Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire to Urra Moor, North York Moors
29 miles and 3000 feet ascent approx
Robin Hood’s Bay is by all means a quaint and picturesque village nestled into the cliffs that overlook a wide bay. An intriguing place where on every corner one discovers more alleyways with a large number of cottages – all crammed in as if they’re all huddling up together to shield themselves from the ravages of the North Sea.
And that is exactly how me and Eion felt upon our arrival late one Thursday evening. It was chilly, windy and raining. Not a great start to our trip across northern England but given the reputation of British weather it was on reflection to be expected.
We wandered around the old fishing village, took in views of the bay and dipped our boots into the sea from where we headed back up to the car park and made our farewells to friends and loved ones.
At this point, we were excited about the adventure which awaited us but for me I was a little frustrated. Namely because my digital camera decided to play silly buggers on me and not take any photo’s. It kept wanting to reformat the bloody memory card. But after some minutes – and the good old banging and bashing it about technique us men tend to employ – I got the camera up and running.
Peculiarly at this point the rain stopped, the clouds parted and revealed blue skies above. With our spirits lifted off we went plodding on through rural roads as we headed up to the moors nearby – all the while turning back to say farewell to the North Sea behind.
Though we weren’t officially starting our challenge this evening we decided to set off 5 miles inland to wild camp. We didn’t have the funds or motivation to stay on any campsite given the weather. Furthermore, knowing our love for a good old fashioned pub and some ale we thought it best to head away from such temptations as we were limited on the cash front.
All said and done, as we set foot off the tarmac and onto the heather moors with views around all such temptations were forgotten. The aim was to get far enough inland to “legally” set up a camp ready for the following days walk.
Crossing Flyingdales moor taught us one immediate lesson, mind. Pay attention to your map!
It soon became apparent that the route I had planned which involved much walking on open access land meant we needed to take heed of bearings and landmarks out on the moors. We nearly got lost looking for a large wood! But after some deliberation we got back on track so to speak – but not literally – and in the fading light we found a suitable spot to pitch the tents for the night.
It was only about 5 miles the walk in and so we weren’t tired but given the earlier mention of pubs – we pulled out our rucksacks the backpackers alternative. Some decanted wine in hydration bladders.
We relaxed and chatted into the wee hours all gung-ho for the days ahead – with not a care in the world to how much sleep or food we required. A mistake we soon learned in the days to come.
The next morning we awoke to bird song and glorious sunshine. We certainly felt blessed. More so given the vast moors and long miles we were about to encounter. We broke camp at about 7am and after just a mile or so we reached Lilla Rigg with fine views back to the sea and over to RAF Flyingdales.
The latter a strange and mysterious looking place given the large cube structure it contains. RAF Flyningdales is in fact a ballistic missile warning station! Encountering many of the Ministry of Defence signs and fencing nearby with all sorts of threatening terms – be it “you’ll be shot” or “beware of radiation” – we made our way past some ancient boundary markers and onwards to Howl Moor to observe another fine North York Moors view. Heck, we even encountered a steam train en route (yep, we ran like little boys to catch sight of it after hearing the whistle blow!)
The summit of Howl Moor is a good one actually. One where I patted myself on the back with self-confirmation of selecting a good route. We hadn’t seen a soul for some time and up here on the top we were in the presence of ancient souls.
Here resided a fine stone circle and cairn surrounded by far ranging views of scenic heather clad splendour.
It’s obvious when up there how man has shaped and lived amongst this upland plateau of North Yorkshire. The fingerprints are everywhere upon closer inspection and so it felt like we were taking a abstract tour through history too. We had the modern with RAF Flyingdales, a main road to cross with electricity pylons overhead and even a vintage steam train. And now here we have an ancient monument. All in spitting distance of each other.
Then we had the hearther moorland. A special habitat of which in the world Britian contains 75% or thereabouts.
Spirits and morale still high we walked on dropping down from the wild moors to scenic, lush dales with picture postcard farms dotted about.
Those first few miles were special and indeed it felt like we had walked into an artists impression of how gentle landscapes should be.
But this soon changed. From feeling on a high we soon fell to lows. And the weather followed suit for a while. In fact, we weren’t to know but we encountered the last downpour of our trip that day. The rest of the trip turned out very dry in fact.
But the bogs, swamps, hidden rocks amongst heather and more (no pun intended) soon beat at our morale.
And for every mile walked it felt like we’d done 10 or more. It was mentally draining never mind physically.
We walked for an hour at a time before taking any short break. We knew given the whole itinerary of the trip we HAD to reach our first nights camp. The consequences of which would mean longer days and distances.
I even wished we chose Wainwright’s Coast to Coast route at one point thinking it be much easier to tread foot on.
And so eventually we reached Blakey Moor and joined the “official” Wainwright route as we snaked our way towards the Cleveland Hills.
It was a morale booster but by this point we could hardly walk one mile and hour!
Our knees ached, my feet were red raw – I got a large blister – we were quite simply exhausted.
It filled me with dread that we had a greater distance planned the following day. We were to set off for Richmond and into the Yorkshire Dales!
But as the tents went up and we got some food in our bellies we soon felt more refreshed if not sore.
Enjoying the scenic delights that is Teeside all light up at night on the horizon it dawned on me that I made a terrible mistake.
And that was mainly to walk such a distance on rough open country with our packs at their heaviest.
Oh, how I wish I could turn back the clock.
But I figured that was what the challenge was about. It was never going to be easy but I hoped it would be enjoyable.
I contemplated how lucky we were with the weather on the vast moors – it could’ve turned into a navigational nightmare.
We got this far and I wasn’t prepared to start taking in doubts about our ability and so on.
This first day seemed to be an omen of what was to come and on reflection it was. However, things did get better – much better in fact from day three – but they also took a turn for the worst. The initial stages were always going to be a test but I never realised how much so.
Of which more will be revealed in the next post….
Place names can be funny in the UK.
We were tempted to head back this way the following morning!