There are many areas around the North East where you can travel relatively few miles to find somewhere to have a nice, scenic walk. One of these is the Cleveland/North Yorkshire Moors. The area around Great Ayton, Stokesley and surrounding villages is one part of the NE where you can find a variety of surroundings in which to walk.
There is a well-known place, Roseberry Topping is visited by school parties, families and just about everyone who wants the feeling of climbing a fairly big hill and taking in the views at the top. To be fair, it is a bit like Catbells in the Lake District, as in gets a bit crowded and if you like a nice quiet walk out it probably isn’t my first choice, but we thought we’d have a look out but use the surrounding area to ‘beef’ up the walk a bit.
I plotted a route which starts on a small lane called Dikes Lane, which you can get onto by going to Great Ayton and following the sign to Great Ayton Train Station then staying on that small road up into the hills and a carpark that conveniently has a picnic site.
We arrived about 11am and there were a few cars already parked up. This is a well-used car park as it is also an ideal starting point to visit Captain Cook’s monument. It was just me, the missus and Alfie the Springer Spaniel walking today and apart from a very strong (annoying) breeze, the sun was making an appearance every now and again and no rain was forecast, which was good.
I had planned this route so we could get our hill fitness back as we had been neglecting mountainous areas of late and the old leg muscles were getting a bit unworked, apart from the allotment that is. I saw by the map, the route I’d marked out would have 3 short but steep climbs to work our hearts and legs, and one of these was at the very start. The path is clear, it sets off north up the steep steps up onto Great Ayton Moor, hugging the wall/fence to the left. This takes you up onto the top, the views in all directions are stunning, as long as you can block out Middlesbrough (just kidding, it’s a lovely place). For about 2 km keep to the right hand side of the wall until you reach the junction in the wall which goes of in a number of directions. We decided, even though we’ve summited it a few times, to go up Roseberry Topping. It is quite obvious which path to take now, it drops down the hill into a dip with Roseberry straight in front of you. At the bottom of the dip we turned left through a gate and stayed on the path until we saw the gate at the SE of the hill. Through the gate and up a zig zagged path to the top and loads of people!
The council have tried their hardest to sand blast the etched in graffiti which pretty much dominates the summit, to be fair they’ve done a good job as it doesn’t look half as bad as I used to.
Whilst on the top, we noticed a bit of a drama taking place. We heard a lot of shouting coming from the start of the easterly decent down. On further inspection, a bloke was shouting at a youth, about 15 years old, who was on his hands and knees gripping tightly to the rock surface. Listening in, the young lad was scared the wind was going to blow him off the top, I mean it was a bit breezy but it wouldn’t have blown the dog off, near mind this lad. Anyway, the lad clawed his way to shelter near some rocks and he eventually stood up. It reminded me of one of our trips up Helvellyn and a young lass crawling the whole way across Striding Edge because she thought she might be blown off, it was about 25c and no wind (for once). I didn’t know whether to piss myself laughing or feel sorry for the poor lass…I generally don’t feel sorry for people!
Now, this is one of the things I try not to bang on about but it is one of my pet hates, OK, Roseberry Topping is very popular tourist spot. It’s a hill or mountain which ever you want to call it or which ever way you define it. For the purpose of this rant, I’m going to call it a big hill. This hill is clearly pathed, nice stone steps in places but still places where you can fall and snap bones. It stands 320 m above sea level, but even the 200m ascent from the car park in Newton Under Roseberry it still needs to be climbed. Even looking at the map, the contour lines are canny close so you should expect a steep climb. There are still people wandering up and down in shoes and trainers, unsuitable footwear! A fall, even at this relatively small hill will need the emergency services to come to you, unless you have a day sack with a good first aid kit. A good pair of walking boots will give you the extra support and stability you may need during a slip.
While I’m at it, if you see me in the hills, you’ll know who I am, tall dark Yorkshire man with a North East twang. I have what would appear to the average person a large day sack on my back. I’ve been out with people who say, “You carry too much for a day out”, but I carry a good set of emergency equipment. The reason I carry this is because unlike others, I realise that mountain rescue organisations are funded by charity, nothing else. And I would be mortified if I had to call them if one of my party sustained an injury. As a Leader I would expect to give first aid and evacuate a casualty, unless in extreme circumstances. You see people up on hills with inadequate equipment who expect if anything goes wrong, mountain rescue have a right to retrieve them! It’s wrong, wrong, wrong!!
Anyway, back to the route. We decided to drop off the hill in a NE direction and take the clearly marked out path into Hutton Lowcross Woods. This is a lovely forest area and the wildlife was teeming. We followed the path to the open ground at the end where it joined a small minor road that goes SE into Hutton Village. We took this route then joined a path just before the village on the right and started the climb up back onto the moorland through the woods.
As we emerged out of the wood-land we recognised the spot as part of the Cleveland Way, which we completed a few years ago. Again, the views were incredible and with the path being wide enough to see it from the moon, I could concentrate on the view momentarily instead of reading the map.
RANT No 2 coming up!!
Roughly about 500m down this path there is what appears to be an old air defence bunker built from brick and the building itself is in good condition. Being very interested in anything military I had a quick look inside. It was littered with plastic and glass bottles! Now this is what I can’t get my head around, people that would come across this building would generally be walkers or shooters, both kinds of people who look after the countryside and would not (I would hope) leave so much crap around, for god’s sake there was an old car seat in amongst the bottles! Dirty, dirty gits!!
We carried on down the path until coming to an obvious junction with a track heading south down into Nab End Woods. This is a steepish path downwards which is clearly been made for heavy plant machinery. The countryside opens up on the right-hand side and a view into the farmland of Oak Tree Farm. Halfway down this track my wife Kel, let’s out a god-awful scream as the dog picks something up in his mouth. Both me and the dog jump out of our skin and he drops what he had put in his mouth. The missus shouts, “it’s a giant caterpillar!”, prompting me and Alfie to look down at a Pine Cone lying between his front paws. With my heart pounding out of my chest I painted the North York air with blue language before both Kel and me crying with laughter at her over dramatisation.
We plodded on down to the main road and turned right up towards the farm. The last leg went up through the farm buildings and up to the car park.
Just over 7 miles of gorgeous moorland, woodland and farmland, all the boxes ticked!
I feel I need to take more advantage of this area, it’s 30 mins from my doorstep and there are some great routes waiting to be hiked!