(26th March 2013 – 16½ miles)
So here it was. My last day on the Coast to Coast. And, for the last time, it was snowing – as it had on seven of my twelve days.
Nothing dramatic nor troublesome: no drifts, no snowstorm – just a light, pretty dusting.
The curious incident of the mashed potato in the night-time aside, ‘The Horseshoe’ had been a good place to spend the night and despite my moaning about enough Full English breakfasts already, I managed to polish off another one. Just for old time’s sake.
The path left the village and passed Egton Manor and three busy donkeys,
as it followed an old toll road. (How annoying would that be? Turning up in your hearse at 10.01pm)?
The snow became quite heavy
and I wondered whether, just for fun, the C2C was going to throw another, last blizzard at me.
But it was a short-lived flurry and I have to say, I was a little disappointed as it petered out. I’d become accustomed to walking in harsh, even extreme weather and a little addicted. Snowdrifts, blizzards, strong winds and ice had really spiced up my experience of walking Wainwright’s path.
In Grosmont, the level-crossing for the North York Moors Railway closed as I approached and, as I leaned on a railing, Pat caught up with me. If we hadn’t walked every step of the last twelve days together we would certainly finish the walk together.
I’m not particularly interested in steam trains but I watched entranced as the beautiful locomotive huffed and puffed and wreathed itself in steam. I had a strong urge to cry, “Daddy, my daddy!” But I don’t think I did.
And as it chugged slowly away, I was disappointed that we didn’t have time for a little toot-toot up the valley aboard that marvellous machine.
Beyond Grosmont, we climbed the very last – the very, very last of so very many – big hill of the walk. And what a whopper. 700ft straight up from the town centre.
The last day of our 200-mile walk across England wasn’t a crashing crescendo climax. The grey overcast sky didn’t help but it did seem that the C2C had almost finished with us, that it was winding down to a full stop.
Soon after the climb out of Grosmont, we entered Little Beck Wood
and at Falling Foss waterfall we had our only tea and cake stop in almost two weeks. The carrot cake served at the Falling Foss Tea Garden was enormous and the best I have ever tasted. I was speechless with gratitude and delight as I washed it down with a big mug of Earl Grey. Why hadn’t we stopped more often for tea and cake? Anyone? Why? Foolishness is why.
The moorland of Graystone Hills was sodden and the paths vague and difficult to follow. Icy sleet made peering forward difficult too. Frozen puddles and ponds weren’t strong enough to support my weight and it was only because of my blessed Meindl boots and Goretex gaiters that my feet stayed dry.
Although we had already caught a distant glimpse of the sea and Whitby, the coast seemed cruelly elusive. But after a fine, late lunch at the ‘Hare and Hounds‘ in High Hawkser and a traipse through the strange, uncertain world of a static caravan park
there it was: the North Sea. We had done it, we’d bloody well done it. We’d walked from (not very) shiny sea to (not very) shiny sea. But as we rejoined the Cleveland Way for the last 3 miles to Robin Hood’s Bay, my reaction was a sense of triumph mixed with regret that my holiday was almost over.
Though the path ran high above the waves, spume from the strong easterly had blown up onto the grass and froze.
Where the path dipped closer to the sea, we cautiously entered a wide alien world of frozen spume and spray. The result was stunning if freaky. I’ve never seen anything like it.
The Cleveland Way is such an inviting path: either northwards to Whitby and Saltburn; or south to Scarborough and Filey. I felt cheated that I was only walking such a short bit of this magnificent coastal path and once again regretted I hadn’t booked an extra day’s walk to Scarborough from RHB.
After about an hours walk along the coast, and catching me by surprise almost, we finally saw Robin Hood’s Bay.
With big grins on our faces, if not holding hands, Pat and I rolled down the steep road of the town to the spot where the path ends. There a flag-waving, chanting, foot-stomping and uproarious crowd (consisting of Sue) waited with a bottle of champagne and smiles – thanks, Sue.
We had finished.
Next to the ‘The Bay Hotel’ on a slippy slipway, I fished out the small pebble I’d picked up from St Bees beach eleven days before and hurled it out into the foamy water. The high tide swept in and washed my boots – and with wetted boots from both the Irish and North Seas, I completed the walk’s two rituals initiated in St Bees. Unfortunately, tragically even, Pat hadn’t picked up and carried a pebble nor had he splashed his boots at the start. It fell to me to announce – formally – that his walk didn’t actually count. He told me to get stuffed, which I thought rude.
We retired to ‘Wainwright’s Bar’ in the hotel for a pint and self-congratulation. Our satisfaction at completing the walk was well earned I think; as was the relief that, whatever the weather had thrown at us, we had been allowed to finish. But despite the hardship, exhaustion, the freezing wind, the snow and sleet; the daily face-off with a cooked breakfast, the weak coffee that so many B&B’s excel in, the lack of cake and the real fear of a closed sign in a pub window, I would have very happily continued walking. Hell, I wanted to continue walking.
I had hugely enjoyed the sights and trials of the last twelve days – and particularly relished having the remote paths, fells, moors and mountains almost entirely to ourselves.
Behind the bar is a book which anyone who completes the Coast to Coast may sign. Pat and I were astonished that no-one had signed it since late 2012.
We were the very first of 2013 to walk Wainwright’s Coast to Coast path. And of that, I’m proud.
The following morning after a wonderful breakfast of Eggs Benedict (not a Full English you’ll note) at the charming ‘Northcliff B&B‘ I walked down into the town to catch my bus to Scarborough.
The bus was very late and when it finally arrived it was obvious that it was chronically ill. It wheezed all the way to Scarborough at a sedate walking speed – slower still going uphill. I missed my train by three minutes and had to pay £91.30 for a new ticket, as my pre-booked one was no longer valid. How I chuckled.
My original plan to walk on to Scarborough from RHB would have been cheaper, probably faster and far more fun.
If having read my experience of walking Wainwright’s wondrous path you think you’d like to do it yourself, I’ve written a post with tips and advice – HERE.
I’ve also condensed the whole 12 days of my trip into one post on my other blog, ‘The Anxious Gardener‘.