Today we learn that this section of the Cleveland way is ‘up’, that not all cairns are cairns and Bronze Age burial grounds should be given the same respect as modern ones.
There’s only a couple of serious gradients but the rest of the ‘up’ is continuous and challenging. It drains you but the camaraderie helps to combat the breathlessness and the knowledge that its good for the heart is encouraging.
I’m heading to Swainby from York so its a relatively early start. The weather is on our side though and the summer rain that had been making the ground slimy through the night has stopped but the evidence is still there.
The walk is about 5 miles and beautiful. As it turns out we missed the intense colours of the heather by about 10 days. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve caught it as I’ve travelled to Whitby over the previous three weeks and it has been a magnificent display. No matter though, the ridge and the track take us along one of the most picturesque in Yorkshire with clear views of the Vale of Mowbray stretching out like a patchwork quilt of fields and hedges towards the Pennines. The damp ground has attracted a slight mist that doesn’t obscure the spine of the country but it does soften the detail.
The beautiful, rural idyll, so peaceful now has seen some pretty dire times only a few hundred years ago. In the 11th century, William had been having some trouble with the natives in this region. It should be noted that all the counties north of the Humber where referred to as Northumberland and the language in Yorkshire would have been hard to understand in the South (a bit like today really!) Anyway, the aristocracy and landowners in the region below us were of Scandinavian origin or certainly with Scandinavian genes and were pretty unimpressed with William and his French cronies thinking he could take the Northern tribes so he needed to prove his point and he did it with a vengeance. He sent his armies north with orders to ‘raze the towns and villages to the ground’. This they did and threw in a scorched earth policy to boot. They tortured, raped and murdered as they looted the villages then set fire to buildings and crops. There was mass starvation for those that temporarily survived and managed to get their wives and children into the forests and hills and all of this happened a thousand feet below on the tranquil plane that’s currently bathed in sunshine.
That’s only in our time though. Millions of years before that it was a huge lake that stretched down to York and beyond, hence the flat plane that we now recognise. It would be populated with all kinds of prehistoric animals and fish together with woods and vegetation that’s rotted down to produce the wonderful fertile land that our farmers use to such advantage.
All of the above is buzzing through my head as we make our way up through Live Moor Plantation. There are rugged steps through the wood and the rise is over 300 feet in only a few hundred yards so we stop a couple of times to catch our breath.
Through the gate and onto Live Moor proper takes us on a much less steep path carefully paved by volunteers and stretching up into the distance. The ferns have definitely been busy through the night catching and storing the rain so that an accidental brush past their fronds results in heavy wet patches across our jeans. A little further up and it’s rocky moorland largely covered in the heather that we’re looking forward to seeing but sadly, has just gone over although there is still evidence of what it was like a couple of weeks ago.
Down to our left is Whorl Hill carefully planted with conifers in 1953 as Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was being transformed from Princess to Queen as the final words of her vows were being uttered in the Abbey Church of St. Peter:
”The things which I have here before promised, I will perform, and keep.”
…and she did!
There is a secret on Whorl Hill’s eastern side where, in winter, when the larch have dropped their needles, the letters ‘E – R’ reveal themselves via a number of spruce trees carefully planted by the foresters who were responsible for the wood.
We’re halfway through the walk now and the terrain is flattening when we arrive at a cairn that’s not really a cairn and a small sign asks us to treat it with respect as it is a bronze age grave so we’re not to add stones to it. It feels odd to be up here in the middle of nowhere reading about bronze age men who were burying their dead in this bleak place thousands of years ago.
The rest of the track has been well maintained and the views continue to delight although the wind has certainly begun to make its presence felt; however, it has encouraged the clouds to vacate our part of the skies and reveal some beautiful, welcome blue after an hour and half of grey.
A half-hour from Lordstones and we split into two groups. One takes the right fork that will steer them around the trig point and onto a less demanding lane to the rewards of the cafe. We take the higher route to the trig point where we can wallow in the views of the Vale and onwards to Teesside and the long panorama of the Pennines. We also get the delightful silhouette of Roseberry in the far distance.
We make our way down the steep steps towards the top of Carlton Bank and see the other group well in front but the trig point route is by far superior and I would recommend it unless you have issues with heights or steps.
Lordstones Cafe is well worth a visit. We tend to find ourselves here as a start point, endpoint or middle point and the latter two cases, usually end up with an excellent bacon bun. Recommended.
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It’s Four Year this week when I had a ‘AAA’ Aortic Aneurysm open repair done. Every day has been a bonus and being able to do these walks is wonderful. My ‘AAA’ story can be read by clicking the image below but do be aware that there are some rude references.