Distance: 23 miles
This is the day that stands out in my memory above all others on the Coast 2 Coast journey. It was the longest, hilliest and toughest, yet it was the most spectacularly beautiful too.
Knowing that we had a very long way to go, we got up at 6am. Jane, our very accommodating host, prepared a simple breakfast of cereal as we didn't want any more at that time. She also made up sausage sandwiches for us to have as a second breakfast once we were on the trail.
We were off by 7.30, walking into a beautiful morning with mist covering the hills ahead of us. Almost immediately we had a big climb up, our first of 8, totalling over 1000ft of climbing or the equivalent of 258 flights of stairs by the end of the day. The book described our first climb as 'relentlessly uphill' and indeed it was. By the time we reached the top and joined the Cleveland Way path, we were drenched in sweat, despite the mist making a valiant effort to cool us down.
The views that greeted us were well worth the effort though. From Scarth Woods, we could look out along the ridge line of the Cleveland Hills towards Roseberry Topping in the distance. The purple heather and lifting mists felt magical and all cursing of the hill we'd climbed was forgotten as we just drank it in.
We wandered on through the heather, stopped to gobble our sausage sandwiches while looking out at the view, then trundled down through the woods past Hurthwaite Green before starting our second climb of the day. This time we were headed up through Carlton Moor to Carlton Bank. What spectacular scenery. The heather was simply jaw dropping. Every few paces we had to stop for another photo. At last - after many stops - we go to the top of Carlton Bank, where we got our first glimpse of the North Sea - our destination! Great excitement ensued as it felt as though we were practically there. We weren't.
We set off again in a buoyant mood, feeling as though we could conquer anything. We set off downhill again, passing Lord Stones, a jolly looking place where we could have stopped for tea, but now we had the bit between our teeth and were going to just keep going. Up we went again, this time up to Kirby Bank where a memorial to Alex Falconer is erected. I'm not sure who is was but he has a top spot for a memorial, with fabulous views out in all directions. Down we went again, a very steep descent and then up again to the famous Wain Stones, a tumbled mess of giant boulders. Still more up to the top of Hasty Bank, where for a short while we were blessed with a lovely flat path of pave stones.
We should have known it was too good to last. Another super steep down hill greeted up. By now our knees were officially going on strike. It was hard to tell which was more exhausting - the going up or the going down. We passed many walkers on these up and down routes and we all enjoyed stopping for a chat, but mainly it was an excuse to breathe and slow our heart rates.
We reached Clay Bank Top, had our packed lunch and continued up the final hill to Carr Ridge, before beginning a long trek across Urra Moor. We followed the former Rosedale ironstone railway, which mean it was flat and straight. We'd lost the day trippers tackling the Cleveland Hills and were simply two little people plodding alone in a vast, empty moor.
At Bloworth Crossing, we had to part ways with the Cleveland Way path to continue on our own journey. At this junction, we met some chaps doing the Cleveland Way and who were carrying all their kit on their backs. They looked as tired as we felt.
By this point our feet were killing us. The hills had kept our minds off our feet, as we concentrated on getting our lungs to work and our knees to not fail. But mile after mile of straight line walking after all of those hills was tortuous. If you've never walked a long way before, after a certain distance your feet start to burn and feel hot and you just want to get off them. But you know that if you sit down, you will have to stand up again and the pain will not be worth the brief respite.
We began to talk about anything we could to take our minds off our feet. We constantly scanned the horizon for a glimpse of the Lion Inn, the only civilisation for miles around and our place of rest for the night. Finally I spotted a signpost that I recognised from a previous walk I'd done in the area and knew we were getting close. And then, like a mirage, the pub appeared on the horizon.
Ten and a half hours after setting off in the morning, all those miles and all those hills conquered, we finally made it, just as the sun was starting to sink in the sky.
We walked into the pub and all of our fellow coast to coasters, who had taken a different route and who'd had a far shorter day than us, were in the bar. We were greeted with loud cheers and had cold pints of beer thrust into our hands before we could put our backpacks down. These people, who 12 days ago we didn't know and who we weren't particularly keen on when we first met, were like long lost family. We had a jovial meal together eating the biggest steak we could get our hands on. This is what had made all those miles worthwhile.