Carol assures us that whilst we can expect rain tomorrow, today will be relatively warm although there will be strong winds. Up here at about 700 feet, she turns out to be both right and wrong. The strong winds are indeed in evidence, but the promise of warmer temperatures is not fulfilled. Gillettes are sourced and donned and extra layers are added under our winter jackets. It’s not viciously cold as it will be in January and February but with wind-chill added and the fact that we’re currently being sheltered by a small wood that surrounds Captain Cook’s monument to the south and the huge mass of Great Ayton Moor to our north bodes ill for a bit of a battering on the top.
Our route out of this little valley shares the Cleveland Way but only for a couple of hundred metres then we peel off right and head northeast across the moor. It’s bleak and showing signs of autumn. There’s also the tell-tale smell of autumn too as the gamekeepers conduct the controlled burning of the heather. Young grouse like the tender shoots of new heather and the landowners argue that it regulates predators and, many years ago, is something that would have occurred naturally anyway. I’m a bit uncomfortable as I think of the snakes, lizards and other animals that may not be as fleet of foot or wing that will be cremated for the sake of a few grouse. Who’s right and who’s wrong I’ll leave with you but the smell at this distance is really rather pleasant although I did see a farm downwind of it a couple of days ago and I don’t think I’d have derived the same pleasure in that particular acrid, pea-souper.
It’s whilst I’m thinking these things that the cobble-strewn track that we’ve been picking our way along has become a managed lane and easy to walk on. George is telling us about an amateur archaeologist called Roland Close who lived and worked on this moor. He was responsible for several things but we’re approaching a fenced-off area that he’d discovered and whilst there isn’t a lot to see, there story behind it is interesting.
It’s a tiny area that’s been dedicated to him as he discovered the remains of some dwellings that are over 2000 years old. There were five paved floor areas that were the remains of circular huts from iron-age people complete with querns (for grinding corn to make flour). In those days, emerging from a major cold spell, the moors would have been covered in broad-leaf trees that would have provided shelter and wood for fires whilst protecting them from the excesses of the winter storms. It must have been primitive but without ‘them’, there wouldn’t be ‘us’ and it certainly gives our minds food for thought as we turn left to walk down into Sleddale.
We bottom out at Sleddale Farm and begin the next climb this time with wind assistance and the additional help is greatly appreciated as we’re blown and buffeted up the bank to Codhill Heights.
The halfway point is hidden behind a small copse but it still gives us a lift and we make our way towards the aptly named Highcliffe Wood atop Highcliffe Nab where a magnificent view of the coast can be had on a clear day.
It’s not a clear day today but the view is still spectacular even if it’s limited. We can still see the ships heading into the Tees and the wind farm off Redcar plus Guisborough, sprawling out below us gives the whole thing context, height and size. It’s well worth the walk and leaves us all satisfied and ready for the walk back into the trees where some logs will protect us from the gusting wind whilst we eat our sandwiches before the return leg.
We regroup and set off back on the variously named ‘Cleveland Way’, ‘The Three Ridings on Foot’ and the ‘Samaritan Way’ but, for this leg through the bog and over Black Nab they’re all the same track.
As we negotiate our way through the boggy area that’s been so well maintained by the invisible army of volunteers that lay the slabs that enable us to stay dry and safe I notice some words on one of the stones. Some of them are repurposed grave stones and the thought of the ghosts of the lovely people who had passed on and are now enabling us to make our way through this waterlogged peat and perhaps guiding our steps is reassuring. I notice the air is still as we’re protected from the gale on the tops. I know the still air is physical and due to protection we’ve got here in the valley but it’s till quite moving too and I hope the new life of these loving souls is restful and without stress.
As we emerge from the boggy area onto Newton Moor one of the team is struggling so we make temporary stops from time to time to enable some recovery and take a fifteen minute break at the bench overlooking Roseberry Topping. It sits behind the drystone wall and shelters us from the wind whilst affording a wonderful view of this magnificent hill.
The walk back along the Cleveland Way allows us to appreciate the Vale of Mowbray below whilst an occasional backward glance at Roseberry seeds more plans for another walk up to its magnificent peak.
Another wonderful walk with dear friends.
Thanks to George Renwick, George Preston, Robin Write, Bill Humphrey, Peter Hymer, Chris Richardson and Dave Bowman.
Enjoy the snaps.
Please feel free to share for the armchair ramblers who can’t get around anymore.
Love G x