I arrive at the Golden Lion for our Friday evening meeting over a carefully gauged amount of brown water or in my case I go for a more golden variety in the form of Golden Pippin. Apparently, it’s a ‘light refreshing blond’ and I’ve not been near one in a long time!
There are 7 friends already here so we can consider ourselves quorate and the meeting can go ahead. There is another meeting being conducted between 5 girls at the bar one of whom is delivering a rather racy speech regarding a gentleman with five willies, apparently, his underwear fit him like a glove! So there’s the scene nicely set…
…next agenda item: Where to walk on Thursday? After much discussion the choice is made, we go from Great Ayton to Captain Cooke’s Monument then a jog along the Cleveland Way followed by taking Roseberry Topping from the rear!
Sooo, here I am sitting with Peter in the car park ready for an eight-miler starting and ending in Great Ayton.
The forecast has promised a variable day that may include a shower but currently, it’s looking good. We make our way up Station Road and make good progress as we pass the station and cross the bridge over the beautiful Esk Valley railway, note to self, I must travel from Middlesbrough to Whitby sometime.
Immediately after the bridge, we turn right onto the public footpath interestingly called ‘Dikes Lane’. We follow Dikes Lane until it rubs gently against another. It’s quite moist here as we turn and follow the ruts that stretch towards the first proper cover of vegetation.
There are wonderful views of the hillside and the early spring sunshine enhances the colours of the trees slowly waking from winter sleep.
The lane ends at a ’T’ junction and we take the right exit and it turns even muddier and the ascent begins. There are beautiful white flowers on either side of the lane, I’m ashamed to say I don’t recognise them and leave it to any reader to post their thoughts below. The trees and bushes form an arch that, at times, join together and produce a tunnel that protects us from the south-westerly that’s blowing up from the vale.
As we emerge from this woody tube we’re instantly courted by gorse that is so yellow that it glows. It’s in competition with a view over the vale that would be an excellent illustration in a children’s book.
The gorse triggers a childhood memory of picking the flowers. We would return home with scratches on our arms and legs and the odd spell* in our hands where the gorse had fought back. We’d be thrilled with our pickings and empty the contents onto the wooden table that was used for all our meals and also doubled as a work table, a hobby table and a games table when it didn’t have food on it. When I was very young it also doubled as a tent when a sheet would be draped over it and I’d hide there in my cocoon of privacy where I could imagine my den as a hideaway on a desert island beach where the natives would leave me alone because I was British (we were told these things in the 1950s!) and I would organise a rescue party to pick me up. I’m still not sure how that would work as there were no mobile phones and portable radio was still very primitive. On another night it would be a command centre on a battlefield where I would be ordering the men over the top to beat the nazis and we’d win again. I was still too young to understand the implications of ‘going over the top’ so all the decisions were easy and if more men were necessary for my childhood fantasy then I’d just send them – easy eh!
The table had a plastic cover for practical purposes and intermediate meals but a linen tablecloth would be produced for Sunday and special meals such as birthdays or Christmas.
Today it had the plastic protective cover – it might have been thin linoleum but that degree of detail has gone – it was protective and easy to clean so that’s all that matters.
We emptied the brown carrier bag full of the yellow blooms onto the plastic and sorted out any stray twigs then put the tiny yellow blooms into the pan ready for water to be added and then we’d add the Easter Eggs ready for the boil. The eggs were always bought from the neighbours over the road as they had a small holding of chickens. Some were in a deep-litter and the others were free to roam about in the field. Our job was to go looking for any eggs that may have been laid outside then raid the nesting boxes where they’d roost at night. We always bought a dozen and always received thirteen and it was carefully pointed out that this was a baker’s dozen (it’s just dawned on me that the thirteen eggs that we received was indeed a proper baker’s dozen as the family that we bought them off were called Baker) They also had some short-lived turkeys that would be bought through the summer as chicks and suddenly disappear in a noisy display of flapping around Christmas.
Back to the eggs. They would come out of the boiling water bright yellow! Then my Mam would do something that was nothing short of magic, she’d wrap the eggs in onion skins and put them back in the same water and they’d emerge like a 1960s paisley ’T-shirts’. Of course, we couldn’t label them as 1960s anything at the time as it was still the 1950s and rationing wasn’t that far behind us so infinite care was made to ensure that anything that could be grown would be used first and anything that could be collected from the countryside would be used before that so the magic of yellow or paisley eggs for free was a bonus.
Once the plain ‘hens eggs’ had been transformed into ‘Easter Eggs’ then they’d be wrapped up in a tea towel along with some slices of bread that had been liberally spread with butter (my Mam had the philosophy that if you couldn’t see teeth marks in the butter when you bit into your sandwich then it wasn’t spread thick enough). My belief is that the butter was acquired in a similar manner to the eggs and was produced at the farm further up the road. It sticks in my mind that it was very yellow.
So we’d have tea-towel-wrapped eggs together with a lot of butter with a bit of bread around it complemented by a piece of newspaper that had been twisted into a pouch containing salt and we’d walk down to Low Castle Hill. Easter was a time of celebration and we’d roll the eggs down the hill seeing who could get them the furthest without breakage. The trick was to avoid the cow plats that were distributed by the odd bovine usually in transit to somewhere else as Low Castle Hill wasn’t generally used as grazing land. As the afternoon wore on and we’d had our fill of egg, butter and a bit of bread with a shed-load of salt we’d then start the high-risk challenge with the odd spare egg by rolling it down the side of the hill that was closest to the beck. The objective was to get it as close to the beck without losing it. Generally, the winner of this part of the game was the one that still had an egg. Any others would be bird or water vole food, in fact, water voles would think all their birthdays had come at once.
There’s significant competition between the wonderful sight of the gorse on our left and the view of the vale to our right. It’s quite clear and the Pennines are picked out blue in the west with the Vale of Mowbray stretching out with patches of green meadow and yellow rape divided by tracks, hedges and fences and punctuated with trees some skeletal and others with early leaves.
We continue to ascend and reach a fork. There’s an arrow on the turn to the left and nothing ahead so we make the choice to go left. The slope of the ascent is increasing and a couple of stops are necessary to catch our breath but also to take pleasure in the view that now stretches behind us.
We turn right along a firebreak and pass a ‘scramble’ that stretches up through the trees in order to find a better route. It becomes obvious that the better route is not going to happen so we return to the ‘scramble’ It looks well used and after the first twenty metres or so there are steps that have evolved from the surface roots of the trees and although the slope is risky and desperately hard going at least it’s not the sort of scramble you’d find in the Lake District or on a mountain. At the top, it is an understatement to say we are breathing heavily!
The Monument is now in our site and only a couple of hundred metres to our right up a minor incline. The views to the right remain fabulous but the clouds are merging into stratus and it looks like we may get some drizzle.
We reach the base of Captain Cooke’s Monument and resolve to dance around it naked as we would have done 40 years ago.
Another group of travellers appear from a direction that looks somewhat easier than the route we had chosen. Our resolution above is quickly forgotten, let’s call it fickle, and we engage in a conversation with our new friends.
“Now then”, says George. Fortunately, there is a Yorkshire woman leading the group who knows what he means. “Now then”, she responds.
George tries to engage some of the other people in the group. “Have you come far?”, he asks.
“Holland”, one of the ladies replies. “What, this morning?”, says George. We move away and hope she hasn’t heard.
George follows up with a brief conversation about the terrain, height of the moors and whether they did much of this in Holland; we move further away…
After a brief spell of photography where – we do them and they do us – we begin the next stage of our trek.
The Cleveland Way is a well-worn track that is partially paved with stones and generally well-drained. We’re walking north away from Captain Cooke and in the general direction of Roseberry which is well-defined to our front and left. The descent is gentle and, if you have children, can be used as an easy(er) access route to the Monument. The route that we took is definitely not recommended for kids. There is a small car park at the bottom and the path is well kept and reasonably safe.
We hear our first cuckoo of the year and the sun makes a reappearance. This part of the walk is a delight. It’s easy and allows for conversation and reflection. The moors are desolate and beautiful in equal measure and we have the fabulous vista of the Vale of Mowbray and the Pennines in the distance.
There’s a dry stone wall to our left and as we approach the gate to make the descent to the base of Roseberry we decide to have lunch.
Mountain Warehouse has made a killing on the little lightweight ‘thingies’ that can be folded up but when unfolded make an absolutely wonderful cushion to sit on. There are only two of us without them and Dave’s generosity is prevailed upon, he’s so benevolent he’s brought four.
We take half an hour for a bite to eat and take the mickey out of each other then our Dutch friends arrive and offer to take more photographs. Nice people these. (and we haven’t even been dancing naked).
At the bottom, Ray makes the decision to walk around the periphery of Roseberry and Bri offers to accompany him. We begin the ascent and whilst it isn’t as arduous as the ascent to Captain Cooke’s, at the end of six and a half miles it is a serious climb.
We take a few photos at the top and then descend the south side and walk along the extremities of the rape fields and through the meadow to a narrow cut where there are archaeologists digging to expose the remains of a building connected to James Cooke’s dad.
The return is through a bluebell wood hopefully populated with English bluebells rather than their Spanish cousins. Not sure which these are but the result is very beautiful.
The going is easy now and reasonably well signposted provided you take a little time to find either the arrows or occasionally a map.
We arrive back at the car park and jettison our packs to take a well-earned latte at the Stamps Cafe (Staff excellent, quality excellent – recommended).
About 8 miles, hard in places, with an elevation between 300ft (100m) and 1000ft (300m) so some significant uphill walking, the views are fabulous, it took us four and a half hours with plenty of stops to take in the scenery and eat.
Enjoy the snaps. G x