With the night’s drawing in and the days getting shorter and shorter, day trips to the Lakes to bag Wainwrights is near impossible. So about this time every year closer, more practical quests are sought with equally satisfying hikes and views. We’ve completed the Teesdale and Weardale Ways in the past winters, so after great deliberation with our pal Dicko and his long suffering wife Sue, the Cleveland Way looked favourite. It has everything to ask, hills, coastal paths and only half hour down the A19, plus I get to visit god’s country….Yorkshire!!
For those who don’t know the Cleveland Way it is basically a massive horseshoe up and around the North Yorkshire moors starting at Helmsley and ending in sunny Filey, 110 miles later. We’ve planned to complete it over the winter, hopefully.
We’d arranged for the Dickinson’s to meet us a ours about half seven giving us enough time to get down the A19 for a fairly early start at Helmsley, but like all linear walks, two cars are needed and drop a car off at the end, Sutton bank, to ferry us back to the start.
I would’ve preferred to get straight to Sutton Bank quickly to make a good start, I thought we’d sit on the A19 for an hour with loads of other cars and listen to Kel swearing at radio DJ’s for daring to talk in between records whilst attacking my vulnerable Aygo ‘sound system’ with her ever increasingly forceful fore finger. For the love of god, can anyone who reads this blog and works for the highways dept, please add another lane to the A19 between Newcastle and Stockton. Rant over and eventually we went from bumper to bumper to just our two vehicles on the road as we drove passed the sign for ‘North Yorkshire’ and clean air. I’ve driven on this road a few times and the climb up Sutton Bank is a test for most vehicles, especially HGV’s who take the road at their own risk.
We arrived in fairly good time in the car park at the top of Sutton Bank to leave my car and to jump in Dicko’s car to head to Helmsley, not before Dicko jumping out of his car to run to the toilets and me getting fleeced by the parking meter. Ticket displayed and Dicko’s bladder still full (toilets closed) we sped off to Helmsley and a chance for Kel and Sue to catch up on hair length only to realise they were both wearing the exact same clothing, ha!
Arriving in gorgeous Helmsley we found a parking spot outside the church after avoiding another parking meter dressed in a striped top wearing a mask. Boots donned and we had a look at the castle before we headed towards the start of the Cleveland Way. The hiking gods had graced us with ideal weather, very sunny with a chill in the air. The night had been freezing and the frosted grass and the frozen puddles gave testament to the low temperatures that had sneaked in overnight. Unfortunately Dicko managed to find one of these frozen puddles, I had an early scare with a minor skate across some frosty leaves, but the sound of my friend’s arse hitting the tarmac after hitting one of these puddles was initially concerning as he’s just got over a broken ankle, but a quick recovery turned my concern to micky taking and the start of our new fall count of the winter, 1-0-0-0!
Photos taken near the impressive stone monument at the start of this famous walk, we started the leg. We headed west out of the town straight out into the farmland and the muddy, but frozen, tracks sneaking up between the fields interrupting various varieties of cattle as they grazed on the frozen grass. The pace was brisk, Dicko’s attempt to warm everyone up I think but it was welcome as the cold nipped at my hands. The sun was beating down leaving frost in the shadows of fences and heavy hedgerows. But the mild breeze still carried a minus temperature and hands were firmly placed in pockets. My constant obs (observations) of my wife are always a pleasant pass time; I think from my army days I need to supplement my love of the scenery with the want to look after someone, Kel is a wonderful distraction! The night before our walk she had placed all the kit she needed in my daysack, I’m not bothered on these walks as we not too high. She had a massive smile on her face as she was daysack free and had a skip in her step, which always makes me smile. However, the usual daysackless Sue had been told by Dicko she had to wear hers today, she hates wearing it and will normally put all her waterproofs on rather than carry it, but today the spring in Kel’s step was only equalled by the slump in Sue’s back.
We reached Blackdale Howl wood which blocked the sun and sent the temperature plummeting down as the path regained its cold hard surface, which was briefly softened going through the exposed fields. Before you get to Whinney bank wood Griff Lodge appears on the right, god what a gorgeous place to live, the view from the south facing window must be incredible, damn those that live there, ha ha! Quarry bank wood drops you down onto a small road which takes you to within touching distance of Rievaulx Abbey, or what’s left of it. One of the good things about the winter low level walks is some of the buildings you come across, this abbey looked particularly grand but all we did was look from afar across the cow field, yep, a cow field! That was Kel sorted for a few minutes looking at the baby ‘Cooos’ while we stood like spare parts on the road. Dicko produced some jelly babies which was very welcome while Sue produced some liquorice allsorts that managed to distract Kel from the beef. We set off across a lovely little bridge crossing an equally stunning stream which also had a cottage siding onto the cold running water, another house on my ‘retire to’ list. It’s becoming a very big list!
The path stuck to the road for some time, I noticed a large amount of large, posh 4 x 4’s passing us with what looked like very grand looking people in them dressed in tweed. Back in the forest on Bridge Road the population of pheasants seemed to soar, they were everywhere! They did their usual trick of running like mad instead of flying away, which as I’ve mentioned before would be my choice of getting about at this time of year for game birds, take to the wing and you could be looking down the business end of a 12 bore held by Harry the Spaniel’s dad. We passed a few ponds on our right with the world’s supply of mallards, we were obviously in game shooting country. We hit a cross roads in the route and entered Callister Wood and time for bait. The owners have provided a wooden bench which was very welcome. Sue produced an array of lovely sandwiches which Dicko obviously complained about, even though he ate. I had my lovely broth and some ham and cheese sarnies which went down well. I didn’t sit down like the others as I’m still waiting for Christmar to get my body warmer that the others don on the breaks to keep them warm, so I scoffed stood up and I wasn’t long before we were back on the path and heading up to Cold Kirby. It’s a steepish rise up through the forest into the sunshine. The route was littered with the carcases of various game birds which strengthened my shooting area theory, me and Dicko suggested a day shooting which I thought was a cracking idea, if we were both millionaires as they charge thousands for the day as far as I know. Maybe clay pigeon shooting is more our bag.
We strolled through Cold Kirby like kids in a sweet shop, pointing at different cottages and houses saying, “I’d have that one, no that one, no that one!” I think Sue was eyeing up different properties for when Dicko retires soon, I am of course in full support of them spending his ‘lumper’ on a cottage in the countryside!
We pushed on to Cote Moor and our first sighting of deer this winter, another benefit of low level winter walks. The pair of Does (I think) were stood on the track in Hotel plantation that gave us about 30 seconds of their attention before running off into the forest, not before Kel could get a long distance piccy with her phone. We crossed the A170 onto High Town Bank Road and made our way down the road towards the Gliding Club and had the pleasure of seeing a few of the flimsy planes taking off and coming into land. Dicko expressed his desire to go up in one of these toy planes, I admit I do have a hatred for flying in planes, I can spend all day in a helicopter no problem but not planes. Plus, these gliders have collapsible wings which get closed down to transport them. If you can collapse them on the ground, they can collapse at 10,000 feet so no thanks. The route leads you to the top of the famous white horse land mark. You can’t actually get the gist of the horse from the top but there’s an info board near its ear if you wanna know the craic. Continue the route towards Knowlson Drop you’re in for a treat, there’s an info board with a painting from Turner, and the view is breath taking. It’s one of the views in the area where the industrial area isn’t in view, it’s gonna give an appearance later on in the walk which I might mention. The view of Sutton bank from the top shows the scale of the accent for vehicles, no wonder it’s had so many vehicles grind to a halt hallway up.
We got back to my Aygo a few minutes later and the sun was still blazing down on us. My car very rarely gets passengers in the back so 4 sweating adults steamed my windows up straight away. Sue’s bickering with her having to use her daysack continued into the car back to Helmsley and into the pub for our post walk pint.
A good start to this part of the walk, the weather was great, company good as always and the views were absolutely stunning. It’s great to be back in Yorkshire, I’ve done a few walks on this route in the later stages a few years ago, the eastern side of the horseshoe is fairly demanding but fulfilling. Stay tuned for the next few miles.