Saturday, 15 July 2017

Cloughton and Hayburn Wyke

Cloughton Station
The last of our walks from the North Yorkshire Moors and another chance to explore some of the old Whitby to Scarborough railway line courtesy of this Pathfinder Guide walk from vol 28 North York Moors (walk number 4).  We decided that after an earlier trip to Scarborough we weren't quite ready to go home and so stopped off to complete this 4.5 mile walk on the way back.
Cinder Track
We did not park in the suggested place in the middle of Cloughton village but instead by the old railway station that has happily been preserved as a tea room and holiday accommodation.  One day I would like to stay here - it looks lovely!  Sadly the place doesn't  open for tea on a Friday so we couldn't try it out.  We did have a little look though - a more picturesque place it would be hard to imagine.

Cloughton Wyke
We headed north along the old railway line for a short distance before finding the bridge that took the official route over the old line.  We corkscrewed around to join the road and headed towards the sea, about half a mile further on.  There was a small car park at  the end of the road and it looked like this spot was a favourite haunt for dog walkers.  I am basing this on the fact that we saw one coming back from her walk with a very satisfied looking dog.  Actually if I owned a dog and lived locally I would probably come here a lot.

Heading Up Through the Woods
We reached the coast at Cloughton Wyke.  In this part of Yorkshire the name Wyke has a special meaning.  It refers to a beach where you can land a boat and access the interior by means of a path leading from the beach - I guess what I would normally call a cove.  It was a pretty little place almost devoid of people on this rather grey looking late afternoon.  I wonder of more come out when the sun is shining?  I guess most stick to Scarborough a few miles to the south...

Rodger Trod View
We turned left on to the Cleveland Way.  This has long been on my shopping list of walks that I want to complete so this would prove to be a nice taster.  As with all coastal walks there was quite a lot of ups and downs and to the annoyance of my children we had a bit of a workout to get to the top of Rodger Trod.  In truth though we only climbed about 200 feet - not exactly mountain climbing...

Painted Lady
All along teh route there was a profusion of wild flowers.  The last hardy bluebell was still in evidence but mostly we saw campion, buttercups and various types of hogweed/ cow parsley/ wild carrot that I can never quite distinguish.  There were also lots of butterflies, mostly Hedge and Meadow Browns but also Red Admirals and the rather more elusive Painted Ladys.  When we got to the top of the hill on the narrow path between high vegetation growth and then via some wooden steps in a wood we took a little breather.  Our view back now took in the bay to the north of Scarborough and the brooding castle that we had visited earlier in the day.  It was quite the view but better was soon to come as we headed slightly downhill to the north.

Red Admiral
Very soon Hayburn Wyke came into view and for my money this was the undoubted highlight of the walk.  We could see quite a way along the coast but it was down to the beach in the Wyke that it was particularly special.  Even the sun was trying its best to come out from behind the thick cloud now, raising hopes that we would finally see some after a steely grey day.  As we slowly descende into the Wyke the unmistakeable roar of a Spitfire came from some way away and before we knew it passed by just overhead.  I think there must have been an airshow nearby for we had heard it a couple of other times during the week without actually managing to see it.

Spitfore
Soon we reached aother wood and our gentle descent suddenly became quite a steep one as the path dropped almost down to sea level once again.  In fact I peeled off from the girls to take a little look at the beach itself.  The stream that had done its best to carve a valley down to the bottom finally gave up just before the beach and tumbled over a small waterfall to reach the sea.  I didn't hang around too long for fear of getting left behind but I needn't have worried for I caught them all up about halfway up the hill.  We had left the Cleveland Way at this point and headed back towards the old railway.

Hayburn Wyke
As we got to the top we could see the old station of Hayburn Wyke in the trees ahead.  I wonder how many people would use the station now if it were still functioning?  I imagine that the hotel that we passed nearby would welcome it for it would be another source of revenue.  It looked a lovely spot and had some activity about it; heartening to see for a fairly out of the way place.  We soon rejoined the railway line.  This would be our companion for the remaining part of the walk.  I reckon we followed it for nigh on 2 miles and it made for much easier walking than the path through the woods where we had come from.  Looking at the map it looked as if there were a lot of opportunities for these out and back walks using a combination of the Cleveland Way and the Cinder Track.  I think if I were to live locally I would be trying out all the permutations for this one was a delight.

Waterfall
The walk back along the railway line was quite relaxing although we did have a slightly scary moment when we found a car coming up the track.  I soon realised that it was an access road for a cottage that we soon passed.  It begged the question of how the residents got to it when the railway was functioning?  Eventually we got back to the station but before we did we took a moment to admire a fairy den that had been created under the roots of a fallen tree.  Now there is an awful lot of stuff there but it did make me wonder how it started?

View From the Cinder Track
This was rather modest walk but  packed a lot into the short distance.  A couple of stiff climbs, some expansive views of the coast, two of the old stations on the Cinder Track and plenty of nature in the form of flowers, butterflies and seabirds.  Not bad for an hour and a half walk!

Fairy Station

Sunday, 2 July 2017

The Cinder Track

Cinder Track
When we decided to go to Whitby for our Whitsun holiday I did think it would be fun to take the children cycling along an old railway for the first time and was pleased that we found a bike hire place at Hawsker so we didn't have to lug our own bikes there.  It wasn't particularly cheap though - probably the most I have ever paid for a day's bike hire.  The hire place is based at the old station at Hawsker.

Hawsker Station
The Whitby to Scarborough Railway was opened in 1885 towards the end of the railway building era and lasted until the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, eventually succumbing in 1965.  In truth it wasn't ever likely to survive due to the operational difficulties that the railway companies had.  It was built fairly cheaply and had some steep gradients along its length.  Perhaps the most difficult aspects though were the connections at each end of the line where trains had to be reversed to enter the stations at Scarborough and Whitby, disrupting other services considerably in the process.

Down Into Whitby
With this being the girls' first experience of riding such a route we decided to go towards Whitby to begin with as I thought that this would be a quieter prospect.  It would also give us the opportunity to take a look at one of the most impressive engineering features on the whole line, the 13 arch brick viaduct that spans the River Esk.  The route from Hawsker is largely downhill and this provided an opportunity for the girls to get used to the new bikes without too much difficulty.  What I hadn't banked on was the steepness of the descent.  One imagines that railway lines are largely flat but in my experience some of these closed lines actually have quite steep gradients, as in this case.  It was quite exhilarating riding down into Whitby and some of the views along the way were quite memorable.  This is not a railway largely confined to a tree lined tunnel.

Larpool Viaduct View East
At the bottom of the hill we stopped at Larpool Viaduct and admired the view across to Whitby Abbey.  Both structures are mentioned in Bram Stoker's famous novel Dracula and we had had that on in the car for the duration of the holiday.  The trail goes on a little way further towards the former station at Whitby West Cliff but we didn't venture further on.  By now the day was warming up considerably and the ride back to Hawsker was quite tiring.  When we met a very large rambling group three quarters of the way back we were happy to stop and wait for them to pass by so we could have a breather.

Larpool Viaduct View West
Hawsker station has been restored beautifully and hosts a couple of railway carriages that act as offices for the cycle hire business but also as rather novel places to stay.  Holiday accommodation of this nature used to be quite commonplace and it is good to see this tradition maintained here.

Whitby Abbey From Larpool
Any thoughts that Hawsker would be the top of the hill were soon dispelled however as the old line kept climbing.  It was also quite narrow in places, largely because the original track formation was only a single line and with encroachment from vegetation we sometimes only had the width of cycle + rider to work with.  Just beyond Hawsker we crossed the road via a pedestrian crossing.  When the railway was operational this would have been crossed underneath the road and frankly it would be very welcome if that style of crossing could be restored, for both drivers and cyclists.

Chugging Through Hawsker Station
The line continued to head uphill for a further half mile or so.  As we climbed the view back towards Whitby opened up and a mighty fine view it was.  At the top we crossed a smaller road the track widened considerably as we passed through a shallow cutting.  The surface though was not agreeable.  The line is now known as the cinder track due to the nature of the surface but here the cinder pieces were quite big and that led to rather a rough ride for a while.  Further on we turned away from Whitby for good and had a new perspective on the coast.  For railway passengers this must have been delightful to travel.  On a warm early summer's day by bike it was a pleasure too and soon the line began to descend again this time for quite a long way down into Robin Hood's Bay, the next station on the line.

Orchids
As we rounded the coast the view across the bay was quite magnificent.  The gradient got a lot steeper too and it wasn't difficult to imagine the struggles of the trains coming along this route.  I don't remember a railway line with such steep gradients (with the possible exception of the High Peak Trail in Derbyshire - but that had inclines) and I certainly wasn't looking forward to the return journey.

Approaching Robin Hood's Bay
We got to Robin's Hood Bay in time for lunch.  The track ran out as the houses started; it plots a course through the housing and crossed the road although the bridge is now missing.  There is a large car park in the area that was once the station yard and we left our bikes there while we explored the town and the beach.  I hadn't been here since I was a boy but it was pleasing to see how little had changed from how I remembered it.  The only thing that was different was the amount of visitors - the place was rammed.  We spent a good deal of time on the beach as it was low tide and the children really enjoyed looking in all the rock pools.  I watched one in particular and was rewarded when I saw a very large crab wandering along trying to stay out of sight by hiding in the seaweed.

Robin Hood's Bay Station
After a lengthy  break we got back on our bikes at Robin Hood's Bay Station and headed on towards Ravenscar.  The station itself is intact and looking in splendid condition as a set of holiday accommodations.  I think it would be a great place to base ourselves if we came again.  The track proper recommenced further on after crossing a main road and we soon resumed the winding track.  Now the track was more wooded and there were only brief glimpses of the surrounding countryside.  We were noticeably going uphill too - this was something we had to contend with all the way to Ravenscar.  We passed by a farm and a caravan site and I wondered where it was that we camped when I was a boy - it was around here somewhere.  Too many years have passed though for me to remember.
Narrow Streets

As we got towards Fyling Hall Station a couple of the bridges had been removed and we had to cross roads.  I always find this slightly annoying on railway lines.  The short term gain of the scrap value of the bridges mean that we all have to pay decades later.  Fyling Hall Station is still just about intact although I had to pay attention for the erstwhile platforms are being absorbed back into nature.  The station masters house is in rude health though and it is that which you should look out for to give you a clue about the platforms.
Robin Hood's Bay From Beach

We crossed more roads and continued our plod uphill.  The line was becoming more rural than ever now and it is interesting that this is the only route that directly linked Robin Hood's Bay with Ravenscar.  All the roads head inland and it is quite a lot further between the two settlements by road than it ever was by rail.  The 13 minute rail journey has now been replaced by a bus journey requiring one change and taking more than an hour.  That's progress?

Robin Hood's Bay Beach
The route gradient increased markedly as we got closer to Ravenscar before the trackbed is left for a short stretch while the line heads through a tunnel (this is off limits).  Apparently trains used to often struggle when they got to the tunnel as the climb up here was 1 in 39 and engines would stall as they git inside the tunnel. We continued on to the station which is clearly visible although only the down platform remains.  What is more remarkable is the station approach.  This is a grandly laid out square, upon which there is a set of buildings that hint at something grander following their construction.

Sustrans Pointer
In fact Ravenscar is often billed as the town that never was.  Back at the turn of the 20th Century developers laid out plans for a much larger town and streets and infrastructure was laid out.  Much of the speculation did not materialise though as the trek down to the rocky beach deterred visitors who preferred other nearby places.  Developers never built the buildings that would have ensured the growth of the town and it was left as a backwater.  It is a most curious place to wander round now as a result.

Fyling Hall Station
At Ravenscar we headed back.  It is possible to continue on the Cinder Track all the way to Scarborough but none of us had the energy to proceed and in any event we were on a timescale with the hired bikes.  We also remembered that the way back was going to be quite a slog especially leaving Robin Hood's Bay.  We had slow progress going back but the girls had a thoroughly good time and I have no doubt that we will be doing something similar again in the near future.

Ravenscar

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Falling Foss and Littlebeck

Angry Skies Over the Moor
Cards on the table with this one - we mostly did this walk to justify a visit to the tearoom at Falling Foss!  Perhaps we didn't need an excuse to visit the tearoom but with walk number 2 from Pathfinder Guide Volume 28 North Yorkshire Moors here we certainly felt justified.  We had heard plenty of good things about the tearoom but in truth apart from its location (which is very beautiful) I'm not sure that the fare on its own is enough for me to drive miles out of the way to get to.  The facilities are rudimentary and although we were more than happy to sit on logs and drink from paper cups, you should not come here if you are looking for a sedate ambience and china cups and saucers.  It is more of a walkers refreshment stop.
Setting Off From the Cafe
It had been rather a cloudy day but glimpses of sun were now coming through at this late part of the day.  Unfortunately I reckon we had the best of the sunshine as we were sipping our tea for within minutes of getting our walk underway the sun went behind a cloud and didn't reappear until we had completed the 3.5 mile ramble.  We decided to take a closer at Falling Foss at the end of the walk on that basis.  We left the rush of the water behind and passed by a gaggle of children playing in the river above the waterfall, heading up the slope and out of the woods.  As we got out into open countryside the views out towards the moors opened up and we could also see right down the valley into Eskdale beyond.  As we climbed the hill further we could also see Whitby in the far off distance - it also looked rather sunnier over there!
Leaving the Woods
The path flirted with the moors briefly but we didn't actually leave the cultivated lower slopes.  After leaving our initial path our onward route took us across a field full of inquisitive bullocks and through a small wood.  The clouds above us had billowed up at this point and none of us much liked the look of them.  They rather took the colour out of the landscape too, such that the odd straggly bluebell still clinging on to spring and the various pink flowers of campion and ragged robin were the only break from an otherwise green landscape.  We passed through a small wood and the inevitable spots of rain started to come but thankfully these didn't amount to anything and we headed out into another field.
Violet
Our onward route took us across a couple more fields before we came to another farm (the third already and we hadn't even got halfway yet).  The path took us around the farm and then onto the driveway.  This was a delightful route, lined with plenty of wildflowers and a few butterflies braved the stiff breeze to top up their nectar needs.  The driveway curved round and dropped down into the valley and to the hamlet of Littlebeck.  Here we saw our first person en route - a lonely horse rider with a rather tired looking horse. 
Jalopy
Littlebeck is a delightful little hamlet but I'll bet it has some difficult access issues during the winter, being located at the very bottom of a small valley with steep roads on all sides.  We passed by a small Methodist Chapel and then across a 'ford' that was bone dry.  After walking through the hamlet we plunged into the woods that would be our home for the remainder of the walk. Coincidentally this is the Coast to Coast Walk, made famous by Alfred Wainwright and who devised this most popular route many years ago.  I guess people that would be following it would be thinking seriously about reaching the end at this point, for Robin Hood's Bay is only a few miles further on.

Looking Towards Whitby
The woods line the valley of the Little Beck and many years ago there was quarrying activity along the banks of the stream.  The shale that was extracted was a source of Alum, a chemical used for various things but probably for wool dying at that time.  Alum is used for the production of antiperspirants these days but not from this part of the country.  Any quarrying activity that went on is now masked by the trees and to be fair nature has largely healed the area once again.
Rhododendron
The walk up through the woods was delightful although somewhat gloomy without the stream of sunlight coming down through the leaves.  The foliage on the trees was fully out now and that meant that the woodland floor was devoid of light in some places.  The beck tumbled down through the valley and every so often we would come across small waterfalls as it exploited local weaknesses in the rock.  It also meant that we travelled uphill for most of the remaining part of the route.  We didn't notice at first but we did come across a couple of steep sections and on the second one of these we came across a small rock shelter from the 18th Century called the Hermitage.  It was here that we encountered the only other walkers on the whole route.  I think most people had gone home for their tea.
Campion
Around this part of the walk we started to get glimpses back cross the valley over the tops of the trees on the other side.  We could also see where we had already walked and our immediate impression was that it seemed to be more than 3.5 miles all the way around!  Our route took us along the top of the valley for a short way until we came to a point where we had to choose between descending to Falling Foss or going straight to the car.  We decided on the latter although in truth it wasn't as easy to get a good view of the waterfall.  We did feel complete though.  The activity surrounding the café had subsided when we got back & the whole area felt completely different without the throngs of people.
Hermitage
This is a modest walk possibly best suited to a summer evening when there aren't any people around.  The only difficulty with that is that you won't get your cuppa at the Falling Foss café!

Falling Foss

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Whitby and Saltwick Bay

Abbey From Town
Our Whitsun holiday this year was to a part of the country I have scarcely been since I was a boy and I thought it high time I went back for another look with my girls.  Unusually we stayed right in the heart of town and that meant that we could start this walk from the front door of our holiday cottage :)

Seafarers Mission
We wandered down to the old swing bridge across the River Esk.  This eye-catching crossing was once the only way for road traffic to cross the river and must have resulted in some fiendish traffic jams back in the day.  For now though the bridge is mostly thronged with pedestrians and it is only the most determined motorist that comes this way.  We crossed over and took a right away from the main street though a narrow pedestrianised side street with some delightful shops and bunting all laid on.  It looked very summery and cheerful and was the perfect sight for our first day of holiday.  At the end we crossed the road and turned right again heading alongside the Esk for a while before coming to the old Seafarers Mission.  I don't think this building serves its original purpose at all now but hats off to those that founded it.  A building of this nature must have been vital considering how much Whitby has always looked out to sea for its living.

Hornblower
Just past the Mission we climbed up and out of the valley.  After an initial steep climb up steps we soon headed through a housing estate and along more gentle slopes as we left Whitby.  We passed by the old hospital - a rather handsome looking building that is now converted to flats - and then we were out in the fields.  Our onward path skirted a few fields and through a farm before reaching a main road.  We turned right again and were thankful that for at least the first couple of hundred metres our route had a path alongside the road.  I am not too keen on walking along roads, especially with my daughters and this one seemed a bit of a race track.

Horns!
The next turning was left along a track away from the road.  It wasn't too easy to see the names of the houses we were aiming for but Hornblower was a memorable one.  I wondered if it had anything to do with the novels of the same name.  We passed through another farm and kept going uphill, albeit quite slowly.  I started to wonder whether we would ever get to the top!  Halfway up the hill we opened a gate for a farmer heading in our direction.  He looked most appreciative, probably he has to do that job many times each day and hopes that he comes across a hiker each time he approaches one.

Lighthouse
The first half of the walk is in truth rather unremarkable.  It was only when we got to the farthest point from Whitby that the true magic of this walk was revealed.  The first hint was reaching the house called Hornblower.  This was a sounding station - the enormous horns on the top of the building rather gave the game away!  Not sure why this was provided separately from the lighthouse about half a mile away but there you are.  Both buildings were rather special - I cannot imagine anything like it would be built nowadays.  Hopefully the horns aren't used anymore as the building is now used as holiday accommodation.  I wouldn't want to be kept awake by a foghorn if I stayed here!

Gulls
The need for both of these installations was fairly apparent shortly afterwards as we saw the first shipwreck.  This is the Admiral Van Tromp, a trawler that ran aground in mysterious circumstances in 1976.  Further on we also saw the remains of the MV Creteblock, an unusual ship that was built at the end of World War I from reinforced concrete rather than steel due to the shortage of the latter.  Out in the bay is also the remains of the SS Rohilla, a hospital ship lost in World War I with the loss of nearly 80 lives.  Today the shipping we saw was safely out to sea - this coast is clearly treacherous.

Admiral Van Tromp
Our path headed back towards Whitby along the clifftops from the lighthouse.  It was a delightful route full of interest with rock formations, the tantalising view of the Abbey approaching, kittiwakes wheeling around above our heads and screeching at each other on the cliffs and profusions of wildflowers growing along the side of the path to tease our senses.  Add to this the salty air wafting over us and we had the recipe for the perfect walk in my eyes :)

Whitby Abbey
Soon we came upon a large caravan park.  Seemed like a lovely spot on this day but I'll bet it can get a bit wild up here on the clifftop.  The reason for it being here was plain to see - the sweep of Saltwick Bay below us must keep the residents amused for hours!  On another day perhaps we would have gone down to check it out but we had a date at the Abbey that we meant to keep.  It meant hurrying along the next stretch of clifftop and past all the hoards of people.  Caravan Parks do seem to generate a lot of casual walkers - I've noticed this before in the south-west.

Dracula
We managed to get to the Abbey in good time.  We were here for a performance of Dracula - the Abbey of course is featured heavily in the Bram Stoker novel.  We had also been listening to it in the car - seemed only natural while driving around these parts!  It was a bit of a romp through the story.  Only three actors played the various characters and this led to some amusement as they constantly changed costumes to act the various parts.  We moved around the Abbey to watch the performance too just to add a bit of extra context to it.  While not covering the whole of the story the hour and a half or so covered a good chunk of it and was thoroughly entertaining.  It was a good way to end the walk.

Saltwick Bay
We wandered around the rest of the ruins after the show and then down the famous 199 steps back into the town.  In spite of the crowds and kitsch on sale in some of the shops there is no doubt that Whitby is a charming place and it was a real pleasure to visit.  This walk was a great introduction to the coast, town and the main attraction of Whitby. I can thoroughly recommend it as a good starting point to any stay here.  At 4 and a half miles in length it is modest but packs a lot in.

Whitby From Top of 199 Steps

Monday, 5 June 2017

Northiam and Great Dixter

Great Dixter
A place that has long been on our radar for visiting is the celebrated garden of Great Dixter.  As it is clear the other end of Sussex we needed a day that we could plan for in advance.  We were also unsure whether it was worth the length of trip - a perfect way to extend the visit was walk number 1 in Volume 67 of Pathfinder Guide East Sussex and the South Downs.  It meant that the length of journey justified the modest length of walk as well as the garden.  We picked the perfect day - beautiful blue skies with puffy clouds floating along leisurely.

May
Our walk started at the village hall in the scenic village of Northiam.  For me this end of Sussex is relatively uncharted territory, especially as the scenery is a lot more reminiscent of the neighbouring county of Kent.  Our first task was to cross the busy A28 road and disappear down an alley running between some sumptuous looking gardens.  We were soon out into open fields and our decision to choose this day was vindicated when we saw how brilliantly all the lush new growth and flowers looked in this glorious weather.  It was one of those magical days that only come along a few times in the spring and which must be savoured.  The fields were largely left to fallow and were filled with buttercups, adding a touch of gold to this corner of Sussex.

New Foliage
To tell you the truth there was nothing particularly remarkable about the first half of the walk other than the luscious colours.  The path largely skipped between fields lined with blossom festooned bushes, mostly May.  Eventually at the sight of a large oak tree resplendent in its new foliage we turned direction and headed up a modest hill towards the house of Great Dixter itself.  As we climbed there was time to catch our breath and enjoy the views across the Weald behind us.  It was hard to believe that this area was once the iron industry capital of England so rural is it now.  The only sign of industry now is the large windmill at Sandhurst over the border in Kent a few miles away.

Cloudscape
At the very top of the hill we reached the house itself.  This was built in 1910-12 by Edwin Lutyens using an original house on site and adding another structure rescued from Benenden.  Although the house is lovely it is surely the garden that stands this property out from others.  It was designed by Christopher Lloyd, the celebrated gardener, and manages to be structured and yet wild at the same time.  I loved its slightly chaotic feel as weeds were celebrated as part of the structure of the garden without being allowed to strangle it.  Of particular note for me with the huge angelica 'trees' that seemed to tower over everything else.  I'm no gardening expert but the garden is arranged into rooms, demonstrating to me at least that this is obviously not a modern concept.

Great Dixter Gardens
We spent a good amount of time in the garden enjoying the warm sunshine and even having a spot of lunch.  We didn't actually go inside the house (although perfectly possible to do so).  Somehow it didn't feel right on such a great day - maybe next time?  Eventually feeling that we had seen enough we headed back to the car and completed the loop.  What followed was rather more road walking than I like but necessary to get us through the village.  Northiam is characterised by traditional clapboard houses, a very distinctive sight at this end of Sussex.  Combined with the unique finger posts that seem peculiar to East Sussex, the clapboard houses are perhaps the characteristics that remind me that I am an East Sussex boy at heart despite living in the west of the county for nearly 20 years.
Angelica
We left the village by another lane and eventually left the road behind opposite a well done barn conversion.  There was one little surprise in store as the path opened up to reveal a great view across fields with beautiful thatched cottages and an oast house over to the left and the spire of the church ahead of us.  A scene that was quintessentially English.  We crossed over the field and back to the church.  As we got closer a rather grand affair greeted us, unusually with an octagonal tower.  Just beyond it though was a sight that we almost missed - a very old oak tree that apparently Elizabeth I is reputed to have sat underneath.  It was an interesting point to conclude the walk.

Crossing The Last Field
This wasquite a short walk, clocking in at only three miles.  Adding the visit to Great Dixter to the walk is vital in my opinion - doing both together certainly justified the distance to travel over from Worthing.