I’m taking the pooches for their tri-annual spa day for a cut and blow-dry. It’s at Leeming and Bruno can’t decide on whether to have the perl lacquer finish on his nails and Millie is agonising over whether to have her tail left bushy or to have the extra short summer trim. Eyebrows and lashes are added to the plan along with a nail trim and gentle bath. Added to all of that they’re torn between the Pearly Pink lipstick for Millie and for Bruno, the Goth Black lippy to match his hair.
As I drive back to Northallerton a call comes from Tom who has identified a car in Bradford that he’d like to look at so I re-check the map and see a way that I can do half the walk and be back to get to Bradford.
Sooo, Pete Hymer’s plan is the template. We start and end in Swainby and the bit in the middle involves walking part of the Cleveland Way and the top of Carlton Bank.
To set the scene, I arrive at Swainby by car and the rest have arrived using their old farts bus passes and we make our way to Pete’s where I explain that I shall be bailing out partway through.
We head out east along Swainby High Street passed the church and at the outskirts of the village turn left on to Scugdale Road. There’s some water in the ford and it’s not too surprising as it’s been raining all night and is still drizzling now. We pass Mill House and turn left onto the public footpath into the fields at Millfield House.
Spring has been very busy with sun and rain in appropriate proportions ensuring that the fabulous vegetation that makes these walks so spectacularly scenic is made up of every shade of the richest verdant green with splashes of white, yellow and occasional blue that identify the meadow flowers and beckon the bees and other pollinators to do their critical work. The effect of rain is contradictory, we are disappointed but not disheartened, it reduces the range of vision but amplifies the beautiful sweet smell of the meadow. The smell transports me back to my childhood when we would spend hours in the fields playing cowboys and Indians, hide and seek or we’d be scouring the hedgerows for birds nests and eggs. Strangely, these memories have a sunny backdrop with blue skies and only an occasional cloud. The meadow smells are far more evocative than the actual view.
We pass through the gate and the path resumes at an angle to the left and towards a small beck where I become the cabaret as I slip on the mud and only just manage to keep my backside out of the water.
We cross a couple of fields as we head towards Whorlton House then turn right and up the hill on a good track towards High Farm. Whorl Hill is on our left and a couple of hundred feet down and to the right are a couple of small lakes which Pete identifies as probably part of the mining operation that was part of this area many years ago. Looking back the clouds are lining up to hit us and more rain arrives. Our spirits are undiminished and before the rain obscures the view we are treated to a picture-postcard sight of the Vale of Mowbray without the usual haze that prevails and inhibits the view of the Pennines in the distance.
We’re under a canopy of sycamores and the odd oak and they give some limited protection from the rain; however, when you do get hit by a drip it’s the size of a small football and the aim is incredible as the target is either the eye or down the neck. The May Blossom is the most striking sight and down to our right is a boggy area with reeds inhabited with various wading or water birds and surprisingly, rabbits!
This is where I depart my chums and after a brief emotional farewell and an exchange of a large ciabatta bun stuffed with cheese and pickled beetroot for a bag of crisps I wave my hanky as they disappear along Bank Lane towards the Faceby Plantation.
The sun is out now and I’m heading towards Faceby and eventually circumnavigation of Whorl Hill.
I turn left in the village and walk towards St Mary Magdalen’s Church which, apparently, has a fine collection of ‘Mouseman’ carvings. The route is well marked and after about half a mile I come to a fork. Left will take me up Whorl Hill and straight on will take me back to Swainby after a short pause and a look at my watch I decide to walk up and around Whorl Hill. The sun is out now and although the path through the woods is quite steep the visual delights of a million bluebells merging together in a blur of colour as vivid as a peacock’s chest. About two-thirds of the way up I make photographs of the vale and take in the view of the fields, woods and vales. It’s great but it would have been better with the others.
At the bottom of the hill again and heading towards Whorl Hill Farm. I’m suddenly exposed to a wonderful view of the old church at Whorlton and beyond that to Whorlton Castle see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whorlton_Castle This is an area that gets some interesting attention because the village was purported to have been wiped out all bar 10 by the black death but may be disputed here: http://www.thewindingway.com/whorlton-old-church-castle-and-abandoned-village
I stop at the castle and make a few photographs then complete the walk into Swainby.
Meanwhile, back with the gang. (Thanks to Peter Hymer for the framework for this)
They’re at the base of Faceby Plantation and the contours are quite close together so a break is taken to make plans for the ascent and have a drink. The climb through the woods is steep and some of the tracks are soft and extremely wet.
They stop in the woods for lunch and Hayden unintentionally becomes the cabaret as he takes a seat on an inviting stump that has spent many years carefully and unobtrusively rotting itself internally so that no danger is detectable. Hayden’s spectacular reverse pike with twist and tuck at 4.2 level of difficulty is judged to be a winner and on review of the photographic evidence so carefully captured by Bri the decision to award the gold is verified by the team. As soon as everyone has stopped
b) making photographs
c) taking the mick
they check to see if Hayden is OK and the smile on his face verifies that this is the case.
Whilst the team are witnessing the above Pete F is making his way through the doorstep of a sandwich in order to keep his strength up and finishes it with a flourish and a cup of coffee.
I receive a call from Pete H which I miss and become worried so I ring back. Pete tells me about the Hayden incident and tells me that all is well and spirits high.
On exiting the woods there is a short climb before joining the Cleveland Way which is well marked and paved to protect the land around it. They meet a couple who are from Germany. The group have a habit of meeting foreigners as they think back to the Dutch folks on Captain Cook’s.
The weather begins to deteriorate and the misty rain becomes a torrent of huge drops of water and hailstones. This is where good clothing is so important and the team is well equipped so it’s a case of getting the head down, keep your eyes a couple of yards ahead (about as far as could be seen in the downpour) and keep walking. The weather is so bad that a discussion is held to agree whether to go back to Swainby, however, after some discussion it is decided to carry on. When the weather is good, the views from here are spectacular but not today. There is one objective now and that is to get to Carlton Bank.
The drop back down from the tops is very steep and the water is running in brown rivulets along the tracks and creating little pools to fill walking boots if there is a lapse of concentration. After some time the better ground is reached and Carlton in Cleveland becomes the objective. This will add about two miles to the original walk and Hayden reminds them that it has a pub, The Blackwell Ox, but it is decided not to go and to continue the walk. Hayd needs a wheelbarrow for his bottom lip but recovers after another mile.
At the corner, there is a bench where a well-earned rest is taken. After the break, a lady driver does her level best to reduce the country’s pension bill as she makes every effort to move them on to pastures new.
On return to Faceby they align with the track of the original walk and the map becomes relevant again. The path is narrow and rutted and occasionally poorly drained.
They are wanting to head towards Whorlton and confirm their intentions with a local farmer finally emerging at Whorlton Church that I had passed some three hours previously. On then to Whorlton Castle and down into Swainby.
My part of the walk was excellent and underscores the fact that rain need not detract from a good walk. The longer walk was significantly more challenging but also verified my view of walking in the rain. My walk was just under 5 miles and about two hours. The longer and very much more challenging walk was about 10 miles with the extended walk to Carlton and took about 5 and a half hours.
Thanks to Pete Hymer for his notes on the extended walk.
Enjoy the snaps…G..x
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