Another evening in The Golden Lion drinking golden water to help us with the decisions that need to be made regarding the walk next Wednesday. After much deliberation the decision is made, Wainstones it will be. That was last Friday.
Carol Kirkwood is stood in profile to gain our attention then, with a flourish at the invisible (to her) map, informs us that today will start brilliantly then, with a turn to camera and a smile that would stop traffic, she tells us that it will get better!
Peter is picked up and we’re heading towards the car park on Clay Bank just the other side of Great Broughton from Stokesley. There are no toilets but it’s free; more importantly, the the wall is just high enough to stop wayward children but low enough to see over whilst sitting in the car and the view is just fabulous.
I’ve mentioned in other posts that Spring has done her job and Summer is doing the presentations now. I can report that she’s doing it in style.
We spend a few minutes checking our ‘equipment’. i.e. rucksacks with food in them and in Mac’s case, a rucksack with stuff in that would make us gasp in awe…
George has the book with the route and we check to see that what I’ve plotted into the phone is what is written in the book and off we go.
Turn left out of the car park and follow the main road towards Chop Gate. The Cleveland Way is signposted both right and left. We turn right and cross the road and are immediately confronted with steps and a track that really does go a long way up.
The steps vary in height so you have to concentrate but we stop every 10 minutes to appreciate what we see and it’s breathtaking. From vantage points at the start of the walk we can see down Billsdale and, as we ascend the angle of view improves until it is a vast panorama that stretches from Billsdale Mast right round to the coast in the far distance and currently, it’s crystal clear. Half way up we’re treated to a display by a pilot in an aeroplane that looks like an old fighter but someone says it’s a newer training aircraft. Either way it’s not as high as we think it should be as our relative height is about 200 feet at this point and it flies ‘under’ us!
As we reach the top which is about 500 feet above the cars the air is noticeably fresher and there are two ladies and a gentleman taking a well earned break. There are acknowledgments to all via a simple nod and a “Now then” accompanied with smiles all around, walkers are such a friendly bunch.
Our new friends Jane, Emma and Bracken are just having a break and willingly take a couple of photos for us so that all of us can be in the picture. Some of them involves us sitting on a rock that juts precariously out of the earth with a significant drop below it. My toes ache when I look down but sit there patiently as Bri takes a few shots followed by George followed by Peter then someone asks one of the ladies to take a group shot. By now I’m not so much worried about the height, it’s more to do with the additional weight on the rock…
Jane and Emma are going in the same direction as us so we offer them places on our team but it turns out that they need to be back by two and from past experience, we can’t guarantee that. They’re light-hearted and full of fun which is the fulfillment of all criteria so the offer still stands though, watch this space!
We make our way along the ridge and the views are without equal. The weather is fabulous and the atmosphere is clear so we can see much further than recent walks. The distance to Wainstones is only a couple of kilometres and we arrive there within 20 minutes of our break.
The stones are huge and seem out of place but very impressive. We take the opportunity to scramble about and investigate their structure followed by photographs. Jane, Emma and Bracken suddenly arrive and give us the opportunity to create some photographs that include the whole team. Some of us are devastated to learn that they’ve shared scones with our backmarkers and they were liberally spread with salted Lurpak, now I know why Bri likes to monitor the team from behind, it’s a critical job but it certainly has its perks.
Jane and Emma make their way down past the stones whilst Bracken looks for new and more dangerous ways to descend. We’re gentlemen so we follow and offer the odd word of advice as we go. We make our way past the stones and on to an intersection of two tracks where we turn left to begin our descent along the dale. Jane, Emma and Bracken are small dots heading towards Kirby Bank about half a kilometre away and 300 feet above us. Bracken is clearly doing the scouting and leading.
Another 500 metres and we find a place to settle and eat.
Mac opens his rucksack and removes a comfortable seat, a small table and candelabra and some very special sandwiches with crusts removed and cut into triangles. I was expecting a symphonic orchestra but we’re treated to the Average White Band.
We spend an idyllic half hour in the sun looking back at Wainstones and a group of youngsters who were being treated to a combined lesson consisting of climbing lessons and geology – brilliant.
Someone spots a hawk as it drops like a guided missile and as it hits the ground/prey the heather around it reverberates like a stone thrown into a pool. There is a pause as we hold our breath then it takes off again with empty talons. Something is having a lucky day and it’s not the hawk which remains hungry; but only for the time being. It’s in the air again scanning the bracken and rocks for any sign of movement but its search takes it away from us and we lose sight.
Looking over the valley it seems a long way to the track that we need. It’s across Cast Hills on the other side of the dale and some 5 km from here. It’s mid-day and still no haze, you really don’t get many days like this. To avoid the haze you usually have to be up between 5am and 7am in the summer months but we’re still being treated to it now.
We make our way past Broadfield Farm and we make a decision to go to the right of the buildings. We end up where we need to be but it does include taking the official path through a garden and whilst we have right of way, it just doesn’t feel right.
If you follow this route then you need to bare left then after a 100 metres turn right and go past the farm on left. Take the gate into the cut and walk down towards the road. The track is poor here and goes through nettle beds and other bracken. Mac is delighted as he is wearing shorts! I’m seriously impressed as he makes no complaint and the only sting he gets is suffered in the open and not through the beds; sods law prevails again.
As we reach the road we turn right for about 30 metres then cross the road to region the path on the other side. There is a bridge over the river and a good place for photos.
There is a gentle ascent from here and we walk through two meadows and spend some time at a pond that reminds me of a newt pond at the top of Bullamoor that we would visit when we were kids. George and I joke about the fact that we may well have visited it together but we didn’t know each other then. We would catch smooth newts and great crested ones in fishing nets. The majority escaped the artificial ponds that we built in our gardens over night but I still have a pang of shame and guilt that we may have innocently contributed to the plight of them now although I believe there has been something of an increase since good people from conservation groups have informed us of the dire consequences of carrying on as we were.
The meadows are ‘proper’ meadows with buttercups, daisies and clover. The clover is not yet in flower yet but it looks strong although I’m not sure of its popularity with farmers and whether it makes good silage or grazing or both. There are other meadow flowers too some of which I’ve photographed for identification later. I remember a conservationist who told us “Take only photographs and leave the originals for others to enjoy”, wise words indeed and they stuck in my brain since they were uttered, thanks whoever it was.
We reach a wooden gate that the map indicates we should take but are challenged by the fact that it appears to go through another garden so we cut across the field and squeeze through a metal gate that seals the official exit. We’re on a road now littered with farm machinery but at least it’s easy to navigate.
The route skirts the farm and we turn right onto a road to rejoin the track a little further along the lane. We now wait for the others as we need to take the official route through another garden/lawn and we want to do it together so we don’t trog through over a period of time.
As we exit the garden we enter a field with beautiful horses arrogantly, neighing and throwing their heads back and flicking their mains like equine Miss Piggies. I sense an element of apprehension with one of my colleagues but he says he’s fine, “Just stay between me and them”, was the reply when I asked if there were any issues.
We enter a field stocked with sheep and lambs and stop for a drink and rest.
Marrying the map and the surrounding countryside is intermittent. We look for and find a bridge and should turn right. This takes us into a bog. Fortunately, it’s not the wettest bog but does give us some concern as the ground gives way as we choose the bigger clumps of reeds to walk upon. We have to keep moving so that we leave a clump before it sinks and start the process again on a new one.
This is a steady and steep ascent which is both energy sapping and badly marked so we rely on the Outdoorgps App that I’m using on the phone (this is not an endorsement yet but maybe in the future). It informs us where we are and enables George and I to identify a route to take us to where we need to be. In our instance, another kilometre up the moor through a couple of cuts and we meet the Cleveland Way at the top. This is the theory and as it turns out becomes the practice but the identification of a proper track is in places only achieved after some additional scouting.
At the Cleveland Way we meet some folks that are special needs adults with a couple of leaders. They’re really having a great time and one of them shows me his camera and how he uses it. I encourage him but I have to say, I have so much respect for their leaders.
They gallop ahead and we make steady progress and I’m more relaxed now that I’m beginning to trust the app on my phone. Making our way through areas that don’t have a clear track can be a bit tense, especially if it is a bog, but it has proved itself and here we are.
As we approach the top there are stone markers – don’t know what they’re marking but they carry on doing it anyway.
At the top we find a bench seat that overlooks our starting point, the steep hill that we negotiated 5 hours ago and the fabulous vista beyond.
It’s time to carry on down and we return to the car park.
The walk is about 6 miles if you discount our detours (we did rather more). It is difficult in parts especially where there is a lack of well trodden tracks. We had personal issues passing through gardens even though there is a right of way. Some parts are steep. You should not attempt this without additional OS Maps or some kind of App such as the one I was using and there are quite a few and I would appreciate feedback if you are using one. I’ll update with you with my experience of the one I’m usiing over the next couple of months. It is all very much worthwhile. Thanks Brian Roberts, Peter Hymer, Grant McDonnell and George Renwick (and Jane, Emma and Bracken). Oh, and thanks to Carol Kirkwood for organising the weather. A brilliant and beautiful day.