Osmotherley to Swainby in the Snow

It’s been a wild old night with gales and snow blowing into drifts on the hills. Here in York there’s very little evidence of the front that went through whilst we slept. I’m looking out of the patio doors at a vast expanse of blue sky and the sun is casting long shadows as it makes its appearance in the east, there are clouds but they’re wispy and the odd vapour trail from passing aircraft is holding together well so the jet-stream’s not looking too active.

I receive the expected text and it’s positive, Peter is doing a risk assessment in Swainby. It’s a complex procedure that involves him looking out of his bedroom window so you can see that the training he’s received has paid off.

The drive through the Vale of York is glorious and I meet Dave ready for the excellent Abbott’s bus service to Osmotherley.

Whilst the sun is shining albeit, at the cutest angle, it creates long black shadows on the white snow. In Osmotherley we decamp the bus and with a cheery, “See you later” to Marian who’s driving this shuttle and transported us safely over the roads of salt, snow and occasional ice. We make out way up the hill towards the reservoir. The village is so different in the winter months. During the other three seasons there is scarcely a parking space and today there are many. The snow is six to eight inches deep but this is an estimate made by a man so it may be less! There are wheel marks where commuters have already made their getaway or the odd tradesman has parked and is now busy fixing some plumbing or working on electrical problems.

The shop is open and we call in to purchase a banana and some sweets to sustain us should there be any issues over the top and there’s a lady trying to de-bobble a small dog who’s got bobbles of snow in her fur and is looking decidedly uncomfortable both with the actual snow and also with the process to remove it.

As we pass Ruebury Lane there are some road works and evidence of the strength of the wind through the night in the form of small drifts where there are gaps in the wall or hedge.

Click on any photo to see them in full resolution – it’s a beautiful day

The sun is starting to melt some of the snow that’s been blown on to the trunks, branches, and twigs of the trees and it’s anchored itself in the crevices of the bark. Gazing into Cote Ghyll is like looking at a picture postcard of winter. It’s so beautiful in the bright sun that it’s almost surreal and we get to see it because we jumped on a bus and walked for twenty minutes. Even better, it’s all for free!

There are trees either side of the road and the sun is softening the snow that’s accumulated overnight creating soft white bombs that burst on our heads like raw eggs in a comedy sketch.

Cod Beck Reservoir is always a fabulous sight and today it doesn’t disappoint. The backdrop is soft white cottonwool trees with beautiful rippling reflections in the cold water framed with the dull mat finish of the viscous water that’s part way through the transformation from ice back to its liquid state.

We enter the thin wood at the edge of the reservoir. We were only here last week and I could see the tips of the leaves of some adventurous plants peeping from the leaf fall. Those same plants are probably regretting their impatience although the irony is that the snow cover may well be keeping them warmer than would be the case if it had been a hard hoar frost.

Click on any photo to see them in full resolution – it’s a beautiful day

It was foggy last week, nothing like that now, the atmosphere is as clear as I’ve seen it all winter and everything is standing out in clear defined relief. Peter is looking for photo opportunities and in fairness, so am I. It’s not hard as the trees and branches are creating ornate frames that lead our eyes to the three ‘D’ world beyond and we make the most of it.

We exit the wood and walk back on to the road where good views both ways keep us safe from the odd 4×4 and enables us to clear Scarth Wood Moor using the easy route although on the descent, where the road has remained in the shade, there is still treacherous black ice that’s almost impossible to see and our sticks become third legs that keep us upright on a number of occasions.


The snow-covered hills here remind me of my childhood at Castle hills when we would gather with our homemade sledges In winter the whole mound became a sledging resort and we found every way possible to negotiate a small wooden sledge down different parts of the hill. The steep part was exciting and fast but the corrugations that were left when the railway line was excavated meant that you vibrated all the way down then at the bottom your teeth fell out.

Route two was down the East side which was quite dramatic at the beginning but leveled out and you had to have a particularly good sledge to make it into the next field. However, after much use, the snow would be compacted and icy, at this point you could go to town on sandpaper but there were accidents when sledges ran out of control and hit one of the three huts that were anchored in the field. There was plenty of room not to hit them but they were like wooden magnets.

Route three involved an initially slow and comfortable decent along the North of the hill. This was followed by a more exciting stage that involved making a full 180-degree turn whilst trying to avoid the fence. If you’d got sufficient speed up during the second stage then this would be tricky and there would be two or three broken fingers a season caused by the sledge, now out of control, careering along the bottom of the fence whilst the rider was desperately trying to:

1. stop


2. turn rather more quickly than the trajectory that had been adopted by the sledge.

The broken fingers were always on the right hand!


Over the cattle grid and we’re right into Clain Wood where we can see the Vale of Mowbray through the trees. The Pennines are clear in the distance and the size of our beautiful county is evident.

George is immediately in front of me and mischievously pulls on a branch just before I get to it.  He lets it go with perfect timing had it not been for the fact that I’d stopped to take a photograph. The half-ton of snow that falls out of the tree lands harmlessly a couple of yards in front of me and I resolve to have revenge – watch this space!

Click on any photo to see them in full resolution – it’s a beautiful day

We turn right at the fork to extend the walk a little and also avoid the steps which in this weather will have all kinds of hidden gotchas and as a result, lethal. It’s a steady climb and Dave sums it up with some ‘fluffing’ words to illustrate its gradient.

“This hill is fluffing steep”, was the expression, well I think that’s what he said!

At the junction, we turn left and now have the triple pleasure of walking downhill in virgin snow with the fabulous view of Whorl Hill immediately before us and Roseberry in the background.

There’s a short pause whilst we regroup.  The stragglers have clearly been drinking enough as they use cursive letters in an attempt to write their names in the snow… It’s not easy creating discrete letters at our age, the control that is necessary is long gone!

On our way down Cardiac Hill, we see the paw prints of foxes and the cloven hoof prints of deer but the ones that have us completely perplexed are the rabbit tracks that lead to the side of the path then stop. There’s no loop back and no obvious landing in the branches and bracken to the side and no sign of a struggle or blood – completely baffled?

We cross the Cleveland Way again but there’s no sign of human activity, we’re the only ones daft enough and privileged enough to be out here today and that makes it even better.

The walk back into Swainby is steady and we’re all gearing up for the pies at the Rusty Bike cafe and by the time we arrive we’re drowning in Pavlov’s dog saliva in anticipation.

It’s bitterly cold although we haven’t noticed it due to our walking and when we enter the cafe we’re instantly cocooned in the heat of the room generated by the huge wood burning stove coupled with the warmth of the atmosphere produced by the lovely people that welcome us.

Excellent food at the end of a wonderful walk.

Feel free to share or comment.

YR team today were George Renwick, George Preston, Pete Hymer, Dave Rider, Chris Richardson and me. Enjoy the snaps…G..x

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