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Anna-Maria on the CTC: Part 2 of 3

Posted on Friday, 27 June 2014 . Permalink

(Anna-Maria writes:) This was my second week on the Coast to Coast. After a first week reviewing the middle stretch from Kirkby Stephen to Danby Wiske (days 7 to 10 of the full trek), I picked up where I had left off a few weeks earlier, walking through to the east coast and Robin Hood’s Bay (days 11-14 of the full trek).

Introducing the Coast to Coast – Eastern stretch
The Coast to Coast is one of my favourite and most frequently recommended long distance routes in the UK. When people ask me which long distance footpath I enjoy most, my mind always returns to this one because of its many changes of scenery.

Of all those changes of scenery my favourite, by far, is the Yorkshire Moors. I love the rolling open scenery found on this particular stretch of moorland, especially during the first couple of days. These are days featuring wide views of colourful heather and a characterful inland cliff with fabulous rock formations.

On the edge of the North York Moors.

When I was last reviewing this section of the route, in 2012, the country was under attack from gale-force winds and had just suffered from a spate of flooding. I was hoping for better weather this time and an opportunity to enjoy the open moorland. In particular, this would be my first time seeing it when the heather was not in flower.

Danby Wiske to Osmotherley
This was a gentle start to the route, finishing the flat crossing between the Yorkshire Dales and the Yorkshire Moors, which had begun at Richmond. As I set out I was treated to a promising clear, deep blue sky with a warm sun. I wasn’t disappointed either – this glorious weather held up until long after I had reach my destination for the day. To match the summery weather, the songbirds were out in force, including a persistent cuckoo, which seemed to pursue me along my final climb through the woods at the end of the day.

Tall trees on the way to Osmotherley.

There was plenty to keep me busy on the reviewing front. As well as basic changes, like the removal of old stiles, a footpath had been closed where it crosses a railway line without any diversion being put in place.

In many ways this footpath closure was inevitable. The crossing of the railway line here is a definite safety issue. There is no bridge or tunnel and the stones placed around the tracks can make it easy to lose your footing and stumble as you cross this fast line. The new route I’ve written for Alpine Exploratory, using the nearby level crossing, is a much safer alternative.

Osmotherley to Clay Bank Top
This was the day I had been looking forward to. The terrain over this western section of the North Yorkshire Moors is different to any moorland already seen on the Coast to Coast. This is moorland that is wide and relatively flat with broad open views and periodic drops down into narrow valleys that cut across the moorland. The moor here is crossed on an excellent track, often laid with flagstones. The track follows an edge like an inland cliff, which allows long and distant views to the north over low, agricultural land, and simultaneously a sharp contrast with almost equally distant views south over the rolling expanse of heather.

Sadly the weather closed in a little so that the distant views were hazy with cloud and, through the afternoon a gently cooling drizzle fell. However, it was still an enjoyable day’s walk.

On the escarpment of the North York Moors, the plain of Teesdale to the left and the moors to the right.

I was pleased to find that the Lord Stones Café has reopened this year after being closed through the 2013 season for refurbishment work. The old café has been replaced with a smart new walker-friendly restaurant and shop where I was able to take a welcome break from the cool, damp weather and treat myself to a hot meal and pot of tea.

Clay Bank Top to Blakey Ridge
Any remaining luck I had with the weather finally broke overnight. I woke to semi-heavy rain. As I climbed up onto the moors again, the rain lifted to a gentle drizzle and warm breeze. Thankfully this is an easy day for terrain with none of the ups and downs that the previous day so it was possible to avoid any “boil-in-the-bag” situations – the unpleasant sensation of getting wetter inside your waterproofs than out when tackling steep ascents. Instead, after the initial climb, the route flattens out and takes a delightfully gentle, wide and sandy track all the way to the solitary and exposed Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge.

For the first couple of hours the temperature warmed slightly and the rain eased to persistent spray. In this way I wandered across the moor, frequently stopping to watch the moorland birds. There were large numbers of curlews and meadow pipits in evidence everywhere this week. I also confess to giving way to my inner child – splooshing through the middle of the largest and deepest puddles. After all I couldn’t get any wetter than I already was. After that the rain got heavier, the wind started blowing hard and the temperature dropped by several degrees, chasing me into my refuge for the night.

Blakey Ridge to Grosmont
Foolishly, I had hoped for an improvement in the weather but it was not to be. I was one of a large number of walkers setting out from the Lion Inn in the morning. As we looked out at the bleak grey clouds, obscured visibility and applied all our layers of waterproofing, we commiserated with each other, enjoying the shared camaraderie of the route.

This was, thankfully, a simple day. Despite the cold wind driving heavy rain into my face throughout the morning, I was able to squelch my way across the moorland on paths that started as boggy slime before switching to rough, rocky tracks. Compared to the previous day’s easy, sandy tracks, the tracks on this day are far less friendly to those with tired or blistered feet. I did see many opting to miss out the boggiest of the moor paths though, instead taking the longer route around the moor on the road.

The stone bridge, in Egton Bridge, that crosses the River Esk.

Much later, as I passed through Arnecliff Wood, a stunning stretch of woodland, the rain lifted. Suddenly every possible shade of green glistened brightly and scents of damp woodland assaulted my senses, making up for the slimy mud underfoot that threatened to fell me with every step. It is the moments like this that make walking such a special activity for me.

Grosmont to Robin Hood’s Bay
My final day began early, leaving before breakfast to ensure I arrived at Robin Hood’s Bay before the transfer bus left. This is a day of constantly changing scenery, with open moorland that gives way to a wonderful stretch of woodland, a brief stretch of wetter moor, and finally coastal walking. It was a day to enjoy, notwithstanding the early start I’d made.

The rain had stopped, and lid of cloud finally cleared at lunchtime. The sun even made a full blue-skied appearance for my final 6km round the coast path. Despite all this though, the theme of the day was very definitely mud.

After trekking across the first stretch of moor on a road and seeing my only pair of peewits of the week (also known as lapwings) I dropped down into Little Beck Woods. Here the mud assailed me and I slimed and slid my way with difficulty over the next 3.5km through this beautiful woodland. It was nothing compared to the final moor crossing though – a notoriously wet stretch, even in the driest weather. I was treated to moments when I sank nearly to my knees in the bog-weed as I crossed the marshy terrain.

The path in woods becomes a muddy challenge.

All of this toil was quickly forgotten as I walked along the final coastal stretch. It is an uncharacteristically flat stretch of coastline with high views over mud flats and the sea and was in full colour with the gorse glowing bright and yellow, making a strong contrast to the blue sea and sky and emerald coastal grasses.

A glimpse of Robin Hood's Bay, with its beach at low tide, from the final coastal miles into the village.

Looking forward
I’m taking over a month off the Coast to Coast now before returning to walk the very start. In mid-July I will be walking from the west cost at St Bees, across the width of the Lake District to Kirkby Stephen.

Have you walked the Coast to Coast before? If so, what is your favourite section? Do you also love the wideness of the Yorkshire Moors or are you a fan of the rugged Lake District? Let me know through the Alpine Exploratory Facebook page!

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