I did it! Those of you who follow me on social media may have seen that my attempt of the Lyke Wake Walk on 14th July was a success. The challenge is to complete the 40-mile crossing of the North York Moors in under 24 hours: I managed it in 17.5. Pretty chuffed with that.
The Lyke Wake Walk is one of the less well-known long-distance hikes in the UK and, when researching it, it appears to be quite a maudlin affair. Its name comes from the ancient burial mounds that are found across the moors, and ‘lyke wake’ literally means watching over a coffin. Don’t let the sorrow of the branding put you off, though: the route is a great mix of ancient history, panoramic views over Yorkshire, and challenging bogs to get stuck into (literally). You can also register your crossing and give yourself the title ‘Dirger’ or ‘Witch’ when you’ve done it, which is fun.
My dad, who completed the walk with his own dad and a friend in 1985, walked a little way down the route to finish it with me. I was fizzing with excitement and relief as I approached the last few metres in the dark. My blisters burned as I broke into a run to tag the Lyke Wake Stone at Ravenscar. I officially finished the walk at 11.42pm after leaving the Lyke Wake Stone at Osmotherly at 6:12am the same day. With a gargantuan effort, before my muscles seized, I threw my tent up next to the Lyke Wake Stone and collapsed into it with a huge smile on my face.
If you read my ‘before’ blog post, you’ll know that I was nervous about how I’d cope with the challenge, both physically and mentally. A few busy weeks at work meant that, in the run up to the weekend of the walk, I’d been both sedentary and exhausted. I find, though, that there’s something about being outside that uses a different bit of your brain: you can shake off the Office Person you’ve been during the week and slide into Epic Adventure Mode instead. Once I was off the road and gaining height into the trees, the work stuff was long forgotten. After worrying for days that I was going to chicken out, it was surprisingly easy to get to Adventure Mode, and Yorkshire gave me a great big slap on the back ‘well done’ by rewarding me with the most incredible views.
I won’t go into detail on the ins and outs of each leg, because it doesn’t make all that much sense if you haven’t followed the route yourself. However, if you’ve never done a long-distance hike before and want to try, I can promise you that this one is worth the effort. It’s particularly great to ease you in if you don’t want to jump straight to multi-day hikes carrying all your gear. You should definitely give it a go. Even if you’re too busy for this sort of thing. Especially if you’re too busy. After all, you only need a day…(!)
Here are my pro tips for having a go at the Lyke Wake Walk:
- Get the official guidebook.
The author, Brian Smailes, has done the walk more than 50 times, and has even done five crossings in one go. He’s the genuine pro here, and the book contains everything you need to complete the walk with relative ease.
The official Lyke Wake Walk Guide is available from Amazon or direct from the New Lyke Wake Club’s website.
- Get OS Maps online.
You should always take a proper map with you on hikes, but this one is a special case. The route is across both OL26 and OL27 Ordnance Survey Explorer maps and is right on the edge of the sheet on each, so it flips from one side to the other. I planned the route out on the OS Maps online route planner, then printed out a hard copy across several pages at 1:25,000 for me and 1:50,000 for my support team. I also downloaded the route on to the OS Maps app on my Land Rover Explore phone so I could use the decent battery life and GPS for reassurance.
(I know this bullet point sounds like a big corporate sponsor #ad but trust me on this – it saves a lot of navigation pain and constant map folding. Still take the proper maps as a back-up, though: if it’s a wet one and your print-outs get soaked, the laminated Active OS maps will see you through.)
- Wear proper socks.
I remember once being disgusted by the price of hiking socks and refusing to buy them, and then setting out on a 100-mile expedition. My feet did not fare well. On this walk, in my trusty Bridgedales, I didn’t get any hot spots until just before the last check point. That’s not bad going for 17.5 hours of general foot stress on one of the hottest days of the year.
- Have a support team.
I cannot overstate how much I appreciated my support team (my parents). If your walk goes anything like mine then, by the time you get to the Lion Inn (around seven hours in, just before checkpoint three and most definitely getting on for lunch time), you will be seriously questioning your life choices. Having your support team to sort out your food and refill your water so you are free to take a lie down and pull yourself together could be the difference between completing the walk and graciously bowing out. I also made my way through almost seven litres of water during the day – I could never have carried that without them and would otherwise have had a very uncomfortable time.
- Learn how to get to your happy place in your mind.
You can see the sea – and therefore the end – for an upsettingly long time before you actually get there. There’s a glimmer of blue in the distance from almost 20 miles from the end! The worst bit, though, is Lilla Cross: you come over the crest of the hill to a glorious view where you can see for miles across the moors…and as far away as you can see, almost ten miles in the distance and on the other side of a ravine, is your finishing point. You need to get into a calm place in your mind palace to be able to handle that without going a bit nuts when you’ve got thirty miles of sweat, dust, and bog on you. (Seriously, though, the walk is great.)
- The official website of the New Lyke Wake Club. It’s a bit ‘retro’ but it’s full of spot-on information for planning your walk.
- Zoe at Splodz Blogz did the walk over a couple of days and has written a great blog post about it. She also didn’t get bored and grumpy half way through filming her vlog, like I did, so there’s a good video of some key points of the route on her page.