First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A glider was circling perilously near the cliffs on Sutton Bank, but no-one on the Cleveland Way had eyes for it – not with the signposts proclaiming ‘The Finest View in England – 50 metres’. That might be a bit of an eyebrow raiser as a claim, but the prospect over the Vale of York from the sharply-cut crags of Sutton Brow is certainly a stunning one. I looked out south and west over a giant plain, patched with cloud and sun, green and pale gold, rolling away to splendid blue hills on the edge of sight.
‘The Yorkshire Dales, them are,’ said a man at my side. ‘See Great Whernside there?’ He pointed out a diminutive hump on the skyline. ‘Thirty mile off, that is. Entrance to Wensleydale’s that great dark cliff you see there. Damned if it isn’t a hundred mile or more, this view.’ He inhaled as though he were drawing the scene inside to hold it deep down.
The Cleveland Way National Trail shadows Sutton Brow and the long south-north escarpment of the Hambleton Hills, so walkers get the full effect of the sensational view for mile after mile. I chose a side turning, and plunged down a path edged with pale pink dog roses through the ancient woodland of Garbutt Wood. Bluebell pods as fat as peas stood among the star-like flowers of yellow pimpernel. Gaps in the silver birch and oaks gave snatches of the view over the plain.
Young coots and moorhens were squeaking in the reeds of Gormire Lake when I got down to it at the foot of the bluff. At the pretty cottage of Southwoods Lodge I found a north-running bridleway between hedges thick with lacy umbellifers. A bee landed on one of the flat plant heads and slid its hair-thin proboscis into each tiny white flower in turn, drawing out sweetness and carrying pollen away to fertilize the next host in its round of feeding.
At Midge Holm I walked fields of coarse grass round a lake, remnants of a landscaped park now subsiding back into the landscape. On through uncut hayfields, the ripe grass heads hazing the meadows with a wash of pale purple as they released steamy warmth I could feel on my cheeks and arms.
‘I’m 82 tomorrow,’ said a slim and upright gentleman in walking boots whom I met on the homeward track to Sutton Bank, ‘and I’m lucky. Nothing ever ails me.’ He indicated the wonderful view to the distant hills. ‘Take a hold of this and put it away in the memory banks for a dark winter day. You can’t beat it, eh? Summer with its best coat on.’
Start: Sutton Bank car park, YO7 2EH (OS ref SE 517831)
Getting there: Car park is at top of Sutton Bank on A170 (Thirsk-Helmsley)
Walk (6 miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL26): Follow tarmac path up left side of Sutton Bank Bikes shop. At ‘White Horse 1¼” fingerpost, ahead through car park; follow gravel path on right of A170 to cross side road (515830); ahead along Cleveland Way/CW (‘Sneck Yate’). In 400m, left off CW (511833; ‘Footpath, Nature Trail’) steeply down through Garbutt Wood, passing numbered posts. At Post 9 (505833) ignore ‘Southwoods’ sign to right; bear left downhill to Gormire Lake. Right (504833, ‘Bridleway, Southwoods’). At Southwoods Lodge cottage (502838), right along bridleway (blue arrow/BA).
At Midge Holm Gate (502843), cross road; through gate to left of Southwoods Hall gates (‘Tang Hall, Southwoods’ fingerpost); curve anti-clockwise round field edge and on (bridleway fingerposts, BAs) to road at Tang Hall (496851). Right over cattle grid; track to Greendale farm. Through gate to left of farmyard (499854, BA); up field, through gate; left (‘bridleway’) through skirts of wood. In 350m, at 3-finger post, right (499857; ‘Bridleway, Little Moor’) up woodland track, across Little Moor, up forestry track (BAs) for ⅔ mile. At top (507853), right along CW (‘Sutton Bank’) for 2 miles to car park.
Refreshments: Sutton Bank visitor centre café (01845-597962)
Info: North York Moors Visitor Centre, Sutton Bank (01845-597426; northyorkmoors.org.uk)
Yorkshire Wolds Walking & Outdoor Festival 2016 (10-18 September) – theyorkshirewolds.com