This is a simple walk from Swainby to Osmotherley with mandatory fish and chips at the Osmotherley end (check opening times to avoid disappointment). It’s a little challenging at the Swainby end as Shepherds Hill is closely followed by ‘The Steps’. The Steps are exactly that, they take you up over 200 feet in about the same distance but they vary in rise and depth so there’s no way of getting a rhythm going. When we first started doing these walks we would stop a half dozen times to catch our breath but the only reason to stop now is for the views and they’re well worth a pause.
The first part of the adventure is via Abbotts excellent bus service and with the advantage of our old farts passes we travel free! At Swainby we stop to admire an old American Ford pickup and fairly nippy sports machine both with approximately the same size engine which is difficult to describe without using profundities, let’s just say the engines are ‘very’ big and you can substitute your own ‘fluffing’ worlds to add the emphasis.
The walk through Swainby is always a delight as we pass people that we’ve never seen before but always receive a smile and a ‘now then’ or hello regardless. On Shepherd’s Hill we look left at Whorl Hill and imagine, once again, how it’s perfect symmetrical round shape would have evolved against the craggy line of the North Yorkshire Moors ridge not a mile to the east and it’s still a mystery but happy to be advised should you know.
I’ve mentioned the steps and we’re up them with the minimum of fuss as we pass and talk to a number of Americans some doing the Coast to Coast and others the Cleveland Way both of which share this part of their respective routes. They’ll divide again after Clay Bank but that’s few miles and several ups and downs until then but will take in what we consider to be the most beautiful parts of both of these epic walks.
Claim Wood can be a positive or negative experience. On a windy, cold day with the weather coming from the North, it takes some of the sting out of the icy blast but on a beautiful, blue sky day like today it obscures the fabulous view of the Vale of Mowbray but we do get the odd glimpse through the trees where there are fire breaks or where natural thinning of the generally dense section of the wood has occurred. We take full advantage of this occurrence and steal a photo or two to capture the moment.
We cross the road at the cattle grid, no snakes today though I can’t say I’m disappointed. The last time we saw an adder it was in this area and whilst it slithered away at speed it left an indelible impression on my mind that:
a) they do exist and they’re lurking in the heather and gorse,
b) they can move a at an astonishing speed and
c) they bite and it hurts.
For clarity, their bite may hurt more than a bee sting but it’s only about the same degree of danger for an adult human; however, if you have an allergy to their venom (and this applies to anything else that can bite and leave a sting) you may have a problem. Of course small dogs and tiny humans may also have a problem. The upside is, and I can’t emphasise this enough, they don’t normally attack you, they’re defensive creatures and will naturally try to get away from you so, short of stepping on them or cornering them, you’re safe. All of that said, I’m still not keen on ‘em.
We take the Cleveland Way route up on to Scarth Wood Moor towards Arncliffe Wood. This is open and beautiful. In the winter it can be a bit bleak but today, with a ‘Simpsons Sky’ of blue and gentle cumulus, we can see for miles and can pick out Roseberry, Whorl Hill, Captain Cooke’s Monument, the profiles of the Pennines including Richmond and the windmills gently turning off the coast at Redcar. That’s not even considering the local areas including Scarth Nick where rumours of a ghost have abounded for some time. Apparently, the ghost is one of the better varieties that has helped travellers and locals with equal enthusiasm; at my age I think I’m OK without the need to meet him either dead or undead – I shiver…
We’re part way across the moor and there’s a couple of ladies heading towards us, it’s amazing who you meet on these beautiful moors. Sue Cochrane and Margaret McDonnell are taking advantage of the weather and have decided on a circular route from Osmotherley via the repeater station and back along the track adjacent to Cod Beck Reservoir. There are smiles and hugs all around as we stop to pass the time of day.
We leave the open moor via the kissing gate and walk above Arncliffe Wood. The dry stone wall is covered with green lichen that’s almost phosphorescent as it glows in the sun. There are signs of autumn as some of the trees are gently turning yellow and the mushrooms are more evident but the clearest evidence is the brambles and other fruit. If the ‘old wives tail’ regarding the profusion of berries and a harsh winter is to be believed then we’re in for a beastie this year.
At the repeater station we continue on the Cleveland Way rather than the quicker but less muddy route that we take when there’s been a lot of rain. It’s a little more challenging but much more interesting and a raised heart rate is one of the benefits of walking.
Before we drop through Mount Grace Wood we take a break to admire yet another view across the Vale and I sing to myself, “Glimpse of Heaven” by the Strawbs which describes these views with such imagination and clarity. It doesn’t need music as the words are poetic without but it’s certainly a great song with. I’ll leave a link at the end.
The hillside was a patchwork quilt
Neatly stitched with tidy hedge
And crumbling grey stone wall
The trees were bare, but Spring was near
To conjure up its endless strings
Of green magic handkerchieves
I’m still visualising the words and singing them in my head as we walk the long drop through Mount Grace Wood as I think of all the other travellers and walkers that have passed this way. I do hope they stopped occasionally and take the time to look!
We’re on Ruebury Lane now and the going is easy. Like Swainby, the locals give a cheery wave as we pass, lifts the spirit and we wave back with a smile.
As we approach the village cross we’re squinting to see if the chippy is open; it’s under new management and so we’re interested in the quality as Briege offered the best in the area.
It is open and we needn’t have worried. The new proprietor has taken advice form Breige and there’s no drop in quality and the up-side is that she’s introduced new offerings from curries to pies. We stick to the cod ’n’ chips and I go for the large cod. Now be careful with this one, I finished it but only because I don’t want to waste food – it is seriously big. I may have it again but go for a smaller chip size – just saying! Fir me, it retains its crown as the best chippy in the area – thanks Pam you’re a worthy successor and we really appreciate it.
Half an hour later and we’re replete and running out of conversation when the Abbotts bus arrives bang on time.
If you want a relatively short walk that will get your heart rate up, give you stunning views and a reward at the end this is for you.
Here’s the link to Glimpse of Heaven, click the photo – the video is from a walk a couple of years ago:
Enjoy the snaps…G..x
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This is life after an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm open repair. Don’t be afraid of the operation, it set me free. Please be encouraged and inspired to walk, it’s liberating.
You can read about it here: https://www.yorkshireramblings.com/short-stay-hospital/