Difficulty: Moderate. A couple of hills (obviously). The climb to Charmy Down – the highest point on the route – is quite steep, the climb to Solsbury Hill from the north-west less so.
We pulled up in the free car park by the River Avon opposite two pubs; The White Lion and The George and Dragon – the latter has an Indian restaurant – and between the two pubs sits The Fat Friar, a chippy. One could spend a very satisfying day right there. And there’s a post office should you feel the need to write home about your experience. But our minds were on higher things. Literally.
Distance: 6.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy. Almost entirely flat apart from the drop to the shore by the school, but this can be avoided by keeping to the road.
The tide table said we could drive across the causeway from 1045, but we arrived at 1030 and as others were crossing we just followed them. I know that just because someone else does something it doesn’t make it right, but it was fine. A bit wet in places but absolutely fine. The causeway runs roughly parallel to the walking route (“The Pilgrims’ Way”) across the sand which is marked by wooden posts. The window of opportunity for walking across is much shorter than that for driving, and you really don’t want to get caught by the tide on either. Although there are refuges along the way; like sheds on stilts that put me in mind of the hut of Baba Yaga, but without the chicken legs. They are no doubt very welcome in an emergency, but they don’t look like anything I would want to sit in for hours waiting for the next low tide.
Early in 1977, in a classroom in Maidenhead, a callow youth raised his hand in response to a question from the Head of Upper School. Along with some of his classmates he thought it sounded like a good idea to attempt the Lyke Wake Walk. Just a 40 mile walk across the moors in less than 24 hours and you could get a badge shaped like a coffin. How hard could it be? Along with his classmates he embarked on a training regime. But being teenage boys, the training regime consisted of a single 40 mile walk. That completed, they were ready. But for reasons long forgotten the attempt was cancelled. But the callow youth did not forget. Unlike his classmates, Noel Churchill – for it was he – kept the Lyke Wake Walk alive in his mind. And annoyed other people by talking about it.
Some decades later, 3 men arrived in Osmotherly. The callow youth had grown into a broad-shouldered mature gentleman. OK… he’s a fat old man. But the dream is still alive and his brother-in-law, Russ, has listened to his whimperings and organised the trip for him. In the Queen Catherine, Russ knocked back a couple of pints of Tetley’s and a plate of lasagne and said let’s go. We made our way to the car park at the top of the reservoir, girded our loins and grouped ourselves by the Lyke Wake Walk stone.