13th June 2011 – Grosmont to Blakey Ridge – 13.5 miles
I slept a bit better last night. I awoke at 04:45 the first time, despite the clicking from the fuse box, and managed to doze for another couple of hours until the alarm went off at 07:00. Johnny Cash singing “Walk the Line”. As head splinter insertion goes this one worked quite well and I was crooning along all morning to that song.
I went down to breakfast at 08:00 and met my first C2Cers of the walk; 2 guys walking from Kirkby Stephen to Robin Hood’s Bay, having done the first half into Kirkby Stephen last year. It turned out they were from the North West too and we’d walked many of the same paths over recent years. I got the impression they’d had a fairly bad week weather wise, with lots of rain and high winds hampering their progress. The weather guessers were predicting a rain free day today with winds speeds dropping from their recent levels. The two guys were as sceptical as I was about that.
Breakfast was pretty average; bacon not done enough and fried eggs similarly undercooked, tea “as weak as maidens water” according to one of the guys. The toast was nice though, thick cut and plenty of it.
I mentioned the ticking fuse box to the landlady when I checked out and she said no-one else had ever mentioned it. I resisted the urge to sarcastically admit it was probably my imagination; I paid up and set out.
I left about 09:15, but with only around 14 miles to do I didn’t need to leave early and I wanted to take my time and enjoy the walk. Walking east to west relieves me from the, admittedly self-imposed, pressure of needing to be out early to avoid the crowds and walking in a long caterpillar of people all following the same path. It makes a huge difference to my level of relaxation, I’ve noticed that already and I’m only two days in. I admit to being fairly anti-social, I enjoy walking on my own, I prefer to walk on my own and I love the feeling of being completely alone on the hills. On previous long paths I’ve only been able to find this solitude by leaving early, or by walking the Pennine Way 🙂 Walking in this direction along the C2C has achieved the same thing – it’s great.
The downside to walking east to west quite literally smacked me in the face today, all day, and really hard! Wainwright chose to walk west to east for a number of reasons, one of which is that the prevailing winds across the UK tend to be westerly, so at your back for a west to east walker. Today I walked into a strong westerly. I knew there was a danger of this, but I’d dismissed it as I do all the possible bad weather you can experience, but it hurt today. It made a fairly short, undemanding walk very difficult. Just as I’d found on one of the early days of the Pennine Way last year, strong headwinds can add a serious burden to your days walking.
As I set out from Grosmont, however, it looked like a perfect day; a bit overcast but warm with a light breeze. I joined the back end of a snake of walkers leaving the village, but they soon turned off and I was on my own.
Almost immediately it started raining – so much for the bloody weather guessers – but the sky was blue with just a smattering of white cloud – bloody magic rain – I hate it. I sheltered under an overhanging tree for a few minutes until the shower passed, then carried on. I got caught again several minutes later and again figured it would be a short one, so rather than don the poncho I sheltered under a tree. It passed after a couple of minutes and stayed off all day, although it looked threatening for much of the afternoon.
On the old toll road I passed about 20 walkers, all obviously doing the C2C, all queuing up to have their photo taken beneath the toll board – this was the first of a number of groups I passed over the next mile or so – dozens of them – all coming from Glaisdale I guessed and heading for Robin Hood’s Bay.
I passed through Egton Bridge, having some difficulty recognising the path going in this direction, but was soon on the road, climbing steeply up to and then into East Arncliffe Wood. The path through the woods was slippery and I needed to concentrate on the path carefully, which probably saved the life of a huge toad that hopped right in front of me, and would have been under my boot if I hadn’t been watching my foot placement. I encouraged him off the path – I didn’t want warts on my hands, so I didn’t pick him up 🙂
The woods were great, despite the path, I met a few late starters from Glaisdale and half an hour later I was in the village myself. I stopped at the shop and bought something for lunch, as well as a nice cold can for right there – luxury. It was warm now, clouds clearing and looking like a promising day. This didn’t last though. On the rough bridleway out of the village I climbed into the wind and the clouds came in again.
I stopped and chatted to a local chap, retired, who walked up the C2C path each day for exercise, trying to collect as many nationalities as possible (or so it seemed) from the C2Cers that he met. He easily spotted me as an easter, a practiced eye obviously and he said he’d seen a huge increase in numbers since the Julia Bradbury series. He’d met and talked to walkers from so many different countries he’d lost count, but did his best to reel them all of for me 🙂
He mocked me for walking into the wind and I had to agree it seemed like a daft thing to be doing at that particular moment. We said our farewells and he jogged off down into the village and I decided I’d had enough and found a sheltering grouse butt to sit down in and take an early lunch.
The rest stop helped and I was refreshed as I set out again, meeting another clump of walkers over the next mile or so, all obviously coming from Clay Bank Top and heading to Glaisdale. I joined the path across Glaisdale High Moor and was thankful for the recent dry spell; it was puddle-ridden, but firm underneath so fairly easy going. The George Gap Causeway was a bit more sodden, but careful meandering allowed me to miss the worst of the water.
So far I’d been following the traditional C2C route, but at the end of the George Gap Causeway, I went straight across, instead of turning right along the road. I was heading down to the old Rosedale railway that runs just below the lip, around Rosedale itself. The C2C uses this on its approach to the Lion Inn, and to be honest it’s a bit dull and tedious, but this section is absolutely magnificent. I can honestly suggest this as a viable alternative to the road walk from the Lion.
East of the Lion Inn it uses a series of embankments to span little gills and becks and it has some stunning scenery down into the valley. The wind was a pain though – I was knackered now, from the walk across the moors into the teeth of a gale and still it came, now from the side, constantly trying to remove my hat. But I could see my destination, perched on the skyline and it was a welcome sight I can tell you.
I arrived, absolutely done in. Only to find my trials weren’t quite over. I was in a small twin room, at the top of a very narrow and very steep staircase, so getting my large cargo bag up there was a real pain, especially as the door at the top opened towards me, so I had to climb to the top stair to grab the handle and then try and step down a couple to actually open it, all with a 17kg bag in my hand.
The food in the Lion Inn is excellent – I had a hot steak sandwich with chips – proper hand cut chips, none of this oven chip nonsense! However breakfast is only available from 08:30, which I asked them to confirm, because it seemed quite late for a walking stop on the C2C; they confirmed that if I wanted a cooked breakfast it was indeed 08:30, but I could have cereals from 07:30. As I had the best part of 20 miles to do, I thought cereals would have to do – I didn’t really want to be setting out at 09:30 or so.
The camp site at the Lion was absolutely packed, with tents everywhere – all being whipped about in the wind – with young lads chasing fly sheets and equipment all over the place. I think there was some sort of event on – loads of kids, a couple of minivans and loads of gear. One or two sensible guys had camped in the front garden, sheltered from the wind by the walls.
The Lion is excellent value for money – I had an admittedly tiny twin room for £22 – you wouldn’t want to share it with anyone but a very close friend – if you both turned over in the night and ended up facing each other you’d be close enough to kiss – the room really was quite small. It was clean and tide though, with the best TV coverage so far – all the Freeview channels and Sky Sports too – shame I only wanted the news really. There was also a private bathroom, and although there was no shower in it, the bath was big enough for me to sink into – which always makes a nice change.