Thursday, 23 May 2013

Esk Valley Walk – May 2013

Andy and I first walked together in 2003 when as work mates we came up with the idea of walking the C2C. Wife's, family, friends and colleagues all said we were crazy, two fat 50+ year old men, but we did it and have enjoyed walking ever since, building up together a long string of day and multi-day walks in England and abroad.

I was unable to join Andy on this walk so I twisted his arm for a Guest Post on this Blog.

Many thanks mate.

The Esk Valley Way May 2013

Mike has asked me to put together this report on my walk of The Esk Valley Walk which I completed over the 3 days of 13 to 15 May. In planning the walk, I’d been looking for a shortish walk to be easily completed within the week I was taking off in May. I eventually found this one on the North York Moor National park website. As the title suggests it covers the Esk River valley more or less between Castleton and Whitby and is easily do-able in 3 stages, although some people do complete it in one day! There’s a handy booklet available from the North York Moors National Park (£2.95) and I’d advise you get that as not only does it give a route description and maps but it also gives other useful information about the route and the local area.

My originally proposal was to use B&B's each and move on the morning but cost precluded this so I stayed (camped) in one place and made use of the car and trains to get between campsite, starts and finishes. Train details are available on the Esk Valley railway website. Train 

Day 1 Castleton to Castleton 16 miles 1960 feet of ascent

If you’re doing as a 3 day walk, day 1 is a circular walk. The booklet gives the start as Castleton rail station but as I was using the car I started at the car park at Rigg End. It’s a basic area for parking cars and is used by the villagers when they’re walking their dogs; it’s free too.  There is also the advantage of not having to walk up the hill from the station and the days walk is shortened by a mile or so.

Looking back up to Castleton from the route
From the car park walk down the road (NE) to the road junction and take the road into Castleton. In about 30 yards turn right into the track leading to Didderhowe Farm and follow down through the farm yard and across the fields. I made a small navigational error here as I missed the path going SE and instead ended up heading towards the higher route down the valley. You need to watch out for this as the route takes the low path until they join near West Green Farm. Follow paths along to Danby Head where the route goes through a farm yard and then go straight up the side of the hill with one slight flat section until you reach the road.  Here there are 2 options I chose to slog along the side of the road as it was a bitingly cold windy day and it made for slightly easier going. After about 2 – 3 miles you come to your lunch stop – the world famous ‘Lion Inn’ at Blakey Ridge.  I say world famous as it’s a highlight on the route of the Coast to Coast walk and you will come across walkers doing it.  Indeed they may even ask you ‘Are you doing the walk??’ as if the C2C is the only walk in the world. Humour them, they’ve been walking for 11 or 12 days and have lost touch with reality. I speak from experience, I’ve done the C2C too!! 

The Lion Inn, Blakey Ridge
The guide book gives the route from here as going south to pick up the old railway line a further ½ mile south but I didn’t see the point.  Go round the north side of the pub and follow the boundary wall, taking the track down to the old railway line; all you’ve done is cut out some road and track walking and not missed anything.  From here follow this old mineral railway to a junction with a crossing bridle path and take the path going North. This leads down to the start of the River Esk at Esklets and your river journey really starts here. 

The young River Esk
From here you follow the Esk northwards through various farms until you meet the road.  From this junction you turn East and follow the route back to the car park.  It’s not an easy day, especially if you get strong winds as I had but the views from the top of Blakey Ridge are stunning and the river valley is very pretty.

Day 2 Castleton to Egton 12.7 miles 1390 feet of ascent

The day started with a train journey from Egton Bridge station where I’d parked the car in the free car park between the station bridge and the school. A pleasant short train journey took me to Castleton Moor station. From here the route goes NW up the road for a hundred yards or so and then picks up a bridle path on the right signposted ‘Danby’.  

Path to Danby 
A gentle walk soon takes you along to come out on the road and then a path across fields into Danby. The road leads over the railway and river before a track off to the left takes you above the south side of the river. A left turn down and across first the railway (taking care to watch out for trains) and then back across the river.  At this point there is an opportunity to visit the Moors National Park Centre, the main information centre of the NYM National Park.  It’s worth a visit as is the tea shop next door more importantly!  Coming back out of the centre take the road east and follow past the car/coach park until a sign points you North up a steep track.  This is the start of the climb up to Danby Beacon, the highest point in the area and not to be missed. From the top of this track it’s up the road opposite and across the brow of the hill until you come to the main road up to the beacon. Right turn and then up the long road; it’s uphill but not too steep and apart from the cars coming up behind you poses no problems.  Take some time to enjoy the panoramic views from the top; on a clear day you can see right over to Teeside one way and the radar array at Fylingdales the other.
Danby Beacon and trig point
Teeside in the distance
The route continues downhill now across the Leaholm Moor along a wide track for about 1½ miles until you meet a track on your right which leads down to a road and then down into Leaholm village.  I stopped for lunch at the Board Inn where the sausages in my sausage and red onion sandwich were made from pigs bred behind the pub! 
The Board Inn, Leaholm
From Leaholm the route follows the river fairly closely, going across fields to first to Glaisdale, where a short diversion can be taken to see the Beggars Bridge, and then on to the destination of Egton Bridge. 

River Esk at Leaholm
Beggars Bridge was built by a young chap in the 1800’s to show his young love’s father that he was no longer poor but now a man of money.  After Glasidale the route goes through East Arncliffe Wood and follows the Coast to Coast route again until just after Egton Bridge.  I picked the car up at Egton Bridge and returned the next day to continue the walk.

The railway bridge at Egton station with the church of St Hedda in the distance. The car park is on the right behind the wall just through the bridge.
Day 3 Egton to Whitby 8.9 miles 930 feet of ascent.

The third day is supposedly a flat day but actually it’s more a ‘rolling’ day than really flat. We start where I finished on day 2. So I drove into Whitby and parked the car in the Marina car park. The fee was £5 for 6 hours or £6 for 24, so not wishing to rush myself I paid the extra £1 and got a 24 hours ticket.

Originally I had intended to get the 10.05 bus from Whitby to Egton Bridge which meant I could have a leisurely breakfast and trip into Whitby.  It had been raining overnight but stopped about 7 so I got up early and decided to head straight into Whitby.  After parking the car and grabbing a bacon and cheese roll I headed off to the station and caught the 08.50 train which arrived at Egton Bridge at 09.10.  With only just under 9 miles to do today I was looking to have lunch in Whitby so did not intending to stop before then.  The route starts off on the old toll road through the Egton Estate. It’s a nice track but today it was starting to rain so I got my waterproofs on including trousers.  I met a few dog walkers on this section including one lady on a mobility scooter.  She was coming from Grosmont but had to turn round due to deep puddles on the track.  I did hold a gate open for her though!  On the way you can see the old board setting out the toll charges so I took a photo.  This part of the route from Egton to Grosmont is also part of the C2C but I didn’t see any of them this morning, I think I was too early for them!! 

Chart of Tolls from 1948
The track comes out at Priory Farm in Grosmont and I remember this well from 2004 when we camped here for the night whilst on the C2C.  The C2C route then goes into Grosmont but our route goes up by Priory Farm and then across by the farm and up a track to Grosmont Farm, Fotherleys Farm and then Newbiggin Hall Farm ascending all the time.  It’s then over to Hecks Wood and down into Back Wood before rising to Oak Hill and then down into Sleights.  You need to be careful when you come down through Back Wood though. The sign for the bridle path says straight ahead which is fine on a horse as this takes you through a stream which is about 2 foot deep!

Turn left at this sign!!
Take the footpath sign and turn left and you’ll cross the stream on a thoughtfully provided bridge. From there it’s uphill to Echo Hill and Hagg House before descending to cross the railway twice and then coming out onto the road to go into Ruswarp over a girder bridge across the river and a level crossing back over the railway. 
Girder bridge into Ruswarp
Ruswarp (pronounced Rus’arp) is the last village before Whitby and is a pleasant little place.  Apparently the butcher’s shop which you pass does excellent sandwiches but I was in too much of a hurry to try them.  I had my eye on something more substantial!! Past the butcher’s is a footpath off to the right which is paved and goes across fields next to the railway line.  This is followed through some trees and then climbs and then drops to cross an old railway line.  Go up the other side and then across a field to come out by a school. Then cross the main road and join a footpath off to the left before the main road crosses the river over the high road bridge.  Follow the path down to the road and this then goes off to the right to cross the railway line just before it enters Whitby Station.  Beware of the trains as they come from the left and you can’t see them until they are upon you.  The route then goes up through the car parks and this is where I had left my car.  I dropped off my daysac and went off into town for lunch.  This was taken at the famous fish and chip café – The Magpie Café. Usually there are queues but not today! 

After lunch I went to the official end of the route which is the end of the pier at Whitby.    

Journey’s end.

Looking back into Whitby from the end of the pier.

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