Swainby to Lordstones Return – Oh, and a Condom Anecdote

So Peeps, Today we’ll learn about the joy of walking on the North Yorkshire Moors and a couple of anecdotes about a condom coupled with some observations on the Yorkshire dialect – we’ve got it all on these pages!


It’s been a hectic summer and my adventures in France and Spain with the superheroes and the Pilgrim are a wonderful memory.

George has been beavering away arranging a walk from Swainby to Lordstones and back varying the route a little to capitalise on our priceless countryside.

I pack my stuff into a day bag and include a camelback water holder that I’ve found so useful in hotter climes I’m trying it on the local walks, it certainly saves on carrying plastic bottles and is instantly available encouraging me to drink; to quote Louise Graydon (long term medic and health guru to the group), “If you’re not peeing, you’re not drinking enough”.

Abbott’s excellent bus service to Swainby is leaving the Parish Church at quarter to ten and I’ll be catching it nearer my home a little later. The last time I caught this one I boarded an empty coach having been the subject of some misunderstanding when the walk was postponed to the following day!  I’m stepping on to the coach today with some trepidation. No worries, there’s a couple of smiling faces in the naughty boy seats towards the back.

I arrive at the back to a chorus of, “Now then”. If you live in Yorkshire you’ll recognise this brace of opposing adverbs as a greeting, if you live elsewhere it’ll probably have you scratching your head. Yorkshire folks don’t show a lot of emotion (except me who’ll be cry if there’s sad music on the radio and be rendered distraught if an animal dies in a story or film) so these two seemingly conflicting words, one representing the present and the other the past, when combined, don’t make any sense but in Yorkshire they represent an affectionate (but not too affectionate) greeting and sometimes have the addendum, “How you doing?” but that element is assumed.

So when used in entirety we have “Now then, how you doing?”. So the “Now then”, is the cue to listen and the, “How you doing?” means I’m your good friend and I’m interested in your health. Of course, it can also be used with a cursory nod of acknowledgment that you actually exist but I prefer the former.

I love the Yorkshire dialect and the quirky nature of some of the sayings – you can very nearly do a course on Yorkshire sayings at the I-yorkshire site here:

Yorkshire Sayings

George and Dave are full of beans and the short journey to Swainby which is free for old farts with a pass hence the term “Old farts pass” when referring to our magic card. It’s about the size of a credit card with a mug shot that looks like it was taken prior to being locked up and it takes us around our area for free. There are rumours of people using these to travel around the country by virtue of ritualistic study of local timetables and linking one local service to another. You need a lot of time on your hands for this though and we prefer the train for longer journeys, the fare is heavily discounted, of course, by our ‘senior citizens’ discount cards though so it’s win – win.

We’re dropped at Swainby and Peter is all togged up with his best waterproofs and looks set for a week on an Icelandic Trawler.

Pete has a new camera! It’s a wonderful bridge camera, although it can be used for portraits and landscapes too and it’s rekindled his passion for photography a hobby, it has to be said, that he is both proficient and gifted and I’ll probably steal some of his output today for this piece.

We set off immediately along Swainby High Street adjacent to the stream that’s usually in full flow. Whilst not short of water it’s surprising how little there is today. The trees are still in full summer plumage but there’s a hint of autumn. Looking at the leaves carefully you can see an edge to them and there’s the odd one that’s already started to make the transition from green to the beautiful golds yet to come. We make a left along Scugdale Road and on to Holgate.

A mile and a half in and we’re turning off the road onto the Cleveland Way. Pete calls a photo stop at the gate (so it’s a gate camera too, it’s very versatile) – then starts the ‘up’.

We did this walk in the spring when the gorse was in full show of almost perfect yellow and the spring flowers were waking from their protective sleep through the winter. Today it’s overcast and grey but that’s OK, you don’t have to squint and the slightly lower temperature means walking is comfortable.

Another half mile and we’re through the gate and here starts the proper ‘up’. The steps are not slippery at the moment but the weather forecast is poor so they’ll be a bunch of laughs when we return in the afternoon. In spring the woods here are alive with birdsong and although we hear the odd crow it’s quiet with the exception of an occasional grunt as we negotiate these carefully positioned stones that represent the Cleveland Way proper.

The gate is both a barrier for the sheep further up on the moor and a delimiter, on one side is the wood and relatively clear of ground cover whereas the other represents the moor proper and abundant ground cover largely of ferns. Pete takes a couple of photographs of both ferns and sheep (this device is priceless, not only a bridge camera but also a fern and sheep camera). There are few trees on the moor and the path disappears through vibrant ferns that overhang. They’ve been known to gather water from the mizzling rain that we occasionally get through the night and then deposit on the unsuspecting passer-by so the day may be blue sky and sunshine but you still end up well and truly soaked. Fortunately, it’s not like that today and although still grey above we exit the ferns still dry from the elements but wet from sweat – you can’t win!

There’s a lot of ‘up’ it’s just over 400 metres at the top but from a visual perspective you wouldn’t know it as the surrounding moor is not much short of that; however, you really do know it in terms of exertion but that’s part of why we do it, the feeling is great.

Towards the top of Live Moor there’s a cairn that turns out to be an ancient burial ground and a stone has been placed with a little plaque explaining this and asking that you don’t add stones. We were not aware of this and on occasion, in the past, have been guilty of the odd addition with a thought for those that have gone before. Pete takes a couple of photographs (so it’s a cairn camera too, it’s been a good purchase).

It’s down and then back up Gold Hill then along Faceby Bank towards and around Carlton Bank. At times we just stop and admire the view of the Cleveland Way as it stretches in front of us zigzagging its way into the distance. We take a few photos but it’s best to be here and there’s a couple of observations that this is one our best walks, with the wind (and even occasional rain) together with blue skies when we’re lucky, there are some of the best views across the heather that you’re likely to see. Just beautiful.

It’s all down now to Lordstones and we arrive just as the rain starts, perfect timing. Only down side is that their gas is off so no cooked meals. We ensconce ourselves under the huge covers outside and arrange for various beverages and sandwiches to be sent to our wooden bench seat outside where we can keep an eye on the beautiful chaffinches and their young that are flitting between the vacated tables that have a few crumbs on each. They’re fascinating to watch and Pete has his camera framed on them in seconds (so it’s a bird camera too, versatility knows no bounds).

After twenty minutes a guy dressed completely in leathers and looking like a man from the Lordstones chapter of Hells Angels turns and addresses me, “Now then George”, see, there’s that phrase again.

“Now then Alan”, I return. Now, this is a little underwhelming considering I’ve only seen him a couple of times in 30 years so I go across and give him a hug. A man-hug obviously, no kissing the air on each side of the head or anything like that but affectionate all the same. We spend some time catching up, he already knew about my circumstances but he had bad new from his perspective and told me that his wife had had a stroke and now struggled a bit.

I’ve added this paragraph to this lighthearted transcript because I’d like you, Dear Reader, to tell your loved one(s) how much they mean to you whenever you can and to live in the moment and to start each day with a clean sheet no matter what happened or was said the previous day.

It’s raining heavily now but we must start our return so our wet gear is retrieved and donned. As we set off Johnny Ray is buzzing in my head, how this could be so when “Just a’ Walkin’ in the Rain” was a hit in 1956 and I was 5 is anyones guess but here it is. The rain is blowing from the North initially so it’s a bit nippy and I have a walking stick which is essential on walks with stones as steps, they become lethal; however, when you have to carry something and your hands get wet they soon become excruciatingly painful. If you’ve worked outside you realise that this is transient and will soon pass, they’re still cold but don’t feel it anymore and over the next twenty minutes that’s exactly what happens.

We reach the top of the back of Carlton Bank and begin the easy walk back down towards Holey Moor, Live Moor and the south side of Faceby Plantation then the anecdotes started- if you’ve any issues with rude stuff it might be best if you stopped reading…

Undivided attention again eh?

Just incase you’re not sure what a shoe horn is, it is a device that you put into the back of your slip-on shoes to ease the shoe onto your foot. They’re still around but rarely used. Now here’s the anecdotes…

We’d been talking about embarrassing times when one of the team recalled an amorous interlude at the end of an evening on a snicket between South Parade and Thirsk Road when two nineteen year olds were becoming more familiar with each other. It was at a time when going back to either home was really not an option for horizontal jogging and they chose to do a bit of vertical stuff against the fence. They’d settled on that particular place where there is a dog leg in the snicket as it is easy to see both ends. After (not much) preamble our speaker tells us of fumbling about in his wallet for a condom that he’d secreted in there some time ago (it was actually two years ago and at that time it was wishful thinking). After retrieving the wrapper and removing the dust and fluff, clearly with one hand as the other was meant to be maintaining interest, he bit and tore the end off the packaging to remove the contents. Now at this point we’re interested from the point of view of  ‘did he damage the latex contents’, he didn’t; however, on removal he somehow reversed the teat and whilst he’d practiced the manoeuvre in the privacy of his own home on occasion he hadn’t tried it blind fold or in the dark. Now a condom is meant to be removed from its packaging and the teat end pinched between finger and thumb then rolled on naturally like putting on a tight sock (or for the ladies like putting on tights). He’d removed it and in the excitement of the moment had managed to turn it inside out…

…on this occasion it didn’t end well but they remained good friends.

As with all good anecdotes the next tale is told in an effort to ‘out condom’ the last and Walking Chum number 2 (what’s said on the walk stays on the walk) and after the laughter from the first dies down he chirps up…

“Well I never practiced trying to get the thing on, I thought it would be easy”, says he, “And, not surprisingly, it was something of a disaster”.

So, we’d dried our eyes and regained our decorum and walking steadily again.

He continues.

“My tale begins in a car.” He mentioned the make and model of car but I’ll hold that back as it may identify the innocent.

His oratory goes like this:-

“Englebert Humperdink was singing ‘A Man Without Love’ and Love Affair were singing ‘Everlasting Love’ both of which were entirely appropriate.”

“We’d stopped in a  gateway of a field not far from…(again I shall redact the detail to avoid identification)  …he carries on… “and been err, ‘chatting’ for a while.”


We’re still walking and the view down Scugdale is getting better but I’m not sure anyone notices.


He continues, “I asked if she’d like to get in the back and she said, ‘No, I’d rather stay in the front with you.’ OK that bit didn’t happen but I couldn’t resist it.”

Off he goes  again, “We were in the back and I too had a condom that had lain dormant since purchase. Having spent some time doing a bit more ‘chatting’ I retrieved said condom and began the process of opening it and here’s the issue – I  didn’t know that you were supposed to roll the thing on  – so I unrolled it. Now, believe me, an unrolled condom is just not going anywhere it just is not designed for that kind of fitting.”


We’re clearing Faceby Wood and making our way down Hollin Hill but no one has really noticed.


He clears his throat,  “So here I am with a lady in good spirit, we’re both giggling nervously and neither of us have a clue. So in an effort to lighten the situation and with reference to getting the condom on I said ‘I could do with a shoe horn.’”

Her immediate response was, ‘You’ll use no such thing near me. We do it naturally or not at all!’

…It was some time before another opportunity arose”

So we’re into Clain Wood and heading down hill towards Swainby.


The weather is still variable and we sit in the bus shelter waiting for the Abbotts return service to Northallerton ‘Old Farts Passes’ at the ready.

It’s been a good walk and the tales were fun too. No ladies names were divulged during the above and no-one but the speaker was compromised.

Of course, if you happen to be the lucky lady (or some would say unlucky) feel free to add your side of the tale in the comments below…G..x



The walk is just short of 11 miles and is a little bit challenging at both ends but well worth the effort. It does help if you’re walking with people you like and just for information the anecdotes are not often quite as rude but it’s funny when they are.

Some folks like to read these little walks as they can’t get about as they used to so please share.

Acknowledgments: Photographs from Peter Hymer, George Renwick and me.


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