11th May 2006 – Glaisdale to Robin Hood’s Bay – 20 miles
I was unsure of what to expect for breakfast in the morning, what with it being essentially a family house. It turned out that the guests have their own dining room, which made things less uncomfortable than I was perhaps expecting. Family life continues around you though, kids looking for school books, being told not to forget lunch boxes etc. Breakfast itself was fine, I decided on another light one, just egg and bacon and toast and being the sole lodger it was a quiet and quick affair. I had asked for an early one, to try and avoid the worst of the day’s heat and because early morning is the best time of the day to walk.
I settled my bill, which reminded me that at £35 this was the most expensive B&B I had stayed in on the trip, not as expensive as the pubs however and not counting those B&B’s that include an evening meal in the price. Possibly one of the reasons I was the only guest?
I left the house at 07:30 and it was already a fine, hot day and promised to turn into a very hot day indeed. By now I was already recovering from my earlier sunburn and felt confident that I wouldn’t need any of that awful suncream. I headed down the steep little hill to the bottom of the village past the Arncliffe Arms and picked up the path next to the old packhorse bridge across the River Esk.
The path follows the Esk all the way into Grosmont, initially through the dappled shade of East Arncliffe Wood, a lovely little piece of woodland that leads to the road at Delves. This road is then followed into Egton Bridge where we cross the Esk on the self same bridge and then turn right through the Egton Manor estate. This initially feels like walking through someone’s back garden, but is in fact the route of the old toll road. The toll prices are marked on a signpost, as mentioned by Wainwright in his original book, however the sign seems to have been replaced since then with a much more modern version, albeit still showing the prices in old money.
A few minutes later and I had crossed the Esk again and entered Grosmont. I was way too early for the trains apparently as it was still only 08:40 and I wasn’t going to stop and wait for them. I didn’t need any supplies today, after stocking up in Glaisdale’s post office shop the previous day, so pushed on through the town and out the other side.
I knew there was a hill after Grosmont and I had even read about the significance of the name, being French for big hill, but I was not really prepared for what awaited me over the next 40 minutes or so. I thought I’d left behind all the gruelling climbs, but not so. Its only an 870 foot climb from the base of the hill to the trig point on Sleights Moor, but the gradient is punishing for much of that climb and almost relentless. I had to take several gasping pauses during the climb, which starts off with a 1 in 3 gradient on Fair Head Lane.
At exactly 09:00, half way up the climb I got my first view of the sea. I saw what I thought was a low flying aircraft just above the horizon, but closer inspection revealed it to be an oil tanker. The sea and the sky, being exactly the same colour from this viewpoint were impossible to separate. I passed the Bride Stones just after I crossed the cattle grid which marks the beginning of Sleights Moor. These were a disappointing scattering of stones in the heather and completely unremarkable.
After yesterday’s series of easy trig point bags, the only one for today, on Sleights Moor was a pain. There are no established paths leading to or from it, so I had a 3/4 of a mile hike through knee deep heather, stumbling into hidden dips and tripping over rocks. I finally made it, grumpy and sore, to the A169 from where the path cuts across moorland and fields to reach Littlebeck.
From Littlebeck, the path runs through one of the most beautiful wooded areas I have ever walked in, Little Beck Wood. The hamlet and the wood named after the Beck that runs through both. According to the OS map this is actually three different woods; Little Beck Wood, Scarry Wood and Great Wood, either way this was a very pleasant hour or so of walking. The Hermitage and Falling Foss waterfall as supposed to be highlights of this section of the walk, but I was very disappointed with both and with hindsight wouldn’t have made the trip to see either sight. Admittedly the amount of work that must have gone into the Hermitage is impressive, but the real star is the wooded path itself.
I finally left the wood and joined the road that climbs steadily towards Sneaton Low Moor. As I left the road and headed onto the moor, I could see ahead of me the Thundering Herd, walking along the short road section that joins Sneaton Low Moor to Graystone Hills. The path is well worn and easy to follow across this section and I was soon across the road onto the other section of open moorland. Once again there are way markers across the moor to help you find the track. After a short while I crested a small hill to find the Thundering Herd sitting and grazing and deciding which path to follow, as we were presented with two possible options. The map only shows one path, crossing a small stream and very boggy ground. One path probably avoided the worst of the bogs and the other was probably the path that those who did not know better followed. We chose one (the latter one as it turned out) and ended up skipping across some very orangey-brown water on clumps of grass. Many of the herd came out with orange stains all the way to their knees, I had got off lightly with only orange boots and no water over the tops thankfully.
I walked with the Herd for a while, chatting to various members, but my pace was slightly faster than most of them, so ended up walking with their fastest member, John, who walks in the front but is not the leader. I stayed with them until High Hawkser where I diverted to the Hare and Hounds for a pint of Diet Coke and they continued on to RHB. The weather was very hot and with little wind and the drink was very refreshing, but I was eager to get to RHB, so didn’t stay long before pushing on to my destination.
The path from High Hawkser to the coastal path is a “needs must” path I think. It passes through Seaview Caravan Camp – a truly awful place – row upon row of back to back static caravans, all facing down the hill towards the sea, but the only ones with a half decent view are the ones on the bottom row, all the others have thousands of caravans in their line of sight. I know that many people love this sort of holiday and many more have no other choice, but to me this was an awful place and I was glad to get through it and pick up the coastal path.
This path is, unsurprisingly, very similar to the path from St. Bees along the Irish Sea coast, the scream of gulls, crash of waves and the smell of salt. I passed the Herd taking a break right on the cliff edge, savouring the last hour of their walk, but I didn’t stop other than to say hello. In no time at all I could see the houses in Robin Hood’s Bay perched high on the cliff above the water and then I was in the town.
I was surprised at just how steep and narrow the lanes through the town were, but all ways lead down to the sea and I turned a corner to find the Bay Hotel and a scatter of fishing boats pulled high up the slip way. The tide was in and I had no distance to walk to wet my boots in the North Sea, 192 miles from their original dip in the Irish Sea.
Wainwright’s Bar was closed (is it always closed?), so I walked up the steps to the main bar above and ordered a Diet Coke. I sat on the roof terrace for a few minutes until I could stand the heat in the sun trap no longer and took my drink down to the “beer garden” by the slip way, to wait for the Herd and Gareth and Deirdre who were also finishing today.
About an hour later the Herd arrived and had their group photo taken on the slip way, I congratulated them all and left them to their celebrations in the pub. They were being collected by bus at 15:00, so didn’t have that long to open the champagne before they were whisked off back to normality. I had until about 17:30, which is when Steve said he would be arriving to pick me up. Bless him, he’d had to attend a meeting in Hook in Hampshire that morning and was driving from there all the way to collect me before driving all the way back to Cheshire, a round trip of about 470 miles.
I had another pint of Diet Coke and sat in the sun. At 15:30 G&D arrived, dipped their boots and we sat and had a drink together. They were elated and rightly so. After our drink and a few pictures at the shore line, we had a wander around the town. We also visited the rocky beach further along the shore and picked up a pebble to keep. I let one of my St. Bees pebbles roll down the slip way into the waiting sea and considered that “Mission Accomplished”.
G&D left me at 17:25 to go to their hotel, check-in and have a celebratory meal and five minutes later Steve rolled into the car park of the Victoria Hotel and I took him for a well deserved coffee at one of the nearby pubs, where I had a final pint of Old Peculier. At about 18:00 we drove over to the address where my Sherpa bag had been delivered and was a bit peeved to find that it still wasn’t there. The lady who owned the house was expecting them any minute and sure enough the flustered and over worked driver arrived shortly after. I arrived home to a warm welcome at about 22:00 and died for 10 hours.