A while ago I came across this picture on Instagram.
I loved it! Not least because I like the idea of analysing my life like that. In doing so, my personal three ‘hobbies’ would be teaching, (dog) walking and sewing. For me, each day includes a little of the three, even if it’s only thinking or reading about one of them, rather than doing.
Enough of the background. As I mentioned in this week’s Sunday Sevens, after the end of Summer Term INSET day, I came home and tried to sleep for a few hours. I managed a restless hour then got up and began to make preparations for what lay ahead. I had a bath and then applied copious amounts of talc to my feet.
We’d arranged to meet back at school at 9.45pm. I quickly microwaved oats and milk so I could take hot porridge to eat just before I got out of the car. In convoy, three vehicles headed north up the A1. We were heading for Osmotherley, a chocolate box village that marks the start of the Lyke Wake Walk.
At midnight eight of us donned hats, walking boots and head torches. One of the eight was only walking a leg or two, as the 42 mile walk can be divided into sections. Walkers who are fortunate enough to be supported can meet their support teams at designated checkpoints along the way.
The first leg is five miles, and involves climbing up (and down) a couple of hills. Starting at midnight means we faced the hills in the dark, but with head torches and in a group visibility isn’t a problem. We got to the checkpoint and had a warm drink thanks to a camping stove and the support team, and changed socks. Looking after your feet is crucial to completing the walk successfully.
The second leg is only around 4.5 miles but involves some serous climbs. During this leg the sky began to lighten and by the time we reached the second checkpoint it was light. The third stretch has one climb right at the start, and then a steady but manageable ascent until you are on the top of the moors and following an old railway track. It’s easy in that it’s a clear path, but it’s 8-9 miles without many points of interest or diversion. There’s some wildlife around; sheep, grouse and the occasional rabbit, but apart from that there’s lots of heather and green, sloping valleys.
The next checkpoint is a mile or so up the road from a pub called The Lion Inn. The end of the third leg is about half way, and I think is often the make or break point for whether a walker will finish the walk. To get this far you’ve walked almost 20 miles and not slept. You may be in low spirits after the previous, seemingly endless stretch, and the warmth and comfort of the back seat of a car can be all too tempting. At this checkpoint we were treated to bacon and egg sandwiches, so we stopped for a while and changed socks and replenished supplies. It was around 10am when we set off walking again.
Fortunately the next stretch is most pleasurable of all. Bizarrely this one is the boggy section, but as long as the weather hasn’t been bad it can be a welcome relief because the peat is so soft and springy underfoot. It’s only 5 miles and we bounced and squelched our way through in a couple of hours.
At the next checkpoint we changed socks again in preparation for the following leg which I hadn’t been looking forward to, another 8 miles or so during which the ground was rocky underfoot and you had to pick your way carefully through the stones and coarse heather. The sun was hot and I glimpsed the tail of a brown lizard scuttling into the undergrowth. Not far from the end of this stretch is a stream where some walkers choose to pause and bathe their feet.
A steep but short climb brought us out of the valley and soon we were at the checkpoint next to Fylingdales. More sandwiches, drinks and a decent sit down had us prepared for the next stretch. We met a walker who said he had been following us for a while. He’d set off at 5.30am so had made very good time to catch us up (and pass us!) but was unsupported and appeared a seasoned walker – he was still smiling!
We crisscrossed through heather to locate the sheep trail we needed to follow at the start of the next 5 miles. The hills were more gentle now but felt higher as we were tired and beginning to ache and blister.
There’s a checkpoint just 2 miles before the end, at which we barely paused for fear of stiffening up completely. We crossed the road and began the ascent towards the mast that signifies the end of the walk long before the marker stone becomes visible. Our spirits lifted and the group stayed close as we finally knew all seven of us were going to complete the walk, together.
It was 8.15pm when we stopped walking, just over 20 hours since we started. We’d nagged each other to keep eating and drinking throughout the walk, sharing chocolate, energy tablets and painkillers. Exhausted but exhilarated, we took the obligatory photos, admired how blue the sea was down below Ravenscar, and clambered into the cars for the journey home. I untied my laces and discovered one blister. We commented on how pretty the villages were just above Scarborough, then the next thing I knew we were leaving the A1 and almost home. Back at school I couldn’t stand up straight and hobbled pathetically around the car park.
Once home, I had a bath and collapsed into bed. I couldn’t even stay awake long enough to drink my cup of tea. The following day was a write off, I managed to get downstairs for food and drinks but mainly languished in bed watching TV. Twitter and Facebook was full of positivity for both the walkers and supporters, so I set up a page so people could donate if they wished.
No ordinary start to the summer hols, but the memories will last a lifetime (hopefully the blisters won’t). It was my second time completing the walk, my first was in 2011. For two of the others it was their third, and for one – my head teacher and the group leader – it was his sixth. For 3 of the 7 of us, it was their very first time and they coped incredibly well. The support team was outstanding, as they also faced prolonged periods without sleep, proper meals or toilet facilities. A big group of people way out of their comfort zones and pulling together to support each other. I’d say it epitomises the attitude of the people I work with.
I’m now looking forward to recovering fully so I can enjoy the regular dog walks that the summer is meant for. If you’ve completed the Lyke Wake Walk, or done anything similar, I’d love to hear about it.
Footnote: I can’t take credit for most of the photos included in this post, I didn’t carry a camera and kept my phone switched off for the duration. Therefore I’d like to thank everyone else from the team who took such beautiful photos.