I got up and set off early. The sky was clear blue and the sun was blazing, and I sweating my socks off before 9am as I hit the first upwards slope of many.
It was really a day of two halfs. The first half involved climbing up and down a series of ridges on the northern escarpment of the cleaveland hills. It was reminiscent of the cliff bastards on the southwest coastpath except these were higher but slightly less steep. The other major difference was the view. The top of the escapment overlooked what I assume is the Tees valley. The land below the escarpment was tabletop flat and spread out for miles and miles of irregular shaped fields like a massive green crazy-paving with trees and villages sprouting in the cracks. In the middle distance was Middlesborough, looking like the industrial concrete nightmare of popular myth. As I crossed the escarpment and the horizon cleared even more I could make out the hazy but distinct outline of the northern Penines to my left (probably where I’d been from the day before looking over at these hills) and to my right was the sea. However wainwright in his infinite wisdom had decide not to make a bee-line for this coast but struggle on further for another couple of days to somewhere far more picturesque.
This was the bit I was worried about with my knee, so I decided to take my time about it, and do everything I could not to be in pain. The ups were generally ok but the downs would have been agony were it not for my new trick of climbing down sideways with my bad leg always going first, thus avoiding the extreme bending that was sending it mental. It looked very awkward and painful but actually it was the best way, albeit slower than I would have wished normally. However I just accepted that slowness was better than no-ness, ie agony and having to stop the walk. As it was I did ok, and didn’t let myself get bothered by being overtaken on several occasions.
Despite the inconvenience it wa an absolutely fabulous walk and I doubt there could have been a better day for it. It was hot, especially on the slopes shielded from the wind where I sweated so much I had to stop for a minute to furiously blink and then wipe the stinging persperation clinging to my eyes, but the view made up for it.
The second half of the day was much more level, but just as high. The route took you up onto the north York moors proper and kept you up there – the final destination was a pub way up high on Blakey moor called the Lion Inn.
The north York moors is something like Europe’s biggest area of heather moorland. To be honest when that’s all you can see of it, as it was at the beginning of this section, it’s oppressive and asphixiating in it’s dryness and darkness. However, when you start to see the land below, and can properly contrast the moorland with the verdant valleys that prop it up, it becomes a lot more impressive.
The valleys are long and their sides follow an inverted exponential curve, so they start out very steep but then quickly smooth out into a long graceful sweep down to the relatively tiny river at their bottom. At the top they are still dripping with moorland, all bubbly and overflowing like the top and sides of a cake overdone with (green an purple!) whipped cream. But then suddenly the arable land kicks in, green smooth and slightly curved fields enclosed in ever-present stonewalls like an patchwork quilt made out of the green blaize from a snooker table.
The Lion is just in the edge of a fantastic valley like this. From the outside it looks unremarkable but inside it’s a warren-like maze of low ceiling-ed cozy stonewalled rooms. A bit suffocating in the heat of that afternoon, but