Wednesday, June 19, 2013

East is East

The End...or is it the beginning?

A typical weekend afternoon and I'd just walked six miles along the Cleveland Way and washed up in the picturesque little fishing village of Robin Hood Bay. Enjoying a pint outside the Bay Hotel- the traditional watering hole of those who finish the Coast to Coast long distance walk- a lone walker trudged wearily down the hill towards the beach. As he came into sight a cheer erupted from a couple of dozen people who had gathered with banners and bunting in front of a giant 'Well Done Phil' message scratched into the wet sand. The cheers spread to the boozers and Sunday drivers on the front- who hadn't done anything more vigorous than stagger down from the car park above the village- who joined in as well. 

I was actually there the following day when about thirty mature road bikers wearing yellow club jerseys, caused yet more celebration and cheering as they arrived en masse at the Bay after doing the coast to coast on wheels. I remarked to my companions..'My God,this is a jolly place!. I've never heard so much cheering and or experienced such general bonhomie in one place before!

It's pretty obvious that old Wainwright's Coast to Coast creation has struck a chord with the walking and biking public. It got me thinking about how outdoor folks in general just love engaging in a structured activity with a clearly identifiable goal. Be it ticking off  Munros, Corbetts, Wainwrights etc. Following long distance paths like the Pennine Way or the CtC; completing things like the 3 Peaks race, The Snowdon 15's, The Bob Graham Round etc;taking part in annual mountain marathons and fell races; careering around  bikes trials like the Marin or ticking off rock climbing lists like Ken Wilson's Classic/Hard/Extreme climbs.

Funnily enough,when I got home and got back on the computer yesterday evening, I had an email from John Redhead who happened to mention James MacHaffie repeating-30 years after it's first ascent-John's Margins of the Mind. I checked James's web site to find out more and discovered that he was working his way through JR's 'and One for the Crow' climbs. Another bloody list!!!... The JR Crow Climbs! Not a list I think will gather anything like the number of completers as AW's CtC but there you go. It's not just earnest red socked ramblers or wiry athletes who like something structured and formatted to go for but cool rock dudes too.Perhaps a student of Freud could explain this fascination with lists and organized trails?

As someone who has never been a list ticker or who has yearned to complete an established walk like the CtC, I am in fact girding my loins to tackle a long distance walk of my own devising to be completed this summer. It's something that like Wainwrights creations,has a logical structure and could be repeated by others should they wish to. I don't think it will be the new El Camino de Santiago somehow but I might get an article out of it and shed half a stone.

Getting back to my sojourn on the North Yorkshire coast. I've always had a heavy bias towards the West Coast of the UK. From the spectacular Atlantic coast of Cornwall up to crenelated,island studded shores of Scotland. However, I'm starting to really warm to the North East coast now. After all, my surname is of Viking origin and this coastline is where my forebears are thickest on the ground according to the stats. Not surprising I suppose given it's proximity to the land of the long ships across the North Sea.

The coastline twixt Scarborough and Whitby is really spectacular in places with some wonderful hidden coves and difficult to reach under cliffs which from hundreds of feet above,look like isolated Eco-systems. Verdant and unsullied my humankind. The cliffs reach a high point of 650' at the lost Victorian resort of Ravenscar. From here the outlook is amazing and thankfully not as yet violated by vile off shore wind farm arrays. 

Scrambling down from Old Peak at Ravenscar,a steep twisting path which had disappeared with a land slide in one place, we stopped at one point and stood transfixed when we heard what I thought was a cry of distress....or the moans of the sea dead! It was in fact the banshee wailing of seals which were gathered in abundance on the rocks hundreds of feet below. On the shore, an old WW2 look out post was lying upturned after succumbing to land fall.(The cliffs are as stable as sand castles around here). It's steel foundation rods  erupting every which way like the tangled roots of a prehistoric tree.

Finally down amongst the seals and debris I could wander slowly around the bay, engaged in one of my enduringly favourite activities.....beachcombing!

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