Tabular Hills Stage Two.

Levisham to Hutton Le Hole. 15.5 miles.

I was looking forward to this section of the walk as both Levisham and Hutton Le Hole are lovely North York Moors villages and worth exploring if time permits. Heavy overnight rain promised to make the downhill sections of the route interesting and I was not to be disappointed. Soon after leaving the road out of Levisham the track descends steeply and so did I. Managing to grab a tree root I arrested my slide and was fortunate to sustain only muddy shorts and wounded pride. Reaching the valley bottom I passed the ruins of St. Marys Church which dates back to the 11th century. Legend has it that when the church was being built in the village the devil took all the building materials down into the valley each night. So that is where it was built.

The church was abandoned in 1884 and a new church was (finally) built in the village. The path now went through damp woodland before crossing Pickering Beck at Farworth. The North York Moors Railway passes over a level crossing at the attractive Farworth Halt although the trains only stop now at Levisham station further up the line.

Resisting the Tea Rooms I climbed steeply up the valley side until I reached the attractive village of Newton on Rawcliffe where I had a rest on a bench overlooking  the village pond which in the brief sunshine was alive with dragonflies and swooping swallows. 

The village pub, The Mucky Duck looked very enticing but I still had far to go, although amazed at my powers of resistance I continued on my way. The path now dropped steeply through Newton Banks before rising again to pass through Stony Moor where the patchy woodland, heather and bilberry represents what the moors once looked like after the last Ice Age, before farming and heather moorland converted it’s appearance.

At Keldy Farm I came to a road which took me steeply uphill although a gap in the trees afforded an excellent view of the Tabular Hills over which I had passed.

At the top of the hill and to the left is Cawthorn Roman Camp. During the first century AD the Romans advanced this way, subduing the Britons with military might and establishing fortified camps such as these at Cawthorn.

By now, this ancient Briton was hungry so I had my lunch before continuing on my way, passing through the village of Cropton which has the New Inn and beer brewed in it’s own micro brewery. I sampled these on a long distance walk in 2010 and have a hazy memory of how delicious they were. Walking briskly on I eventually crossed the River Seven to reach Appleton le Moors. This is a typical Yorkshire Crofts and Tofts village. The Crofts being the little cottages either side of the main street and the Tofts are the land extending from the backs of each cottage primarily used for growing vegetables in. Here, interestingly enough are the remains of Low Cross a medieval cross which may have once been a standing stone.

It began to rain a little as I left the village and began the final leg to Hutton Le Hole and a short climb led me to some large fields that were alive with pheasants which scattered noisily as I passed by. Looking back I had a good view across the fields to the distant Wolds.

A long descent through woodland took me into the village of Hutton Le Hole and the end of this section of the walk. I like this village, I have stayed here on a walk and it is a lovely spot with a stream running through it. It’s name is fairly new although the site dates back to Neolithic times. Up to the 19th century it was known variously as Hoton under Heg  and Hewton.  

The final stage of the Tabular Hills Walk is a 13.5 mile stretch from Hutton Le Hole to Helmsley, a section I am looking forward to immensely. 

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High Wolds and Low Dales.

Although the Yorkshire Wolds aren’t particularly high the views from the tops are excellent and far reaching. What makes this area special though are the steep sided, deep, dry valleys which help make any walking here quite hilly. Tuesday 29th August started with a steady drizzle which at times was quite heavy as accompanied by my son Gary I parked at the car park near Wharram Percy to begin an exploration of this unique area. The rain stopped as we headed out of the car park and headed west on the Centenary Way, a long distance route beginning at York Minster and ending in Filey.

Initially the route took us through damp woodland before emerging onto rolling farmland dotted with bales of hay.  Joining the Yorkshire Wolds Way, a National Trail stretching 79 miles from Hessle near Hull and ending also in Filey, we followed the path above a shallow valley for a short while enjoying the  sunshine on our faces.

The Yorkshire Wolds along with Orkney and Wessex have a huge number of prehistoric barrows and earthworks. The chalky earth  mounds marked howes or tumuli on OS maps indicate burials dating back to 2400 BC although many have succumbed to the plough through time. Our boots by now we’re succumbing to the wet, long grass and mud and we were glad when we turned left and onto a chalk bridleway which we followed steadily downhill until we reached a cornfield above Water Dale which along with the other valleys is completely dry.

A steady descent on another very wet sheep trod took us into the valley bottom and for once it was comforting to walk on tarmac and to let our boots dry a little. We made our way into the lovely village of Thixendale and to the Cross Keys Inn which was shut. Disappointed, we hovered outside for a while before deciding it was lunch time. The church of St Marys seemed a good place to rest and eat so we made our way there passing an old parish pump close by.

Before this church was built the inhabitants would have had to walk to St Martins church at Wharram Percy some 4 miles away.  The church was built between 1868 – 70 and must have come as a relief to the footsore villagers. Until the late 1990s, Thixendale had no TV reception surrounded as it is by high valley walls , however a small transmitter was built and gave the residents terrestrial TV for the first time. Having ate our fill we set off on the return leg of our walk and soon we were climbing steeply out of the village which is one of the prettiest I have seen.

We followed the Wolds Way now literally up hill and down dale before reaching the ridge we had left much earlier. Following the track above Deepdale again we branched left and began our descent to the abandoned mediaeval village of Wharram Percy. The only visible above ground remains are of the church of St Martins which now appeared through the trees.

The village was abandoned in the late 1500s  when the whole area was cleared by the landowners to graze sheep. The only buildings left inhabited were a farm, the vicarage and the church. Today, thanks to 60 years of study by archaeologists you can still see the grassy mounds of the houses and the streets they stood by.  The fishponds are still there and the whole site is well worth a visit.

Leaving the village we crossed a stream which was spanned by a crumbling railway bridge, all that remains in this area of the disused Malton to Driffield railway . Interestingly enough,  the site engineer was Alfred Dickens younger brother of Charles Dickens the author.

A short pull uphill took us back to the car and the end of a very interesting if damp walk.  The Wolds are worth exploring and although the highest point is Garrowby Hill at only 807′ the view over the Vale of York is special. We look forward to further exploration. 

A Table Top walk.

The Tabular Hills are a range of flat topped Corallian limestone hills on the southern boundary of the North York Moors running East to West from Scarborough to the Vale of Pickering. The range is best viewed from Saltergate and Levisham Moor where their flat tops can be truly appreciated. There is a long distance walk of 50 miles titled The Tabular hills walk which starts at Scalby Mills near Scarborough and ends at the attractive market town of Helmsley.

Parking at Scalby Mills on Friday 18th of August I set off to walk the first section of the route. The first part is 21 miles to Levisham but having already walked a 7 mile section I didn’t quite have that far to travel.  Climbing steeply up the cliff I had a superb view of a brooding Scarborough castle standing proudly above a glittering sea.

Soon I was heading west through wheat fields before crossing the busy A165 and passing  caravan sites before heading to the village of Scalby. The Tabular Hills walk can be done in a variety of ways, as a long distance walk over 3 or 4 days,  as a warm up for the Cleveland Way which begins in Helmsley or as I was doing it picking off sections as day walks.  Crossing the A171 I came to the Sea Cut and took shelter as a brief shower of rain came in on the strong winds.  The River Derwent rises on Fylingdales Moor and heads towards the North Sea but 4 miles from the coast it turns west and heads far inland before turning east again and flowing into the River Humber and finally the North Sea. The sea cut was dug in the 18th century to divert floodwater into Scalby Beck and to power the mills further downstream.

I followed this for 3 miles to Mowthorpe Bridge and then in, warm sunshine I trudged uphill towards what had been the Everley Country Hotel but was now a tea room promising excellent views. Unable these days to resist a tea room I went inside and was not disappointed.  A feature of the Tabular Hills is that on the southern side the slope is gentle and are farmed whereas the northern sides are very steep, formed as they were by rushing meltwater from the last Ice Age. I crossed the River Derwent at Wrench Green and began to climb steeply in the hot sunshine through woodland until I reached a gravel track and Wykeham Forest. The forest prevented views until I came across a sign for a raptor viewpoint. Intrigued, I followed an increasingly boggy path for a quarter of a mile until the woodland cleared and I had a view over lovely Troutdale.

It was a good spot to polish off my lunch and to view my surroundings which included the high moors to the north and  the glacial valleys and hills through which I was walking. The best example being the Forge Valley. I did not see any birds of prey but a cross bill landed close by me, no doubt interested in my black pudding scotch egg ! Continuing my walk, the smell of woodsmoke drifting through the damp and chilled woodland made it feel almost autumnal and I was glad to emerge,blinking into sunlight alongside fields filled with young pine trees. I don’t recall ever having been asked to wipe my feet before entering a field before but signs dotted around the plateau suggested that this was a requirement.

Finally I reached the end of my days walk at Givendale Head Farm which also meant I had completed the first 21 miles of the Tabular Hills walk. This whole area abounds with Tumuli and boundary and defensive ditches such as these at Cockmoor.

When this area was open country the views must have been tremendous but the woodland has taken that away. I enjoyed the walk but much of it is minor road walking or through forest but happily that part is now behind me. Much of the first day is very remote so I drove to Burniston and the Three Jolly Sailors. Timothy Taylors Landlord was in fine fettle which made this old sailor very happy.

Sun, Sea and Sandsend.

Yorkshire is a county of many contrasts. It has Moors and Mountains, Dales and Fountains and a proud industrial heritage. It also has Skinningrove. It was here on Easter Monday 17th April that I set out to walk the 14 miles to Sandsend along the Cleveland Way National Trail. South of Saltburn on Sea, Skinningrove was, until 1850 just a quiet fishing village but was transformed with the discovery of iron ore and a steelworks was built. Passing over the very orange Skinningrove Beck and climbing steeply up the cliff path I could see the harbour which at one time hosted ships carrying away huge quantities of iron and steel products.

Levelling out, the path gave me chance to catch my breath and although the sun was quite warm the breeze had an icy chill to it as I made my way to the highest sea cliffs on the East coast of England at Boulby. At over 660′ above sea level the views were tremendous, North to Middlesbrough and South the cliffs stretched away towards distant Whitby.  Somehow, someone long ago had carved a poem to a lost love for passers-by to read but unfortunately my photo does not do it justice. 

Pausing here for a drink I could see to my right Boulby Potash Mine. It is the only one in the country and opened in 1973. Potash is mainly used for agricultural fertiliser and is difficult to mine. The shafts here are 4900′ deep and extend out under the North Sea and mining is done by remote control due to the heat and pressure.  Walking along at this height was exhilarating and I enjoyed watching seabirds such as kittiwakes and fulmar effortlessly gliding on the thermals generated by the cliffs. I began though to descend steadily and then more steeply as I reached the picturesque fishing village of Staithes. 

Staithes is a lovely village, with a natural harbour, Captain Cook heritage centre and attracts artists and photographers from far and wide. It also has The Cod and Lobster Inn but as I still had a long way to go I resisted it’s charms and sat on a bench outside to eat my lunch. James Cook worked here briefly as a shop assistant before leaving for a seafaring apprenticeship in Whitby and his place in nautical history.

The headland to the right is Cowbar Nab and protects the harbour from the worst winter storms. Having descended steeply into Staithes the climb out was even steeper but after a bit of effort  I was back on the clifftop and making good progress despite the stiffening breeze. Soon I was looking down at the remains of Port Mulgrave harbour battered by the sea. The village is a short distance inland and it is difficult to see how the villagers used the harbour. It was in fact used by the iron ore mine at nearby Grinkle and the ore was transported to the harbour by tunnels.  I had tremendous views inland to the North York Moors and the fields were a riot of yellow in the glorious spring sunshine as I continued my journey accompanied by the ever present Skylarks  to my right and seabirds whirling and calling to my left. I began to descend again to another pretty village, this time Runswick Bay. 

It is a lovely village with a nice beach although it has to be explored on foot as cars must be left in the car park higher up. Although it seems timeless much of the original village slipped into the sea on a stormy night in 1664 leaving only the white painted thatched cottage at the end as a reminder of what it once was.

Yet another stiff, steep ascent took me back to the Cleveland Way and to the headland of Kettleness another area of past industry this time Alum and Jet. The old village also slipped into the sea in 1829 but it was gradual and allowed the villagers time to leave. Looking back the weather was changing, cold grey clouds were sweeping down from the North and I put a spurt on for the final couple of miles.

Soon I was passing through the abandoned Alum quarries of Sandsend Ness which were last worked in the 1860s, these too were extensive as Alum has many uses not least as an additive in baking powder . Yet another orange stream testified to the presence of Iron Ore and orange footprints on the footpath suggested someone had been paddling in it. Finally at 4.25 p.m I arrived in Sandsend, another picturesque village with a sandy beach and a stream crossed by a bridge cutting it in two. As I reflected on a walk of such interest and beauty and having walked 14 miles with over 2000′ of ascent the threatened rain arrived.

Dalby Forest and the Bridestones

Living close to one of my favourite areas for walking, The North York Moors, gives me the chance to really get to know this delightful National Park and on a sunny, cool morning in early spring I parked in a car park at Cocksmoor north of Snainton ready for a day of exploring. Tuesday March 7th 2017 I began walking at 10.00 a.m and straight away passed a series of  Neolithic earthworks which abound on these moors.

The moors were cleared of trees in those far off days and the earthworks may have been a way of defining their settlements boundaries. Interestingly enough many modern boundaries still follow these ancient ditches and mounds as this old boundary stone demonstrates.

My route now began to follow the Tabular Hills walk a 48 mile route that links Scarborough and Helmsley taking in the table like hills that gives this walk it’s name.

Very soon though the path plunged into the extensive Dalby Forest which covers a large part of this area and is famous for its scenic drive. Forest walking is not my favourite walking having been brought up with stories about Hansel and Gretal and other such horrors (for Hansel read Steven) and this part of the forest was becoming oppressive until a clearing on Ebberston Moor showed another,more modern horror, explority  fracking sites.

Moving on quickly I descended Crosscliff Brow and began crossing Bridestones nature reserve where I heard a green woodpecker calling and saw a hare running across a field. The nature reserve also has a host of ancient features such as a Standing Stone, remains of field systems and cairns but it also held Blakey Topping , one of the few hills I haven’t climbed but I was about to.

It is only 876′ in height but stands alone and the summit ridge is narrow and from it the views are tremendous. To the East the sea was a hazy blue, the Tabular Hills were clearly defined and all around the hills and moors were coming to life in the spring warmth.

After enjoying a well deserved lunch I descended the hill and crossing farmland I climbed up onto Newgate Brow where I turned left on the Old Wife’s Way , again evidence of the areas antiquity as earth goddesses were once worshiped and they were known as Old Wife’s and used these tracks to go from one fertility rite to another. It’s a nice story and much better than what went on in the woods with Hansel  (Steven) and Gretal. At Newgate Moor I left the way and came across the Bridestones both High and Low which are a collection of huge boulders sculpted by wind and rain and frost into fantastic shapes.

The rocks are layers of hard and soft sandstone and being close to Dalby forest car parking at Stain Dale there are easy trails to explore these wonders of the area. Crossing the road and passing Stain Dale Lake I followed the road to the Adder Stone which is another weather carved rock and which sadly had no adders on it although Dalby Forest does have them in it.

For the last mile of the walk I rejoined the Tabular Hills track I had followed that morning passing more ditches and earthworks before spotting this tumulus or burial mound many of which dot the national park and are called Howes. 

At 4.30 p.m I returned to the car park having walked over 14 miles on a beautiful early spring day. Having enjoyed nature to the full all day, a call of nature took me into the Downe Arms at Wykeham.                      Cheers.

On top of the Wold.

Having recently moved to a village near the North Yorkshire coast which describes itself as the gateway to the Yorkshire Wolds,I thought that for my first blog of 2017 I would describe my first walk in this delightful part of the county. Monday 6th February I left home at 10.15 a.m on a lovely frosty morning and began the climb up onto the Wolds escarpment and soon I was walking through chalky farmland with long range views like this one over to Flamborough Head.

The Wolds are the northern most outcrop of chalk in the British Isles and extend south through Lincolnshire to Norfolk and the Flamborough Chalk Cliffs are the most famous visible evidence of it. Numerous dry valleys are a feature of the landscape and after a mile or two of walking through farmland I began to descend into one marked on the map as Cans Dale.

The frost was melting by now and the sun felt warm on my back as I walked into Stocking Dale. In the fields skylarks were enjoying the spring like warmth and buzzards circled ominously overhead. The Wolds have been inhabited since prehistoric times and I came across evidence of this at a wooded area marked as The Camp which had ancient earthworks encircling it.

Here, I left the track I had been following and joined the Wolds Way, a 77 mile, long distance national trail which ends in Filey. At this point it felt like lunchtime so I found an intriguing piece of farm machinery to use as a seat.

I know very little about large scale arable farming other than large machines seem to (a) Rattle fields, (b) Spray fields and (c) Hoover fields and as I finished lunch and moved on quite a lot of (a) was being done on the fields I passed. Crossing the old Malton road I began to descend towards the village of Muston and I had views again towards the sea and this time distant Scarborough Castle.

By now, the breeze was very cold and the sunshine was becoming increasingly hazy as I walked into Muston. This village is mentioned in the Domesday Book and either means a mouse infected farmstead, or the farm of Musi. It is also famous for its scarecrow festival and has a lovely village green. As I headed towards it I passed the base of a medieval market cross, now used as a planter and road sign.

I had a look around the village green which has a well, an old boundary stone and a seat overlooking a stream which is marked unflatteringly on the map as Main Drain but which becomes the River Hertford. Despite being only a mile from the North Sea the river flows West and after 10 miles joins the River Derwent at Heybridge before ultimately returning East to the Humber.

Leaving Muston I crossed more farmland back to Hunmanby and passed the old village lockup dating from 1834.

By now I had walked over 10 miles and the light was beginning to fade, and as dry January had extended into February I stopped at my allotment for a cup of tea.

Cheers.

Back to the Lion.

Mid April with the promise of spring sunshine saw myself and two old friends heading back to the North York Moors for three days of walking and two nights in the Lion Inn at Blakey!
Monday 18th April, at  8.50 a.m having parked at the Hole of Horcum we set off walking along a track marked Old Wife’s Way, the day was cold but visibility was good with excellent long range views.
The North York Moors have many Boundary markers, Guide stoops and wayside crosses and after an hours walking we came across a good example of one known as Malo cross.

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Many of them have affectionate names which wouldn’t be out of place in a TV soap opera. Young and Old Ralph, Fat Betty and Marjorie Bradley. But all provided guidance in poor weather and still do today. Following Saltergate Brow we had good views to the RAF early warning pyramid at Fylingdales and to the now sadly closed Saltergate Inn .

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The fire in the  bar had burned continuously for 300 years but has now, like the pub gone cold. We began to descend into the Hole of Horcum itself which legend says was created when a giant named Wade scooped up some earth to throw at his wife! Geologically it was formed by a process where water undermines a narrow valley creating a cauldron shaped bowl.

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The legend doesn’t say what happened to the giant after he threw the earth at his wife though.
We walked through the valley to Levisham and had lunch on the village green before continuing our circumnavigation of the hole arriving back at the car at 3.p.m.
On the way to the Lion we stopped off at Lastingham and visited the ancient church of St. Mary with its crypt dedicated to St Cedd who died here in 644. The crypt has numerous Saxon and Danish Christian stone carvings which suggests that the original church was not destroyed in the Danish Invasions.

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It was very cold in the crypt and the only place we could get warm was in The Blacksmiths opposite. We sat getting warm for a long time.

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The Lion Inn was, as usual excellent and after a nice meal we watched the sun setting over Marjorie Bradley.

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To Follow….Day 2.