Bad ideas are wondrous things. Their origins can be traced in what might have been a good idea at the time and then went south. Some never were a good idea. It is difficult to say how my decision to say yes to the Lyke Wake Walk got made. It is a time-honoured tradition of Scarborough College. Yes, that must be it. Many people had gone before me and stories are told – campfire optional – about legendary crossings. It’s also considered a bit of a rite of passage for our Sixth Formers. Finishing isn’t even that important. It’s the taking part, it’s the pushing oneself to walk further than they ever have done. For some, it’s the mere idea of getting up at 2.30 in the morning or starting any kind of walk at 5 a.m.
If the bus journey to the starting point of a walk takes 1.5 hours, then at some point you should realise that the walk is going to be challenging. Children in the bus started cheerful and excitable, then dozed off, only to wake up five minutes before we reached our destination, singing along to a Disney song on the radio. Why a group of 16- to 18-year-olds chose to sing along to The Rock’s You’re Welcome, I can only put down to pre-walk nerves. Later on, I wouldn’t be happy about it, hearing this song in my head at least 100 times on my walk. Mr Robson did his pre-hike speech, which contained, as its chief message, try not to get lost. I don’t know if that is time-honoured tradition as well but Ms Speake, myself and about 45 pupils behind us did just that, a mere one kilometre into the walk. Where we should have gone left, we went right. We called up to Idea and Fergus – 50 metres in front of us – ‘Are you sure?’. We then ventured at least 500 metres through some wood where at least four signs read Private and it still did not register.
I lost Ms Speake during our first ascent onto Live Moor. Most of this stretch I walked alone, seeing Ms Speake disappear further and further into the distance and eventually getting caught up by Idea and Fergus again. It was also here that my knees started to inform me that if I had any design on climbing many of these hills, they’d have something to say about it. And they would too! The crossing here was a rather chilly and blustery affair but the burial mounds and sheep dotted around kept me in good spirits and soon enough I caught up with a group consisting of Emma Li, Julie, Jonty and Matthew, who I walked with until the Bacon Sandwich checkpoint.
What was a lovely breakfast, prepared by Mrs Barnes, came back up at least three times during my ascent of Urra Moor. Note to self: Next time you indulge yourself like this, check the next three kilometres of the hike! Bacon sandwich devoured and then regurgitated like a penguin feeding its young three times over, the top of the Moor was spectacular and a good time to call some people back home. I was in need of some moral support and nothing does the trick better than your wife (and then your mother) tell you how cool you are. Being told you are impressive, amazing and wonderful also works very well.
The crossing gets distinctly less interesting for about 10 kilometres or so, while you walk along an old railway track. I am not sure if the scenery stops being interesting or if I just got indifferent to what is actually quite breath-taking scenery. I am sure that if you were in a car, you’d stop for a picture. Walking for hours and hours and seeing the same thing over and over again, you kind of go: ‘Oh look, another sheep. And another peak. And another vista’ What you do not know, or do not realise, that this path is the loveliest surface you’re going to be walking on. I should have appreciated this more. After this, a nightmare of marshland, loose rocks, narrow paths through heather and dried up riverbeds would lie in waiting.
Around the Lion Inn, I catch up with Emma Li, Julie and Jonty again. After I left Matthew and Spencer, I spent about two hours watching them disappear around corners in the distance. It was like the worst demotivational poster you could hang in your office. Each time it looked like I was getting closer, they’d disappear again. When they reappeared, it looked like there was no change in the distance between us. At the Lion Inn, the three pupils stopped to check their position, which is how I finally caught up. We walked the mile-or-so to the checkpoint and carried on, the four of us, to navigate the crossing of Rosedale Moor. During this stretch, I realised the kids had a lot more in the tank than I did. My knees started to remonstrate more vehemently as well. All this meant that at checkpoint 6, I necked a decent amount of painkillers and I left the three pupils to go ahead at their pace.
The crossing of Wheeldale Moor to Eller Beck was where I started to have some serious doubts as to the point of this entire mission (and many other points to many other aspects of life). For about an hour or so, I had an internal discussion that wasn’t too dissimilar from when Gollum and Smeagol had a chat with one another in the Lord of the Rings. Though I didn’t have a mirror on me, I am pretty certain that I also looked like at least one of them. I definitely felt like it. Mrs Adams’ cupcakes at the check point just before Wheeldale Beck helped a little, though Dr Kehrli’s warning that if I didn’t get to Eller Beck by 4pm, I’d get taken out of the walk did not help at all. Sorry Dr Kehrli, that was basically like mistaking a 9 for a 6 on a winning lottery ticket.
With the last bits of strength that I had left, I tried to make up as much time as I could from that check point to the one at Eller Beck. I was fortunate with a couple of nice surprises. One was seeing an adder (it’s the little things) and the other was the North Yorkshire Moors Railway train passing right in front of me. And I have the pictures to prove it.
Straight after the check point, and convincing Mrs Harvey I was absolutely fine (I wasn’t and she knew), I went the wrong way and went more than ankle deep in marshland. That set me up nicely with a soggy stumble of about nine kilometres. Both Gollum and Smeagol had left me now. I was left with the The Rock singing that I was welcome and a couple of other unhelpful songs. How the Days of Pearly Spencer by David McWilliams made it into that repertoire I have no idea. Everything was on automatic pilot, so I can’t blame the DJ in my head playing daft songs by weird singers (did you know McWilliams had eight children?).
After a rest at Lilla Cross, from where I could smell and see the sea, I carried on with knees that had now given up. Luckily, I was on my own and there was no one to make fun of my old-man-looks-like-he-needs-the-toilet-quite-badly walk. On this part of the LWW, the path was so narrow in places that it was more suitable to flamingos and herons than people. Without the ability to bend my leg, I probably looked like one of those from a distance. At the end of High Moor came my last descent towards Jugger Howe Beck. This is where I decided that nothing was worth this. That descent is no more than 80 metres vertical and it probably took me half an hour. What’s worse, the entire time I was being watched by someone sitting on the hill opposite. This angered me to no end because of two things. First of all, there was another hill to go up, which seemed spectacularly unfair. Could the Lyke Wake Walk Society or Club or Whatever not built a nice comfy viaduct or something? I’d had a conversation with Matthew about this – a nice 40-mile viaduct so day-trippers could just enjoy the entire walk at their leisure. Secondly, why was there a pupil sat there and why was he/she left behind? The rules were clear! We walk in groups! Well, the pupils walk in groups! How irresponsible to leave someone behind!
My anger at the children’s reckless, dangerous and selfish behaviour got me all the way down. And up. And up high enough for me to realise that this was, in fact, Mrs Barnes and not a child. Under normal circumstances, that would have served as a huge compliment, I am sure. Mrs Barnes had walked back from the last checkpoint to meet up with and to inform me it was another 2.5 miles. And did I want some company.
Did I want some company?
I could have kissed Mrs Barnes!
On the last checkpoint, about 1.5 miles out, just before Stony Marl Moor, I was met by Mrs Brown and Dr Kehrli and we decided that it was too late to quit now. With Mrs Barnes for moral support, I limped, stumbled and cursed the last 45 minutes and touched the stone 14.5 hours and 62 kilometres after setting off at 5 a.m.
On the bus ride back, I had a chance to reflect. For most children – for most adults – any hike over 10 kilometres is a real challenge. To complete, as some did, 30 or 50 kilometres in one day in the type of terrain that we faced is an immense achievement and something everyone should be incredibly proud of. I suppose this is what I enjoyed about the Lyke Wake Walk. It is what sums up Scarborough College. Regardless of your ability, this walk can serve as a test of your resilience and your determination. It’s something that you can share with friends and colleagues as a badge of honour and it will serve as a great memory for our leavers in year 13, some of whom I had the privilege of walking with.
To those who finished. Ms Speake and Max in 10 hours and 21 minutes, both setting records. Max is now the fastest pupil and Ms Speake is the second-fastest colleague and quickest female. To Felix and Antonius, completing it in just under 13 hours. To Charlie, Ben, Jonty and Jacob. To Emma Li and Julie, the two girls who finished. To Ed, Hamish, George and Dan. To those who finished, I feel and appreciate your pain and I share in your pride. Well done on this remarkable achievement and enjoy the blisters, the cramps and the sunburn.
You, and everyone else I set off with a 5 a.m. on Saturday morning, are now part of Scarborough College tradition and I salute you!
And, as promised, a picture of that snake. After all that build-up, perhaps a slight disappointment.
By Remco Weeda, Director of Marketing and Admissions