Monday, 24 February 2014

Sutton Bank and Rievaulx Abbey - February 2014

Apparently, this year we have had the wettest winter since records began.  So, even though the weather forecast was for clear skies and sunshine, I knew that the ground underfoot would be sodden pretty much anywhere we went.  Moors, Dales or Wolds, it wouldn't make much difference.  With that in mind, I plotted out a 12 mile route which involved  a good bit of walking on quiet country lanes, starting and ending at the Sutton Bank Visitor Centre in the North York Moors National Park.  Once again, I plotted this route myself and, if I say so myself, it was excellent.

It occurred to me after I'd written about my last two walks that incorporating the directions into the blog about the walk probably wasn't very helpful to anyone who wanted to follow in my footsteps.  Therefore this time I'm going to describe the walk and then add the directions at the end, along with a map.  That should enable anyone wanting to follow this walk to just cut and paste the text.  I hope this helps.

We love Sutton Bank.  It's a really special place for us for many reasons.  Mostly the view is what has brought us here time and again throughout our married life.  Sometimes just to have a picnic and watch the sun set, but more often than not it's a natural stopping-off place on our journey to and from the Yorkshire Dales or the Lake District.  There are also some lovely walks of varying lengths in any direction.  A fairly recently erected signpost at the visitor centre proclaims this to be "the finest view in England" and, whilst I'm not entirely sure about that, it is nevertheless spectacular.

At the Sutton Bank Visitor Centre

My route for this walk took us northwards, above Lake Gormire and followed the escarpment for a couple of miles along the Cleveland Way.  The National Park authority make it perfectly clear where they think the best viewing point is because they've very kindly erected a viewing platform and a couple of benches in just that spot.  We stopped here for a while and drank it in, before striking out along the escarpment. 
The finest view in England?

Even once the route turns in, to follow the Cleveland Way in the direction of Sneck Yat, the view is still lovely if not as expansive.
View from the Cleveland Way

Once off the Cleveland Way we followed a quiet country lane for a couple of miles to the little village of Old Byland.  Although this was quite a featureless part of the walk inasmuch as it merely entailed tramping along a lane, it was very peaceful and offered open views in all directions. 

Old-fashioned road sign at Old Byland

We could have continued following the road all the way to Rievaulx, but instead we cut across a field which took us to the top of a bank with yet more glorious views of the surrounding countryside.
A picturesque valley

Before long the beautiful Rievaulx Abbey came into view at the end of the valley.  Even from this distance, the ruins look impressive.

First glimpse of Rievaulx

Up to this point we'd managed to keep our boots relatively clean, but as we approached the village of Rievaulx we could see that the River Rye had broken its banks and flooded our path.  Fortunately, it wasn't too deep and we were able to wade along the edge of the flood water without it coming over the top of our boots.  Times like this are always a good test for a boot's waterproofing and how well you have cared for them!

River Rye flood water

Rievaulx Abbey conveniently marked the half way point for our walk and so we decided to pay the entrance fee, have a look round and eat our packed lunch.  Rievaulx was the first Cistercian abbey in the north of England and was founded in 1132 after which time it was in use for 400 years.  At its peak the community consisted of 140 monks and 500 lay brothers and servants.  Its location by the River Wye is typical for a Cistercian monastery, which are usually found in wooded valleys by a source of water.  This enabled the monks to observe a strict life of prayer and self-sufficiency.  At the time of the Dissolution in 1538, Rievaulx was one of the wealthiest religious establishments in the country.  Today it's in the care of English Heritage and, although the admission price includes a free audio guide, on this occasion we just wandered around taking in the beauty of the place and reading some of the many interpretation panels provided throughout the ruins.

Rievaulx Abbey

From Rievaulx our route followed the road until we could pick up the Cleveland Way again as it passed by a series of trout ponds on a tributary of the Rye.  It then took us along a beautiful tree-lined valley before climbing up and leading us to the picturesque village of Cold Kirby.

Along the Cleveland Way

Until 1314 the parish of Cold Kirby was administered by the Order of the Knights Templar, and then it was passed to another religious order, the Knights Hospitaller, who held it until the reformation after which time it became a parish church.   The present church of St Michael was built in 1841 to replace the original 12th century building. 

St Michael's Church, Cold Kirby

The route I had originally plotted was set to follow the quiet country road back to Sutton Bank, although we actually followed the Cleveland Way into the woodland and back to the car park.  The Cleveland Way begins in the nearby town of Helmsley, so the parts we had walked were the very early stages of this national trail of 109 miles which crosses the North York Moors and then follows the coast to the seaside town of Filey.

Directions for this walk:

Leaving from the Visitor Centre at the top of Sutton Bank, turn right to follow the Cleveland Way in a northerly direction along the escarpment.  Continue following this path to Boltby Scar where a public foothpath to the right leads to a country lane at the junction with Wethercote Lane, which is sign-posted to Old Byland.  Follow this lane for a couple of miles to the village of Old Byland, and then continue along another quiet road sign-posted towards Rievaulx.  Keep an eye open for the third public footpath on the left which cuts diagonally across a field to a gate.  Once through the gate turn left and then after a short distance look out for a path which heads down a steep bank (this path is poorly defined ).  At the bottom of the bank turn right and follow a track to Bow Bridge which crosses over the River Rye.  After 100 yards or so a sign post for the Inn Way points across a field by the river which leads into the village of Rievaulx.  Turn right and either pass the Abbey or call in for a visit (there are toilet facilities, a cafe and a gift shop which you can use without paying admission).  From the Abbey continue along the lane to a junction, turn right here over a bridge and follow the quiet country road until a sign for the Cleveland Way points into a woodland track.  You can now follow the Cleveland Way directly to the village of Cold Kirby.  From here you can either follow the country lane back to Sutton Bank or take the path on the left just outside the village (sign posted to Sutton Bank) which emerges in woodland by the car park.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Great Givendale & Millington (Yorkshire Wolds) - February 2014

February already!  The second month of the year and only our second "proper" walk.  I'd hoped to have done at least a couple more by now, but although I don't mind walking in bad weather, I have a tendency to stay at home if the forecast is bad.  When deciding to walk in the Yorkshire Wolds this time we took two factors into consideration.  First of all, we thought the ground might be firmer under foot.  There'd been a lot of rain and whilst a certain amount of mud is inevitable, it's not much fun slipping and sliding for mile after mile.  And secondly we thought a bit of a "Wolds Way Warm-up" was in order.

I'm becoming a bit better acquainted with my Garmin GPS and the associated "Base Camp" software, and so for this walk I plotted out my own circular route of around ten miles, starting and finishing in the East Yorkshire market town of Pocklington. 

We parked in the centre of Pocklington and then headed eastwards, along Kilnwick Road, turning left on Target Lane (where there's a public footpath sign), past some newly built houses and along a footpath which eventually turns into a track and leads uphill.  Turning back gave us a good view of the town and All Saints Church (near where we'd parked). 

Looking back over Pocklington

At the top of the hill, in a field by a radio transmitter, we encountered a little group of ponies and a donkey, munching on some freshly delivered hay in a field devoid of greenery.  A small sample of some of the mud that awaited us, just round the corner!   

Enjoying some winter sunshine

From this point we went through a gate and into Pocklington Woods, following the path on the edge of a golf course before emerging onto a lane which winds its way downhill to join the road, where we turned right walking ahead for a short distance to a footpath sign across the road which directed us into a field.  This path was grassy and clearly defined to begin with, but after a couple of fields we crossed a lane to take a path towards more woodland.  The path across this field wasn't too clearly marked.  It was simply a case of following the tyre marks across the mud!

There's a path across there somewhere

My route then led us through Grimthorpe Wood and out the other side where we turned left to walk along field edges, following the route of the Chalkland Way to the little hamlet of Great Givendale.  This is the first time I had heard of the Chalkland Way, a forty mile circular route devised in 1994 and linking the Wolds villages of Great Givendale, Bishop Wilton, Bugthorpe, Thixendale, Fimber, Wetwang and Huggate.  A free leaflet is available from the East Yorkshire and Derwent Ramblers and more information can be obtained on their website

After all the mud of the past few miles, we were pleased to emerge onto a country lane and stamp our boots on firm ground before heading towards the very beautiful Great Givendale and its lovely little church.  The sun was out and the wind had eased, making it a very pleasant afternoon.


The little church of St Ethelburga was rebuilt in 1849 on the site of a much earlier, 12th century church.  Regular readers of my blog may recognise the name Ethelburga from my last walk.  Daughter of Saint Aethelbert, the first Christian king of Kent, in AD 625 Ethelburga married King Edwin of Northumbria.  After his death at the Battle of Hatfield, Queen Ethelburga escaped by sea to Kent where she became the first Anglo-Saxon queen to take the veil, living the remainder of her life as Abbess of Lyming. 

St Ethelburga's Church, Great Givendale

I was fortunate that the sun was still shining and very grateful to the couple who were sitting on the bench in front of the church to eat their packed lunch as they momentarily hid round the corner to allow me to take a photo.  I was a little dubious about going into the church, even though most of the mud on my boots had been stomped off, but the lady said "Go on in.  They won't mind".  I'm not sure who exactly "they" were, and how she knew this, but I took a chance and cautiously  made my way inside to take a quick interior shot.  On this occasion, leaving "nothing but footprints" wouldn't have been appropriate and, thankfully, a couple of pounds for a guide book was all I left behind!

Inside St Ethelburga's Church

From Great Givendale we took the bridleway behind the church and headed off in the direction of Little Givendale (a farm), leaving the bridleway after a gated bridge and climbing uphill through a group of trees.  From this vantage point we had a lovely view of the route we'd just taken along the valley bottom. 

Looking back towards Givendale

After climbing the hill we turned right onto a farm track which took us through Little Givendale and to a crossroads where we continued straight on to a road called The Balk.  This took us downhill to the lovely village of Millington where, according to their welcome sign, they really want you to hang around for as long as possible (either that or there's some particularly nasty torture going on - I hope it's the former)!

Welcome to Millington!

Millington can offer the walker a choice of refreshment, either at the charming Rambler's Rest Tearooms (which also provides accommodation), or at the village pub, The Gait Inn, which is where we decided to have a break.  Fortunately, given the state of our boots, it was a nice enough day to sit and enjoy a drink at one of their outdoor tables.

The Rambler's Rest, Millington

From the centre of Millington we retraced our steps for a short distance, following signs for the Chalkland Way uphill steeply to join the Wolds Way which passes along the ridge to the south east of the village. 

Steep climb out of Millington

As we climbed up the hill the views opened up across typical Yorkshire Wolds scenery of undulating farmland.

On the Wolds Way above Millington

We followed the route of the Wolds Way back downhill and onto a lane which took us to the golf club at Kilnwick Percy, which is where we left the national trail and joined a public footpath which, rather ominously, cuts right across the fairway.  It was quite late in the afternoon by now and, thankfully, all the golfers had retired to the clubhouse, otherwise I think this path may have left me a little on edge!

Kilnwick Percy Golf Club

The path eventually left the golf course and led us back down into the town of Pocklington, just as the sun was going down on a most enjoyable afternoon.  This path emerges into a residential area and a left turn here took us back to Kilnwick Road and a short walk back to the town centre.

I'm adding a rough outline of our walk below and, as always, I'm happy to provide extra information or answer questions.  You can also get updates on my blog and other walking related subjects by liking my Facebook page. 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Planning for a National Trail....The Yorkshire Wolds Way - Part 1: Route & Accommodation

Seventeen years ago we set out to walk the Wolds Way.   Starting from the Hessle Foreshore by the Humber Bridge in East Yorkshire, this National Trail of 79 miles winds its way through the Yorkshire Wolds, ending by the North Sea at Filey in North Yorkshire. 

We set out full of energy, expecting a long but comfortable amble through the tranquil Yorkshire countryside.  We thought we had prepared well, by walking distances of up to 12 miles every Sunday leading up to our departure.  And so, with a couple of borrowed rucksacks, we struck out with confidence on a hot afternoon one Sunday in June 1997.  However, we hadn't planned for a walk in a heat wave which, after leaving the foreshore took us through woodlands dripping with humidity, resulting in very sweaty feet and almost instant blisters.  Our first day entailed a walk of only 12 miles but ended with very sore feet.  By the end of the third day it seemed as if we had blisters on top of blisters and I simply couldn't continue.  After 50 of the 79 miles I was forced to quit.  This has haunted us ever since. 

We set out to walk the Wolds Way - June 1997

We've discussed the possibility of completing the Wolds Way many times over the ensuing years.  And although we've considered just starting from where we left off and walking the final missing 29 miles, somehow this doesn't seem right.  There's only one thing for it.  We've got to begin again and walk the whole trail from start to finish. 

When deciding on a date, the Spring or the Autumn seemed like the best options, not just because of the available daylight hours and the possibility of better weather, but also because this fits in best with our work commitments.  Having selected a suitable week, this just left us to decide how many days to devote to the challenge.  Last time we thought we could complete the walk in five days and booked accommodation for four nights along the route.  This left us with progressively longer distances each day, culminating in a 20 mile slog on our fourth (and last) day which, thanks to the blisters, I have never forgotten.  With this in mind, I've decided that this time we will take six days, with five nights' accommodation needed and each day averaging no more than 14 miles. 

So, how to start planning?  My first stop was the excellent Yorkshire Wolds Way National Trail website which has all sorts of helpful tools and resources, including a downloadable accommodation guide.  There's also a really useful distance calculator which allows you to work out how far it is between different points on the walk.  With the aid of the distance calculator and the accommodation guide I was able to work out my itinerary.  However, this wasn't quite as easy as I thought it would be.  Things have changed in the past 17 years and some of the places we stayed at last time are now no longer in business.

Everyone has their own taste in ideal accommodation for this type of adventure.  Whilst some people might like to camp or even sleep out under the stars, others will prefer a comfortable bed and breakfast.  We like pubs!  Usually such accommodation is unpretentious, you can get a good choice for an evening meal and, most importantly, you can unwind with a couple of pints of beer in the evening without having to walk any further.  We're not especially keen on staying in guest houses, particularly the kind that are quite clearly someone's home with a spare room to let.  Don't get me wrong, we're not anti-social at all, but the last thing we want after a long day's walk is to have to make small talk with the family whose spare room we just happen to be renting for the night.  In a pub, somehow, you can just blend in to the background.

The last time we attempted the Wolds Way we were able to book into pubs for all four nights (although the last one had to be cancelled).  Seventeen years later and several of the pubs along the way have closed their doors or no longer offer accommodation, leaving us no alternative but to book into guest houses for the first two nights.  Thankfully though, both of these establishments are more like small hotels than private homes.  And at least this way we have the pubs to look forward to!

With the itinerary settled and the accommodation selected, that just left the small matter of booking rooms for each of the five nights.  I did this in one session and, luckily, all of our choices were available.   Given the apparent lack of choice of our favoured type of accommodation, I'm not sure what I'd have done had the chain fallen apart. 

The planned itinerary is as follows:

Day 1:  Hessle Foreshore to Brantingham - 10 miles
Day 2:  Brantingham to Market Weighton - 14 miles
Day 3:  Market Weighton to Huggate - 14 miles
Day 4:  Huggate to North Grimston - 14 miles
Day 5:  North Grimston to Ganton - 15 miles
Day 6:  Ganton to Filey - 12 miles

Now everything is booked and the schedule planned, the next stage of preparation is to work out what we need to take along and, most importantly, to make sure we're physically prepared.  I'll be providing updates in my blog over the coming months.

As with all my blog entries, I'm only too pleased to receive advice or answer questions.  You can also follow my blog updates and other related items on my Facebook page.


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Goathland and Sneaton High Moor (North York Moors) - January 2014

The North York Moors was the destination for our first walk of 2014.  It was a cold but dry weekend and not too windy when we left home, although up on the moors the wind always blows more strongly than on the lower ground.  There had been a frost so we thought perhaps it wouldn't be too soggy underfoot.  At this time of year though it's probably best to forget about keeping your boots clean!

I had just treated myself to a Garmin Etrex 20 GPS in the January sales and wanted to test it out with an eleven mile circular walk which I had devised and plotted.  Like all new gadgets, it was all a bit confusing to begin with but overall I think I managed quite well.  And so, from now on, as well as writing a general blog about a walk, I'm also going to try my hand at providing a route map and description.

The start and finishing point for this walk is the moorland village of Goathland, famous for its role as Aidensfield in the once popular television series "Heartbeat".  This isn't a programme I ever watched, but even though the series finished some years ago the village still attracts fans and maintains many of the fictional Aidensfield's landmarks such as the general store, the garage, funeral directors and pub.  In the summer months several vehicles from the Sixties are parked strategically around the village, including an old Ford Anglia "panda" police car.  There was no sign of vintage cars, or tourists, as we drove into the village and parked in an unusually empty car park. 

Our route began by turning left out of the main village car park and crossing a bridge to the railway station.   All was quiet here too, although in the tourist season the station would be bustling with passengers waiting for steam trains on the North York Moors Railway which runs between Pickering and Grosmont/Whitby.  It's an attractive little station which was used in the Harry Potter movies as Hogsmeade Station.  In fact, sections of the North York Moors railway were used to film Harry's train journeys to Hogwarts.

Goathland Station

At the station we crossed the line and turned right to climb up a steep bank which gave us a view down over the station buildings.

Looking down on Goathland Station

From above the station we followed a path which after a short distance ended by a country lane where we turned left and then walked uphill for a short while before turning right onto a track which led over a stream, passed farm buildings and then out onto a patch of open moorland.

Moorland above Goathland

We followed this track for a mile or so before it joined the road into Goathland from the A169.  There then followed a stretch of road walking, climbing gradually away from Goathland and offering excellent views over the surrounding countryside and across to Fylingdales Early Warning Station. 

Across the moors to Fylingdales

RAF Fylingdales is a radar base and it is also part of the ballistic missile early warning system, shared between the UK and the USA.  During the Cold War RAF Fylingdales would have been responsible for the "four minute warning".  I'm not sure if it still is today - it's not something I really like to think about!  The massive pyramid structure, which is visible in the landscape for miles around, is actually a group of radars which can cover a complete 360 degrees.  As well as providing the early warning system, Fylingdales also tracks orbiting objects in space. 

Continuing along the lane we eventually reached the busy A169 Pickering to Whitby road, turning right and walking to where it bends sharply at the bridge over Eller Beck.  The road was very busy and extreme caution was needed when crossing the bridge as there's no footpath and judging by the amount of debris and paint marks on the masonry, passing traffic can get a bit too close!

Thankfully, immediately after crossing Eller Beck Bridge a public footpath is visible heading off to the left onto the open moorland.  There then follows something of a slog over poorly defined paths which, on the day we walked, were waterlogged, frozen and very muddy in places.  The path passes quite close to the Fylingdales radar base which seemed to emit a constant sound like a huge fan turning, or perhaps wind hitting a cliff.  I couldn't decide whether the radar itself made the noise, or the wind passing over it. 

Finding a path through the mud, ice and puddles

Eventually my focal point for this particular walk came into sight on the higher ground ahead.  This is Lilla Cross, one of the oldest Christian relics in Britain.  It purportedly marks the spot where in 626 AD King Edwin of Northumbria was saved from an assassin's poisoned sword by a priest named Lilla who leapt forward and took the fatal blow.  King Edwin was so grateful he is supposed to have had this cross erected in Lilla's memory and also a few months  later, at Easter 627 AD in York, the previously pagan Edwin converted to Christianity.    After his death at the battle of Hatfield in 633 AD his queen, Ethelburga, became the first Anglo Saxon queen to take the veil, living as Abbess of Lyming until her death, and later becoming Saint Ethelburga (I mention this because there's a connection here to my next walk).  Incidentally, King Edwin was considered a great ruler in his time, bringing peace between Northumbria and the Scots resulting in the creation of the town of Edwin's Borough, known today as the city of Edinburgh.

Lilla Cross

Lilla Cross marked the turning point of our walk, back towards Goathland.  It was also a convenient place to eat our packed lunch, although being on quite high ground it was not a place to hang around for long in the biting January wind.  Our path headed north west from Lilla Cross over Sneaton High Moor and passing another moorland cross - Ann's Cross which sits on top of a tumulus.  This isn't a cross as such, but it does have a cross carved upon it, along with what appears to be a large letter 'C'.  I have yet to be able to find out any detailed information about this particular standing stone, although it may be a waymarker for an old pannierman's way. 

Ann's Cross

The track led us all the way back to the A169 and, having left the moor, we turned right for a hundred yards or so and then crossed over to follow a quiet country lane, downhill all the way back to Goathland.  It was just before 5 p.m. when we returned to the village which was in complete darkness and very quiet, except for the sound of an owl hooting in the trees by the car park.  All the coffee shops and pubs were closed and our car was all on its own in the car park.  It felt like the dead of night, not just teatime!

Below is a copy of the map for this walk.  The little blue flags are apparently waypoints - I'm still getting to grips with using GPS!  If there's sufficient interest, and if I can figure out how to do it, I may be able to include downloadable GPX files in the future.  As always, I'd be happy to answer any questions or provide any additional details if required.

The route for this walk