First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
It was blowing fit to take the tiles off when I finally ventured out up Levisham’s single street in the early afternoon. But the last of the morning’s torrential downpours was already marching off northwards across the North York Moors, and the neat red-tiled roofs of the stone cottages that faced each other across the green looked safe enough for now. The rain had given Levisham’s resident diminutive pony a make-over, though – its coat was matted with balled fur like a poodle’s.
Out in the fields west of the village, the southern sky was a bubble-bath of silver and blue, shot with brilliant shafts of wintry sun. Power lines howled in the wind, hawthorn hedges whistled, the grass hissed and gunsmoke clouds raced overhead. It was fantastically exhilarating being blown about, especially once I had got into the raving and gesticulatory woods of Newton Dale. Yellow catkins whipped across my line of sight, and the uncannily melancholy and evocative owl-hoot of a steam locomotive came up on the wind from Levisham station on the North York Moors Railway far below.
They were waiting for Sir Nigel Gresley, an oily-handed man in a boiler suit told me at the level crossing – not the great steam locomotive designer, but his namesake engine and the rake of enthusiasts’ coaches she’d be pulling. With the short spring afternoon half gone already I couldn’t wait around, even for a glimpse of that sleekly streamlined and magisterially beautiful machine. Instead I raised steam and tackled the bank up to the sun-streaked summit of Levisham Moor, where the wind took me in the small of the back and shoved with brutal strength.
I bowled along like a runaway Pullman, past Dundale Pond and its concertina ripples, through seething clumps of sedge, by moorland streams blown into charging torrents. Down under stiffly bobbing thorn trees where last autumn’s scarlet berries lay across the path like beads, down to where the clefts of Dundale Griff and Pigtrough Griff ran together. A rollercoaster path south through dancing larch and hazel woods, and then a last mile west into a china pink sunset, with the owl hoots of Sir Nigel Gresley blowing faintly to me down the still rising gale.
Start & finish: Horseshoe Inn, Levisham, N. Yorks YO18 7NL (OS ref SE 833907)
Getting there: Rail – North York Moors Railway (01751-472508; www.nymr.co.uk) to Levisham station (on walk route). Road – Lockton, then Levisham, signed off A169 between Whitby and Pickering.
Walk (4½ miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL27): From Horseshoe Inn, right down ‘No Through Road’ with chapel on left. In 400 yards at left bend, ahead over stile (831906); follow wall for 2 fields; stile into woods (824905); right on path for 1/3rd mile to foot of incline. Left over stile (822911); down hedge (yellow arrows); through gate into woods (821911). Through woods to road beside Levisham NYMR station (819911). NB Starting point if coming by train. Right up road for ¼ mile; at top of climb, right (819914; ‘footpath’ post) to transect hairpin bend. Recross road; left up bank path. Forward at top (822918), following wall. At corner, ahead (yellow arrow) on green track to 5-finger post at Dundale Pond (829919). Follow ‘Dundale Griff to Hole of Horcum’ for 2/3rd mile to path junction (839918). ‘Hole of Horcum’ points left; but go right (‘Levisham), following woodland path for 1½ miles to road (833903). Right into Levisham.
NB – online maps, more walks: www.christophersomerville.co.uk.
Lunch: Horseshoe Inn, Levisham (01751-460240; www.horseshoelevisham.co.uk).
Accommodation: Moorlands Country House Hotel, Levisham (01751-460229; www.moorlandslevisham.co.uk).
More info: Pickering TIC (01751-473791); www.visityorkshire.com