Completing the Coast to Coast
By Mark Wright
Twenty five years ago our colleague Lucy walked the first half of the Coast to Coast, known as the Lakes and Mountains section. A quarter of a century on and Lucy is walking the Dales and Moors section to finally complete the route. Here we follow Lucy’s progress on the first three days from Kirkby Stephen to Richmond.
Kirkby Stephen to Richmond
Lucy and her partner Steve set off under grey skies, but soon enough the sun burned through and it turned into a beautiful day. Having walked through the small hamlet of Hartley they made their way up onto the moors to admire the amazing craftsmanship of the cairns that make up the Nine Standards Rigg.
Lucy tells us, no one is really quite sure why the cairns were built but the mystery adds to their presence. Following plenty discussion with fellow walkers and a few photographs they pushed on across the bog. Depending on the time of year walkers have a choice of routes, each of them well signposted.
Lucy and Steve chose Whitsundale beck, as a perfect spot for their lunch stop and found themselves chatting with Ian from New Zealand. In fact Lucy tells us they met lots of lovely folk including walkers from the USA, Canada and the UK.
Following lunch they meandered on following the course of the river and then back across the moors listening to the distinctive call of the grouse. It wasn’t too long before they stopped again. Ravenseat is a traditional working Yorkshire Dales farm, serving cream teas, which Lucy tells us are delicious!
On with the walking, they made their way down the valley admiring the traditional stone walls and farm buildings they passed. Just short of Keld Lucy and Steve sat by the river for a time to reflect on their day and enjoy the heat of the sun. They agreed it had been a fantastic first day.
Lucy and Steve set off through the pretty village of Keld with the dew still carpeting the surrounding pastures. Crossing the river just out of the village they could hear the tumbling waters of East Gill Force, a perfect place to pause for a moment before the climb out of Keld.
The ascent is steady and passes quickly as you pause to look at the ravine below and explore the ruined buildings that would once have been occupied by farmers or mine managers.
Swinner Gill is home to the first of many mining ruins however they didn’t spend too long there knowing there’d be plenty more to come. Climbing up out of the gill and onto Gunnerside Moor, they found themselves back in grouse country. In fact Lucy and Steve were treated to seeing many birds close up and just as they thought things couldn’t get any better they were stopped in their tracks as out of nowhere a hen harrier swooped down and disturbed a number of grouse into the air, which Lucy described to us as a truly remarkable sight.
The next treat of the day came at Blakethwaite Smelt Mill ruins, where they stopped for lunch and pondered the history of the area. Lucy tells us her and Steve were amazed at how far from civilisation they were, yet were surrounded by ruins of what would once have been a large mining area. Their route then took them up through Brunton Hush gully and onto Mellbecks moor, passing through a diverse geology with a rich mixture of rock types. Out on the moor they walked across what Lucy described as feeling like a moonscape and passed by an old stone crusher, another remnant from mining times. Following an exploratin of yet more smelt mill ruins they made their way across the top of the lowland pastures in the direction of Reeth.
They rested and dipped their feet in the river at Cringley bottom. A lovely tranquil place to take a break before the last push onto Reeth. It had been another beautiful blue sky day in the Yorkshire Dales.
Having been joined by partner Steve for the first two days Lucy is now completing the remainder of the route solo as planned, however she met lots of lovely people again as she walked from Reeth to Richmond, some new and some she had met previously on the trail.
Lucy headed down through Reeth to walk briefly along the banks of the River Swale before heading through lush green fields to Marrick priory. The priory is now an outdoor centre and not open to the public however staff are friendly and more than happy to let you wander around the ruins and ancient gravestones. The trail took Lucy through her first section of woodland, Steps Wood. A pleasant walk up through the trees followed by a gentle climb to the hamlet of Marrick. After which followed a nice walk through the fields and meadows to Marske. As you make your way through the fields there is a large old lime kiln looming in the distance, by far the largest Lucy has seen on the route so far. Pausing for a moment Lucy remembered to look behind to admire the beautiful stone walls and pastures of Swaledale.
Marske has an ancient church which welcomes visitors for a peaceful rest and is an excellent location for lunch before the climb up underneath Applegarth Scar. On her way along there, Lucy tells us she stopped to watch two buzzards circling the nearby woodland before coming to rest up high in the trees.
The remainder of day three is a very pleasant walking through pretty Applegarth with views of the River Swale below. Then comes a gentle walk through more woodland before making the descent into Richmond. Richmond castle can be seen from a distance and as you near you begin to see the old buildings and cobbled streets of this beautiful market town. Richmond is a great place to stop, rest and explore. Ideal should you wish to add a rest day into your holiday.
Richmond to Ingleby Arncliffe
Yesterday Lucy walked what is commonly described as the long flat bit of the Coast to Coast, from Richmond to Ingleby Arncliffe, and yes it’s true it’s long and flat however there is still plenty to see along the way. It’s also worth remembering, if the distance seems too far it can be broken down into two more manageable days.
On leaving Richmond Lucy took a detour to visit Easby Abbey and St Agatha’s Church. It deserved more time, so there’s another good option for a rest day in Richmond.
Yesterday was another typical September morning with dew on the grass and as Lucy headed into her first section of woodland the light was streaming through the trees. There is indeed a wonderful variety of trees along the route, big ancient oaks, ash, birch, beech, hazel, sycamore and many more. Autumn is definitely almost here and Lucy tells us she found her first acorns and conkers of the year.
There are many pastures to walk across on this section and Lucy spent my time reflecting on the landscapes she’s walked through and compared the traditional farming methods of the Dales with the more modern methods of farming in the lowlands.
Yesterday was also a day of churches and the church in Bolton-on-Swale is worth a visit if only to see the monument in memory of a man who apparently reached the grand old age of 169.
There is also the opportunity of light refreshments in the pub at Danby Wiske, but choose your drink wisely if you still have to get to Ingleby Arncliffe! It’s worth mentioning too that the locals have also put out little honesty boxes along the last section selling cold drinks and flapjacks – just what you need if you are tiring a little and it’s a really nice touch.
As she made her way across the last fields towards Ingleby Arncliffe Lucy tells us she admired the Cleveland hills getting ever closer and watched the sun starting to dip below the clouds. Another long but enjoyable day with time to reflect on the amazingly varied scenery that we have in England.
Arncliffe to Great Broughton
Everyone Lucy walked with between Arncliffe and Great Broughton yesterday had only had two words to describe their day: “stunning” and “beautiful”. The day began with a steady climb up through Arncliffe woods with frequent views back down the Vale of Mowbray. It was a very hazy start to the day which added a mysterious feel as Lucy left the trees behind for the vast open landscape of the North York Moors.
Lucy reports the walking was easy underfoot with large paving stones to help conserve both the moor and your feet! The initial part of the day was through both moorland and woodland, then after the steep but very short climb up to Live Moor, it was moorland for the remainder of the day. However it was by no means flat and there were still plenty of undulations. Lucy walked along the edge of Faceby Bank and Carlton Bank with stunning views across the lowlands to the north. She then dropped down to Lord Stones, perhaps more popular with walkers for the cafe than for the semi-circle of stones that can be found there.
The next section takes you over three small summits, Cringle Moor, the end of old Moor and then up through the Wain Stones and on to White Hill. The Wain Stones were said to be author and guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright’s favourite stones and described them as looking like Birthday cake decorations – Lucy wasn’t convinced! Leaving there, it’s an easy walk along the tops and down to Clay Bank Top, where Lucy’s B&B host gave her a lift down to her accommodation for the night.
It had been another fantastic day on the Coast to Coast with superb scenery and company. Lucy has been walking both on her own enjoying the solitude and with a couple of Americans, a group of amazing people raising money for a Parkinson’s charity as well as a lovely couple of Mickledore clients too.
Great Broughton to Blakey
Yesterday was a day of moors, stunning vast open landscapes and big blue skies as Lucy walked from Great Broughton to Blakey. Although Lucy spent most of the day walking on her own, inevitably on the Coast to Coast, she met people along the way that she’s been walking with and become friends with over the past week.
Lucy set out in a very light drizzle which soon cleared to leave another day of beautiful weather. The first climb of the day took her up onto Urra Moor and to the high point of Round Hill. Lucy reports she was soon back in grouse country and apparently the grouse are very entertaining up there. Being quite gregarious they would pop their heads up just in front of you Lucy and call out to their mates. Lucy tells us it’s very comical to watch but they are still a bit camera shy or perhaps just too quick for her!
There are many boundary stones along the side of the path and they have various interesting markings. One in particular appears to have a face carved in it which intrigued Lucy who thought it quite unusual to be marked with a face. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that it looks like a face – something to research when she get home!
The route then took Lucy to Bloworth Crossing and onto the dismantled railway. Amazing to think that there was once a railway track up there! The big wide path contours round the edge of the moors with fabulous views down into the Farndale valley. The walking is gentle, a great day for those doing the full coast to coast to have an easier day. The path follows the edge of Farndale Moor and High Blakey Moor before heading round the edge of Blakey Gill with more views of the green pastures in the lowlands.
As Lucy rounded the next section Blakey Ridge came into view as did the Lion Inn, the fourth highest Inn in England. She arrived with some fellow walkers for a well-earned cuppa and time to reflect on the day. There is always a good tale or two to tell at the end of the walking day. After refreshments they bid their farewells before heading off to their various accommodations for the night, and no doubt wonder what treats lay in store for the next day!
Blakey to Egton Bridge
“I didn’t think it could get much better, but it did!” Lucy’s thoughts after walking from Blakey to Egton Bridge on day 7 of her Coast to Coast holiday.
As the sun set over the moors the previous evening, the sky was streaked with blue and pink. This was matched the next morning by a hazy sunrise promising another good day ahead.
Lucy tells us it was good to already be up high as she set off along the road from Blakey Ridge. Along the way she passed various landmarks such as Young Ralph’s Cross and a massive boundary stone before heading across the moors again.
As Lucy headed to Trough House (a picturesque hunting lodge) she was rewarded with great views of Danby High Moor on her left and Seavey Hill on her right. Having walked across Glaisdale Moor with views that went on for miles all the way down Great Fryup Dale and out to the North Sea, Lucy reports she still can’t believe how vast and open the landscape.
It’s a steady descent off the moors down into the picturesque village of Glaisdale – a great place for a spot for lunch or a tea break. On leaving Glaisdale the route follows the course of the River Esk and takes you through the lush Arncliffe woods. The afternoon sun was streaming through the trees as Lucy passed through and although the path can be muddy here, the going was good underfoot. Then came the gentle walk down the road and into Egton Bridge. Another pretty village and Lucy stopped by the river to watch the fish jumping before heading off to her accommodation for the evening.
It had been another fantastic day on the Coast to Coast.
Egton bridge to Robin Hood’s Bay
“What a finish to this brilliant walk across England!” Lucy’s thoughts as she walked from Egton Bridge to Robin Hood’s Bay on Saturday.
The sun was shining as well as it being a blustery day, making it a “fleece on – fleece off” kind of day. Yet another day full of surprises, with a mix of history and stunning views.
Lucy set off from Egton Bridge early, the walking was easy and she was soon at the village of Grosmont where she waited patiently at the station for one of the steam trains to arrive and it was well worth the wait. The trains and the station is reminiscent of times gone by and it is where many Harry Potter train scenes were filmed.
On leaving Grosmont there’s a big climb back up onto the moors. Passing over Sleights Moor Lucy looked back to see how far she had come. The walk down into Littlebeck was gentle with great views over the North Sea and the remains of Whitby Abbey could be seen in the distance.
Lucy reports that the walk through Scarry Wood can only be described as magical. There is a small Alum cave that you walk over and it is where the shale was extracted and used for tanning leather in industrial times. Further into the woods is The Hermitage, which is a large cave carved into the stone with a perfect circular ledge inside. It dates back to 1759 and is a remarkable piece of craftsmanship. It’s an ideal place to shelter from the weather if necessary. The Coast to Coast then takes you to the pretty waterfall, Foss Falls before bringing you out onto a minor road and more moorland. The moorland can be quite tricky to cross in places but luckily there are frequent marker posts.
After passing through the village of Hawsker and off towards the coast, Lucy was eventually greeted with the spectacular cliff tops of the east coast. “Wow” was the response from Lucy’s American companions. The final leg of the day is a walk across the cliff tops with views all the way out to sea. The path brings you round and down into Robin Hood’s Bay, for the end of a fabulous journey.
Lucy tells us she’s been amazed at how much there is to see on this walk. It is steeped in history, farming, culture and ever changing landscapes. It is also not just about the walk, it’s also about the people you meet along the way and of course the achievement of the Coast to Coast walk.