Swainby to Lordstones with two Kiwis!

Today we learn that 55 years ago there was a working lifetime in front of us and now, in the autumn, there are dreams to fulfil but now we’re more cunning and achieve them with thought and, consequently, a little less effort. I hear someone say, “I’ve known him all my life” and I find myself smiling as I think, “Not yet, you haven’t!”. 

The plan is to walk from Swainby to Lordstones and, for some, to walk back.

I get the opportunity to walk with Rob Boston again and I have the pleasure of exploring his story. 

At school, forty-odd hormone infused and sometimes bolshy teenage boys would be in the class so some of our teachers were more interested in crowd control than educational content. For some months in one year, we were sitting two behind the desk and one on the end. It wasn’t all the desks of course, but it illustrates what some of the kids from the ‘boomer years’ were up against.

I left school just after my fifteenth birthday and, as we walk, we explore the fifty intervening years between that huge milestone and now. There are a surprising number of similarities in our working lives beginning with an early start as apprentices then lots of hard work for additional qualifications followed by teaching certificates. We both then spent much of the rest of our lives in and around education. In Rob’s case teaching, guiding and influencing hundreds of New Zealand youngsters over many years.

Walking is fascinating, the dynamics of the group, even when restricted in numbers, are such that you can be walking with one person for several minutes then, with no deliberate effort, you’re partner has suddenly changed and you’re listening to another even more fascinating tale. 

This has happened without me noticing and now I’m privileged to hear about Claire and her husband Lawrence and their story including a marriage before lock-down, one of the few that was ‘normal’ in this very odd year. 

Today is a mini-camino and whilst the leaves are painting pictures with their vivid autumn colours these conversations are creating another, cerebral picture, using an aural pallet. I love it.

We’ve walked out of Swainby and up the length of Shepherds Hill turning left into the trees and now following the Cleveland Way for a mile or so. The track leads off to the left and through a field that has a herd of beautiful but threatening Highland Cattle and one of them is a bull! A number of them take a cursory interest in us humans whilst the majority are more interested in Atlas, our dog, and I’ll tell you about him soon. The bull is reassuringly uninterested in any of us and saunters along the edge of the trees at the lowest point in the field. We take a few photos but keep moving and exit the field without incident. 

We’re already in Scugdale but the plan is to leave the Cleveland Way and turn right towards Scugdale Hall. Our normal route is to follow the Cleveland Way skirting Live Moor to the left and looking out over the Vale of Mowbray but today we’re skirting to the right and the terrain is still beautifully dressed in its autumn colours.

The pace is brisk and I’m out of condition so the group moderate their stride to suit. Since George Renwick initiated the group its always been that way and that’s why it works.

We’re accompanied by Atlas. He’s a beautiful Labrador who didn’t quite make it as a guide dog but he’s more than making up for it as a companion to his owners and today, as a companion to us. He’s darting about like a toddler on speed as he hears the grouse and pheasants flapping like the encore at a successful concert. This is all accompanied by a lot of squawking that implies they’ve been shot and fatally wounded but need to over-act their final death-scene whilst the flapping encore builds to a crescendo. It’s all a warning to other grouse of course and it also works here. They scare the crap out of me as they tend to leave everything until the last minute and fly over your head or into your face in a fit of stupidity fuelled by their fear. Atlas loves it and whilst there are no risks to them he’s getting a bit excited so Rob pops him on the lead. He’s happy with that as it coincides with the receipt of a biscuit. “Biscuit” is a taboo word, by the way, it can only be used when you want Atlas’ attention and for that purpose, the response is absolutely assured. 

The road meanders along the valley through the excellently named Snotterdale and rises, gently at first, then more acutely with Barker’s Crags, a rocky outcrop, about three hundred feet above us. We turn left at Scugdale Hall and make our way up the path through the Crags. It’s little more than a sheep track at times and I’m impressed that George and the boys found their way when they did this walk the first time.

As we clamber past the stones we see movement ahead and realise it’s George and Peter who’d set off from Lordstones with the intention of meeting us at the ridge and it’s worked out well. They’ve been here about twenty-minutes so they’re well chilled in the gusty wind that’s blowing across the moor and we waste no time with frivolities preferring to stay warm and keep moving instead.

The path undulates across the top of Bilsdale Moor eventually running parallel with the Cleveland d Way. We choose the access track in the lee of Carlton Moor and within a few minutes we’re warm again and breathing comes easier as we descend into the valley and Lordstones welcoming cafe and tearooms where toilet facilities and coffee are more than welcome.

Photo credit George Renwick

This element of the walk is about six-and-a-half miles. The return trip along the Cleveland Way is nearly five miles so it’s a good eleven miles if you do the circuit.

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1 thought on “Swainby to Lordstones with two Kiwis!”

  1. A lovely story well written. It was great to catch up with Rob again on this wonderful walk. It was amazing how many of our group ended up working in education, not bad for group lads from the Allertonshire, thank you Tom Watson, he inspired all of us.


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