Before Christmas, I was plotting a few routes around Whitby within the town and whilst I’ve managed one little excursion the odd-jobs in the Cottage have inhibited the rest so I resolved to do something about it in the New Year. We managed a short walk to Ruswarp and back last week but this week was a corker.
OutdoorActive has a facility that will look for public footpaths on the inbuilt OS Maps if you indicate the two points that you want to walk between so I tested it. The plan is to catch a train or bus to Grosmont and walk back and I’m highly impressed with the accuracy of the app which plotted a route along the Esk Valley Way. There are a couple of minor, questionable detours that could have worked but fortunately Tracker Graydon ‘volunteered’ to keep us right.
For people staying at the Little Yellow Cottage and those of you staying in Whitby and surrounds, here’s the detail.
The forecast for the day is blue skies and sunshine but the temperature will remain below 2 degrees and after the amount of rain and snow we’ve had that’s most definitely a good thing. We will find some of the ruts and hollows challenging on the ankles and make me regret not having my sticks but the day is perfect for walking so I’ll stop whinging.
We have the option of a steam train (not always running but well worth it for the novelty factor), Coastliner 840 to Leeds and one of the most scenic services in the country, or the local 96. The latter is running when we need it so it’s a no-brainer. We zap our old-farts-passes and make our way to the elevated position towards the back of the bus so we can see over the walls. The journey is beautiful and reminds me of Postman Pat as we pass through the villages and look down into the beautiful valley trying to guess where the Esk Valley Way is routed and where we’ll walk.
We alight at Grosmont and immediately skate along the footpath which acts as a warning shot and puts us on high alert for the rest of the walk.
The wonderful Grosmont Station is just over the road and draws us like a magnet. It’s now famous due to the likes of Harry Potter (although that was more at Goathland), Heartbeat and one of my favourite series, All Creatures Great and Small.
Just as an aside, Goathland, the next station going West is featured in Simply Red’s, ‘Holding Back the Years from way back in 1985 (I found this out when I was looking up the stuff for Grosmont so now you know!)
Out first half mile is along the main-ish road and it’s lethal. The road has been salted but there hasn’t been enough traffic to activate the salt so there are quite long stretches that have me walking with tiny steps like a penguin. Lou is skating too but at least she had the sense to bring a walking stick so her performance is that of an impressionist and her parody is Charlie Chaplin.
Our first crossing of the Esk reveals a rope swing with a wooden seat and it has me tracking back sixty years to a time when we put up a rope swing over the local beck. I’ve told this elsewhere but it bears a re-run for the humour value in the memory.
We used to play at a place like this. Castle Hills was where I grew up and we loved to play near or over the beck. One of the places of interest was an area lined on one side with trees and on the other with bushes where the beck flowed next to the railway line, we called this Calcutta for no other reason that it was a deep cut where the beck flowed. In the spring when the snows were melting on the moors the beck would be swollen and as summer approached it would slow so that we could splodge in it and catch sticklebacks and the odd elver. Low Castle Hills was where we rolled our eggs at easter and these had usually been coloured using the yellow gorse flowers and onion skins.
There’s a public footpath that leads to the North End of town and as it passes “Cally” The path is restricted in width and there’s been a fair amount of erosion over the years. There’s a tree that we used for a swing across the beck and I believe that tree is still there; anyway, the purpose of this deviation is that I remember an incident when we were children and it involved a rope…
When we were about 10 we’d been ferreting about in a factory yard and had ‘found’ a discarded rope and decided that it would be ideal if we could find a tree with a bough that stretched over the beck then we could swing across it like Tarzan of the Apes who was very popular at the time.
We did remember such a tree that had been used before and all we had to do now was find it and that we did near the above Calcutta. As we approached we could see the remnants of other pieces of rope that had ether snapped or been cut down by adults bent on suppressing our desires to flirt with death.
I’m not sure who shimmied up the tree now, with our climbing skills it could have been any of us but I do know that the outcome was a rope dangling in the middle of the beck just out of reach. Being human helped at this point as we began to think of the tools that we’d need to bring it back to the bank and within minutes we had a broken branch that had been blown off one of the other trees during the winter storms. Seconds later we had the rope in our hands ready for the swing and nobody had fallen in…yet!
We then had a limited but spirited ‘fight’ about who would go first and I lost. The winner took a long run along the embankment with the intention of describing a smooth arc that kept your feet dry and gave you the opportunity to land on the opposite bank if you so desired. If you chose not to land then the rest of the journey was a mirror image of the first and, if you were fleet of foot, you’d land on the side of the beck that you left and hand the rope on to your friend. If you were not fleet of foot you hit the tree!
My friend who will remain anonymous ran along the bank with the above mental rehearsal in his mind. He had the speed and the angle all perfect and left the river bank with grace. The bough of the tree dipped as the combination of gravity and mass took effect. I could also see water emerge from the fibres as the rope thinned slightly as it stretched…
Then there was an extended crack and the rope snapped. Geoff hit the water with the elegance of a brick, oops I said he would be anonymous!
I suppose the gentlemanly thing to have done would have been to help him out of the water but both his brother and I were helpless with laughter and I’m still sitting here with a smile as I finish this paragraph.
So what do I do?
I get no resistance from my erstwhile chum as she readies the camera for the performance. After a couple of failed attempts I manage to get on and snaps are acquired and the best thing of all, it doesn’t fail and leave me in a heap. Today could be a good day!
The track turns right here off the main road but we’re still on a tarmac surface which is good and bad. The sun has partially melted the snow but the cold surface has frozen it so there are stretches of upwards of a hundred yards that are glacial and we chose to walk in the hedge row where the grass enables an element of grip but the occasional bramble snags trousers or sleeves but thankfully, leaves skin intact.
There are no clouds in the sky and it’s crisp so the scenery is crystal clear without any haze so the trees and odd stone scattered in the fields near the river stand out in three ‘d’ but this is temporarily cancelled as we pass Grosmont Farm which is burning something that creates smoke so thick it almost looks sinister. I hold my breath as walk through the thick of it and hope it’s all vegetable. The last time I saw this was driving in the Lake District towards the end of the foot and mouth crisis. We emerge at the other side slightly moist eyed but there is no smelly evidence of flesh and the beauty of the valley is restored.
Dursley Bank has us out of breath but the change of scene is welcome as we avoid the icy treads that monks or their flunkies had laid several centuries ago and we chose the less lethal semi-soft leaf mould and soil to their side.
At the top we’re onto some flat and both make comments about the frozen fields, if it hadn’t been for the frost it really would have been a walk in the mud – and it would have been seriously deep.
A few woods, bridges and farms later we pass Newbiggin Hall and revel in the luxury of a salted and sunned road where walking is easy without the hazards of ice and snow but the cross roads at Sleights Bottoms where someone has conveniently placed a bench just for our mid-day snack.
A sandwich and pee later and we’re off to cross the Esk again to rejoin the Esk Valley Way next stop Ruswarp.
The path doesn’t slavishly follow the railway line but it’s usually within sight and we’re lucky enough to catch a glance of the Whitby to Middlesbrough train that plies its trade three or four time a day along the length of the Esk Valley. If you haven’t travelled to Whitby by train or bus, I really would urge you to remedy that. It you live in Leeds or York then definitely get the Coast Liner, it’s a double decker and you’ll never get better views in England or elsewhere. Try to get on the top deck and relax.
Hagg House is passed and the top of the next rise reveals Whitby Abbey in the distance. If I’d been a monk and was rewarded with the sight after many days of travel on these tiny paths, I’d have thoughts of a few flagons of mead with a bottle of wine thrown in for good measure but they were probably not as materialistic as me and looked forward to the hard log beds with early morning prayers in the cold halls and hair shirts – you choose!
We pass through Ruswarp and the gorse is in full bloom. Yellow always gives me a lift and having the Larpool Viaduct mirrored in the Esk as a backdrop is a bonus.
Whitby demands you have a beer so we do.
Thank Lou, I’ve spoken to the boys and they’re up for a walk or two in the spring.
Enjoy the snaps. Love G x
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