Film ID:
YFA 3891



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The Lyke Wake Walk was started by a local farmer, Bill Cowley, in the North Riding of Yorkshire in 1955. He pointed out that one could walk 40 miles (64 km) over the high moors of north-east Yorkshire from east to west (or vice-versa) on heather all the way (except for crossing one or two roads). He issued a challenge that walkers took up with great enthusiasm, challenging them to walk it in less than 24 hours from Scarth Wood Moor, near Osmotherley at the western extremity of the moors, to Ravenscar on the coast.

The walk took its name from the Lyke Wake Dirge, probably Yorkshire's oldest dialect verse, which was sung as part of the the Christian ritual of the watching over (waking) of the corpse (lyke). The Dirge tells of the soul's passage through the afterlife when it must travel over a difficult moor and the difficulty or ease of that journey is dependent on the good deeds (or lack of them!) performed by the deceased during their lifetime. The walk was not meant to be taken as the route of past funeral parties. However, the burial mounds of bronze-age inhabitants of the moors occupy the high points of the moorland region over which the walk passes and in more recent times in the moorland area, corpses were transported over significant distances for burial in consecrated ground. The possibility of bad weather and difficult conditions on the walk make the Lyke Wake Dirge an appropriate Lyke Wake Club song.

Title - Walkington Lyke Wake 1978.
The location - a map detailing the walking rout between Osmotherley and Raven Hall Hotel in Whitby across the North East Yorkshire Moors.

The film opens with certificates for the Lyke Wake Walk (in the form of Condolence Cards) which are hanging on a wall. There are two badges on a red bag: (a) the ‘Lyke Wake Walk’ badge, coffin shaped with a candle plus two stars (representing tumuli/burial mounds); and (b) the ‘White Rose Walk’ badge with a horse in a triangle above a Yorkshire rose. A boy packs the bag and walks out of the room. People walk along the road together past cars and traffic. They walk into a car park where people are gathered, and a man writes people's names on a list. The group of walkers stand together and walk to get onto the coach. The coach leaves the car park and travels through the countryside at dusk.

Front window of a Fish and Chips restaurant. The people drink outside a pub. (Both in Osmotherley).
Map of North-east Yorkshire Moors with the route drawn out.

People walk in the dark with only a small light leading the way. A man stops to look at the maps and looks at his watch (11pm). The walkers set off, all carrying a light as they walk through the pitch black of night. They walk past a man working in a shed with a fire. Man looks at watch (3am) and looks at maps using a torch.

Dawn approaches as the sky line begins to brighten. The walkers gather at the side of a van for food then start to walk again. Some of the walkers kneel on the ground, eating their food and drink from white cups. The walkers stick together at the resting place talking and making themselves comfortable. The walkers collect their things and begin to walk again. A man in a blue tracksuit puts extra socks on his feet.

The walkers continue up the road and come to a monument which is a stone cross. The group walks along the top of the cliffs to look at the sea in the distance. A man sits on a pile of rocks in front of the golf ball shaped radar domes of RAF Fylingdales (near Snod Hill). The group walk together across the heather-covered fields. A train passes through the countryside. The walkers gather in a campsite and are served sausages from a barbeque. They relax together and lay on the ground to sleep. After their rest, the walkers collect their belongings and set off on their walk again, and they wave as they pass the RAF base. The group walks along a track towards a radio mast. A man leans on the doorway of the coach and a man sleeps in the window of the coach. A pair of walking shoes is tied on a white gate near the radio mast.

For more information about the Lyke Wake Walk :