This was an ‘interesting’ walk! It includes the word ‘testicles’. Now you don’t get that on every ramblers blog.
We’re welcoming a newby to our team in the form of Louise who is a highly experienced walker and has already done 35 miles with other groups just this week. Louise has spent 40 years photographing the insides of people so she should be able to assess us in the event of any breakages. Indeed, on one day she was known to have scanned 19 testicles. I’m not sure if that is singular or pairs and maybe it’s not relevant here but now I know for certain that I have your undivided attention!
Mac will also feature in this little outing. You see, many years ago, Mac was in the RAF and was not only trained to control aircraft but also, and this is crucial to today’s outing, he underwent intensive training in the art of tracking, woodcraft and survival. On completion of the training, he emerged as a highly tuned Bear Grills type killing machine. Some of these skills will be needed today!
So, we begin our adventure in Goathland car park, it’s £2.50 for all day and there are facilities.
Carol, dressed in a rather fetching blue number and speaking from Wimbledon has promised us a day that could be the hottest of the year with the added possibility of a thunderstorm. Indeed, I haven’t seen the Daily Express headlines but I’d guess it would be something like “Immigrants bring heatwave and we’re all going to burn in hell!”.
It’s half-past nine as we set off and it’s already 25 degrees. We turn right out of the car park and pass a number of shops and tea rooms that still have the hallmarks of Heartbeat and our first photocall is outside the ‘Aidensfield Stores’ just to get into the spirit of the area. I’m always upbeat when we walk but today is even better as everyone that we pass has a kind word, “Good morning” or the abbreviated, “ ‘morning” or, “How do?” and the inevitable, “Now then”. All these greetings delivered with a smile, you can’t help but be upbeat. Sort of ‘upbeat’ in ‘heartbeat’, OK, I’ll get my coat…
We continue on the hard road which is not normally a pleasurable experience but up here where we see only two cars in nearly a mile and a half and with such wonderful scenery, it’s different. We’re out of Goathland now and walk adjacent to New Wath Scar which is a rolling ridge covered with ferns and heather that merges with Scar Wood on the other side of West Beck. The multitude of greens and browns contrast with an almost cloudless blue sky which creates a vista that is so impressive it could be the opening shot of a Disney cartoon depicting a perfect day.
The road curves round to the right and this is where we expect to leave the hard surface to follow the banks of West Beck to Mallyan Spout waterfall. It’s the pretty route as it is possible to get to it via a far easier track but you don’t get to see what we’ll see. Err, actually, what we don’t see!
We turn off the road and begin our walk along the beck but within a 100 metres the beck and the sides of the beck are strewn with huge rocks the size of a man and some of them are quite wet and all are very slippery. I’m uncomfortable leading us across this, especially as it may go on for the next 2 kilometres and voice these thoughts. We’re all in agreement that we take the higher route and the decision is further qualified when Lou reminds us of her period in A&E last year with a broken wrist. So plan ‘B’ is now in operation.
We follow the road for another kilometre and turn onto a well-marked farm lane just after Julian Park Farm. The intention now is to find a route that will take us to the right of Carr Wood and back down to West Beck to take Mallyan Spout from behind (so to speak). At Carr Wood we take the right fork and make our way down the meadow which is beautifully littered with buttercups and random appearances of foxgloves, mostly blue but some are white. The temperature and humidity are really intense and George stops us from time to time with instructions to drink. He’s quite emphatic and there is no descent. We cross the field to gain the advantage of the shade of the trees from Scar Wood and this reduces the temperature a little but the humidity is still draining.
As we reach the bottom of the field we find there is no track to the falls and, although we knew turning back would be a risk when we took the fork to look for the track, it’s still disappointing. So plan ‘C’ now in operation.
We make our way back up the meadow and it’s not as bad as anticipated. We take a break under a leafy oak that gives us plenty of shade and take more fluid together with a spirit enhancing sugar hit, some from slow-acting bananas and others taking the more acute approach with Tracker bars and the like.
Off we go again topping out where the track had forked and this time taking the left fork down the hillside and this time into Carr Wood. The difference in temperature and humidity in the wood is significant and very pleasing. It’s enhanced by the fact that we are descending although there are some boggy areas where streams dissect the path.
Towards the bottom there are some very uneven steps followed by a bridge over the river, we’re now looking for a pub.
The Birch Hall Inn is a delightful little pub/shop with a serving hatch rather than a bar and shaded area at the back that overlooks the Eller Beck. We stop here for a well-earned drink.
Lou is pee monitor and warns us that if we’re not peeing we’re not drinking enough. There are one or two embarrassing looks and copious amounts of fluid are taken in the guise of various fruit flavoured offerings to simple water. I can see that George is going to ramp up his insistence that drinks are taken even more this afternoon.
We’d all been reminiscing about various aspects of work throughout the morning so it was natural that at this point that Lou regales us of the 19 testicular scans in a day. I remind her of the fact that if there had been such a scan in the 70’s I’d have had to take her out for a few drinks and meal before receiving such service!
George has noted that we have been sweating significantly and has generously bought us salted peanuts. The salt to replenish that lost through the sweat and the peanuts for the protein, he’s such a thoughtful person and generous to boot.
Peter has spotted a chaffinch and is busy pointing his camera at it. Lou manages to lure it on to the table with a couple of peanuts. First the male resplendent in summer feathers with white markings on its wings, pink breast and cheeks and blue crown followed by its mate much less spectacular but still very beautiful and we feel privileged to have them approach us with such trust. I am grateful for the above description from the person behind me who was speaking to someone on the ‘phone and did a good job of picking out the ‘proper’ colours that normal folks would see.
We set off again and rejoin the planned route which will take us along the Eller Beck to Thomason Foss waterfall. Bri remarks that it’s like the film set for Jurassic Park and he’s right. The ferns, trees and river combine to create the haunting effect of that film. We reach the waterfall and it’s definitely worth the trip. It’s a shady glade strewn with huge boulders with ferns, trees, shrubs and flowers clinging to the crevices in between; however, the next bit needs a little bit of thought if you intend to replicate this journey.
We expected that there would be a track that would enable us to continue past the waterfall along the banks of the Eller until we reached the path on the other side of the North Yorkshire Moors railway track. There isn’t.
So we have two options:
1. Plan ‘D’.
Go back to the bridge near the pub which is about half a kilometre which is not too bad. We can then take the higher path which is located on the other side of the railway and runs more or less parallel to it…
2. Work harder with plan ‘C’.
So Mac, our trained tracker and killing machine climbs the embankment to a little-used track that hugs the edge of the NYM railway and follows that along to a bridge that carries said railway over the beck. He then leads us down a tricky little ravine strewn with rocks to the first arch where we bend double to make our way through to the other side without trespassing and incurring the wrath of the British Railways Secretary who, we’re advised by a sign, will fine us 40 shillings should we transgress. All of this, you need to understand, is done about 20 feet higher than the tops of some trees that are themselves 30 feet high i.e. 50 feet above the beck which is running in the gorge below. Any slip or fall would render the hapless victim some serious injury or worse. There is some initial discomfort with this route but Mac’s expert and enthusiastic lead has us on the other side of the bridge in as much time as it takes to say, “Mind you don’t fall in the gorge”. Relieved and exhilarated we reach the path that will take us on to Sheep Bield which is opposite Darnholm on the map.
Peter and Bri are doing sterling jobs with the photography and capture some great images some of which have already been displayed on FB. As Pete observes, the cameras these days, do a lot of the work but I respond with the fact that the guy wielding the camera has to have the observational skills to see the image and capture it. Bri and Pete have that skill in abundance.
The track now is a steady climb and halfway up we’re treated to NYM diesel pulling some coaches towards Goathland. It reminds me of my childhood and I hope I’m right in thinking it’s a Deltic. The deltoid opposed-piston two-stroke has a unique sound and I’ll be seriously embarrassed and disappointed if it’s not that.
Towards the top, we can see what was Fylingdales in the days of golf balls but is now a sinister monolith silhouetted against the deep blue of the sky. I’m reminded of Dylan’s “Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” and the hours we spent in the ’60’s arguing whether it referred to nuclear ‘fall out’ or not – this was even after the devastating statement from the man himself insisting that it didn’t. For the record, I still think it does. I’ve just thought how appropriate this rumination is considering we’re in Heartbeat land.
Beyond the summit of the hill, we begin to descend again through a pen with sheep and lambs then past some more pigs, these ones have spots on!
It’s about one-thirty now and time for another break. There’s a dearth of trees on this exposed moor and the sun is even hotter and the air more moist. We stop for about twenty minutes then begin the descent proper which is by virtue of some seriously steep and variable steps. I’m certainly glad that we’re going down. At the bottom, there’s the usual bridge and we take the opportunity to capture the whole team on a photo achieved by stabbing my stick into the ground and leaning it on a fence rail then putting the camera on 10 seconds timer. It sounds a bit agricultural but it works.
The final push is parallel to the line but does involve a serious climb that is not expected. The path marked on the OS map appears to be within the cut of the railway when it actually follows the hill itself. If you’re doing this walk be prepared. Halfway up there is a seat that enables a combination of rest coupled with the prospect of a birds-eye view of any trains that may be operating if you’re lucky enough to be there when they pass.
The rest of the walk is down a gentle slope to Goathland Station where we take full advantage of the tea rooms where a locally made ice cream and a Tango have my name on them.
The remaining walk is less than a kilometre past the Aidenfield Garage and the Moggy Thousand Police Car featured in the series.
If you do this walk without the reccy to find the North-West Passage and the bail-out when we met the huge stones in West Beck it’s about five and a half miles. If you do it as we did it then it’s over eight miles. It’s varied and beautiful and you get to see some trains. There are some serious ascents and the little bit where our ‘trained killing machine’ led us along the elevated banks of the gorge and under the tunnel would not be to everyone’s taste but it did add to our excitement. Thoroughly enjoyable walk with some good company, thanks, everyone.
I’ve added a few photos. Enjoy…G..x
PS. In all seriousness, Mac did a great job enabling us to avoid the quite significant detour. Thanks, Mac.
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