc, but with common sense and a good map/guidebook there is no reason why anyone should get hopelessly lost. Obviously care is particularly needed in poor conditions.

I hope this brief summary will prove useful and that you will enjoy the walk as much as I did.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Your friend The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Coast to Coast – On Reflection

2 Jul

As you may know, I have recently completed the Wainwright Coast to Coast long distance path that runs from St Bees on the west coast to Robin Hood’s Bay on the east coast and I have been detailing my experiences over the last few weeks. This blog entry is a summary of hints and tips for anyone thinking about doing this walk, or indeed any long distance end to end walk. It is of course not an exhaustive list but rather a summary from my own experience. I hope you will find it interesting and helpful.

Amazing views

Amazing views

Overall assessment of the route
The first thing to say is that it is a fabulous walk with amazing scenery, awesome views, a generally good choice of accommodation, friendly people, and lots of interesting things to see on the way. That said, it is a tough walk – you will climb the equivalent of Mount Everest and descend as well of course. It is officially 192 miles from end to end but with perhaps a few extra miles to reach accommodation on some days, this will probably increase to 200 or so. There are some steep climbs, rocky paths, boggy parts, and not being a national trail, it is not always well way marked. Oh, and lets not forget the weather as you will pass through the wettest place in England. It is however all perfectly ‘walkable’ provided you have a level of fitness and are able to use navigation aids. More than that, it is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. No wonder it is an internationally acclaimed route.

To backpack or not to backpack
There are a number of ways to complete the route – to backpack it and carry everything, to use baggage transfer, or to do short sections only. I chose to backpack it for a number of reasons which I can sum up in just three words – purist, challenge and freedom. I enjoyed the challenge of not relying on anyone or anything else, and I enjoyed the freedom to stop wherever I wanted without having any prior set agenda, meeting difficulties as they arose. This freedom is particularly enhanced if you can wild camp but in my case, the conditions were against me this time. Only 2% of people backpack the route but for me, nothing can replace the feeling of having won through as I walked into Robin Hood’s Bay.

Using baggage transfer has obvious advantages and is comparatively inexpensive on this route. It does mean though that you need to pre-book accommodation so that they know where to deliver your bags, so taking some of the spontaneity out of the walk. On the positive side though it does mean that you can probably enjoy each day’s walking a little more since you don’t have to focus on just getting over each hill with a load up.

Having completed it once by the ‘purist’ method, I could be persuaded to use baggage transfer if I did the route again.

To backpack or not to backpack!

To backpack or not to backpack!

Time of year
I don’t think that there is a right time of year to do this walk although you need to bear in mind that it is a popular walk and becomes very busy in peak season and on bank holiday weekends. Equally, conditions in winter will not necessarily favour walking. My view is that spring or autumn is probably the best time but it is down to personal preference. If you are backpacking of course, walking in warmer weather means you will have less to carry.

Navigation
This is probably the worst way marked of the popular long distance walks. I took four navigation aids with me – a GPS with the route downloaded, strip map and compass, guide book, and an iPhone map Ap (UK Map) and I used all these. Having walked with others who used different maps etc, I would recommend A-Z Adventure Atlas which has Ordnance Survey maps rather than the strip map that I took. It fits neatly into a waterproof cover too. Care is needed with the GPS download as the route may vary slightly from the guide book, which can be confusing. I used the Stedman guide book which proved helpful and generally adequate although there may be better ones. You do need to be aware that guide books go out of date so you might need to double check if it states for example that there is a shop in a certain village – I was caught out several times during my walk.

Hit and miss way marking

Hit and miss way marking

Navigation can be particularly difficult in bad weather. Thick mist is an obvious issue but even on a clear day when it is very wet and windy, it can be really difficult to read a guide book or map without it being destroyed! There are also some notorious navigation hot spots where people regularly go wrong but I will detail these in a separate entry. The good news is that although I took an occasional slight detour, at no point during the 200 miles did I stray too drastically from the route.

Paths
Paths are a mixed bag. Some road walking, some lovely grassy paths, some very rocky areas, some cliff tops, some ‘paved’ moorland paths, some forest trails, some farm tracks, and some wild, exposed and very boggy moorlands. I will try to detail these more specifically in the next entry.

Great paths on the North York Moors

Great paths on the North York Moors

High level alternatives
There are a number of alternative high level routes that you can take and, depending on your fitness, I would recommend taking at least one of these if the weather conditions are favourable. The main ones are the High Stile/Haystacks ridge (my day 2), the Calf Crag to Helm Crag ridge (my day 3), Helvellyn and Striding Edge (my day 4), Nine Standards Rigg (my day 7), Gunnerside and Melbecks Moors (my day 8). Haystacks and Helvellyn are particularly fine routes.

West to east or east to west?
Wainwright recommended west to east so that the prevailing weather will, in theory, be on your back which makes sense. However, it does mean that you will have the most climbs and arguably the best scenery in the early days. Walking east to west will mean a slightly easier first half enabling you to get fitter and stronger before you scale the greater heights which also makes sense. Most would also probably say it will ‘save the best to last’. At the end of the day, you ‘pays your money and takes your choice’ 🙂 !

How many days?
This is like saying how long is a piece of string as it depends entirely on your fitness level and what you want to achieve. Most people take around 2 weeks, slightly under or slightly over. Some take a rest day in the middle. I averaged 16 miles a day carrying a 20Kg pack which was about right for me. Remember, you want to enjoy it and anything good should not be rushed.

Plan well but be flexible
One of the things I like to do when preparing for a long walk is to research and plan it well, looking at guide books and reading accounts written by others who have completed the walk (one of the reasons I blog my walks afterwards is to help others who are considering doing the walk). I think preparation is essential but I also think it helps to leave some space for changes along the route – prepared but flexible is my approach and it works for me. That is of course one of the benefits of backpacking the route.

On the boggy moors

On the boggy moors

Organising the day
This is of course down to personal preference as well as meal times if you are staying at B&B’s but for me, it worked to get up and go to bed with the sun……assuming there is any sun 😉 ! I was usually out on the trail between 6.00 and 7.30am and aimed to arrive at my stopping point for the night whilst there was still some sunshine (hopefully) in order to dry the tent which was invariably wet from the previous night. Starting early can also help to avoid the ‘rush’ as most walkers will leave after breakfast. In terms of distance walked, this will depend on the terrain and fitness levels. The most important thing is to enjoy the walk and leave enough time in the day to ‘stand and stare’ as there is plenty to see.

Food and drink
With food, there is a need to think ahead as there may be days when no food is available along the route you have chosen. I found it useful to always carry extra food that will travel well such as cup-a-soups, pork pies, breakfast bars, nuts etc., plus some dehydrated meals provided you have a stove. I carried water, but I also carried a light water filter just in case I ran out for any reason. Depending on where you stay, there will usually be a pub available for a main meal and often they will offer packed lunches too. As mentioned earlier, don’t rely too much on the guide book for shops and cafes on route as they may have closed down since the book was last revised.

I've heard of carrying cooking pots but this is ridiculous :)

I’ve heard of carrying cooking pots but this is ridiculous 🙂

Weather
I think it is fair to say that in the mountains of the north of England, weather is at best mixed so prepare for the worst. Borrowdale, and indeed the Lake District generally, is one of the wettest places in England so be prepared for rain. During my 13 day walk I encountered lots of heavy rain, sleet, below freezing temperatures, gale force winds, lots of surface water, mist, low cloud, but also beautiful sunshine. In terms of wet weather gear, I carried a waterproof jacket and trousers, gaiters, waterproof cover for the rucksack, and waterproof cover for the camera. I also needed gloves and a woolly hat even though it was May. Everything in my rucksack was stored in waterproof stuff sacks.

One thing I did try this time was to carry some waterproof socks and these proved invaluable when putting on boots that were still wet from the previous day. Oh, and I always carry a change of shoes for the evening so that I don’t have to go to the pub in wet boots. Don’t forget that wet grass can mean wet boots even if it is not raining.

Prepared for all weather!

Prepared for all weather!

People
One of the features of this walk for me was the friendliness of the people, both the local residents and fellow walkers. I lost count of the number of times locals chatted to me and pointed out the route, and I walked with people of several different nationalities. There was a real community feel about the walk and that was one of the highlights.

One of the strangest things was when I came to sign the book at the end of the walk and the name immediately above mine and completing the walk on the same day as me was a girl who lives just a couple of miles from me in Dorset. What a coincidence…….and not only that but by chance I shared a room that night at the local hostel with her father.

Electrical equipment
Keeping mobile phones etc charged up can be a potential issue if you are backpacking. I like to keep in touch with my family and I like to Tweet the walk as I go, plus of course I am a photographer. This means that I have at least two things that need charging regularly. I researched solar chargers which seemed the ideal solution but was unable to find one that was small, light and yet charged well…….unless you live in Florida with permanent sunshine! I resorted in the end to a battery pack that would charge an iPhone seven or eight times. Ultimately I didn’t have to use it that much because I found that pubs and cafes are more than willing to allow you to use their sockets to charge equipment. One thing I did do though is to carry a second cheap pay-as-you-go phone on a different network to my main phone in case of emergency.

Mobile signal
Be aware that a mobile signal is not always available in a lot of areas, notably in the Lake District where some of the pubs in the valleys do not seem to have any wifi either.

I hope this has been useful but if you want to ask anything specific, please do feel free to comment on the blog or email me. In my next blog entry I will try to give a very brief summary of each day, including potential difficulties.

Until next time,

Your friend, The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Coast to Coast – Part 7

28 Jun

Day 12 – Blakey Ridge to Littlebeck – 19 miles

I woke at 5.30am after a disturbed night, caused by the constant flapping of the tent in the strong gusting wind. I peered outside to see thick mist and low cloud with heavy rain – not what had been forecasted at all! However, it wasn’t unusual since the Lion Inn is one of the highest pubs in England!

In the morning mizzle!

In the morning mizzle!

I decided to get going early and was out on the trail again before 6.30am, initially following the road across Danby High Moor. Being on the road was something of a relief bearing in mind the poor visibility, although it did mean dodging the occasional car that loomed suddenly out of the mist. After a couple of miles, I passed Fat Betty, the stone in the picture below. This is in fact a medieval cross dating from the 12th century and is also known as White Cross. These wayside crosses or marker stones would have been used for hundreds of years as a guide for pilgrims crossing these wild and remote moors.

Naturally there are numerous different legends surrounding Fat Betty but the truth about its origin has been lost in the mist of time (pun intended 🙂 ). The most plausible explanation is that it was something to do with the nearby Rosedale Abbey – the nuns there wore white habits.

There is a more modern tradition whereby walkers take a sweet or snack from the stone and leave something of theirs for the next traveller. After the wind and rain and mist, the few sweets that were on there were somewhat the worse for wear so I just picked one up and put it back as a nod to tradition 🙂 !

Fat Betty

Fat Betty

After some time on the road, I branched off across moorland paths, passing Trough House on the way. This very remote house stands on the high moors and is used as a shooting lodge. Had the weather really closed in this would have made a good sheltering spot……..except that it was locked.

Trough House

Trough House

The 10 miles from Blakey Ridge to Glaisdale is nearly all downhill and I gradually dropped out of the low cloud although it still took some time for the rain to stop. In the valleys below I could see splashes of sunshine appearing, but not where I was! Great Fryup Dale looked particularly inviting when bathed in sunshine, although it wasn’t actually on my route. Its name by the way has nothing to do with breakfast – in fact it was probably named after Frige, an Anglo-Saxon goddess, and hop, meaning a small valley.

Great Fryup Dale

Great Fryup Dale

The walking was really more of yesterday – crossing the open moors on wide sandy/stony paths or narrow country lanes with skylarks overhead and grouse, lapwings and curlew all around. Finally as I dropped down to another stretch of road walking, the rain stopped and I got the weather that had been forecasted:) ! My abiding memory of the walk along Glaisdale Rigg on the road is being able to FaceTime my wife and young grandson – modern technology makes being away from home so much easier!

On Glaisdale Rigg

On Glaisdale Rigg

Glaisdale from Glaisdale Rigg

Glaisdale from Glaisdale Rigg

Leaving the road once more for another moorland track, I bumped into a backpacker coming the other way. In nearly two weeks, he was the only backpacker I had seen apart from myself – apparently only 2% of people backpack the C2C, the rest use baggage transfer services or just walk parts. He was a young guy originally from Northallerton but who had moved to London. He had just given up his job and was walking the C2C from East to West before looking for a new position. We compared notes for a while before bidding our farewells and I continued downwards towards Glaisdale while he continued upwards towards Blakey Ridge.

Dropping down to Glaisdale.

Dropping down to Glaisdale.

Walking into Glaisdale in bright sunshine, I was delighted to see a tea rooms that was open. It was no more than a wooden outbuilding beside a house but the welcome was very warm and the tea and cakes were very timely after 10 miles of walking. I sat out on the little raised decking area drying off in the sun and chatted to the lady owner. Below me in the garden was an outside model railway although sadly it wasn’t running that day as the lady’s husband was out.

Glaisdale.

Glaisdale.

I have to say that with views stretching across the valley, I could have happily sat on that raised balcony for the afternoon but I still had some miles to walk so I headed off again.

The route was now at a much lower level at least for a time, and I left the town and followed the River Esk through some beautiful woodlands, passing Beggar’s Bridge on the way. The story goes that a young pauper was courting the squire’s daughter and went overseas to make his fortune. He wanted to say goodbye to his lover but was beaten back by the river which was so swollen. Many years later when he returned, he married the girl and built the bridge to help others who might be in the same situation.

This was easy walking as the path had been ‘paved’, and there was some delightful sunlight filtering through the trees that were wearing that lovely fresh green foliage of spring .

East Arncliffe Woods

East Arncliffe Woods

On the way through, I passed an interesting memorial bench dedicated to Freddy and Willy who were clearly two dogs. I could imagine their villager owner walking with them through these woods.

Memorial

Memorial

I passed through Egton Bridge, another pretty little village, and then walked on along an old toll road to Grosmont with its somewhat interesting sign. It actually took me a while to work out what it said. It was in fact created from old bicycle parts to celebrate the coming of the Tour De France to Yorkshire.

Grosmont

Grosmont

Grosmont, a somewhat ‘grittier’ town than its neighbours, is known for a number of things; its priory, its iron ore mines, its iron works and furnaces, its tunnel for the horse drawn railway – said to be the earliest passenger railway tunnel in the world (in fact the settlement used to be known as ‘Tunnel’) – but perhaps it is now best known for its preserved steam railway. I had lunch and spent some time looking around the various railway paraphernalia and would have liked to have stayed longer but I needed to move on.

Grosmont Station

Grosmont Station

I did know that this mainly downhill day was going to end with a steep climb up over Sleights Moor at 700 feet but after 15 miles of walking, the climb still came as a shock to the system. There are two interesting things about this part of the walk – one is that on the climb out of Grosmont I had my first sighting of the North Sea where my walk would end, and the other is its name. This area is known as Eskdaleside Cum Ugglebarnby!

The North Sea comes into view

The North Sea comes into view

Having reached the top of the climb, I really enjoyed walking across the moors. It was now a beautiful day despite the breeze and of course the skylarks kept me company. It was so lovely that I actually sat for some time beside the empty road to drink in the sights and sounds. It is strange that an area so peaceful should be known partly for a murder committed in 1841 which was the first case where an officer from Scotland Yard was sent to the provinces to solve.

Sleights Moor

Sleights Moor

I dropped down off the moors towards Littlebeck but detoured slightly to Intake Farm as I had decided to stop there for the night. I arrived and was greeted warmly by Judith and Robert and given a cup of tea and cake in their kitchen…..and I didn’t even have to take my boots off. There couldn’t have been a better welcome and the shower was welcome too 🙂 ! I pitched my tent on the back lawn with views across the valley to the woodlands that would be my route out tomorrow.

A tent with a view

A tent with a view

As the light faded, I lay in my tent listening to some gentle music and thinking back over what had been a great day’s walking despite the earlier rain – and thinking that there couldn’t have been a better end to the day.

Day 13 – Littlebeck to Robin Hood’s Bay – 12 miles

I woke after a really good night, with mixed emotions! This was to be my last day on the C2C and part of me was excited at the prospect of reaching my goal at Robin Hood’s Bay, while the other part of me was sad as I wanted the walk to continue. I was out on the trail again before 6.30am as I wanted to leave enough time at the end of the day to take a bus ride into Whitby, a place I had never seen before other than in pictures.

I dropped first of all down into the lovely peaceful village of Littlebeck, a once busy centre of alum mining, before entering the most beautiful stretch of woodlands imaginable. This was Littlebeck Woods and this first part of today’s walk was described accurately by Alfred Wainwright who said…….

“Then follows a descent to this tiny hamlet, set in a secluded and sheltered valley amid scenery of bewitching beauty; a heaven on earth in exquisite miniature. Here a path is taken amongst the trees, with sparkling stream as companion to the higher reaches of the valley.”

Despite the cloudy morning, this was a wonderful walk with birdsong to accompany me all the way.

The Hermitage

The Hermitage

I passed first of all The Hermitage, a cave like dwelling carved out of a single sandstone boulder with the date 1790 above the door plus the initials GC reputedly referring to George Chubb, a local school master. It was said to have been carved out by an out of work seaman acting on Chubb’s instructions. Above the folly are two wishing chairs and it is said that if you make a wish in one, you must sit in the other to make it come true.

A little further on, I passed the Falling Foss waterfall, a 20 meter cascade which is part of May Beck. Beside the waterfall is the Falling Foss Tea Garden which is in the grounds of what was Midge Hall, a former game keepers cottage. Left derelict for some 50 years, this has now been restored……although sadly it was closed when I passed as it was still early in the morning 😦 !

Falling Foss

Falling Foss

This is such a delightful glade as the beck ripples its way across boulders and cascades with woodlands on either side. This must surely be a popular place in the summer but today I had it all to myself! I really wished that the sun had come out to brighten up the photographs but it wasn’t to be.

May Beck

May Beck

May Beck

May Beck

It was with regret that I left the woodlands and climbed gradually up the hillside to reach the open moors once again. This was to be my last stretch of moorland and I crossed it just as the rain began to fall, although fortunately despite flurries during the morning, it didn’t come to anything significant. Crossing these moorlands was actually quite difficult as both Sneaton Low Moor and the Graystone Hills were extremely boggy in places and by now, I was nursing a pair of split boots, just trying to eke them out to the end of the walk before they gave up completely 🙂 !

The Graystone Hills

The Graystone Hills

Cotton Grass and bogs!

Cotton Grass and bogs!

Once off the moors, the walking became much easier as I headed across better drained grassy paths towards the coast, and then a section of road walking through Low and High Hawsker.

Heading for Hawsker

Heading for Hawsker

Finally I dropped down through a caravan park to reach the coast at Pursglove Stye with the North Sea directly ahead of me – a gateway led nowhere. I wondered who had put it there and why! This part of the coast is known for its fossilised timber that was mined, shaped, polished and transformed into Whitby Jet.

The Gateway

The Gateway

This seemed to be a case of so near yet so far! After walking 9 miles, I wanted to take a break and have a sit down but I had decided I would only stop when I could see Robin Hood’s Bay. Every rise I climbed or headland I rounded I expected to see the bay in front of me, only to see yet another headland or hill.

On the home stretch?

On the home stretch?

Finally I saw the bay in the distance through a gap in the cliff top hedgerow. My goal was in sight and I sat and enjoyed the moment. The walk wasn’t yet over of course as there was still a mile or so to go. These last few miles along the cliff top seemed a fitting end to the walk, mirroring the miles at the start of the walk two weeks earlier along the Irish Sea.

Robin Hood's Bay comes into view

Robin Hood’s Bay comes into view

The last mile was easy and pleasant as I made my way first along the cliffs and then steeply down the road to the town itself where I immediately went to the beach to follow tradition by putting a toe in the North Sea and depositing the pebble I had carried for 200 miles. It was a great moment.

Toe Dipping

Toe Dipping

I looked across to the slipway that marks the end of the walk with an ice cream van perched precariously beside the water. I was back in civilisation!

Robin Hood's Bay

Robin Hood’s Bay

I made my way to the Bay Hotel where I ordered a pint of Wainwright Ale from the first floor bar – disappointingly the Wainwright Bar below was closed as it is only open at weekends. Later on I would sign the Coast to Coast Book which is kept on the bar but for now, I just sat outside looking out to sea reflecting on what had been a fantastic walk, an amazing two weeks, a fabulous experience, and one that already I couldn’t wait to repeat!

The end of the line

The end of the line

The End!

The End!

Thanks for stopping by and for sharing this walk with me. I hope it might inspire you to put on your walking boots and try it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed. In my next blog entry, I will summarise the walk, give some hints and tips for would be walkers, highlight some of the challenges met on the way, and hopefully provide some practical information to help with your own planning.

Until next time,

Your friend, The Dorset Rambler.

Comments and feedback on this blog are welcome. If you would like to contact me, my details are on my website which is http://www.yarrowphotography.com.

If you would like to join me on my walks, my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/adorsetrambler.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.