Coast to Coast Day 11 – Ingleby Cross to Clay Bank Top

Published 13 October 2010

“I’m not sure what a Chicken Parmo is, but Teesside speciality or not, I’m sure you’re not missing out on some life changing experience”

I woke up at 2am to major – and I mean MAJOR – league throbbing.

Thankfully it was not my head hurting after four pints of ale. No. It was far worse. My right elbow and left little finger were insanely swollen, itching like mad and feeling very hot. The insects had been after me. Big style.

A friend of mine once proclaimed that if your partner always gets bitten by insects, stick with them as you’ll be guaranteed to escape their clutches every time. This might be why Catherine remains with me after all these years. Without fail her skin always remains blemish free whilst every midge, mite and mosquito for miles around will be found beating a path to my door just as fast as they can once they find out that I’m in the area. They probably erect signposts and have marshals to guide other insects on their way to make sure none of them miss out.

Once when we were visiting St Petersburg I woke up one morning with almost every part of my face covered in red blotches – there was barely a piece of skin that was normal coloured. In contrast Catherine had about one bite.

Being the kind of person who makes insects go in to some sort of orgasmic delight, I’d come prepared and had packed the old insect bite relief cream and set about stumbling around the B&B room trying to find it by the light of my watch which emits a surprisingly strong and eerie blue glow when it wants to. Although it does only illuminate a 10mm radius around you.

Banging my feet on rucksacks and tripping over piles of clothes, I finally found the cream and quickly covered myself in as much of the stuff as I could spare and tried to get some sleep. It was going to be a big day in the morning, and not just because I had ordered kippers for breakfast.

Actually I lie. It was because I was going to have kippers for breakfast.

The sun was shining bright in the morning and as Catherine enjoyed poached eggs and I filled myself with a substantial dose of Omega 3 rich fish protein, the B&B’s cat joined in the party by depositing a dead mouse outside the conservatory window whilst two kittens ran amok inside.

Our fellow breakfasters were the mother and daughter we’d been seeing on and off throughout the trip, and who were celebrating the chance to not eat fried pork products by having huge bowls of porridge with fruit and honey, along with homemade bread and preserves. I wondered if the B&B landlady was in her element in this trade, spending her days making jams, scones and cakes with which to line the stomachs of weary walkers.

Stacked logs in South Wood

She knew her stuff too; having walked the whole route herself and being a regular on the sections near Ingleby, she spent much of breakfast telling us not to get confused in the forest above the village. We promptly forgot her wise and sage advice and duly got confused in the forest above the village.

Our saviours were two other Coast to Coasters who proclaimed they’d walked 23 miles from Richmond to Osmotherly the day before and were doing another 15 today. We didn’t like to correct them; they’d actually done 28 the day before and would do 18 today, but they seemed happy enough. Well he seemed happy enough – his partner spend most of the conversation standing a few meters away fiddling with her iPod.

I’d heard about walkers who listened to music as they walked but had never seen one. It’s not something I’d seen the point in – why distract yourself from the music of the countryside by playing the music of Beyonce? Although maybe isolating yourself, not letting yourself get distracted by your surroundings, is the only way you can manage 30 miles in one day…

The first task for the day was to climb the steep but steady logging road through the woods overlooking Ingleby – which, incidentally, means “village of the English” dating back to when most of the area was filled with Vikings – and on the way we joined the Cleveland Way which we’d follow for the next day and a half.

Telecoms dishes on Beacon Hill

With the brief excitement of a mini-forest of BT’s microwave dishes, which didn’t exactly do a huge amount for the view (although someone at BT had at least gone to the effort of putting up a sign proclaiming they’d made them as small as possible), we soon joined the ridge of the hill and a world of mighty panoramic views across a huge distance. We could see for miles and miles and miles, from the fells of the Yorkshire Dales, through to the industrial conurbation of Middlesborough. You could even just about make out ships at sea.

It was a view we’d see on and off for most of the day, with the odd interruption of forests in the morning and endless ups and downs in the afternoon.

The view towards Middlesborough from Gold Hill

We stopped for lunch near the obtrusive sight of a rather ugly glider club building and then stopped again a mile later for a cup of tea at Lord Stones where a cafe sits buried in the hillside.

Our guide book made it sound like some sort of burger van style place where someone called Frank would be propping up the bar with a huge cup of tea, but in reality it was a full blown cafe with draft beer and even a handpulled ale. Swifts flew over to their nests whilst chaffinches pottered around, every now and then snaffling scraps of chips off the tables.

From Lord Stones it was the beginning of the lots of ups and downs, climbing up and down hills like some sort of yo-yo. Up down, up down, up down…

Pointing the way on Cold Moor

Wainwright loved this bit declaring it to be “the finest section of our marathon” before adding a telling “outside Lakeland” in brackets lest anyone forget where his true loyalties lay. However for us it seemed a bit of a challenge, especially after several days of relatively flat walking. Whilst the Cleveland Way was always paved, paths were steep and a blister on the sole of my foot was throbbing slightly even if one of those odd blister plasters was on it.

Each climb seemed to be harder than the previous and we did think that by this stage we should be dancing up these hills. Yet it seemed just as hard as it always did. On comparing notes though we did console ourselves when we realised our recovery time had shrunk enormously. Rather than reaching a summit and needing half an hour collapsed on the floor to recover, I was able to just keep on going with a smile in my heart and a quick step in my feet.

I’d like to think that I’d lost some weight too but the endless fried breakfasts and pub food had probably put pay to that. (Although on arriving back home I did find out I’d lost about 2 pounds which is not to be sniffed at and just shows what an active lifestyle can do for you.)

An abseiler prepares to descend the Wainstones

Our final climb of the day was to the rocky crag that is home to the Wain Stones, sitting almost crown like on the hill top and as we rested, two rock climbers practised their art on the crags.

Across the flat landscape below the weather was quickly changing. The sun had long been hidden by a sweeping batch of dark clouds leaving us with a very warm and muggy day, but now the fields of golden wheat and barley below were slowly but surely being covered by dark and ominous looking clouds. As it turned out, they were the least we had to worry about and as we gingerly made our may down the now slippery cobbles that lined the path, we were ambushed by rain as we tried to get down to the main road. We had, at least, to be thankful that we’d got a good view.

Clay Bank Top is an awkward spot, a few miles from any villages. Walkers can either head east or west for shelter for the night and whilst some B&Bs will collect Coast to Coast walkers, we’d made no arrangements and faced a two and a half mile slog down the main road to get to the pub at Chop Gate (whose Norse influence means it’s pronounced Chop Yat fact fans!)

Follow the B1257 to Chop Gate

Never a keen proponent of road walking, Catherine tried to navigate us by fields and stiles but instead managed to take us through nettles and brambles and after many abortive attempts to follow paths which seemed to do nothing but dump us on huge detours only to end up dumped back on the main road about a quarter of a kilometre from where we’d left it. In the end walking on the road turned out to be much faster.

We finally made it to the Buck Inn and did the now ubiquitous settling down to beer, food and a few pints amidst a clientèle made up mostly of walkers which included a mother and her 12 year old daughter whilst on the table next to us, dressed immaculately in linen pastels were two ladies who had just started the trip walking in stages and who spent the evening filling in their official “Coast to Coast Diary” whilst avoiding eating the mountain of cheese that they’d ordered.

By now we’d noticed a pub routine with most of the walkers discreetly disappearing round 9pm leaving us with the odd hard core walkers and locals who tended to sit in other parts of the bar. Having had a drink on every night of the trip, I occasionally pondered just how much I’d drunk. Whatever it was, it was a few pints, but in the end I took the decision that I needed the calories and nutrients before heading back to the bar for a top up…

Talk in the pub was, as usual, of the next days destinations and for us the remote Lion Inn beckoned – a short day which my aching legs were looking forward to most favourably.

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