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Walking in Yorkshire

The proud inhabitants of Yorkshire once defended their beloved county from their arch enemies the Lancastrians, during the Wars of the Roses. Its borders finally succumbed to the vagaries of modern bureaucracy, having been dissected in the name of progress. A sizable part, North Yorkshire, remains a county of that name; the rest has become either Unitary or Metropolitan Authorities. In the interests of common sense we will consider here the historic Ridings of Yorkshire. None of this, of course, affects the reality of Yorkshire's magnificent natural landscape, or its unquestionable claim to contain some of the finest walking countryside in England. We have yet to meet the rambler who has tired of walking in Yorkshire.

The gems of the region are the National Parks, the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales, with their very different but equally beautiful scenery; but Yorkshire's abundant beauty has even more to offer in the lovely peaceful Wolds north of the Humber and in the Howardian Hills and Nidderdale, two additional Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Even all these fabulous areas do not exhaust the possibilities of great walks as the numerous guide books listed below illustrate so well. For example the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast offers breathtaking walks along high cliffs cut by bays and wooded 'wykes' and crowned by dramatic headlands.

The North York Moors National Park contains the largest continuous expanse of open heather moorland in England. These wild and remote moors have a wild drama of their own and are home to precious wildlife such as curlew and merlin. The Park comes to an abrupt end at high cliffs on the east coast, interspersed with wide sweeping bays and with attractive fishing villages such as Robin Hood's Bay and Staithes huddled against the cliffs. Two long distance paths immerse the walker in the glories of the Moors. The Cleveland Way National Trail follows the northern perimeter across heather moorland and continues down the Heritage coast; the Lyke Wake Walk defiantly crosses the highest open moorland from Osmotherley to Ravenscar. But there are numerous circular day walks in which you can explore and savour the moors, all of which are included in the guides listed.

The delightful, rolling Hambleton Hills, on the edge of the North York Moors, provide excellent walking country and hold many surprises: the imposing medieval remains of Rievaulx Abbey and Helmsley Castle; picturesque villages like Coxwold and Kilburn; landmarks such as the White Horse of Kilburn, Sutton Bank and Lake Gormire; and surrounding all are miles of open moorland just waiting to be explored. The Cleveland Hills, with their rugged, swarthy appearance, stretch from Teeside in the north, through the Guisborough Moors, to the imposing Cleveland Escarpment, and beyond to the foot of the Hambletons. The area includes the picturesque villages of Great Ayton and Osmotherley; hidden valleys like Bilsdale and Scugdale; and landmarks such as Roseberry Topping.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park covers a unique area of limestone which features dramatic cliffs and gorges, the famous limestone pavements and a landscape of pastoral valleys patterned with dry-stone walls, barns and stone built villages. There are numerous attractive streams and waterfalls and, typical of limestone hills, the streams often vanish into labyrinths of caves, channels and shafts that honeycomb the rock. On the fells, millstone grit often overlies the limestone, giving a bleaker, heather-covered aspect to the Park. In late spring and autumn the fells are a blaze of colour with curlew, snipe, redshank and buzzards soaring overhead. The lush green meadows of the dales, with their wild flowers and the clear bright water of the quieter rivers, provide an inviting contrast to the drama of the fells. Nidderdale is the smallest of the Yorkshire Dales, between Grassington in the west and Ripon to the east; Harrogate is at its south-west corner and Middleham is the northerly point. Within this compact area there are 55 glorious miles of unspoilt paradise. Lying just outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Nidderdale is a peaceful place to visit, and the upper Dale is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Wolds, sweeping in an arc from the Humber Bridge to Bridlington on the coast, provide a scaled down landscape full of beauty and with a peaceful backwater atmosphere. There are no towns of any real size within the Wolds and walking here can be a relaxing tranquil experience in good weather. The strength of the Wolds lies in the underlying chalk, for from this bedrock stems its gentleness and boundless charm. Severe contrasts are rare in this peaceful landscape, where the great appeal is the subtleness of the harmonies. Between the Wolds and the North York Moors lie the Vale of Pickering and the market towns of Malton, Helmsley and Pickering. Just north west of Helmsley in the wooded Rye Valley stand the splendid ruins of Rievaulx Abbey; the setting and graceful architecture give a sense of grandeur to this religious site and it provides the focus for a number of enjoyable walks including a route from Helmsley.


Wath - Tucked beneath a fold in the surrounding hills Wath is a small hamlet in Upper Nidderdale, just north of Pateley Bridge and almost at the foot of the Gouthwaite Reservoir dam. This is a Conservation village located in a quiet less commercialised area of the Yorkshire Dales, although Upper Nidderdale is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

OS Maps: Explorer™ 298

A Walk from Wath [SE 145678]
This walk leaves Wath heading south along the lane out of the village and then takes Wath Lane on the left at Windy Nook Cottage. The route begins climbing steeply up the valley side and there are stunning views back from here north-west looking over Gouthwaite Reservoir. Continue past a lane on the right then leave Wath Lane, taking a path on the right near a small conifer plantation. The route descends through the massive abandoned Scot Gate quarry. Shortly after passing Scot Gate Cottage turn right along a dismantled railway bed following a sign to Pateley Bridge. Pass through the town heading for the River Nidd and then follow the Nidderdale Way northwards along a lovely riverside path back to Wath. About 3.5 miles.
Best Pub for this walk
Sportsman's Arms, Wath Tel: 01423 711306 (Good Pub Guide)
This 17th century mellow sandstone building next to a river dimpled with trout is immensely inviting like a favourite grandfather clock. Buffed and burnished with the smell of beeswax, it ticks on in that slow and incomparably English way, marvellously archaic wintertime coal and log fires and candlelight adding to a timeless sense of hospitality. The food is excellent and they use the best local produce; game from the moors, fish delivered daily from Whitby, and Nidderdale lamb, pork and beef. There are seats outside in the pretty garden. Accommodation is available.
This walk is fully described in the guidebook 'Pub Walks in the Yorkshire Dales' by Leonard Markham

Redcar and Cleveland - Redcar is very much the holiday resort of Cleveland. The town has three beaches and several long rocky reefs jutting out to sea creating a breakwater which is notoriously dangerous for shipping. Quieter and more attractive locations for walking in the area are around the small town of Guisborough with a wide main street with mellow stone buildings and a market cross; or the fishing village of Staithes with its quaint steep alleyways and fishermen's cottages. Captain James Cook lived here in a cottage near the harbour which unfortunately no longer exists. From Staithes, Cowber Lane leads to Boulby Cliff, two miles west along the coast, and which at 700ft., is the highest perpendicular cliff in England.

South west of Redcar lies the pretty village of Great Ayton, nestling at the foot of the northern ridge of the moors. From the village of Newton, two miles back towards Redcar you can climb the distinctive Roseberry Topping. This local landmark, at 1057ft., offers wonderful views of the North Sea, the valleys and the moorlands and is well worth the climb. Captain James Cook also lived at Great Ayton, where he went to school. The monument to Captain Cook on Easby Moor nearby is another landmark which cannot be missed.

The Cleveland Street Walk covers a distance of approximately 11 miles between the towns of Guisborough and Loftus. Much of the footpath is across rolling countryside following an ancient track used for centuries as a right of way. You can begin the walk at either end as there is a frequent bus service between the two. Known at times as 'via de Witbei', 'Back Street' and 'Cleveland Street', history tells us this route was once a major pedestrian highway, probably linking the priories of Guisborough and Whitby. Its a changed landscape since the founding of Guisborough Priory in 1119AD; however, with a little imagination you can picture the monks tending their crops and fishing the medieval carp ponds to the rear of the priory. At Slapewath a number of railway branch lines crossed and went to various mines; the most impressive reminder of this period is the fine eleven arch Waterfall viaduct, visible through the trees by Spa Wood. Beyond Slapewath the path rises to give views across to Margrove Park and Charltons. These villages were of a particularly high quality and housed miners who worked nearby.


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