Saturday, 12 December 2015

Thirsk to Thirsk (via Lake Gormire and Sutton Bank - Winter Edition)

Winter Time!
It can be a challenge getting out and about during the winter season, but with it being mid-December I'm tired of being kept inside and so have decided to head out and do a winter repeat of my favoured Thirsk loop (heading up to Sutton Bank).

I was aware that it would be cold, but there was no snow about on the ground so this trip turned out to be a little colder than expected, but that is the joy of heading out and about in winter!

On this day I'm heading out on the train down to Thirsk getting off at the station before heading off through town on a bit of a wet and cold day.

The train station at Thirsk drops you on the wrong side of town for any hill walking, but once through I cross over the A19 and quickly turn off to the right down a farm track.

This takes me off directly into the countryside and once past a group of houses its a fairly muddy track between fields which I'm able to navigate without too much fuss, although the years walking has taken its toll on my shoes and they're already full of water.

I normally buy new shoes on the March clock change based upon the fact that I buy soft plimsoll-like shoes that get absolutely destroyed by the harsh winter conditions and this year's edition are not in great condition.

Soon, however, I'm back on a road, turning right before bending back left to run parallel to the main road to Sutton Bank. At Balk I turn off and follow the Balk Beck once more taking water into my shoes and avoiding too many photographs due to the cold conditions (sorry).

It is heavy-going walking here along very marshy ground, but I keep pushing on until I reach the village of Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe which is very pretty and which sits not far from Lake Gormire.

Heading through the village I quickly turn off up towards a farm where I cross a sheep field and up through the trees climbing towards higher ground. After a quick drop the path climbs once again and I soon find myself looking out over Lake Gormire.

Lake Gormire
It's snowing by this point which makes photography slightly tricky as the snow keeps landing on the lens, but down here the snow has not settled and it feels much like any cold wet winter day.

I move round the lake appreciating the cover offered by the trees and looking out over the lake, which is looking much moodier than it usually does in summer months:

Lake In Winter
Lake In Summer
The difference over the two seasons at this spot is vast, but soon I'm round the lake and ready to begin the monster climb up to the ridge above.

Starting To Climb
Climbing up it is noticeably getting snowier and colder the higher I go, but I'm still very sheltered under the trees so it doesn't feel too bad so far. That said once the view opens up its not very easy to see out very far.

The View Out
Still I'm best not looking out too far at this point, because the path starts to run quite close to the edge of the ridge here and it's all quite slippery today, so best to be careful and keep the eyes down.

Along The Edge
It's a long climb up from the lake to the very top of the bank so its been particularly tough in the colder weather, but soon I'm at the top where my usual resting bench is unlikely to offer much in the way of comfort today.

Maybe I Won't Sit Down
At this point I'm aware that it is actually very cold up on the exposed ridge and since I've walked this way before I know that this can be a cold and windy stretch to walk along even in summer, so I've got a quick decision to make as to whether it's going to be too cold and exposed today or not.

Generally I'll err on the side of risk rather than caution, but on a day like today it is good to be sensible. However, I've been up in the hills quite often in the snow this winter and so I'm happy I'll be able to take anything the elements throw at me.

Once I head out though I know I'll be the only walker along the ridge so I'm going to need to keep up the pace and keep moving so that I drop off the ridge before I get too cold. That said if the worst comes to the worse I'll increase to a jog to get heat running through my body so I know I'll be fine. If you're not used to cold conditions it's best you don't copy my example as the wind can be pretty brutal in this weather.

Heading out into the cold snowy weather its clear that the spectacular scenery that defines this stretch of path in summer is not going to be very visible today.

No Views Today
By this point I'm well wrapped up with multiple layers and I've got my scarf up over my face to keep the cold winter off which can make all the difference in this cold weather... your exposed face can get very cold very quickly if you are not careful!

As I head out its great to be able to compare and contrast the scenery of the winter against that I remember from summer months and soon the other footprints disappear and I'm heading out through unexplored snow and it starts to feel like a great adventure.

All Unexplored (The Footprints Are Mine)
It's a long path along this ridge, but this first section has lengths of exposed stretches and tree sided sections interspersed so I take my time heading through the trees and its nice to be able to stop and look out from the sheltered sections to see what you can make out below.

Before long through I'm breaking out into the longest and windiest stretch of the ridge and here I've picked up the pace quite considerably and I'm keen to push on through to the road where I'll be able to drop down into warmer air. 

Winter Selfie
Before long the road starts to come into sight and having spent so much time in the cold I'm still pushing at a good pace looking forward to the warmer climate below me. As I drop the temperature will be much higher and I'll be able to loose the driving wind and snow I've been walking directly into without relent for the past hour or so.

Before I go though, I take one last picture of the snow up the top as there's not been much snow to be seen even up in the hills this winter without the weather being to rough to venture out in.

Last Look Back At the Snow Hills
Once again the contrast with my trips up in summer months has been vast:

Winter Hills
I'm now more than ready to start my descent down and joining me will be quite a lot of snow melt, with the snow under the trees having been melting as the day has progressed.

Going Down With the Snow Melt
Having dropped off the ridge it has got considerably warmer as expected, particularly now that the wind is no longer blowing cold air and snow into my face and I'm starting to warm up along with the water that is now running past underneath my feet.

By the very bottom of the descent the world has all of a sudden turned green again; although backed by the snowy ridge I've been walking along for the past few hours.

Green Here.. Snow Back There
The North York Moors are incredible during the snow in that you can walk a distance that takes little more than a few minutes and move from being in an okay climate with greenery to a full on snowstorm having only had to climb up a hill in order to make or undo the difference an its been a classic example of that today.

Down here the snow looks far less impressive, but I'm happy for it to be impressive in the distance as I head on through Boltby.

My next challenge is getting to Thirsk before sundown and with this in mind I'm unable to drop off the pace knowing that I really don't have as much light as I would like with it being mid-December. 

Still I'm able to take in all the sights as I go and in the dusk of the day start to approach Felixkirk, taking in the view out before dropping down into this village.

Absolutely No Snow Here!
Having dropped through the village I push on down the long road that will take me to Thirsk. As I go the levels of light fall, but remain high enough till I'm on the final stretch with a nice grassy verge.

By this point the sun is now down and a farmer pulls up to ask if I would like a lift, but I'm nearly at the main road where the pavement starts and I'm keen to finish what I've started so I thank him and continue to head on my way before soon hitting the main road.

Hit The Main Road
As I prepare to end Thirsk I return my scarf to a more usual style, head through and pick up a Fish and Chips supper just on the otherside on my way to the station.

I eat this as I walk appreciating the warmth it offers before jumping on the first train out of Thirsk. It costs extra to take this unplanned train, but I'm keen to be home and in the warm and hop on happily paying the extra charge I incur before heading back to a nice warm house after a very special day of snow hunting.

Maps: If you wish to follow this walk the route can be determined using 99 (Thirsk) and Sutton Bank (100). This post is designed as a narrative and not designed as route directions to be followed... always use a map and be sure of your route before you leave the house!