It was still quite early and the roads were quiet as we drove out to the little Cleveland market town of Guisborough. This being a Sunday, parking was free and unlimited along the main street where we left our car. Before we could get up onto the higher ground, however, we first of all had to navigate our way out of the town centre. After a couple of wrong turns we eventually found ourselves on a dismantled railway line which skirted the southern edge of the town. This was the line of the former Middlesbrough and Guisborough railway which closed in 1964 and is now known as the Guisborough Greenway.
As with many former railway lines, the Guisborough Greenway is an excellent footpath and cycle track which certainly lives up to its name in sections where the cinder track seems to be like a leafy tunnel.
After a mile or so the track opened up to a country lane which led us to Hutton Village, a small settlement built to house miners and agricultural workers. Judging by the number of cars parked along this quiet lane, this is a popular starting point for walks and cycle rides through the nearby woods and moors. Just before entering the village we found the path we were to follow uphill through Hutton Lowcross Woods. The day was becoming rather hot as we climbed up through the woodland, pausing for a while to enjoy the shade and to admire the wild foxgloves growing among the trees along the banks.
As the path climbed steadily uphill we eventually left the woods behind and emerged onto the open moorland of Great Ayton Moor. Here we enjoyed a lovely view back along our route, over the town of Guisborough and beyond to the sea. The area was obviously very popular with cyclists as they seemed to suddenly appear from all directions, up the hill, down the hill and across our path into the woods and over the moors.
A short distance along the moors and we found ourselves once again on the Cleveland Way - a national trail we regularly encounter on sections of our moorland walks. Today we followed it for just a few yards before it turned off to head north-eastwards on its way to meet the sea at Saltburn. Our route from this point was along a dusty moorland track at the side of which the heather was just starting to show early signs of coming into bloom.
The day was rather overcast now, but muggy and hot with occasional bursts of sunlight through the clouds. Across a valley we caught a glimpse of the monument which was to be our first destination and at this point our route took us sharply downhill along a deeply rutted track and then steeply uphill to once again meet up with the Cleveland Way just above the village of Kildale.
There then followed a very pleasant stretch of level walking through woodland at Coates Moor, following the Cleveland Way until it emerged out of the woods and climbed up to the top of Easby Moor and the Captain Cook Monument. In the distance, almost peering over the top of the hill, we also got our first sight of Roseberry Topping, silhouetted against the skyline.
The Captain Cook Monument is a 51 feet high obelisk, made from local sandstone, which was erected in 1827 at the top of Easby Moor. From this point, high up on the moors, it can be seen for miles around and its position is close to the village of Great Ayton, which is where Captain Cook had his boyhood home. On the side of the monument facing out over the Cleveland plain there is a plaque with an inscription which reads as follows:
In memory of the celebrated circumnavigator Captain James Cook F.R.S. A man of nautical knowledge inferior to none, in zeal, prudence and energy, superior to most. Regardless of danger he opened an intercourse with the Friendly Isles and other parts of the Southern Hemisphere. He was born at Marton Oct. 27th 1728 and massacred at Owythee Feb. 14th 1779 to the inexpressible grief of his countrymen. While the art of navigation shall be cultivated among men, whilst the spirit of enterprise, commerce and philanthropy shall animate the sons of Britain, while it shall be deemed the honour of a Christian Nation to spread civilisation and the blessings of the Christian faith among pagan and savage tribes, so long will the name of Captain Cook stand out amongst the most celebrated and most admired benefactors of the human race.
Before long our next landmark destination came fully into view. Roseberry Topping has a very distinctive shape, caused by a combination of a geological fault and a mining collapse which occurred in 1912. As we walked downhill from the monument, its Matterhorn-like profile was clearly visible over the top of a nearby coniferous plantation. Even from this distance we could clearly see the paths leading up the hillside and also the outlines of people gathering on the summit.