White Horse, Gormire, Sutton Loop

Pete’s looking dapper in light walking trousers, poachers waistcoat with more pockets than you can shake a stick at and a nice little fabric man-bag casually thrown over one shoulder. He’s clearly been influenced by Grattans.

We’re all looking at him in admiration, “All you need is a pith helmet and a gun”, Dave’s got the early quip in and Pete’s ability to respond with a witty reply has been honed and in the blink of an eye he’s dug into his extended memory-bank of wit and repartee and responds with a ‘fluffing’ word followed by ‘off’. There’s an immediate response of course, “You can stop taking the pith out of him now”, says Dave and we’re off, it looks like a promising day!

The lay-by that we’re in is just a couple of hundred yards past the Yorkshire Gliding Club and is free but there are no facilities. We take the path to the White Horse and as we emerge from the trees we can see a vista that’s as wide as a human can take in and the Pennines are quite clear against the blue sky backdrop. It’s a view that takes your breath away although the White Horse is underwhelming when you’re close to it.

We make our way down the steps; George has planned this walk with a lot of ‘down’ early on and serious ‘up’ about two thirds of the way through. It can be a bit taxing to tackle serious ‘up’ after eight or ten miles so this balance is much appreciated.

The sun is strong and the shade from the trees creates black shadows as we make our way across the grass towards the wood. The track is partially overgrown with ferns but this time we didn’t have the added impediment of heavy rain the night before. When this happens the potential for testing even the most expensive Gortex trousers is challenging. There’s a couple of zigs and a zag and we emerge onto a narrow lane and after a minor detour we find the fork we require and join an easily negotiated forestry commission track that leads us towards the bottom of Sutton Bank.

The track is stony but not unpleasant although there are undulations as it meanders through the woods. We make another little faux-pas but soon it’s soon remedied and only a couple of hundred metres added. The path crosses a field of harvested corn and the huge round bales are casting a shadow in their lee creating a fabulous 3 ‘D’ effect and gives the scene a wonderful depth.

At the farm we pass through a gate and are met with a barrage of sound from sheep calling their offspring away from the strangers crossing their land. There are swifts or swallows hurtling around the farmhouse and buildings, they’re a bit quick for formal identification and they’re in silhouette in the strong sun so colours are not distinguishable hence the ambiguity of name. 

A couple of gates later and we’re on the Sutton Bank/Thirsk Road and George takes us right for a couple of hundred metres then across and over a style back onto grass. There’s a sign telling us that ‘No sledging is allowed’ and there’s a couple of quips about the antics of wicket keepers and batsmen and whether that type of ‘sledging’ is acceptable. We conclude that it should be ‘miked-up’ so that we could all hear it but we know that’s just not going to happen until we get the next Kerry Packer.

It’s ‘up’ now and over another style followed by a short level section towards another farmhouse then beyond towards Gormire.

We’ve been here many times on various walks and one of our merry bands reminisces about skinny dipping in these waters many years ago. I once did that in a loch over forty years ago and I don’t think my genitals have recovered, I came out of the water with three Adams-Apples and a firm commitment never to do it again!

There’s a rope swing over the water and it becomes something of a draw, we’re like little boys with a new toy as we take turns to swing with immense care over a small section of water. Fifty years ago we’d have taken a run along the side of the lake and left the bank to swing in a huge arc across the water and probably accompany it all by warbling Tarzan sounds over the water before landing with theatrical ease back where we started – or we could have fallen in – but that was a long time ago, now we do it with care and no warbled sound.

A few photographs and with a conflicting mix of disappointment that no-one had fallen in and relief, also that no-one had fallen in, we make our way towards the end of the lake and a right turn through the woods on a major ‘up’ that will lead to the Cleveland Way on Garbutts Ridge.

The path is steep and leads us through dappled glades that are as still as a statue accenting the movement of the butterflies and the odd fly and wasp. The crows and rooks are cawing but they’re hidden from view so not distinguishable from one’n other. We meet a couple with their son; he’s only slightly taller than the nettles and mum is walking in front ensuring they’re well pushed back in order to avoid him being stung. I note she’s doing this instinctively and whilst she’s clearing the way ahead there’s no more than a couple of seconds go by without a backward glance to check he’s still safe and the work that she’s doing is having the appropriate effect. I never cease to marvel at human instinct and find it even more fascinating when watching a mum – they’re special, very special species and it would be wrong to allow political correctness to undermine this. I’d really like to see them get a couple of years of maternity leave to allow them to continue the creation of the tiny human that’s going to spend a lifetime on this planet. I’m still thinking of a slogan, “Keep Mum’s special”, when we arrive at the ridge and join the mountain goats already there.

It’s gone noon and the blue skies are still evident as we break out the sandwiches and biscuits. The walk and the conversation is wonderful but the picnic and craic is even better as we sit in the heather looking over a ridge that is purported to be the best view in Britain, this is heaven. It may be argued about what really is the best view and it may change on an hourly basis as the weather and angle of the sun influence the scene, but it’s pretty dammed good and we take time to appreciate it.

The walk along this ridge is divine and I would encourage you to do it. It doesn’t have to be as strenuous as our little excursion, just go to Sutton Bank, park the car and walk along the ridge, it’s beautiful and not difficult.

The walk back to the White Horse is about two miles but the time passes in a heartbeat and in no time we’re back at the cars. We round it off with a trip to the Glider Station cafe where ham, double egg and chips can be had for a fiver; if you’re a veggie and want to lose the ham it’s four quid, what’s not to like?

This is a great walk, especially in the sun.

Enjoy the snaps…G..x

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