Interestingly, we had spent the night nestled just inside the westernmost boundary of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park and, it being in national park, meant that with the new day came yet another hill start. A 14% one at that. Lucky it was downhill. And we managed to get breakfast today. And, although, as they say up north, it was a bit parky, the sun was shining. It just doesn’t get better than this.
Although the summer school holidays were a distant memory, there were guests a plenty in the breakfast room with it full of walkers doing one trail or another, probably thankful for the lack of children. The most talkative of them was a man currently walking the Cleveland Way (well, at that moment he was tucking in to his has brown and beans), who had also done his fair share of cycling and who, somehow managed to guess we were on a cycling holiday just from the fact we turned up to breakfast in full lycra.
So, after we had paid the B&B rather than shinning down the drainpipes as was looking likely the evening before, we retrieved our bikes from the garage and loaded up with the quiet efficiency of people whose barbecue this was not the first of. Down the hill we rolled, back briefly along the busy road towards Brompton, out of the National Park and in to the flat lands where we would spend the first half of the ride, like the Lake District five days ago, facing off against the impending hills, before finally biting the bullet, crossing the River Leven at Great Ayrton and starting our climb up on to The Moors.
We sort of followed the Leven for a while. We couldn’t see it, but it was there, below us, knowing what we didn’t: that at some point we would be dropping quickly and steeply to cross it one more time, just to have to climb up the valley again. And so, the stall for the rest of the day was set: down quickly, up slowly and normally accompanied by a sign that said 20% on it.
By the time we had reached the Yorkshire Moors National Park Centre near Danby, having twice fallen (not literally) in to and scrambled up the sides of the Esk Valley with winds desperately trying to push us into the verge, not even a gazillion children noisily running around on a school trip could put us off a half hour recovery lie down on the grass. It wasn’t necessarily exhaustion – I felt fit and alive – it was the legs that were screaming for mercy and, as neither me nor Sandra are quite as scary as Jens Voigt, shouting shut up legs, for some reason, had absolute no effect.
Inconveniently and annoyingly, the railway line we were also tracking along with the River Esk was still open and hadn’t been turned into a convenient gently sloped cycle track. So after the restorative powers of carrot/Victoria sponge cake, we got going again, resigned to our fate that this day was going to be hard. And so it was, with the most monumentally ridiculous looking hill after the Beggars Bridge at Glaisdale. So gargantuan seemed the task ahead of us that we even actually contemplated plotting a 15 km diversion just to avoid it. Sense dawned upon us in the end and we took a deep breath and pushed the bikes up. Our reward; after a little plateau and our first glimpse of the North Sea, was the most fantastic descent in to Grosmont; fast and twisting and relatively open allowing some fantastic non-pedalling free miles which seemed to be over in seconds.
If, at this point, we were going to Robin Hood’s Bay, we would be stuck with a 33% climb (push) out of Grosmont but, as luck would have it, we were able to swerve left to Whitby and stick to just the 15% or so option. This was the final stretch – the sea was coming into view more and more, the hills were getting shorter until finally we crossed the Esk one last time on to the main road up and down in to Whitby and the harbour. Our Journey at an end (albeit we still had to find the hotel), photos taken of us both by a friendly Australian tourist whilst a massive sense of achievement washed over us. This version of the Coast to Coast was definitely tougher than Wainwright’s, but, apart from having a lighter bike, (i.e. fewer pairs of pants) there’s nothing I would have changed.
Osmotherly to Whitby