Bye to 2016 and Happy New Year 2017 to All Secret Diaries Followers. All 105 Countries!

Post 90: 31 December 2016

Whilst the World has been in chaos, it has been a good walking year personally, having completed five long-distance walks:

The Samaratan Way

The Wilberforce Way

The Yorkshire Water Way

The Derwent Walk

Fred Olsen Circular on MS Balmoral (many, many laps around the deck!)

I have also started my fifteeth long-distance walk The Cleveland Circles and have completed eleven of the thirty walks it entails.

If reading this on WordPress, all the above can be viewed in my Facebook blog: The Secret Diaries of a Long-distance Walker

Significant memories of 2016 include:

Whilst on The Samaritan Way remembering those less fortunate who do not see a path ahead. If only they had known there is always another path to be found.

Walking The Wilberforce Way and recalling the abolition of slavery.

Whilst walking The Yorkshire Water Way  seeing where our basic requirement for survival comes from, water.

Whilst walking The Derwent Way following a river from its source, a tiny puddle, to a river that can flood homes but also help to keep the countryside replenished and the population drinking.

The friendship and laughs with my walking companions. We do call ourselves The New Last of the Summer Wine. 

So may funny incidents, too many to list here…… you will just have to backtrack on the diaries.

The many amazing views that I have tried to capture in my photographs. Not least the fog in the valley far below us in Bilsdale on our last walk of 2016. What a way to end the year. 

When my legs have given up, I will be able to look at them (my Diaries NOT my legs) and recall wonderful memories.

Always known as bit of a planner, my epitaph is already written:

My Feet and Legs both declined

My Lungs have lost their wind

My Spirit extinct my Teeth decayed

And in the dust my Compass is laid

My Muscles are spent my Energy gone

My Boots are drove my work is done.

However, don’t write me off just yet, plenty more walks are left to do……

So that readers don’t think I am a walking one minded geek, I do some other things with my long suffering wife of 43 years. In August we acquired Brompton Bicycles and have throughly enjoyed that. See the Facebook blog: The Secret Diaries of the Brompton Cycling Family. It is only rumour that we will be in the Tour de France in 2017. Now the Yorkshire Tour 2017 – that is a different matter!

As to the future and 2017 in particular…..

Having seen that cold weather is on its way and my Spikys were not up to the job last Thursday, yesterday I ordered some Kahtoola Microspikes from Tamarack Outdoors and what splendid service  – they arrived today.



Now you might say spending £50 on microspikes is a bit extravagant. However, on going to my local farm shop today I met a senior citizen who had slipped on a bank at his home and fallen in a ditch and broken his neck. After a having a neck brace fitted and numerous hospital visits he is getting back on track. In any event I will need the microspikes for my Winter Norway trip.

So for 2017 watch where you are putting your feet and if going out in frost, ice or snow do think about wearing some spikes. Also take a trekking pole as they are great for stability.

Tomorrow I start the 1,000 miles Country Walking Magazine Challenge 2017 but will be happy with a 3 mile walk through my village followed by the Vienna New Years Day concert and by steak (from our local butcher – New Years Day treat), brandy and peppercorn sauce, chips, peas, tomato and mushrooms.

It is amazing where putting one foot in front of the other can lead………………………………

Have a Happy New Year and get those boots on and discover a whole new world……………..

Still time to sign up for the 1,000 mile 2017 challenge and not miss a day………………………………………………………………………………………………………………


Post 89. 29 December Cleveland Circles 11

The first thing to say is that I was wrong in my previous post that this post would be in 2017. I was surprised to find that a spare day came up to fit another walk in before the New Year.

The day didn’t start well. I woke up at 4.00am and decided to have a cup of tea and look out of the window to see if the forecasted fog had appeared. It had. However, I looked on the BBC Weather forecast for Chop Gate our planned destination and it was for sunny skies from 9.00am to 3.00pm. On the basis of this I went back to bed until 6.00am.

At 7.30am ‘Sid the Yorkshireman’ and Carol picked me up. There was thick, thick fog. It was very cold and there had been a very hard frost.

This was confirmed when Carol said she had already fallen on her backside just walking to her car.

Heading out from York the fog persisted. It was not until way beyond Helmsley that it lifted and we were presented with some wonderful views of fog below us in the valley.

p1050320Hills peeked at us enticingly and the sunrise glowed.


As we reached the car park at Chop Gate we noticed planes were flying way above the fog.

We also noticed the temperature was MINUS FIVE DEGREES.


Dressed in balaclavas to keep out the cold we stopped at the pub for the Three Bucks photograph.


Ascending out of Chop Gate the light was good even if one or two houses were in need of tender love and care.


Looking back the scene was breathtaking. And of course we were out of breath because we were climbing.



I then saw one of the best views I have seen in over 60 years of walking. Bilsdale with a river of fog in it.


So me and my shadow carried on taking photographs whilst Carol struggled up the long hill.


Roseberry Topping, the ‘Yorkshire Matterhorn’, came into view in the far distance.


We were able to look back at the previous Cleveland Circles route.



I had maintained a fast pace to get to the top of the hill and escarpment as I hoped there would be more fog below us on the other side.  However, this was not to be the case. But who could complain about a view like this toward Middlesborough.


And Roseberry Topping.


Smoke signals pointed to our route ahead towards the highest point on the North York Moors.


However, to get there we had lots of ups and downs on paths that were covered in ice. I had my spikys on which helped but Carol didn’t and having had one fall was very careful. They come in various designs. Here are two.


Although an aid on short walks Spikys or Yak Tracks do not last long on these longer walks and it is probably better to get some that are more midway between climbers crampons and the above. Kahtoola micro spikes have recently been recommended to me and I have ordered some.  They are more expensive but should last longer. Later on in the walk I was to find Spikys are not good on mud!


Now on the Cleveland Way National Trail, the Wainstones eventually appeared above us. Another climb due.


Roesberry Topping continued to peep at us.


There were still fantastic views back to Bilsdale.


The Wainstones were eventually reached, some looking a bit likely to drop off!



Our route ahead pointed to more descents and ascents. We promised ourselves lunch on a bench at the bottom of the next descent. It was taking longer than anticipated due to the slippy ice covered paths.


But we could still smile – just.


After a lunch in the sun on a sheltered bench we headed up to Urra Moor. A couple of RAF jets flashed by us. Planes were still flying above the fog. We started to dream about how good it would be to have a flight in one. Coast to Coast in 20 minutes instead of the normal two weeks?


The views continued to be breathtaking.


The view back from whence we had walked.


It was not long after here that I put my foot on some sloping mud and ended up sitting down in the heather with some cramp. This had been a particularly challenging walk with the slippy surfaces. It was ironic that after the ice I slipped on mud as the Spiky’s had little grip.

Eventually with aching muscles we reached better ground and in order to get the mud off the back of my boots I walked backwards through the wet grass. It worked. A new form of boot cleaning after the streams of previous weeks.


What has been a FAB-U-LOUS day was ended at about 3pm with another magnificent view as the fog started to form again as the temperature started to drop.


Mileage Completed 11

Calories Burnt 1,300

Steps 27,108 – this was high as we had to take smaller steps on the icy paths. 

Average pace 19.49 minutes per mile.

Fastest Two Mile Split at 4 to 6 miles 19.12 minutes per mile









Blowin’ in the Wind – next post in the New Year 2017!

Post 88: 20 December 2016, Cleveland Circles 10. 

After a weekend visit to the beautiful and tranquil Powerscourt Estate and Gardens, near Dublin, the 10th best mansion in the World, the 3rd best gardens in the World  and the highest waterfall (see slideshow below) in Ireland and the UK, today’s walk was to be a complete contrast.

Whilst at Powerscourt, a lady asked me to continue writing my blog as she enjoyed them so much and something always seemed to happen on our walks.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


No pressure then. What could happen on today’s walk on the North York Moors? What, if anything, could live up to Powerscourt?

As we set off at 7.30am heading north to the tiny hamlet of Huthwaite Green things did not look promising. There was mist in the Vale of York and on the tops of the Moors. However, when we got to the tiny hamlet the mist cleared and after a steep ascent onto the escarpment of the Moors the wind started to get up.


We soon passed a boundary stone without injury!


The wind got up even more as can be seen by Carol getting blown off the path.


She soon got back on track.


There was brief stop at the trig point, but as was a high point it was even more windy. Lord Stones Cafe in the valley ahead beckoned.


The prospect of a ‘banana’ stop made Carol very happy at Three Lord’s Stone. It marked the boundary between three old estates of Helmsley, Busby and Whorlton and has prehistoric cup marks engraved in it. Trouble is I had left my banana at home.


After leaving Lord Stones Cafe we passed a memorial stone referring to a walk I did between 2012 and 2016.


We arrived at a viewfinder, seat and memorial to Alec Falconer who was a notable rambler in these parts.


At this point Carol started to take off with the wind behind her. Note the drop a little further on!


Closely followed by me, or was it the cameraman who was taking off?

Is this what Bob Dylan meant by Blowin’ in the Wind?


Eventually we got a grip….



And I felt like Lord Stones!


We then proceeded along our route shown ahead, still being buffeted by the wind.


Stokesley was caught in the sun below us.


Another boundary stone Donna Cross was passed. It is marked E for the Emmerson family of Easeby and F for the Fevershams of Helmsley.


We were starting to wonder about finding a lunch spot, but the cattle had got to this spot first.


Just after leaving Raisdale Mill, we found a tree and wall for a lunch stop away from the wind.


We then dropped down into Scugdale and after some road walking eventually reached the end of a tiring but rewarding walk and the car.


Hope that lady at Powerscourt felt enough happened of interest on this walk! In its own way the high winds certainly elevated us but in a different way to elevation at the beauty and grandeur of Powerscourt!

Miles Walked 10.5

Calories Burnt 1300

Steps 24,901

Average speed 19.08

Fastest 2 mile split 18.48 minutes per mile between 4-6 miles










The World’s Smallest Bridge?The World’s Best Mum, Santa Training in Yorkshire, The Ultimate Boot Cleaner.

Post 87: 15 December 2016, Cleveland Circles 9 

As Christmas gets nearer it gets increasingly difficult to find a free day to walk with Christmas things to do, Christmas lunches to attend, Christmas cards to write and deliver and Christmas presents to deliver etc etc.

So it was with some relief Sid, Carol and myself found a reasonable day weather wise to head out for our next walk starting from Swainby. Leaving Swainby we came across what must be one of the smallest, if not smallest bridge in the world?



We then took a diversion to Arncliffe Church and Hall. The latter is a Georgian house designed by John Carr (1754).


Heading back up towards the main route and just up from the church, we passed the house where the World’s Best Mum lives. We did not have the pleasure of meeting her.


We were now on the route of Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk. (See earlier in the diaries 1991). The route is now getting quite well signposted unlike in 1991 when I completed it.


After passing a TV booster station (described by AW as of revolting appearance) we reached an Ordnance Column, which marks the start of the Lyke Wake Walk (described by AW as a symbol of optimism). The end of the Lyke Wake Walk is 40 miles away at Ravenscar and has to be completed in 24 hours. You have to be an optimist or mad to attempt it. Much of the path is through moorland bogs. We are now following AWs Coast to Coast Walk, The Lyke Wake Walk and the Cleveland Way, three notable walks in this area.


A memorial stone to Bill Cowley who ‘created’ the Lyke Wake Walk is passed. A couple of benches nearby provided an excellent lunch stop even though the view was obscured by mist. A robin decided it liked my Mary Berry fruit cake and came quite close.


Arriving at Faceby we were surprised to find Father Christmas in training for his big day. It is no surprise that on his way from Lapland to the UK he stops off in Yorkshire for his last minute fine-tuning for the big day. Who wouldn’t?


After passing the church at Faceby,


we arrived at Whorlton abandoned village, which has an old church, much of it in ruins. The 14th century tower remains.


Further along the lane there was an unexpected medieval castle. It was built in the 12th century as a Norman-motte-and-bailey. The gatehouse as shown is 14th century.


Towards the end of the walk in Swainby we found the ideal boot cleaner, with running water at the correct depth.


Miles Walked 11

Calories Burnt 1010

Average Pace 19.48 minutes per mile

Fastest split 8-10miles 19.01 minutes per mile. 

Steps 25,398





Teenagers and Fire Alarms

Post 86: 29 March 1994: The Cumberland Way, Day 3 – Buttermere Youth Hostel to Keswick Youth Hostel – 10 miles

The weather forecast for the day was hopeful, dry but with high winds. After some discussion we decided to do the high-level route over Whiteless Pike, Eel Crag, Scar Crags and Causey Pike. It was only when we were half-way up Whiteless Pike that I wondered whether we had made the right decision. My pack seemed particularly heavy indicating that perhaps this year I was not as fit as I should have been. However, the views back towards Buttermere made up for the excessive exertions.

Once we had acquired the top of the ridge the terrain eased off so that we could enjoy the splendid views of the surrounding fells. We had a number of stops on the ridge and on one occasion my foam seat became airborne and was last seen heading towards the Helvellyn range.

Our progress towards Keswick was a little slow and Alf went on ahead as he had to catch a bus to Penrith, from where he could catch a train home.

We arrived at Keswick Youth Hostel at 3.00pm, then, after grabbing a bottom bunk, a sure symptom of ageing, followed by unpacking, I went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. The kitchen looked as though a bomb had struck with greasy pans piled up in the sinks, plates, cups, cutlery all over the tables and bins overflowing with rubbish. It reminded me of the time I came home, after a two-week holiday, to find chaos. My dear teenage son had organised a party and forgotten or didn’t know how to do housework. He also omitted to cut the back lawn on the basis that the lawn mower wasn’t working. It took me two hours to remove cigarette ends from the lawn, then the mower worked perfectly. It took two days to clean up the house.

The chaos at the hostel was caused by a group of teenage girls from Hull. Noticing my difficulty at finding a space to put a cup of tea, they began clearing away, at the same time telling me about their boat trip on Derwent Water. They had hired rowing boats, but when a gale blew up they were unable to row back to the landing stage. Fortunately, the proprietor noticed they had not returned in their allotted time and sent out a rescue boat to tow them back in. I got the impression that these happy-go-lucky girls would get into trouble whatever they did, even cooking and washing up.

In the evening we ventured into Keswick, the ‘capital’ of Northern Lakeland and a ‘honeypot’ for walkers, climbers and holiday makers. For five earlier years, I had spent enjoyable family holidays camping in a trailer tent on the edge of Derwent Water and many evenings were spent wandering around Keswick, often stopping for fish and chips, out of a newspaper. Wainwright used to talk fondly of the fish and chip shops in Keswick and I share his liking for them when on holiday. Sometimes the simple pleasures are the best and most memorable.

Keswick in summer


Moving onto the George Hotel, there was a local farmer whose Cumbrian dialect was so strong we couldn’t understand what he was saying. There were also some ladies from Birmingham whose dialect was also strong, and Dan couldn’t understand them. Having hailed from Cannock, some 20 miles north of Birmingham, I could just understand them. After moving on to the Dog and Gun, we retired to the hostel, only to be woken up in the middle of the night by a fire alarm drill. Why does it always rain when there is a drill? Didn’t anyone know we had 13 miles to walk next day?

Yorkshire Sunrise, Skoda Windows, Ruthless Killers, Tomorrow Never Comes……

Post 85: 5 December 2016 Cleveland Circles 8

It was an early cold and frosty start as we left home at 7.45am to head out for walk 8. Stopping at the first traffic lights out of our village, the beautiful sunrise caught my eye. Much to my surprise the windows on Sid’s Skoda actually wound down and I was able to capture the scene with my camera. I say surprised as another walking friends Skoda windows used to open automatically when it snowed!

No doubt Sid will claim that his Skoda has the world best suspension, which is so smooth the picture is in focus. A bit like a picture taken using a tripod. However, it could be his start stop technology, which involves switching his engine off at traffic lights!!!

It is ironic that my best photograph of the day was to be in the car on the way to the walk!


Using our new short cut to avoid the York northern ring road jams we arrived at Osmotherley, the start of our walk, at 8.45am.

Ascending out of Osmotherly we soon arrived at Lady Chapel.It is believed that it originates from before 1397, but the ruined buildings were restored in 1961.


We then started to descend on a diversion to Mount Grace Priory.


Mount Grace Priory dates from 1398, this being the best preserved of nine Carthusian monasteries that were built in England.


Each of the twenty-four monks had his own small, two-storey cell and rear walled garden. Serving hatches adjacent to the cell doors permitted meals to be passed anonymously to the occupants.

The BBC2 television programme, A Coast to Coast Walk, shown in the late 1980’s, certainly helped to put this fine historical site on the map.

The power of television should not be underestimated as, after Sir David Attenborough’s programme, Stoats in the Priory, was screened in April 1996, attendance figures at the priory increased from 35,000 per annum in 1996 to 42,500 in 1997, then, after a repeat showing of the programme, a further increase to 45,000 was predicted in 1998. This despite the fact that stoats have daggers for teeth, are ruthless killers, perform a demonstrative, frenzied dance to hypnotise their prey, and give off a foul odour to deter those that threaten them. There have been no reported attacks on Coast to Coast walkers but they frequently kill rabbits eight times their weight and terrify song-birds and moorhens.

Neither were we attacked on this day.

After a coffee break and further walking we arrived at Cod Beck Reservoir and after walking round it (well it is Cleveland Circles) we stopped for lunch on the dam.


Now this is a popular spot for dog walkers and numerous dogs, smelling our lunches, jumped up at us to try and persuade us to give up food. The owners were very apologetic but it was a good job I did not have my dinner suit on as it would have been covered in paw marks. As it was my walking trousers were already speckled in mud, the paw marks added to my chequered appearance. All the dog owners apologised after the dogs had jumped up. p1050170

After more forest walking, we arrived at what used to be the Chequers pub. This was once an ancient drovers inn until it lost its 300 year licence in 1945. The title chequers was derived from the chequers which were issued to drovers to be exchanged for refreshment at the inn. after their long walk over the moors. The Flintoff family kept the inn for 100 years and it is said that the turf fire inside was never extinguished for 150-200 years.

The original sign is said to be the one outside in glass, whilst it has also been reported it was lost in 1965 and replaced in 1984:





But of course as it is always today; tomorrow never comes…….


It was time to follow the ‘frost line’ back to Osmotherley……….


Miles Walked 9.2

Calories Burnt 1,000

Average Pace 19 minutes per mile

Fatest Split 17.36 minute per mile after 5 miles. 

Steps 21,275