Monday, 24 August 2009

Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

Holly, my dog, is a sprinter rather than a long distance walker. That’s just fine for what she wants to do - a swift burst to chase a squirrel or a rabbit. It’s not ideal for me though. I would like her to accompany me on long walks. Indeed, that was the main reason for getting her in the first place. However, Holly has never shown an aptitude for that.


She’s a Border Terrier, a type of dog originally bred to kill foxes and vermin with breed characteristics nowadays which seemed right for my purpose when choosing her ten years ago. She loves to be out and about but not long out and abouts. In hot weather she seeks the shade and shows how stubborn she can be with her “On yer bike!” look. Understandable really, given that she like all Border Terriers has two coats. It’s not such a problem in the cold. And “wet” is ok, so long as she can choose when, and then only, if she can sit in it. A muddy pond, chrystal clear river or salty sea - it doesn't matter. Just cold and wet.

I don’t believe the old adage that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. I might agree that it can prove difficult to change old tricks and break old habits but it seems to me that new tricks can be learned at any age. It’s time to put Holly to the test.

If it’s a typically cool Bank Holiday weekend this coming weekend then I hope to go camping with her. A short coastal walk appeals to me, where compromise is the order of the day. She can cool down in the water when she wants, allowing me to take a break and read my book. Beaches tend to be squirrel free too.

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Cleveland Way - After

The benefit of a holiday is that it's a break from a general routine. On the sixth day of a walking holiday I was into another (more desirable) one. I was almost fit enough in health and spirit for more weeks of it. Alas, one week was all that I/we had time for.

My preparations for this walk began in March and they paid off. One knee is still weak but no longer painful. There were no blisters on this walk. The soles of my feet are still an issue but less so. They ache after an hour or so of walking but it is an "ache" rather than pain, and easily remedied with a short halt or the occasional longer stop with boots and socks off. I'm more than hopeful that more weight loss plus another appointment with the podiatrist and the osteopath will bring further improvement.

I was very pleased with the kit except for the sleeping bag and perhaps the boots (See my kit list and previous posts for details). The sleeping bag was warm but I realise now that I need a more spacious bag for a comfortable nights sleep. The boots look and feel good but I am going to try another type for comparison.

It didn't feel as if we had "roughed it" on our holiday. It was a pleasure to camp out in the good weather that we had. The overnight rain whilst we camped at Cote Ghyll camp site, Osmotherley was not a problem but the site was and the midges that live there made it an unpleasant experience. The staff were disorganised and unhelpful, the site is cramped and muddy. There is one decent toilet block and another not so decent. I wouldn't use that site again. I suspect that some of the other campers who I saw, and certainly those that I spoke to, won't either.

Garbutt Farm, Sutton Bank was at the other end of the scale; it is an outstanding Bed & Breakfast. The accomodation is luxurious and the breakfast excellent. Our vehicle was parked there whilst we were away. It's almost on The Cleveland Way, within easy walking distance of a pub and a bus stop for The Moors Bus Service - a service which we used to return from Scarborough and collect our van.

I owe a debt of gratitude to the many (including ourselves) that wished us luck - we received it and used some to good effect. Special gratitude is due to Alan Sloman - a walker extraordinaire, reluctant gear freak and altogether nice guy who gave us such good advice and encouragement. Thank you Alan. I'd like to thank Bryn too, for being such a good son and the perfect companion on The Cleveland Way 2009. And very well done! Clambering up big hills whilst texting - amazing.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Cleveland Way - Day 6

11 August 2009

Robin Hood's Bay to Scarborough - 15 miles

For both of us, this is the best coastal section of The Cleveland Way. A number of factors combine to make it so. We are fitter now so negotiating the couple of steep climbs before and the long haul over, Ravenscar to the half way point at Hayburn Wyke is not difficult. The route is clear so no need for stops to consult a map. The path surface is easy on the feet and the views are far reaching, especially today with the fine weather. In all, We can direct our attention to each other and our surroundings.

Looking back (North) from Ravenscar

In clear weather, Scarborough can be identified early on - it's castle a dominant feature on the skyline. As we crossed the bridge at Scalby Mill, on to the Promenade, it was as if we had become the tourist attraction; two sunburnt hikers out of place next to the sandy beach.

This is the end of our journey and this has been a brief account of it along with a few of my thoughts. We, of course, know the full story and will keep it in memory for a long time to come.

When I get back to my computer (Sunday) I'll write a final piece, edit where necessary and add some photos. I think I'll be ready to start planning my next walk then.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Cleveland Way - Day 5

10 August 2009

Runswick Bay to Robin Hood's Bay - 15.5 miles

Walking around Whitby at lunchtime was more about avoiding others than searching for that crab sandwich I had thought about the evening before. The place was heaving. Even in the rain. I could feel myself getting grumpy so it was a relief to make our way up the famous 199 steps to the Abbey and then to the open space beyond. The crab sandwich proved to be as elusive to us as did the creatures themselves to the children dangling bait in the harbour, and presumably to the crab fishermen. Fresh crab was off the menu.

What was on today's menu as it were, was rain which slackened to drizzly showers by the time we reached Robin Hood's Bay. It was refreshing though. After the hot weather we have had up till now, Bryn and I were agreed that the change was a welcome one.

I'd be happy for it to change back again tomorrow though.

Robin Hood's Bay

Monday, 10 August 2009

The Cleveland Way - Day 4

9 August 2009

Saltburn to Runswick Bay - 12.5 miles

A change of plan today to resolve a problem; a joint unshakeable craving for a plate of Fresh Whitby Haddock with chips, mushy peas and bread & butter (you know - the thin sliced white bread with the warm butter that might well have been applied with a paint brush).

On our schedule, we would walk through Whitby tomorrow lunchtime. However, ours would be a meal to linger over (queue for too most likely). Not fast food to be consumed in the middle of a 15 mile walk.

So, 20 minutes after arriving Runswick Bay, parched and desperate for the aforesaid fish and chips, we were on a bus, Whitby bound, salivating.

I have to tell you, that this evening, we ate the most delicious Haddock & Chips that you could wish for.

Trenchers Fish Restaurant - Whitby

We bus back to Runswick Bay in the morning where we continue our journey south which will bring us through Whitby again. Whitby Crab sandwich and a pint of bitter for lunch methinks.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The Cleveland Way - Day 3

8 August 2009

Battersby Moor to Saltburn - 17 miles

Coffee in bed this morning. With fresh milk too! Bryn had secretly carried a pint of it as a surpise treat. There was plenty left over to mix with our porridge before we set off this morning as well.

There was no rush to leave as we were hoping to arrive in Kildale to find the village shop open on arrival. It wasn't but we didn't have long to wait. Then, with more water and a few snacks on board we were off on an already very hot day.

There were a lot of other walkers around today. Remarkable, I thought, to see whole families including young children on such long walks, and refreshingly nice to have friendly conversations with others along our way.

Highcliff Nab - Overlooking Guisborough with the North Sea in the distance

We are in a B&B now after a good days walk on another hot dry day. Washed, laundry done, fed and watered, and looking forward, after a good night's rest, to the start of our walk down the coast tomorrow.

The Cleveland Way - Day 2

7 August 2009

Osmotherley to Battersby Moor - 18 miles

Squadrons of midges were waiting for us when we emerged from our tents this morning. After our hurried breakfast (and during theirs) we set off on what was to be a marvellous walk.

The views from our route over open moorland were breathtaking, as were some of the ups and downs - which probably comprised the best part of 3000 feet of ascent overall in mostly short sharp climbs.

Bryn spotted some level, lawn-like patches of grass about 2 miles short of Kildale where we are wild camping. There is no water here nor proper shelter but we have sufficient of the former and are not expecting nasty weather. We're not expecting kamikasi flying things either.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Cleveland Way - Day 1

6 August 2009

Sutton Bank to Osmotherley - 14 miles

Nah then!

It's been fine and warm so it was great to be out all day. We walked North along the western edge of the North York Moors National Park, and with only about 750 feet of ascent over the 14 miles it was more like a long stroll.

Arriving at Osmotherley in the early afternoon we had tea followed by shandy, and had a good chat with some Coast to Coasters before checking into Cote Ghyll Caravan and Camping Park - not the best of camp sites or pitches but with good showers.

There are three pubs in Osmotherley but we settled for The Queen Catherine for dinner. Expecting a harder days walk tomorrow, boringly we have retired to our beds and it is now 2130 hrs.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The Cleveland Way - Day Before

5 August 2009

Sutton Bank

There's something special about the A1. It's not something that I can explain easily or briefly. Part of it though, is that even on the modern motorway sections I sense that I'm following the general route of an ancient highway. It's ironic that I should feel disorientated on a road but I do get that feeling on the M1 for instance - hardly noticing great towns and cities on the way. Not so on The Great North Road.

The journey north therefore added to our already high level of excitement to be on holiday, our adventure, at last. So, shortly after booking in to our B&B (Garbutt Farm, Sutton Bank, which is very comfortable, luxurious even, with the bonus that our vehicle can be left here securely whilst we are away) we spent the evening at The Hambleton Inn, here on Sutton Bank, where we have happily calmed down, satisfied our stomaches and quenched our thirst.

An excellent start.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

The Cleveland Way - Before

On Wednesday, Bryn and I drive to Sutton Bank, North Yorkshire, where, on the following day, we set off on our six day walk along The Cleveland Way to Scarborough; a walk of about 90 miles. Our planned overnight stops are: on arrival at Sutton Bank, then Osmotherley, a wild camp somewhere in the Cleveland Hills south of Kildale, Saltburn, Runswick Bay, Robin Hood’s Bay and Scarborough. We’ll be camping out each night except the first at Sutton Bank, the last at Scarborough and in between at Saltburn-by-the-Sea where B&Bs have been booked.

I should feel as if I am almost at the end of the road on a journey that began in March to prepare body and kit, and the end of the road being Scarborough where, when we arrive, Bryn and I will have achieved our aim of walking part of The Cleveland Way. For both of us though, it’s the true start of a longer journey - a return to backpacking and a future with all its rewards.

We’re hoping for fair weather on this trip but prepared, we think, for the worst. We’ll be looking for some decent food (Fish and chips in Whitby and Scarborough of course) and the odd drink (pubs are a bit thin on the ground before the coast but there’s more than enough from Saltburn onwards). You should be able to read about our trek here.