Coast to Coast Day 12 – Clay Bank Top to Blakey Ridge

Published 15 October 2010

“So that was, what, day twelve? Blimey, I’m beginning to loose track…”

“So what are we going to do to allow us to move to Kirkby Stephen then?” asked Catherine.

The question came like a thunderbolt out of the blue, even more so because I was highly pre-occupied by my beard. I hadn’t shaved since St Bees and by now it was getting a bit bushy. I was too busy sticking out my top lip and peering down my nose at the hairs or folding my top lip over the bottom one and feeling the brush like bristles to be thinking about some sort of new life away from London.

“Err… well… what would we do there?” I hastily replied, putting on my best “yes, I too have been contemplating huge life changing moves and not messing around with facial hair, honest guv” face.

“Well you can do your computery thing and I’ll do my consultancy stuff. And we’ll have a B&B too. You can write walking books and I’ll write the local news round-up for the newspaper.”

We’d picked up a copy of the Westmorland Gazette a few days earlier and admired how they’d filled reams of pages with Women’s Institute reports and cake stall news, all compiled by some local resident who probably got paid a pound a word. Or more likely, a pound a paragraph. Yep, that kind of money would pay the bills and keep me in beer alright!

This is what walking on the North York Moors clearly does to you. It makes people think about leaving their friends behind, upping sticks, moving to Cumbria and setting up a B&B. Either that or beards.

It had been a pretty relaxing day though. We only had nine miles to do on the trail proper and once we’d done an initial climb, it was all flat and rather easy.

Although that said, we’d also had to get up to the path from the village of Chop Gate about three miles away…

Catherine was convinced there was a route we could take up to Clay Bank Top that avoided walking down the busy road we’d traversed the night before, however our maps didn’t cover the area properly so everything was pretty much guesswork.

Spotting a bridleway sign near the pub she strode purposefully towards a gate in a wall proclaiming “That way!” and before I knew it, we were marching through it and up to the top corner of a field. Then we went along the top of the field. Then through a small gap in the fence that looked like it might be a path. Then past some decrepit huts, a few illicit stills and an abandoned caravan before finding ourselves in the far corner of an adjoining field with nowhere to go but down again to rejoin the road about 500m further along in the wrong direction.

Walking back to the pub again, we cursed the state of the local footpaths before spotting a wider and more obvious path hidden behind a builders van.

“Oh let’s just stay on the road, shall we…”

Delightful stone path over Urra Moor

Two miles and several hair-raising moments on as cars hurtled far too fast round tight corners, we finally made it to the side path we’d used the previous night which would take us the remaining half mile to Clay Bank Top. The evening before we’d accidentally ended up herding a large family of grouse who didn’t seem to realise that they didn’t have to keep running down the road to get away from us, but that they could escape under a fence. I secretly hoped for a reprise however it was not to be.

Thankfully the subsequent walk along Urra Moor was far less “stimulating” and certainly less dangerous as we rejoined the well paved Cleveland Way for three rather flat miles of moorland walking.

Walking on the moors can sometimes be rather dull with all the views looking the same, so much so that you’re never quite sure whether you’re actually progressing or whether you’re just going round in circles. Thankfully the North York Moors break that rule and we had several nice views down the sides to valleys and farmland below.

Blowarth Crossing – where the Coast to Coast and the Cleveland Way go their different ways

Bar a brief stretch of bog lasting the whole of 5m, it was never taxing and we soon arrived at Bloworth Crossing where we left the Cleveland Way and headed off on the trackbed for the Rosedale Ironstone Railway.

Constructed in 1861 it took the output of the local ironstone mines in Rosedale but was eventually closed and dismantled in 1929. At one time there was a station, staff houses and a signal box at Bloworth Crossing and it must have been a very remote posting for the staff, but now you’d be hard pressed to even know a railway was there – the only clues being the old trackbed which has since been turned into a wide and well maintained bridleway covered in cinder which was a delight underfoot. The old railway route never saw much of a gradient, leaving the walker to go through old cuttings or to stroll along large embankments.

Down below us was Farndale – a lovely peaceful dale which at one point looked set to become buried under gallons of water and converted to a reservoir which was something Wainwright decried most vocally in his veritable tome. It never happened and the farms and hamlets down below remain to this day, providing a delight to the walker to admire.

Such is the ease of this section that Wainwright himself proclaimed that “speeds will have accelerated to 5mph” and whilst Catherine wasn’t going quite that fast, she did keep storming on. Well until we stopped for breaks when I got probed with Kirkby Stephen related questions anyway.

The Lion Inn comes into view on High Blakey Moor

Doing a lazy loop round a hillside, we passed into another cutting before suddenly spotting our destination: The Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge.

Sat isolated in the hills, it originally served the workers of the iron mines. As the mines closed in the early 20th century trade fell so badly that the then owner, Phillip Johnson, spent most of his time farming instead. When he died his widow, and later their son, kept the business going, until the advent of the motorcar (and much later, one Alfred Wainwright) saw trade pick up once more.

Today the Lion Inn remains an old, higgledy piggledy inn with a set of rather modern and tastefully decorated B&B rooms at the back of the building.

Part of me had hoped it would turn out to be a bit like that other great isolated pub, the mighty Tan Hill Inn on the Pennine Way, which is a quirky little pub in the middle of nowhere on a bleak moor and where, on our visit, we found a duck sat in front of a fire and an instruction to serve ourselves as the staff were eating their tea.

The Lion Inn – quite probably the best pub on the Coast to Coast

The Lion Inn turned out to be a far grander enterprise, buoyed on by a greater availability of people willing to drive from miles around for a meal in the hills.

That makes it sound like a bad place but it was far from it. The food menu did look decidedly average this is true, however it was a prime example of how to do food very well. And it was also the first pub we’d visited on the trip to stock the mighty Theakston ales, and as I supped my old student favourite, Theakston XB, I dreamt of the Old Peculiar that would inevitably follow later.

Catherine on the other hand had decided on wine that night – a travesty and no mistake. Well, you just can’t say no when the OP comes calling for you…


Central User

21 October 2010 at 6:21 am


Construction date of the Rosedale Ironstone Railway appears to need a tweak.

Reading all entries with interest, thanks.


Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

21 October 2010 at 5:06 pm

Whoops! Indeed yes. It was 1861 not 1981. Except in a parallel universe where time runs backwards and in loops anyway…

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