Sometimes you need to walk in a group. Sometimes you just need to escape and spend time with your thoughts. That's where I was recently. I had four days off and wanted somewhere I could walk safely but entirely alone, that wouldn't be crowded, would have a few hills, somewhere for me to stay and was easy for me to get to from York. I considered to stretches of the Cleveland Way, but it can be tricky finding accommodation on the route and public transport options aren't great depending on where you start and finish.
Then I remembered the Esk Valley Walk, something I'd been wanting to do for a while. As described by the North Yorkshire Moors website: The 37-mile (60km) walk follows the River Esk from its source high on the North York Moors to the coast at Whitby. It’s marked by a special waymark with a leaping salmon – yellow arrows mean a footpath and blue denotes a bridleway.
The best thing about the walk is that it is served by the Esk Valley Railway line, which means you can leave your car at one end and be able to get back to it at the end.
Unlike the suggested itinerary, I did it in reverse and actually decided to abandon the last part of the walk in favour of some self-navigation. Here's what I did:
Day 1: Whitby to Grosmont - 8 miles
This is an easy, short day which is good for day 1 as it gives you time to get to the start. I parked at the Long Stay carpark in Whitby down by the marina. It's not cheap at £9.40 a day, but it meant I could top up my daily parking from the Ringo app every day and it felt safe. What's more, the carpark is literally the start of the walk.
I plotted my route in advance using the OS Map app, which I would highly recommend you get. Worth every penny. While the walk is signposted with little leaping salmon symbols, they are not posted at every point where you might need a sign. I found myself referring to my map quite often.
The walk follows the River Esk reasonably closely and on day 1 you will find yourself zig zagging across the river and the railway line repeatedly. There are plenty of bridges to appreciate pretty river views and a number of places you have to cross the railway tracks directly, keeping an eye and ear out for trains. But they're not all that frequent! If you're lucky, you will get to see and hear the steam trains chugging along the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. There are enough little hills to make you work up a sweat, particularly if you're carrying a backpack. But in general it is an easy, pretty walk to ease you into the rhythm of walking. Expect fields, sheep, rivers, bridges and railway lines.
I got to Grosmont faster than expected and had a room booked at the gorgeous Grosmont House B&B. it was bliss to be able to lie on my comfy bed, with the rain coming down outside, reading a book and just enjoying putting my feet up. Dinner at the Station Tavern next door was good and filling. I had wanted to go to the Steam Cafe for one of their pizzas which are apparently very good, but they only serve those on the weekends.
Day 2: Grosmont to Danby - 13 miles
After a lovely breakfast at the B&B, I headed off into the rain. The first part of the walk is flat and easy, along a broad track which still criss crosses the river and railway, but it's gentle and serene start to the day. Egton Bridge is ridiculously pretty and you can wave hello to the Alpacas (or Llamas - I can never tell the difference) at Egton Manor.
Once you've gone through Egton Manor there is a short sharp climb up to East Arncliffe Wood, but the woods are magical. Take your time here and simply enjoy the mossy rocks, tree canopy and the mulchy smell of old wood giving life to new plants.
You pop out at Glaisdale. Be sure to take a quick peek at Beggar's Bridge near the railway line before continuing on through more woods and fields. You could stop for a snack or lunch at the Arncliffe Arms in Glaisdale, but I opted for a picnic next to the river closer to Leaholm. There are public toilets right on the path at Leaholm (top tips for all of you like me who like to know where to go!)
You then climb steeply up and out of Leaholm, up and across Leaholm Moor to Danby Beacon, where you get fabulous views out towards the sea in one direction and across moorland and valleys in the other. Once you've had your fill, you can wind your way down, eventually passing the Moors National Park centre and into Danby.
I stayed at the Duke of Wellington Pub. It's a great pub but be warned, the rooms are not very sound proof so if you have a room at the front like I did, you will be able to hear everyone enjoying their drinks until closing time. No problem if you're joining them, more of a problem if you want to sleep.
Day 3 - Danby to Blakey - 12 miles
After two days of rivers, railways and valleys, the wildness of the moors was calling. A brief woodland walk through Danby Park, a final railway crossing at Castleton and then the start of the climb up the moors. I somehow managed to lose my way three times early on - possibly because there weren't many leaping salmon fish signs and possibly because I wasn't concentrating. However I soon got on track.
It felt like the moors were teasing me a bit. There'd be a climb, some heather, the sense that the moors were just there, and then the moorland path would turn into a farm track and down we'd go again. At one point I managed to walk right through someone's garden before I realised the error of my ways. Luckily a lovely young chap whose garden it was pointed me in the right direction.
My path was still tracking along the river although it gradually fell away as I gained height. But the path became seriously boggy, overgrown and hard to navigate. So much so that I eventually decided it was time for a rest. Lying down in the sunshine listening to the noise of the birds, water trickling from somewhere and insects buzzing was lovely. Just me and nature and not another soul.
I eventually roused myself and carried on the climb. The path cleared and finally, a track took me to the top of Farndale Moor. The wind was blowing and the expanse of open moorland with no-one else there was jaw-dropping. I let all the emotional stuff I'd been carrying in side me out, free to blow on the wind. It was the best therapy ever.
After taking my time to enjoy the view over Farndale, I followed the broad track to the famous Lion Inn at Blakey. Anyone who has done the Coast to Coast will be familiar with this spot - an oasis after miles of desolation. It's where I spent my night. Food portions are huge and tasty. The rooms are always too hot. But I still slept like a log.
Day 4 - Blakey to Glaisdale
Now if you want to complete the Esk Valley Walk, you follow the route in the image below (click it to get the route).
I, however, decided I wanted more moorland and wanted to test my ability to plot a route and navigate it. I plotted a route the went from Blakey to Glaisdale via Rosedale - the plan was to go down into Rosedale Valley and up the other side. But in the morning I didn't feel like adding in a big fat hill for the sake of it, so I didn't quite follow my own route. Instead I followed the old mining railway line around the top of Rosedale and then at the junction where you could turn downhill and go to Rosedale Head Farm, I followed a path up to the top of Rosedale Moor.
Here I discovered that the path that was shown on the map obviously wasn't very well used and there was no path. I had to make my way across boggy bits and heather for quite a while, constantly checking the OS Map app to ensure I was going in the right direction. At last I came to a road, crossed that and could then follow the George Gap Causeway across the top of Rosedale Moor. It was beautiful, wild and remote and a bit of the moors I'd never been to.
As the path curves, you lose sight of where you've been and the sea opens up ahead in the distance. You follow a broad, rough path with lovely views over Great Fryup Dale for a while. Then a bit of road walking, before I picked up the Glaisdale Rigg path which gradually headed downhill to Glaisdale. I was easily done by early afternoon despite having stopped for another rest to just enjoy the scenery. The Esk Valley Railway train service wasn't due for some time, so I called a taxi from Whitby and got a much faster ride back to my car.
It was a briliiant four days of solo walking, a tiny micro-adventure. You could easily compress it into 3 days if time is short. Definitely one to add to your list.
I've just returned from a lovely 7.5 mile walk starting at Cod Beck Reservoir, tracking through Osmotherley and along a stretch of the Cleveland Way in the North Yorkshire Moors. I haven't been on many walks recently. My personal life has been somewhat fraught/busy/overwhelming for the last few months, so walking had to take a back seat.
But today I had a free day. No kids. No commitments. And yes there were household jobs to do - when aren't there? - but I decided to prioritise time for me.
Luckily, a Glamoraks member had planned a walk for today. That's how Glamoraks works. Someone decides that they want to do a walk and they choose a route. They share it in the group and/or the Facebook page and other people can decide to join them. You can search for members or walks near you too (and we have members all over the world.)
For many people, coming on one of these walks is daunting. They don't know anyone and as with any new situation, meeting new people and trying new things can feel scary. But as the ladies on the walk today can testify, there is absolutely no reason for nerves.
We are women with completely different stories and backgrounds. Yet we all love the same thing - getting outside in the fresh air and having a good long stomp. Now had this walk not been set up today, I would have gone on my own (although it would have been easier to cry off and binge watch Game of Thrones), but for many others, they would prefer not to be alone out on a remote path.
Many don't feel brave enough to be the walk organiser, but once they've been on one, realise that actually it's not that scary either. No-one expects you to be a qualified walker. It's ok if we get lost. Or it's muddy. Or we want to change course. Or stop for tea. We're just grateful that someone has encouraged us to get out there.
Besides the normal chat about parenting, food, jobs, holidays, we had quite a bit of chat today about doing things that push you out of your comfort zone, saying yes more.
My take on this is that the fears you may have because you've never done something will always be there - it's your body's natural instinct to keep you safe. But as soon as you do it, you realise that the worries you had were often far worse than reality.
And it's not just walking that this applies to. Anything that you may be facing - getting a divorce, moving house, starting a new job or leaving a job, tackling an illness, have kids leave home, dealing with a family crisis, or taking on the bucket list thing you've always wanted to do but don't feel brave enough - you can do it.
Please believe me: YOU. CAN. DO. IT.
No matter what it is, how huge or scary, just tackle it one step at time. And you will find yourself doing it. And you're ok. And in many cases, so much better than you were before. So in the words of that famous shoe brand: Just do it.
How do I know that you'll be ok?
Because on every Glamoraks walk, I hear different women's stories and it always amazes me at just how resilient women are. No matter what they've been through, it turns out ok. Hearing these stories from people outside your normal friendship group opens up your mind and deepens your compassion for what others face. It also inspires you to try some of the things they've done or get ideas on what to do next.
Sometimes the world and our own personal lives can feel a bit overwhelming or negative. But just one walk with a group of women, I guarantee, will put a smile of your face, a glow in your cheeks and a sparkle in your eyes - see the evidence below. And hopefully, it will also give you that little confidence boost to know that you can do it, whatever 'it' is.
(Incidentally, we passed the sign in the picture above on our walk today ....)
1 August is Yorkshire Day. To celebrate the splendour of God's own county, here is a round up of some of the walks I'd recommend you do in Yorkshire. We are absolutely spoilt for choice with so many exceptional places to walk that this list is by no means conclusive. It doesn't include some of the more famous routes like the Cleveland Way, Dales Way, Wolds Way, the Pennine Way, Lady Anne's Way, the Ribble Way or the Herriot Way. Frankly, there are so many splendid walks to choose from, your biggest challenge is going to be finding the time to do them all.
So whether you're looking for a city walk, an urban stroll, a multi-day hike, a coastal caper or a good long stomp in the wilds of the moors or dales or Northern Peak, you are sorted.
1. Beningbrough to York
Close to York yet completely rural in feel, this is either a short 3-miler along the river, doing a circuit around Beningbrough Hall. Or make it longer and walk 8 miles from Beningbrough all the way along the river Ouse into York City Centre. Details here.
2. York Minster to Sheriff Hutton
This is the first part of the centenary way, a multi-day walk running from York to Filey. But it's a great way to explore the surrounding York countryside starting right in the heart of town. Follow the river Foss out and either stop in Strensall or continue on to Sheriff Hutton. Details here.
3. Stamford Bridge circular
Stamford Bridge is a village in the East Riding of Yorkshire. With a pretty centre and plenty of history, this is a flat, circular walk that takes in the river Derwent. Details here.
4. Kirkham Priory to Howsham Mill
Another walk along the Derwent, this is a pretty circular walk that takes in the ruins of Kirkham Priory and the delightful Howsham Mill. Details here.
1. Whitby heading South
From Saltburn to Bridlington, the Yorkshire coast is a gem for walkers. One of the most popular stretches if you fancy making a weekend of it is to head from Whitby to Robin Hood's Bay and back again. It's roughly 6 or 7 miles each way, depending on where you start. But you can also start further north from Sandsend and end at Boggle Hole, just after Robin Hood's Bay, spend the night and head home the next day. Or try starting at Whitby, walk to Ravenscar, return and stay at Boggle Hole or Robin Hood's Bay and return the next day. Details of these walks can be found here and here.
2. Scarborough to Filey
Walk the final stage of the Cleveland Way as you leave the bustle of Scarborough behind, hugging the coast until you reach Filey Brigg. It's roughly 10 miles of gorgeous walking. Details here.
3. Bridlington to Bempton
If you're a bird watcher, this is the walk for you. It takes in the incredible Flamborough Head, many beaches and RSPB bird watching platforms to get up to close to the myriad of sea birds that nest along this stretch of coast. Details here.
4. A wild camp on a coastal path
This is just a short walk of no more than a couple of miles, depending where you choose to stop, but if you fancy a bit of an adventure, try heading out from Robin Hood's Bay and sleeping under the stars along the coastal path. Just be sure to leave no trace and don't sleep too close to the cliff edge. Details here.
NORTH YORKSHIRE MOORS
A gorgeous valley and open moorland that can be done in a circuit of different lengths depending on your stamina. They take in the old mine buildings that dot the path. Details here.
2. The Hole of Horcum
This is a stunning 7 mile walk in one of the North Yorkshire Moors most famous viewing spots. The Hole of Horcum is a giant punchbowl that includes walking along the moorland tops and in the valley, with a lovely pub midway. Details here.
3. Upper Riccal Dale
This a short 5 mile walk just north of Helmsley, that takes in the gentle agricultural side of the moors, but with some great views from the top of the ridge. Details here.
4. Helmsley to Rievaulx
This is a glorious 7-mile walk from Helmsley to Rievaulx and back again. It is actually stage 1 of the Cleveland way and is bookended with Helmsley castle and the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey. Plenty of lovely tea shops to choose from too. Details here.
5. Wild camping in the North Yorkshire Moors
While not strictly allowed, if you are sensible, leave no trace and don't start fires, a wild camp on the moors is a lovely way to experience the peace and splendour they afford. Here are two wild camps (locations not revealed) to give a flavour of it. How far you want to walk to reach your camp spot is up to you.
Wild camp 1
Wild camp 2
THE YORKSHIRE BITS OF THE COAST TO COAST
The coast to coast is a 192-mile path running from St Bees in Cumbria through to Robin Hood's Bay in Yorkshire. The Yorkshire section starts once you cross the Pennines after leaving Kirkby Stephen and takes in some magnificent stretches of the Yorkshire Dales, North Yorks Moors and the Yorkshire Coast. You don't have to do the whole thing - just pick one or two of these stretches for a day or two of gorgeous walking. Note: the bit from Richmond to Danby Wiske and Danby Wiske to Ingleby Arncliff are probably the least exciting. I've included them in case you'd like to do the full Yorkshire stretch but I wouldn't pick them for a day walk.
Kirkby Stephen to Keld
Keld to Reeth
Reeth to Richmond
Richmond to Danby Wiske
Danby Wiske to Ingley Arncliff
Ingleby Arncliff to Blakey Ridge
Blakey Ridge to Grosmont
Grosmont to Robin Hood's Bay
Malham is a jaw-droppingly beautiful bit of the Yorkshire Dales with a number of walks you can do regardless of your fitness. A gentle stroll to see Gordale Scar and Janet's Foss; something a bit more taxing as you climb to the top of Malham Cove to see the stone pavement of clints and grikes; or even further up to Malham Tarn. Details here.
2. The Yorkshire Three Peaks
Many people take on the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks of Pen y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough as a 12 hour challenge. But you don't have to charge your way around. You can pick them off one at a time or two them over two days. This is the scenery that will take your breath away. Details here.
YORKSHIRE BIT OF THE PEAK DISTRICT
A new boundary walk that takes runs the whole way around the Peak District opened in 2017. The northerly bit of the Peak is in Yorkshire and includes more spectacular moorland walking. This section runs from Greenfield to Marsden. And there's a very welcome pub at the end. Details here.
As I said, there are so many walks to be done in Yorkshire. I know that this is just a tiny sample - but they are ones which I have personally walked and written up. I'd love to hear about yours, so please do share any Yorkshire walks you've written about in the comments below.
If you are a woman who loves to walk, please join Glamoraks, an online community that helps women find other women to go walking and adventuring with together. You can also join the Facebook group here. Both are free.
Start and end point: Hole of Horcum carpark off A169 postcode YO18 7NR
Terrain: Muddy paths, moorland
Hills: A steep climb in and out but otherwise reasonably flat
Refreshments: The Horseshoe Pub in Levisham
Distance: Approx 7 miles
The Hole of Horcum is a section of the valley of Levisham Beck and is part of the Tabular Hills walk in the North York Moors National Park, in Northern England. The 'hole' is 400 feet deep and is approximately 3⁄4 mile (1.2 km) across. Local legend has it that the punchbowl feature was created when Wade the Giant scooped up a handful of earth to throw as his wife during an argument. (Perhaps his wife had suggested that she was heading out for another weekend of walking....)
According to Wikipedia: The Hole was actually created by a process called spring-sapping, where water welling up from the hillside gradually undermined the slopes above, eating the rocks away grain by grain. Over thousands of years, a once narrow valley widened and deepened into an enormous cauldron – and the process still continues today.
The walk is lovely - roughly 7 miles. It's a circular walk and I've walked it both ways. You can start either at the car park off the A169 (Saltergate - postcode YO18 7NR) or in the village of Levisham. But I personally prefer to park in the carpark because it means you can stop half-way round for a pint of something cold at The Horseshoe Inn. You can walk it clockwise or anticlockwise.
The view are probably best if you walk counter clockwise from the carpark. But as I most recently walked it clockwise and my images are of those views, I am going to write it as the clockwise route.
Cross the A169 with care, then follow the waymarked path. Where the path splits to go left and down into the punchbowl or right and along the moors, go left and downhill. Follow the path down and just keep walking.
Once at the bottom, keep walking along the base of the punchbowl following the clear path. You will go over a stile and will eventually get to a bit where an old farm building sits. At this point, turn back and look at the majestic view.
Keep following the path, sticking to the low path. If you find that your path starts to lead up a hill, you are going wrong and will end up in Lockton - not where you want to be. Stick to the low path that is closer to the stream.
Follow the increasingly muddy track, along some wooden boards, getting closer and closer to the stream until eventually you cross it by a little bridge. Shortly thereafter as you start to climb, you will find a sign post pointing you in various directions. Take the one going straight ahead to Levisham. If you want a shorter walk, you can take the sign to the right to Dundale Pond and return back along the moors, skipping out Levisham.
You follow a increasingly narrow path as you make your way up the hill and through woods until you reach the road at Levisham village. You'll see this waymarker sign and a bench.
Turn right up the road and you'll see the Horseshoe pub. I can recommend the chips! Once you're revived, keep walking in the same direction past the right hand side of the pub. Follow the farm track until you go through a gate. This takes you onto the moorland path.
Just keep following it back in the direction of carpark. You will at one point arrive at a 4-way junction signpost - keep going straight on without turning left or right. This is where the early path sign-posted to Dundale Pond would bring you to.
The walk is straight-forward now across the moors, with the carpark coming into view. After a final stile, you climb the hill back to the carpark and you're done! Be sure to look back across the punchbowl for a final view.
This is a relatively easy walk with some hills. It's a good one to do with older kids. If you do it with a dog, be aware that there are sheep grazing so they will need to be kept on a lead.
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Distance: Variable - from 5 miles to 12 miles
Terrain: Mostly easy walking on flat, broad paths - but expect steep climbs up and down when you go into and out of the valley
Refreshments: The Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge, Dale Head Farm Tearoom (plus Shepherd Hut if you fancy spending a night somewhere remote), plus plenty of pubs and tea shops in Rosedale Abbey
'Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet'. That is the Shakespearian line that played on repeat in my mind as I walked along the ridge line overlooking Rosedale in the North Yorkshire Moors. There wasn't a rose in sight, just miles of heather, breathtaking in its purple splendour. I was gobsmacked that I'd never been to this part of the moors before, which incidentally isn't named after roses, but possibly after the viking word 'rhos' for moor.
As it turns out, I had actually skirted Rosedale when I did the coast to coast, but didn't realise where I was at the time (I was a little preoccupied with the blisters on my feet having just walked 25 miles in a single day).
But the best finds are often completely unexpected, so let me rewind.
A friend had called to say that she was spending a night in a shepherd's hut somewhere remote. I invited myself along. Armed with just a postcode and a couple of bottles of champagne, I drove from York, to Pickering, then across to Hutton-le-Hole. As I climbed across Spaunton Moor out of Hutton-le-Hole, I was greeted to a breathtaking sight of heather as far as the eye could see. Daft sheep kept wondering across the narrow road, which meant I had to drive slowly giving me ample time to take in the vista. I was listening to Cold Play's A Sky Full of Stars as I drove, and the combination of uplifting music and stunning scenery plastered a smile of my face while simultaneously moving me to tears. It was simply jaw dropping.
Bracing myself for a perilously steep drive down Chimney Bank (there is a carpark there where you can take in the view - post code YO18 8SE), I noticed old stone structures on the side of the hill and wondered what they were. I found out the next day....
I made my way through the ridiculously pretty town of Rosedale Abbey and still the road continued. Eventually I could drive no further as the path petered out. Stopping the car I climbed out and found my friend, wearing fluffy slippers, sitting in the sun outside the shepherd's hut, located at the aptly named Dale Head farm. It was indeed at the head of the Dale and you could travel no further by car.
We enjoyed home baked cake and tea in the pretty tea room and garden. When all the other walkers had disappeared, we were left to enjoy our champagne, a BBQ and a good long chat outside our hut, while we watched the sun set and the stars come out. After a slightly tipsy stroll that evening, we decided that a walk was in order the following day.
The full Yorkshire breakfast nearly put paid to that idea, but we huffed our way up the forest line to the old railway track that runs midway along the ridge. It used to cart trains filled with ironstone ore off to Teeside. We turned right and walked to the old calcining kiln remnants where the ore was blasted to remove impurities, making it lighter to ship. Despite being industrial relics, the ruins were beautiful and ghostly. These were like the buildings I'd seen the previous day and I learned that the entire area was dotted with old mines and kilns.
We could - from Dale Head Farm - have climbed up to the same abandoned railway line track and turned left, following a three mile path around the head of the Dale, until reaching the Lion Inn at Blakey, where you can enjoy a meal or pint, before walking another two miles back down into the valley to the farm. For a day trip, that would make a lovely 5 mile walk, very do-able with children.
However, having waved goodbye to my friend and driving back to Chimney Bank (where I'd seen the old stone kilns and mining buildings the day before), I spotted an inviting path heading north west in the direction of the Lion Inn. Carpe Diem! I ignored the fact that it was Monday and that I should be working, put my boots on and followed the path. This too was an old railway line, the tracks long since gone, but the flat path makes easy walking. Heather lined both sides of the route while sweeping views across the valley below were wonderful.
By my estimation it's roughly 5 miles from the Chimney Bank car park to the famous Lion Inn pub at Blakey Ridge, situated at the highest point in the North Yorkshire Moors. This pub is a haven for walkers, being on the Esk River Valley route, the Coast to Coast and the Samaritan Way. It is also the only place to eat and rest for miles. I decided that I'd walk to the pub, get a cold drink and then walk back again. And then I realised that I'd left my wallet in the car.....But I used the pub to refill my water bottle and luckily had a few snacks in my pack to make an impromptu lunch, which I had sitting on a stone taking in the views.
During my walk, I stopped to chat to a man who had been in the fire service for years and who had now retired. He spends every Monday walking somewhere beautiful - lucky him. He had started his walk at the Lion Inn and was walking to Chimney Bank, down into Rosedale Abbey, through the village, up the other bank and along the track I'd walked that morning, continuing all the way around the top of the dale, before returning to the Lion Inn. I have tried to map that out (see below) and I believe it will be about 11 or 12 miles - but it may be a bit more. There will be one very steep downhill and another steep uphill during the walk if walking anti clockwise.
But it got me thinking that it would make a fine one-day walk. You could stop for lunch in Rosedale Abbey. If you felt the need, you could stop again at Dale Head farm with its tea garden (although you will be adding in another climb for yourself). And then you could return to the pub for a well deserved pint! Alternatively, you could go for a weekend, and start in Rosedale, break the walk by staying at the Lion Inn and then completing it the next day.
There are many different ways to tackle this particular part of North Yorkshire Moors - but whichever way you do it, I can highly recommend you go. August is when you'll see the heather in all its glory. February is when you'll see the wild daffodils (although Farndale - the dale on the other side of Blakey Ridge - is where the best daffodils are on display). In winter, dress for extreme cold and don't attempt driving Chimney Bank in icy conditions. The walking - while on the old railway line - is mostly flat. The views - assuming you have a clear day - are spectacular.
Here's a taste of what it looks like like, although no pictures can do it justice.
Here's a rough map plotting out of the entire circular loop taking in both the east and west sides of Rosedale. But the best bet is to get an OS map (number OL26) and have fun plotting out your own route, depending on how far you want to go!
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Five years ago a man called Alastair Humphreys gave the speech day address at my children's school. He was on a mission to get people to have microadventures - a mini adventure that you can fit into every day life. It should challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone but still be achievable.
That speech inspired me and soon afterwards I started walking, having my first microadventure when I set off walking 14 miles on my own and staying in a hostel. Since then I've gone on to have plenty of adventures, but I had yet to wild camp. So when I saw that Alastair was running his Summer Solstice Microadventure challenge, I knew it was time to push my comfort zone a little bit further.
My plan had been to go wild camping on the summer solstice (21 June) but despite having arranged childcare and having my bag fully packed, the Met Office put out a yellow warning for thunder, lightning, gales and very heavy rain showers with the potential for localised flooding. That didn't sound particularly sensible to be camping in, particularly on the top of a hill. I had to put my plans on hold and wait for better weather.
Last night that weather arrived. Once again I packed and this time headed off, leaving my husband and children at home, all three thinking I was daft in the head. My microadventure would see me do three things I'd never done before:
1. Carry all the kit I needed on my back for an overnight stay
2. Wild camp
3. Camp on my own
My comfort zone was going to be well and truly pushed. But too many women - particularly mothers and those whose 20s and early 30s are well behind them - spend their lives observing life through their kids or doing things for others instead of experiencing life first hand. I'm on a mission to change that and I can't tell others to do it if I don't do it myself.
But first things first.....
Where to wild camp?
My biggest challenge with wild camping was trying to find somewhere to go. In England, legally you are not allowed to camp anywhere you like. You're supposed to get the land owner's permission. But that can be very tricky to do and it spoils the spontaneity of it. The advice is to find somewhere tucked away, out of view, don't make fires and don't leave anything behind. Arrive late, leave early and no-one will be any the wiser.
I spent a good amount of time trying to find a suitable spot by looking at maps. I wanted somewhere remote, but not so remote that if anything happened I'd be in tricky spot. I didn't want to run the chance of bumping into people. I wanted views and it had to be not too far from my home in York.
After doing some research, I found the very spot in a secret location on the North Yorkshire Moors. It was 50 minutes drive away, was a short walk from a pub/civilisation, but was remote enough to not be found. And it had stunning views.
What to take wild camping?
Here's what I took. You could get away with less:
I set off from York at 6.20pm on a Sunday evening and drove north, towards the moors before arriving 50 minutes later in the exceptionally quaint hamlet, closest to my chosen destination. I knew it had an Inn, but I hadn't realised it also had a tiny tearoom and shop, which amazingly was open at 7.15pm on a Sunday evening. I popped in for my crisps and chocolate bar and asked for directions. She pointed out the general direction to me and said I could park my car behind the village hall. That was handy to know as there is nowhere else suitable to leave your car overnight. I tucked mine out of sight behind the hall and set off up the hill.
I began my short brutal walk - only about 15 minutes but straight up - before I was on the top of the hill with magnificent views on all sides.
I followed the path along the ridge line, looking for somewhere to make camp. I reach the cairn on the hill summit and noticed several dips off to the left hand side just before the cairn. They would be out of sight of anyone on the path and out of sight of anyone below. They were also slightly less exposed to the wind than on the very top. Because the thing about hills is that they're high up and therefore windy!
I chose a little dip that had a tiny tree for a bit more shelter and attempted to pitch my tent. This proved a challenge as the ground had a layer of soft spongy moss to lie on, but a layer of solid rock just beneath it, making it impossible to get the pegs to grip. But I finally managed it and rewarded myself with my glass of red wine and an exceptional sunset.
It truly was magnificent. The bright daylight had transformed into an array of purples, pinks, corals and golds. Every five minutes it would change, each more stunning than the last. It hit me that the sun setting really is an artistic masterpiece that is available for free every day to every person - you just have to step away from your screens and head outdoors. I watched the wind blow through the grass, saw birds swooping for a late supper of bugs and heard their night time calls, while sheep far below were baaing to their lambs. It was truly magical.
Unlike an inside space, the great outdoors is always moving, whether it's clouds scudding past or long grass waving, there is a sense of perpetual movement. As the night sky darkened, it seemed as though the stars themselves were racing across the sky, but it was just a trick played by the clouds rushing along. I tried to read my book, taking nips of cherry liqueur as it grew colder, but my attention kept getting distracted by the view.
Just after 11pm I decided to retire. It was a battle between my closing eyelids and my desire to wait until it got truly dark. But my eyelids won and I slunk into my tent and fell asleep instantly.
I'm not sure what time it was, but possibly 1am I woke to the sound of wind howling around the tent. Having pitched next to a tree for shelter, the wind sounded even louder as it funnelled its way through the branches. I lay listening to it a while, wondering if my tent would take off, with its poorly secured pegs. I must have drifted off again as I had a really odd dream about an adventurer (a real life one who I know) who was shaking me awake. In my dream I sat up and said, 'Oh, I thought I was dreaming but here you are.' We had a good long chat. It seemed so real that when I eventually did wake up in the morning, I was surprised that he was no longer there. About 4am the rain started to come down but the sound was soporific and I went back to sleep until 6am.
I woke to a very wet morning. A brief respite in the rain meant I could make a cup of coffee, have my sandwich and pack up before it started again. I just managed to get everything put away when the heavens opened. I bid a hasty farewell to my campsite, making sure I'd left nothing behind. The only trace that I had been there was a slightly flattened bit of grass.
I headed back the way I'd come the day before. Any plans for a longer walk home were binned as the water poured down the back of my neck. I'd failed to pack waterproofs!
It was a brilliantly refreshing start to the day. Instead of chivvying kids into uniforms or sitting in traffic, I got rain pelting my face, sheep to yell good morning to and views of rolling green hills.
So would I recommend it?
Hell yes. It seems much more scary in the planning than it actually is to do it. I loved going on my own as there is something beautiful about solitude. But I can imagine that going with a friend would have a completely different feel and would be a lot of fun.
If you want to feel alive and come home grinning from ear to ear, go wild camping. It doesn't matter how old your are or that you're a woman (it's not just for blokes!). Go have a microadventure. You'll be so glad you did.
Watch the video below for a taste of what it was like. And if you'd like to meet other likeminded ladies who love to walk and adventures, join the Glamoraks community.
Distance: 5 miles (more if you get lost)
Difficulty: Moderate (some hills to climb and map reading required)
Type: Farmland, forest
Start point postcode: YO62 5HH - Cowhouse Bank Carpark, North Yorkshire, UK
After days of being trapped indoors due to a combination of work and utterly foul weather, I decided to head off on an easy 5 mile walk on the edge of the North York Moors. I have a little book called Short Walks in the North York Moors, by Collins. Now this book has given me plenty of really good walk suggestions and the instructions are typically easy to follow and as each walk includes a map, there is no need to take an additional big map with you.
The walk I chose was one called Upper Riccal Dale, that starts from a Forestry Commission carpark called Cowhouse Bank. To find it, head out of Helmsley, through a tiny hamlet called Carlton and shortly thereafter you find the exceptionally quiet carpark. There is bench with lovely views over Bransdale from the carpark.
I parked up, the only car there and got that lovely sense that I was the only person in the world. You start out by crossing the road you've just driven in on and heading off down a forest track. Through gaps in the trees you get glimpses of the views over the dale below, dotted with sheep. The path was exceptionally boggy underfoot on account of the three days of torrential rain we'd just had but I didn't care. It was peaceful and quiet. If it's been raining, wear gaiters!
The path went back on itself down the side of the hill until reaching a farm track. It was here that my first navigation issue arose. According to the book, 'Go right on the farm road. Cross the bridge and climb through two fields away from the stream towards Howl Wood Farm.' But at the entrance to that farm road were two big signs saying PRIVATE - NO ENTRY. That's never a welcoming sign. I couldn't see any right of way signs or footpath signs but everything else seemed to indicate that this was the way I should go. So I went in.
Although there was a stream (very pretty) and a bridge, there were no fields to climb through. Just a track that made it's way up to the farm buildings. I figured it must be right, so I kept walking. The book said, 'Go left through the farmyard and left through a gate beyond the farm tip to follow a faint track ahead.'
I really, really don't like walking through farms. Firstly, it feels as though I am trespassing on someone's property - and the big PRIVATE - NO ENTRY signs certainly reinforced that. Secondly, there are always old, empty barns creaking in the wind, with rusty hooks and other dangerous looking pieces of equipment lying around. I always expect a scary bloke to come out carrying a bloodied meat cleaver while spitting out chewing tobacco, telling me to either 'Get orf my land' or 'To come in for a visit....' (I have an over active imagination.)
Add to that, there is invariably at least one (in this case four) farm yard dogs that aren't known for their friendliness. They started barking furiously, while a gaggle of geese hissed at me as I passed them. Then the cows (luckily behind a wall) started to add to the cacophony, lowing their discontent at my presence. Luckily there was a single footpath arrow on one of the gates, so I headed at pace for that and made it through the other side breathing hard. I am very rarely scared walking on my own but on remote farms, my heart does race a little.
After that excitement, the next set of instructions was simply, 'Cross the stream by the footbridge'. I was still following the 'faint track' as described by the book but eventually I reached the end of the wall line and my path was blocked. I had obviously missed a path down to the stream where the footbridge was, but there really hadn't been a path anywhere! I retraced my steps, found no path but eventually followed sheep tracks down to where I could hear the stream flowing. Reaching the stream, there was no footbridge. So I bashed my way along the stream edge until at last I found the footbridge. Somehow I had obviously missed the path down. My advice if you're doing this walk, is when the 'faint track' starts to bend slightly north, head down the hill to your west.
Crossing the bridge, I headed up through two fields until I found a rough bit of grazing land and the Forest Chapel that the book mentioned. Like something out of Hansel and Gretel, the chapel was very sweet tucked into the forest (picture top right above). But here again, the instructions were light to say the least. 'Cut across an area of rough grazing and walk towards the road, aiming to the left of the forest chapel. Cross the metalled road and go onto a forest road.' I stood in an overgrown field with no signs of a road. Beginning to despair of my navigation skills, I saw the first - and only - person I encountered all day. A cyclist, or rather a cyclist's head, whizzed past. That must be the road!
I found a gate that led to a very overgrown track to meet the road. Should you be doing this walk, don't worry about the fact that you can't see the road or a gate or a sign of any kind. Just keep walking towards the fence line and it shall reveal itself to you.
After that, it was a simple case of following the forest track back up a steep bank to get more lovely views over Bransdale. Even though I thought I was home and dry at this point, I made one final mistake. The book said, 'At the open field, turn left away from the road on a path between forest and the field's upper boundary.'
I found the open field and turned left, but the word I missed was UPPER boundary. I turned left to soon and ended up back on the road. By which point, I thought 'Sod it' and walked back up the road to find my car where I'd left it.
The moral of the story: When going on a walk, take your time to read the instructions VERY carefully and look VERY closely at the map. Tiny signs like contour gradients, side paths and streams all give clues if the instructions aren't very detailed. I couldn't even blame my getting lost on chatting too much - which is normally the reason I go wrong.
Despite getting lost, what made this walk lovely was the remoteness of it and the fact that I didn't see another soul (other than the cyclist). If you want to escape the world for a bit, get expansive views and see plenty of wildlife, this is a great walk. Besides all the farm animals, I saw plenty of birds, hares, bunnies and a gorgeous roe deer. And now that I've found out that you can walk through the farm despite the no entry signs, you can do so with the confidence I lacked.
Below is a little video of my experience.....
If you are a woman who likes walking - either on your own or with others - please join Glamoraks community where you can share your walking experiences, get inspiration or find people to walk with. Also sign up for the Glamoraks newsletter to get details of any events we have planned.