Walker takes 44 years to complete the Cleveland Way!

4th July 2014

Here at the Cleveland Way Partnership we love a good story and we were delighted to hear from Bob and Linda Chapman recently to inform us that Linda had completed the Trail after 44 years, having first set out in the Summer of 1970, just a year after the route was first launched.

Here Linda takes up the story......

"In the summer of 1970 my husband Bob, friend Pete Severs and I left Helmsley to walk the Cleveland Way and last month I finally finished it, 44 years later. Bob and Pete finished it two weeks after starting, but I walk a little slower or something…

In those early days of the Cleveland Way there were no convenient campsites and few B&B’s but we simply couldn’t have afforded them anyway. So we carried everything and begged a corner of farmers’ fields or orchards to pitch our two tiny tents. We washed in public toilets, farmers’ outhouses and even in ‘Mousey’ Thompson’s workmen’s washrooms. We carried old heavy, canvas, steel framed rucksacks and plastic lilos (no carrymats for us). We took one change of clothes. My one luxury was paper knickers which had just become popular.  I could change into a brand new pair every day! We carried only essential food such as teabags and coffee, no cameras or radios. Each evening we stopped at village shops to buy that night’s food and the next day’s sandwiches. Despite that, my rucksack weighed 35lb and the ‘lads’ (they were lads then) carried 42lb each. I’m 5 foot 3 inches and weighed about 9 stone. I couldn’t lift my rucksack myself so Bob and Pete lifted it on and off my back each day.

The weather was dreadful. My memory of those two weeks is of having permanently wet feet. Putting wet socks on every morning knowing the ones attached to your rucksack had little chance of drying was disheartening. You may think that dumping the lilos and putting up with hard ground to save the weight, as Pete did, would have been a wise move. You’d be wrong. The lilos kept us and our sleeping bags out of the stream that found it’s way through our tent on one particularly wet night at Bill Cowley’s place. If anyone remembers the rock concerts that were washed out that year - we were washed out too.

As luck would have it Bill Cowley’s sisters took pity on us and put us up, at no extra charge, in the barn where all the Lyke Wake walkers had their ‘do’s’. Obviously unsure about suggesting we three should share a bedroom, the elderly ladies suggested that Pete could sleep downstairs where the rats wouldn’t bother him if he slept on a table. We thanked them and, taking pity on Pete, together we three slept in the ‘crematorium’ upstairs. We lay in our separate bunks listening to the rats scampering about above our heads. But we were dry and it didn’t cost us any more than a tent. They were lovely ladies and I shall always be grateful for that night in a dry bed.

We had an amazing time with lots of those moments that remind you afterwards why you did it, and we covered amazing distances (18 miles one day) carrying our loads. By the time we reached Whitby I was in a lot of pain. I’d damaged the main tendon in my leg and was strapped up in a huge plaster from thigh to ankle by a sadist at Whitby hospital. I was confined to the tent. Being the tenderhearted souls that Bob and Pete were, they left me behind guarding tents and rucksacks and ran all the way to Filey on two consecutive days catching the bus back to me each night.

For years I’ve been saying ‘I’ve almost done the Cleveland Way’ and although I’ve done plenty of other walks I never really thought of finishing it. Then, a few years ago, at the Great Yorkshire Show, we met a chap ‘advertising’ the walk, who suggested I should finish it and write about it. So, I have. I must admit this time we stayed in hotels and completed not much more than ‘toddles’ each day but I’ve finally done it, arriving at Filey on Monday 14th April 2014, feeling very pleased with myself and with a few photos to mark the achievement"

Thanks Linda and many congratulations on your achivement!

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Linda Chapman