The sea again!

The sea again!

We saw the North Sea again today, off in the distance as we looked out from high ground towards Hartlepool and Teeside. Within reach of the eye but still three days away on foot. Distances become times when you’re walking – how many days or hours will it take? Yesterday we did 17 miles in less than 6 hours; today was harder, fewer miles, more hours, more tired.

It was a day utterly unlike yesterday. We climbed up onto the Cleveland Hills this morning forsaking at last the flatlands of the Vale of Mowbray and the trails by field and road. We headed for the hilltops and the open moor and found that, mingled with these, the trail meandered through some glorious woods. And the sun came out again, warm and enlivening. At 9.30 it was starting to break up white cloud that’s been with us for a few days; by 10.30 it was shining from a clear blue sky.

The names of places captivate: Scarth Woods, Near Moor (but no Far Moor), Live Moor (but, thankfully no Dead Moor), Cringle Moor. Up on the moors the normally boggy ground was dry but still we relished the path laid out firmly in stone between banks of heather; we felt glad of the stone-stepped ‘stairways’ to help us manage the steep slopes up and steeper ones down. Woods of mixed deciduous trees gave shelter from the sun, shelter that we shared with the last of the bluebells bowing their graceful heads beneath the trees, some still rich blue, others already fading as their season passes.

It’s a long steady climb up to the top of Live Moor where you can look north to towns hazy on the horizon and east to the sea. One of those days when it’s difficult to tell the sea and the sky apart; temperatures of land and sea interact to create a massive, even bank of sea-coloured cloud out beyond the coast, as if someone had painted the line.  You doubt what you see wondering if that’s a distant hill you’ve spotted or just a piece of cloud escaped from the line. It looks as if the sea is high above the land or the land is sinking and will soon be engulfed.

I wonder if I’m becoming maudlin’ as this journey gets near to its end. Each stage completed gives a sense of satisfaction and progress but also a sense of ending, of depletion. A binary emotion, not exactly in conflict but somehow at odds…..

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