On Urra Moor

Today we climbed back up to the top of the world, as Jimmy called it, having been dropped off at Clay Bank Top by our host of the night before, David Wray. It was an easy climb, and from there, we were just “in” or “on” the moors for the next nine miles . . . . extraordinary views both near and far, heather and grasses and sheep and grouse.

We saw numerous ancient stone boundary markers along the path, including the famous “Face Stone” on the summit of Urra Moor; we eventually left the Cleveland Way at Bloworth Crossing to join the cindered trackbed of an old Victorian railway (built in 1861)–the North Eastern–between Rosedale and Teeside. Hard to imagine anyone building a railroad up here, but the intense industrial development (mining of ironstone, alum, and jet) in the area had evidently made it profitable.

It was beautiful walking along this VERY easy path; no worries about rocks or bogs or steep inclines — just a long, sinuous, steady path through the lonely landscape. We had few encounters as we walked today: early on we met Mike of “Mike’s Hikes,” a local man who leads walking trips throughout the area, out for a busman’s holiday–a solitary stroll on the moors. He encouraged us to touch the stone at the top of Round Hill, the highest point on the North York Moors, while he settled down for his tea and sandwich overlooking Roseberry Topping and the industrial town of Middlesborough.

(Earlier in the day, we had talked with David about politics and economics. He is from Teeside, and had worked most of his life as a builder, going into the bed and breakfast business only three years ago. Of all our hosts, he was the most down to earth and casual, even in the midst of the Victorian opulence of his huge house: I made my own lunch sandwich; he let us use his washer and drier in the morning; and he charged us for neither.)

Our only major decisions were finding the path that led to the trainbed and then the path to the Lion’s Inn–dating back to the sixteenth century, it has apparently been a way station on the moors for centuries. Today it is a place for day-trippers as well as overnight lodgers: this evening the bar was packed with women in strapless dresses and high heels; outdoors, at picnic tables, men smoked and looked out over the landscape. We walkers were in the minority, though Mike was there with us once again. It’s the last night we’ll be seeing him, as he is doing the next thirty miles in two days, while we take a leisurely three. I shared a drink with him after dinner; we’ll say good bye in the morning.

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