Cleveland Way Day 4 - Clay Bank to Newton under Roseberry

For me, it takes just two essential ingredients to make the perfect bacon sandwich.
  Bacon and bread, preferably a bread cake (or barm cake, bun, stottie…depending where you’re from), ideally dipped in the bacon fat.  Some might add butter, brown sauce or ketchup.  But for me, just crispy bacon in a bread cake makes the perfect light breakfast.   Either that or poached eggs on toast.  And after our previous night’s substantial meal, a lighter option was all I needed to start our fourth day on the Cleveland Way.  

The breakfast menu at the Buck Inn offered both my favoured choices, so I opted for the bacon butty and scanned the map of our day’s route over a coffee while eagerly awaiting its arrival.  What was eventually served up took me by surprise.  On the table before me sat a small plate bearing just two rashers of bacon.  I stared at it in confusion for a short time before politely asking for some bread.  Wolfgang, the inn’s owner, appeared from the kitchen.  


He looked puzzled.  “Bread?”


“Yes please”, I responded.  “I ordered a bacon sandwich”. 


“But you’ve already got toast” he said, pointing to the toast rack he’d deposited on the table earlier.


“So I have, sorry”, I agreed, not wishing to offend.  The service, food and overall hospitality at the Buck had been exceptional.  I could only surmise that the humble bacon sandwich isn’t a German speciality.  Even so, I surely can’t be the only guest who’s expected their sandwich to have bread?


Breakfast done, we were packed up and ready for our return lift to the Clay Bank car park before most of the other overnight guests had made their way to the dining room.  A selection of enormous suitcases lined the corridor from the bedrooms, deposited by the Coast to Coasters for collection by luggage transfer companies.  I eyed them with just a little envy.  What luxuries they could contain.  Plenty of clean clothes, books, a selection of cosmetics, even hair straighteners perhaps.  But as I hoisted my heavy rucksack into the back of the car I felt a smug sense of pride in the independence of our grass roots hiking style.  A purist may say that this should also entail camping, not staying in pubs, and not accepting lifts to and from those pubs either.  Then, as we drove out of the car park, my attention was drawn to a small tent, huddled into a corner of the beer garden.  We had met its occupant, Emily, with her huge rucksack, at the end of our previous day’s walk.  I really wouldn’t relish the prospect of having to carry, pitch and then pack up all that gear.  Our way struck a happy balance between self-reliance and comfort.


A bank of low cloud cover hung over the edge of the Cleveland Hills as we left the Clay Bank car park and began to slog our way uphill to rejoin the trail on Carr Ridge.  A pause to catch our breath near the top provided the opportunity to look back at the final section of the path we’d followed the previous day.  The view, while still far-reaching, was hazier and muted, lacking the colour and intensity of a clearer day.  Being slightly cooler though, the conditions were ideal for such an energetic start and the early exertion made me glad that I’d opted for a lighter breakfast; albeit a bit of a strange one.

Above Clay Bank

The climb didn’t last for long and soon we were striding along Carr Ridge, on the edge of Urra Moor, the highest moor in the national park.  Below us rested the small hamlet of Urra, and beyond the valley of Raisdale which extends from Chop Gate to the edge of the Cleveland Hills at Lordstones.  A young Swaledale sheep eyed us warily from the vantage point of a boulder while its mother nonchalantly continued grazing on heather shoots.


“Good morning!” I called out, at which the youngster bounced off its perch to hide behind its mum, who simply continued her nibbling, unfazed by our presence.


Sheep on Urra Moor

We were now nearing the point where the Cleveland Way and Coast to Coast routes part ways.  Soon the trail would become much quieter, as the majority of people we’d encountered so far had been following in the footsteps of Alfred Wainwright, from St Bees in the west to Robin Hood’s Bay in the east.  A short distance ahead lay the point where we would turn northwards and leave the Coast to Coasters to trudge their way eastwards.  Happily, the early start had meant that we’d remained blissfully alone, the only sounds being the occasional bleating of sheep or the chuckling call of a grouse.


Approaching the summit of Urra Moor we arrived at one of the many carved stones which are dotted around the national park, this particular example being a hand stone, or guide stoop.  The purpose of such stones was to direct packhorse trains and solitary travellers safely across the moors.  They were erected at key points throughout North Yorkshire after an order had been made in 1711 by the justices at Northallerton.  Although well weathered, the inscription on this stone appeared to read  “This way to Kir” (Kirbymoorside) on one side and “This way to Stoxla” (Stokesley) on the other.  

 The Hand Stone

Beyond the hand stone a grassy trod led us up to the top of Round Hill.  At 1490 feet (454m) this is the highest point on the North York Moors, and is topped with an Ordnance Survey trig point.    Over to the north the sea was visible beyond the sweeping views over Teesside.  The day was brightening and warming up nicely as the bank of cloud moved progressively southwards, carried along by a steady breeze.

Round Hill

Retracing our steps, we rejoined the chalky track which skirts around the edge of Round Hill and Greenhow Moor until, a little further along, we arrived at another standing stone, this one carved with a distinctive round face.  The origins of the face stone on Urra Moor are unknown.  While some sources describe the face as being Celtic in appearance, the first documented mention of this stone appeared in papers from the Duncombe Estate dated 1642 where it is described as a boundary stone.  Whatever its age and original purpose, I found it utterly fascinating.  On my many walks over the North York Moors I’ve encountered several standing stones, including crosses, memorials, boundary stones and waymarkers.  All are interesting in their own way and add to the unique character of the area. And, for me, this was the most intriguing of them all.

The Face Stone

There had been much to interest us in the vicinity of Round Hill and we’d lingered around for several minutes, sipping from our water bottles, admiring the view and photographing the stones.  In the distance behind us we caught our first sight of a group of Coast to Coast walkers heading our way and so we struck out again, striding purposefully along the track.  The junction of the two trails lie just a short distance ahead of us and, knowing this too was an area of some fascination, I wanted to be able to take some photos of a people-free scene.


Before long we arrived at the parting of the ways; the Coast to Coast route continuing in an easterly direction and the Cleveland Way taking a left turn to head off to the north.  We had reached Bloworth Crossing, where once the Farndale branch of the Rosedale Railway had crossed the busy drove road of Rudland Rigg.  Opened in 1861, the railway had transported iron ore across the moors from the mines at Rosedale, contouring around the edge of valley tops for a total of 19.5 miles.  The crossing at Bloworth had once been permanently manned and there had been a cottage here in which had lived a crossing keeper along with his family.  One former keeper had raised a family of seven at this isolated and wild place!  Today little evidence remains of this once thriving area of industrial heritage, except for a few old timbers embedded deep into the track.


To the south the former packhorse and drove road of Rudland Rigg winds its way across the moors in the direction of Kirbymoorside, while the Coast to Coast route continues to the east, following the former track of the Farndale Railway.

Bloworth Crossing

An information board, close to the Cleveland Way direction sign, provided interesting details about the site and we studied this for a short time before following the course of the former railway line as it headed towards another significant point of interest from its past.

Heading north from Bloworth Crossing

Incredibly, the only people we’d seen since leaving the Clay Bank car park that morning had been a group of Coast to Coasters in the distance, a good long way behind us.  We’d enjoyed a wonderfully peaceful morning’s walk, with just the sounds of nature for company and striking views in all directions.  It was therefore something of a surprise to hear a voice suddenly call out from the track behind us.




I spun around to see the now familiar figure of Emily, the young lone hiker with the enormous rucksack, gaining on us rapidly.


We waited for her to catch up, which didn’t take long, and once again I marvelled at the speed with which she could stride out, considering the load she was carrying on her back.


“How was your night in the beer garden?” I asked her.  (There being no campsites in the vicinity of Chop Gate, Emily had been allowed to pitch her tent in a corner of the Buck Inn’s large garden.)


“Very comfy,” she replied, then wrinkled her nose, “but I’d been hoping for a campsite with showers.  I stink!”


I assured her that she didn’t and genuinely meant it.  Even standing quite close to her, I couldn’t detect a hint of body odour.  Noticing that she was wearing the same clothes as the day before, I asked how many changes of clothing she had packed.  I’d packed almost enough to give me a change every day and, given the chafing my shoulders had been subjected to, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d overdone it slightly.


“Just what I’m wearing,” was her response.  “I’m carrying enough with the camping gear.  A week in the same clothes won’t do me any harm.  The only change I’ve got is socks.  You can’t compromise on socks.”


I had to agree, but didn’t own up to the fact that, as well as fresh clothes for most days, I’d actually packed two pairs of socks for every day, allowing for a change at the midpoint of each day’s walking.  Neither did I confess to having packed a light pair of shoes and a “non-hiking” outfit for evening wear.  Or that I was bemoaning my lack of hair straighteners.  Yes, I thought, I’ve definitely overdone it.


We chatted with Emily for a while longer before saying our goodbyes and wishing her well for the rest of her walk.  I doubted we’d see her again as I watched her purposefully marching along the trail, leaving us to ramble gently along, in search of another notable relic of the area’s industrial past.  


Before long we had reached the spot known as Incline Top, the uppermost edge of Ingleby Incline, a former cable railway which had transferred wagon loads of ironstone down the steep bank to join the main railway below at Battersby Junction.  The incline was almost a mile long with a gradient of 1 in 5 (20%);  far too steep for steam trains, so gravity and cables were used to lower the carriages of ore to the lower ground.  As four loaded carriages trundled down the incline the cable was let out and the weight of the descending carriages could then be utilised to pull empty carriages back up the incline.  Today a track leads steeply down the former route of the cable line, and along the path various remnants of its history can be found.  On the top, however, the only relic I could find was a curious stone wall-type structure topped with a short beam.  I had no idea if this had once been part of the cable railway, but it was a good spot to sit for a while and admire the view, looking down the route of the incline and over to Battersby Junction, where today there is still a station on the Esk Valley Line from Middlesbrough to Whitby.

Incline Top

The day was brightening up nicely as we ambled along the edge of Battersby Moor on this, our final section of moorland walking on the Cleveland Way.  Soon we would be turning towards the coastal leg of the trail, but for now we could continue to enjoy the wonderful sweeping views that had accompanied us for the past two days.  The landmark monument we were heading for on this section of the day’s walk was now clearly visible on the skyline, neatly positioned at the top of Easby Moor.  A small patch of bell heather provided a colourful foreground to the photo I paused to capture.

View from Battersby Bank

As midday approached the search began for a suitable place to take a break and tuck in to the packed lunch provided for us by the Buck Inn.  Ahead of us on the path I spotted a group of rocks and a standing stone, which looked like it might provide us with a place to sit.  The ground was perfectly dry, but moorland areas come with the hazard of ticks, so we’re always careful to find something solid to sit on, especially when there are sheep around.  A brass plaque was attached to the upright stone and, having read the story inscribed upon it, we decided to move on.  


Headed ‘Remembrance’, the plaque recounted that close by this spot on Warren Moor, in the early hours of 11th January 1941, a Hudson aircraft on night patrol had crashed into the hillside.  Its crew of four were injured but survived, only to be found two days later, all having died of exposure.  This story preyed on my mind on and off for several days afterwards and once home I did a little research into the circumstances surrounding that fateful night.  A quick Google search unearthed a very detailed account of the likely cause of the crash and its aftermath, which surmised that the patrol had been searching over the North Sea for enemy vessels cutting through minefields.  Visibility was poor and a possible failure of navigational equipment caused the crew to head inland in search of a landmark.  Instead they flew into the side of Warren Moor.  Almost two days later, at 4.30 pm on 12th  January, the crash site was discovered by local farmworkers, the bodies of all four airmen huddled together beneath a wing of the wrecked aircraft.  The assumption was that they had all managed to escape the wreckage but were so badly injured that they were unable to summon help from one of the nearby farms and subsequently perished in the freezing temperatures on top of the ice-blasted moor.  


The scene of such a tragic series of events was certainly not an appropriate spot for our lunch break and so we pressed on.

Warren Moor memorial

From Warren Moor our route became a surfaced single track road which gradually descended to join the road into the village of Kildale.  As we approached a bend in the road a yellow mini seemed to appear out of nowhere, speeding uphill towards us, its driver braking sharply as he spotted us swiftly clambering onto the roadside bank.  The man behind the wheel raised his hand and mouthed an apology before resuming his speedy ascent.  Cautiously we peered around the bend and, seeing no further vehicles approaching, we continued downhill.  A short while later we were startled once more, this time by a voice from behind.  We turned to see a cycle hurtling downhill towards us.


“Sorrrrrry”, the Lycra-clad cyclist called out, speeding past as we once again leapt to the side of the road.  It was unmistakably the same man who’d nearly taken us out with his car.  Had someone arranged a hit on us, I wondered, as my heart rate returned to a steadier beat?  If so, they hadn’t hired a particularly competent assassin but, even so, we trod warily for the remaining distance downhill to the main road.  


A couple came into view ahead of us as we approached Kildale.  As they drew closer we recognised our suspected hitman, accompanied by a lady in hiking gear.


“I’m sorry I startled you,” the man said as we drew level.  “I do this most days.  Drive up to the top, cycle down and then we walk back together to retrieve the car.”

We chatted to the pair of them for a while, laughing at our near-misses and sharing experiences of the Cleveland Way which it transpired this quite elderly gentleman had completed more than once.  As we parted company and headed into the village I turned to watch the two retreating figures, striding back up the hill at quite a pace.  At a guess I would have placed them in their eighties and could only hope, should I be fortunate enough to reach that age myself, that I might be as active and motivated as they so clearly were.

Downhill to Kildale

In the centre of Kildale a bench on the small village green provided the perfect place to have our packed lunch.  A glance at my watch showed that, in spite of several stops along the way, we were actually ahead of schedule and so we could enjoy an unhurried lunch in comfort.  


Standing stones seemed to have been something of a theme for the day’s walk and, as I ate my sandwiches, my attention was drawn to yet another stone close to where we sat.  I wandered over to take a look.  Inscribed with the date of the millennium, the stone bore a plaque commemorating a visit by the leader of Methodism, John Wesley, in 1772.  Wesley was known for preaching outdoors and travelled widely.  It is estimated that in his lifetime he rode over 250,000 miles, delivering approximately 40,000 sermons.  All those sermons provided some highly noteworthy quotes, possibly the most well-known of them all being:


Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.

Wesley memorial, Kildale

When we had first seated ourselves on the bench a man had been busily strimming around edges of the small village green, the high-pitched whirring noise from his strimmer intensifying as he drew ever nearer to the spot where we sat.  Wearing ear defenders and protective goggles, he seemed oblivious to our presence and before long we found ourselves being showered with grass cuttings and small pieces of dirt.  When a small pebble whizzed past my ear, we realised it was time to move on.  Swiftly stuffing the litter and remains of our packed lunch into our rucksacks, we headed on up the road and out of the village.


From Kildale the Cleveland Way follows a single track road, passing under the Esk Valley railway line before climbing steeply to turn in to woodland at Coate Moor.  The day had become quite humid and having enjoyed the rather generous packed lunch provided for us by the Buck Inn, the walk uphill became something of a slog.  For the first time that day I needed to use my walking poles to help haul myself, and what felt like a heavier than ever rucksack, up the slope.    

Uphill from Kildale

The track eventually led us in to a plantation where, much to my relief, the gradient eased.  A short distance later we left the track and turned to join a path which meandered through woodland on Coate Moor before emerging once more into open countryside.  The reward for our climb from Kildale was a magnificent view over to the Cleveland Hills.  From this vantage point I could trace the outline of our route back from Round Hill to Clay Bank, up to Cringle Moor, Kirby Bank and along to Carlton Bank.  The whole panoply of hills that make up the rollercoaster of a walk from Osmotherley to the top of Urra Moor stretched out in one glorious panorama.

View from Coate Moor

I surveyed the view for a while, picking out familiar points in the landscape, before turning to climb a flight of steps which led us to the top of Easby Moor and its famous landmark, the Captain Cook Monument.


Captain James Cook was born in the nearby village of Marton, in 1728 and went on to become a famous explorer, navigator and cartographer. He died at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii in 1779, stabbed to death while attempting to kidnap and ransom a local chief in an effort to reclaim a boat stolen by natives as a reprisal for Cook’s crew having taken wood from a burial ground.  The monument was erected in 1827 by Robert Campion, a banker from Whitby where Cook had served his seafaring apprenticeship.  I studied the weather-worn inscription for a while and was struck by the irony of what, in modern times, smacks of typical imperialistic arrogance:


…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…

Our hasty retreat from the village green at Kildale had left us with a chunky slab of fruit cake still to eat from our packed lunch and so we sat on the grass at the edge of Easby Moor to enjoy the cake and drink the last of our day’s water supply while once again enjoying the view.

Captain Cook’s Monument

Our day’s walking was almost over, with just a short distance to cover between Easby Moor and our evening’s destination, but this was to be one of the most strenuous and, quite possibly, iconic sections of the trail.  Our day was to culminate with a climb of Roseberry Topping, nicknamed locally as the “Yorkshire Matterhorn”.


At just 1,049 feet (320m), Roseberry Topping falls almost 1,000 feet short of meeting the UK definition of a mountain.   It isn’t even, as once was believed, the highest peak on the North York Moors, that distinction falling to Round Hill on Urra Moor, which we had visited earlier in the day.  And yet, in a survey conducted by walking magazine ‘Trail’ to find its readers’ favourite peaks,  Roseberry Topping came in at an impressive sixteenth place, just behind Scafell Pike (13th) and ahead of the mighty Ingleborough (22nd).  


Part of the appeal of this modest peak is due to its distinctive “Matterhorn” shape which was caused by the combination of a geological fault and a mining collapse in 1912.  Its striking profile, rising up from the flatlands beneath the Cleveland Hills, is visible from afar and I’ve even been able to make out its shape from as far away as the Yorkshire Dales.  And it isn’t just its shape that’s memorable – its name too is somewhat unusual.  Reminding me of a rather tasty sounding pudding, it seems hard to believe that the name is actually a derivative of Odin’s Hill, from the days when the area was populated by Scandinavian settlers.  Throughout time the name Odin became Woden, then Wodensberg to Othensberg to Ounsberry before, finally, Roseberry.  “Topping” simply derives from the old Yorkshire name for a hill, or “top”.  Even taking all this into account, I still find myself thinking that it ought to be accompanied by a large scoop of ice cream.


Leaving Easby Moor, we descended to a car park and picnic area before climbing again to skirt around the edge of Great Ayton Moor, all the while enjoying occasional glimpses of Roseberry Topping as we drew ever nearer to the point where the final ascent would begin.  

A glimpse of Roseberry Topping

Approaching from the east, the route to the summit is a reasonably easy zigzagged path, becoming progressively steeper as it reaches the top.  I climbed at a steady pace, taking regular stops ostensibly to enjoy the expanding view but, in truth, to catch my breath and make small adjustments to my by now seriously chafing rucksack.   

Roseberry Topping from the east

Once at the top I was rather surprised to find it crowded and somewhat reminiscent of a summer’s day on the beach.  There were families, couples, lone walkers and a couple of groups of youths, lounging around drinking cans of beer.  I tried to pose for a photo by the summit trig point but it was hopeless.  There were so many people seated around it that I eventually gave up and settled for a shot of the view across to the Cook Monument and the by now familiar outline of the distant Cleveland Hills.

View from Roseberry Topping

It was by now late in the afternoon and our hotel was just a short distance away in the village of Newton under Roseberry which practically nestles at the foot of the hill.  There just remained the small matter of descending and then a short walk later we could be enjoying a cool pint of beer.  I had, however, overlooked the fact that the western edge of Roseberry Topping is altogether more rockier than the eastern side.  This resulted, for me, in a rather undignified downwards scramble, hampered by the bulk and weight of my rucksack.  Tom, it seemed, had no such problems and descended almost with the sure-footedness and speed of a fell runner, leaving me to wobble, clamber and slide slowly and cautiously alone.


“I’ll see you at the pub,” I shouted to his rapidly retreating figure.  “Get the beers in!”


Some half an hour later I found myself sauntering happily along the track known as Roseberry Lane, enjoying the afternoon sunshine and the prospect of a cold beer, a shower and a meal.


Roseberry Lane

When I eventually reached the Kings Head Inn, our base for the night, Tom was seated in the beer garden having almost finished his first drink and about to order a second.  


“Better safe than sorry,” I said, in answer to his unspoken question.  “And if you’re going to the bar you can get me another one too.”


The shower and dinner could wait a while.  It had been a long day, full of interest all the way, but now free of my rucksack’s weight I felt like I’d more than earned a sit down and a couple of beers in the shade.

Day 3, Map 1 - Clay Bank to Battersby Moor 

Day 3, Map 2 - Battersby Moor to Newton under Roseberry

Coming soon…..Our fifth day on the Cleveland Way was a transitional day from moorland to sea, a slightly shorter day which allowed for a spot of shopping and a touch of luxury.





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