First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Cleveland Way, the National Trail that runs round the rim of the North York Moors with vast, spectacular views from the great escarpment.
Early on a cold morning I followed the Cleveland Way north out of Osmotherley. Vague shapes of Pennine ranges lay out to the west on the edge of sight, under a sky ribbed with cloud that stretched in parallel bars from horizon to horizon, a remarkable sight.
A short detour through the trees of fetchingly named Summer Game Hill, on a path lined with simple wooden Stations of the Cross. This rustic via dolorosa led up to a lonely Lady Chapel, object of pilgrimage and still used for worship.
Back on the Cleveland Way I took another sidetrack down through the trees of Mount Grace wood among bluebells and wild garlic, to where the remarkably well-preserved Mount Grace Priory lay sheltered below the escarpment. In these two-storey cells the Carthusian monks of the priory led lives of prayer and contemplation, solitary and utterly silent.
I climbed back up to the Cleveland Way and resumed the walk, up through South Wood to where larch and firs gave way to silver birch and young green bilberries. The upland sheep pastures were divided by beautifully maintained stone walls. On the eastern skyline ran the hummocky dark spine of Osmotherley Moor, the sombre-coloured escarpment edge trending north to where the sharp breaking-wave profile of Roseberry Topping stood up against the sky.
Out on Scarth Wood Moor a paved path wound palely over the heather. Suddenly an intent dark shape scuttled across – a handsome male black grouse, his bright scarlet crest erect, his legs strutting like clockwork.
Here I left the Cleveland Way, cutting back south by way of Cod Beck Reservoir, as cold and still as a sheet of tin among its trees. Above the lake I found High Lane, a track perhaps dating back to Neolithic times, down which Scottish drovers in former days would drive trains of up to 300 cattle to markets in Thirsk and York. It was a great way to head towards Osmotherley, staring out over 50 miles of lowland country, picturing those hardy men and their charges slowly plodding south across these moody northern moors.
Start: North End, Osmotherley, N. Yorks DL6 3AA (OS ref SE 456972). More car parking at Cod Beck Reservoir, 1½ miles north.
Getting there: Bus 80, 89 (Stokesley-Northallerton); X89 (Northallerton-Middlesbrough)
Road – Osmotherley is signed off A19 (Thirsk-Middlesbrough)
Walk (6¾ miles; 8 miles including Mount Grace Priory detour; moderate, OS Explorer OL26): Cleveland Way (CW, white acorn & fingerpost waymarks) north out of Osmotherley. After ½ mile, at 453977, signposted detour loop on right to Lady Chapel (454982. Returning to CW at Chapel Wood Farm (452980), right along CW.
NB For Mount Grace Priory detour, cross CW at Chapel Wood Farm, left past farm buildings, through gate (yellow arrow/YA); follow YAs down field edges, to corner of wood (448980) then through wood to Priory (448985) and return.
Main walk: from Chapel Wood Farm, north on CW via South Wood and Scarth Wood Moor for 1¾ miles to road (473003). Right on path beside road for nearly 1 mile to 2nd of 2 car parks at head of Cod Beck Reservoir (468992). Left (kissing gate, footbridge) into trees. In 50m, left up left bank of stream; at edge of trees, left (470990, ladder stile, YA). Ahead on grass path curving right; in 200m, right along High Lane trackway (472991).
In nearly 1 mile, trees end (472978); in another 400m, right across chain (473974) on grassy track. In ½ mile cross horse gallop (465973); left down path; in 300m, right (465970, CW) on CW to Osmotherley.
Lunch/dinner: Golden Lion, Osmotherley (01609-883526, goldenlionosmotherley.co.uk) – superb cooking in pub setting
Accommodation: Woodlands Farm, Thimbleby DL6 3PY (01609-883524, woodlandsfarmthimbleby.com) – really delightful B&B; pickups and drop-offs part of the service.