I had great hopes for this night out. I was sure there would be something spooky. The route was shamelessly lifted off Alen McEff’s blog, and the old coal mines of Armouth Wath on the North York Moors looked very promising for a supernatural adventure.
After all, what more do you need? Abandoned workings, crumbling ruins, a confluence of streams – one of them known as ‘Black Hagg Beck’ – and isolation. Perfect.
In Ye Olde Yorkshire Dialect, ‘hagg’ apparently means, ‘part of an area of woodland, especially on a sloping bank‘, which was not quite the meaning I was thinking of, but nevertheless, it still all sounded pretty promising.
And ‘wath’ is said to be an old Scandinavian word meaning ‘ford’ which, as we all know, are very magical places which evil spirits are not supposed to be able to cross.
The forecast for the Saturday night was not especially good; storm force winds with 60mph gusts seemed to feature quite heavily. It had to be done, though. Kim, who was accompanying me, only has a handful of wild camping nights under her belt and they have all been idyllic weather up to now. She needed to see the other side.
The distances were only short, 6 miles each day, but to say we covered the mileage quickly on the Saturday was a bit of an understatement. Easy walking got us to the intended camping spot at Armouth Wath by lunchtime.
We lounged about munching snacks for a while, then spent some time trying to identify the best spot for the tents. Ideally flattish – which there wasn’t much of – and with a bit of shelter from the forecasted winds – which there wasn’t much of.
It was beautifully atmospheric among the ruined buildings and we eventually settled on a small grassy bit, pitching the tents very close together and ensuring they were orientated just right for the purpose of being aerodynamically perfect for the incoming storms.
We had various escape plans in case it all went horribly wrong in the night, which principally involved stumbling off in the dark to somewhere more sheltered, but of course were rather hoping that we wouldn’t have to resort to that kind of thing.
It was all pleasant and dry to start with, but just as it went dark at around 6pm, the wind started to get up. We cooked in our respective porches and ate in our respective tents, and chatted (the tents were very close together, remember) for a couple of hours.
You know what it’s like on these long nights though, by 8pm we’d eaten everything and were starting to doze.
10pm heralded a big shift in conditions, however, as the wind suddenly took on a decidedly menacing twist. I have no idea what speed the gusts were, but it was just impossible to sleep with the noise of wind, humming guy-lines and tents being battered from all angles.
Every now and then there would be a tiny lull, during which you would lie there listening to the next wave of fast, moving air rapidly approaching like a thundering train, bracing yourself for when it finally walloped the tent like a physical blow. It was going to be a long night.
Around midnight, I asked Kim if she was awake. Turned out she was and – just like me – hadn’t actually been to sleep yet at all. I was by this time desperate for a call of nature, so decided to get up and check on the tents as well.
Of course, they looked absolutely fine. There was a bit of movement at the back end of Kim’s – which was in fact taking the brunt and even sheltering mine a bit – so I decided to double-peg the three pegging points there. Guy-lines were all tightened up a bit too and I went back to bed.
Amazingly, I fell asleep for a couple of hours. I think I was probably just so tired by that point, that my body just took over.
4am came though, and I suddenly awoke to winds which seemed to be even worse. By now, every time the tents were hit, the floor would actually rise, making it feel a bit like some kind of choppy water happening. I didn’t sleep much after that. Just dozed on and off, until it was finally light and everything slowly started to ease a tiny bit.
We once again cooked in our porches and breakfasted alone. I have to say I was more than ready for my Oatmeal With Raspberries, washed down by copious quantities of tea. Then I fell asleep……
By about 10am though, we were packed up and on the move. It was still only a 6 mile route back to Kildale, but a slower 6 miles than on the Saturday. The wind was still strong, making walking on the moors a bit more taxing, and there was more up-and-down than the previous day.
The views were wonderful, mind. Clear and sunny, we kept stopping to take in the scenery all around us.
We were back at the vans by early afternoon, having both totally enjoyed the night out, and yet feeling slightly weary after next to no sleep in the previous 24 hours.
And as for supernatural experiences, absolutely anything could have happened and I’d never have noticed.