PHIL CALVERT: North York Moors trip helps the diet!

The layers of fat I managed to pile on during the late autumn, topped up by the almost inevitable Christmas excess meant the arrival of the New Year made dieting a top priority for me.

Saturday, 21st January 2012, 7:58 am

It becomes monotonous to hear the bathroom scales every time I so much as walked in the bathroom. Radical measures were needed and a return to the cabbage soup was called for. But perhaps most of all distancing myself away from calories for significant periods of the day, and perhaps the best way to do that is to get out walking away from shops, food and, in my case, above else away from cake.

Last week we stopped at a favourite little hotel we know over in the Vale of Pickering. They make some fabulous food there but I was determined to exercise self-restraint – and for once I didn’t do bad. Stick strictly to two courses, and avoid heavy carbs like potato, pasta and my absolute favourite, pastry. In my own experience my eyes seem to be greedier than my body, and so it is crucial to any hope of success in weight-loss that meal times see me exercise an iron resolve. Eat yogurt not cereal and if having a cooked breakfast keep your intake modest (so don’t heap it up like I usually do).

Frankly, this strategy seems to have worked and to date, and despite eating fairly well, I have managed to lose a total of 9lb. (that just leaves another 14lb. to go), but in the past, it is usually at this stage I start to struggle.

My distraction during the day was out in the wonderful countryside of the North York Moors. While it rained in Lancashire, we enjoyed walks under chilly blue skies and over there the ground was at least pretty dry. No visit to the Moors is complete without at least one cliff-top walk. On this occasion we chose to walk from Claughton, near Scarborough, northwards up the disused railway line to the magnificently situated Raven Hall Hotel overlooking Robin Hoods Bay, before returning on the cliff path along miles of firm dry turf enjoying views across a very placid North Sea.

Along the course of the railway cutting there were gorse bushes smothered in yellow flowers and, to my amazement, I even spotted a solitary bee collecting pollen. It is a lovely place. Stopping for lunch in Ravenscar I fancied something sweet to have with tea as I finished my sandwich. Mmm, a piece of shortbread sounded nice. Minutes later a plate bearing six slabs appeared. It would have been nothing short of bad manners not to eat them but it was a setback. Mind you they were marvellous.

With little Monty itching to get off we returned to the car via the cliff path, with easy walking throughout, except where a wooden staircase takes you into the wooded depths of Hayburn Wyke. My knees don’t like going down hills any more and so Wifey left me trailing. The climb out at the other side doesn’t bother me, though I was aware of my recent increase in poundage. We returned to the car under a clear moonlit sky.

The next day saw us doing the circuit of Spaunton Moor near Rosedale Abbey. Start on Chimney Bank and take a clockwise route along the moor edge on clear tracks. This is my favourite landscape. Stark, bleak, lonely moors with heather running to the horizon and a big sky. Classic North York Moors. We called in at the Blacksmiths in Lastingham when halfway round for a brief stop. I felt deeply ashamed not to pay due respect to the marvellous real ales on offer, but I maintained an iron resolve and returned to the moor still hungry and thirsty.

But while the Moors are fairly barren places and not over sustaining, they always raise my spirits and give me a great sense of well-being. Under a darkening sky I watched the gamekeepers’ fires on a distant moor as I sat, with Monty at my side, on the lonely old base of the ancient Ana Cross, one of dozens of such structures that give the area such character. All so calm and very peaceful. I love it here. It may be true that man shall not live by bread alone, but as I scanned the distant horizons of this beautiful country in which I am so lucky to live, I couldn’t help wondering, “I wonder what is for dinner tonight”?