Sunday, 27 March 2016

Battersby to Thirsk Along Cleveland Way (via Osmotherley)

This route follows the Cleveland Way along its roughest, hilliest and most rugged stretch between Battersby and down almost to Sutton Bank, pulling off at Thirsk and featuring some of the most dramatic landscapes along the Cleveland Way.

This walk forms part of a three-part series of walks that cover the ground from Thirsk all the way down to Whitby; via the Esk Valley, passing through the Falling Foss waterfall and Robin Hood's Bay, with the other parts in this series stretching from Battersby to Grosmont and from Grosmont to Whitby (the scenic route).

I head out on this walk just as the clocks have gone forwards, so today offers my first chance to cover some serious ground without having to worry too much about walking the final stretch of the day in the dark, but while its great to be back in the summer half of the year it is clear that winter has still not been left far behind; with it being a moody and misty start to the day.

Heading out from my house to my local station, I'm preparing myself for a tough day, with this set to be not only the longest walk of the year so far, but also a walk that remains my longest achieved daily mileage.

That said, I'm well prepared and I've plenty of drink and possibly more than I'll really need given the mild conditions, so by the time I get off the train at Battersby station I'm confident of a solid and enjoyable day's walking.

As my train pulls into Battersby station I am able to take my first glimpse of the day of the hills ahead, which today finds a cloudy mist clinging to their peaks and hiding their summits from view.

Crossing over the train line and heading through Ingleby Greenhow, I'm starting to begin my climb up into the clouds before long and after a long and tiring climb up from the plains below - through the clouds and onto the hills - I eventually emerge in the sunshine above the mist, with clouds stretching out below my feet.

Hills in the Mist
This viewpoint features on many of the walks I have documented here, with this being one of my favourite stretches of the North York Moors, but every visit offers something different and today the mist is putting on an incredible show which more than makes up for the reduced visibility.

Remarkably, I'm not alone up here despite it being around 8am and there are three small groups of walkers up here with me taking in the drama of the morning and presumably getting ready for a long day of walking.

Floating on Clouds
Up here the visibility out over the surrounding countryside isn't great, but after following this ridge (that normally has such spectacular views) I drop down into the Wainstones which are looking sensational in these misty conditions.

Looking Through the Stones
Already it has been a long climb just getting up into the hills from the plain below, but this stretch of the Cleveland Hills is characterised by repeated steep climbs and descents and after a scramble through the Wainstones - clambering over the rocky cut through the middle - I drop back down to a valley below.

This valley remains well above the plain below, giving this higher level a completely contrasting feel to the well tended fields, backed by the homes and industry of Teesside, below. Normally this means dramatic views, but while the mist is starting to fade, visibility remains fairly limited in these early hours.

Having made my way down into the valley there is nowhere to go but straight back up the otherside, bringing with it my second steep climb of the day.

Looking Back From the Other Side
The other side offers dramatic views back towards the Wainstones, with the stones on the other peak only just visible in the rapidly disappearing mist. In the place of that mist a bright blue sky is appearing, although it remains a fairly cold start to the day.

While the ascent slows fairly quickly on this side of the valley there remains a prolonged but relatively gentle climb that takes me to my next descent of the day.

Next Descent
Once again this descent drops into a wide valley which will be followed by the steepest climb of the day up stairs cut into the rock to one of the most popular hills on this stretch (more because of the cafe to follow than anything else).

A sharp descent later, I'm walking through pasture land currently populated by a group of cows and getting ready for the next big climb.

Stairs in the Rock
Very much a lesser version of the stair into Mordor in the Lord of the Rings, this climb starts off at a fairly gradual pace, but the steps get closer and steeper as the top of the climb approaches.

I'm used to all this hill climbing, but by the top I'm getting out of breath and push on knowing that the end is in sight before collapsing down at the top to sit and take in the views below. 

In summer this spot offers magical views out over the surrounding country out to Roseberry Topping and beyond, but without the bright sunshine to brighten the landscape the views are all about the drama of the landscape today and not the views below.

Before long and a long swig of my drink later, I'm back on my feet and following the flat ridge along the top. There is the option to pull off on a route that follows the base of this ridge (why would you though?) and I'm able to watch walkers heading out along that track as I move into one of the busiest stretches of these hills.

Down the next descent is a cafe that gets very busy in the middle of the day during the peak of summer (although it strangely gets quieter during the snowy cold stretches across winter). For now it's relatively quiet today and I don't have to worry much about the crowds as I look back to take the sights in.

Looking Back at my Journey So Far!
From here the range of hills I've been following all morning are visible, with the furthest ridge in the distance being the hills just past Battersby (with the other route out of Battersby heading up onto that ridge via the old Battersby Incline train track).

I've reached the end of my ridge now and having already rested after the climb I don't stop at the stone bench that looks out over the view below and instead head down the hill, once again into a wide valley.

At the base of the valley I eventually pass the cafe that has popularised this area and which provides the primary introduction to visitors in this area. I myself am on a tight schedule in terms of light levels - despite the clocks moving in my favour - so I'm pressing on being already well provisioned. This means that I quickly cross a road instead and begin my next climb of the day.

Along this stretch of path you get used to the endless climbing and in all honesty the climbs are one of the reasons why this is one of my favourite stretches to walk along in this area.

So motivated by this mini pep-talk I head up, pausing near the top to take the sights in. By the time I hit the very top I'm able to take the sights in.

Looking Back to Cafe
The Hill Marker
The Onward Path
For the next stretch the terrain is more wild with much shorter climbs and descents and without any leafy valleys between climbs. Instead the green valley lies far below on my left and will eventually meet up with the path much further on.

When the heather is out this is a lovely stretch to walk along, but at this time of year it remains largely unremarkable so while I am taking an interest in the surrounding countryside I'm really looking to move through this stretch onto the next area of interest.

After a minor descent onto a lower stretch of hills, I eventually find myself on an increasingly descending path that starts taking me down into a line of trees. Just before I drop into the woods I stop and take a rest and a drink as I watch two groups of walkers begin their long climb up onto the hills.

Dropping into the woods, the descent continues down to a gate where the path pulls round circling a cluster of farms which are reached after a short journey down a path that is surrounded by rabbit holes; with the odd glimpse of baby rabbits to be found as they scurry away.

Upon reaching the farms, the road becomes my path for a short stretch down to a small bridge over a small stream, the Crook Beck, that will be heading on to Swainby and join the River Leven at Hutton Rudby.

I will not be following this stream for much longer and instead head up through a grassy field towards a very muddy gate that returns me into a wooded stretch, but not before offering up a bench for me to rest at and take in the view in from.

Muddy View from the Gate
After a short rest I'm wandering through a lovely airy wooded stretch that occasionally opens up to give views of the countryside surrounding Swainby.

In time my path hits a crossroad. Turning right would take me to Swainby and would give the chance to purchase further supplies, but instead I'm heading over the path and on towards Osmotherly.

Once again though it is a steep climb that awaits me, up long steps cut into the path.

A Climb That Never Ends
On this short climb I'm forced to make up much of the height I have lost since my descent off the hills, but with a bit of perseverance and with a certain loss of breath I soon make it to the top where I once again have the opportunity to rest amongst the company of some young snowdrops and daffodils.

Young Daffodils
I'm not on this walk to rest however, and I soon get back on my feet walking along a wide track that runs through the last stretch of woodland. 

Above me, the woods continue on stretching out and tumbling over the hill top above, but in front of me the woods give way to moorland once again as I cross over the road that leads to Cod Beck Reservoir.

For the keen (and stupid) cyclists out there this road offers a very steep, but very rewarding climb up past Cod Beck Reservoir and on to Osmotherly from which another climb can be found that takes you onto some of the most dramatic cycling roads around.

However, we are on foot today so we cross over and head up on yet another climb and into a herd of sheep that whilst slightly wary, seem in need of feeding and as such are displaying an interest in my passage.

Herd of Sheep
The view back shows the sharp crossover from woods to moors, but its great to be out of the moors as the views along this stretch are usually something special.

On a day like today, however, everything is all a bit brown and dreary so the pictures aren't all that great, but in the peak of summer (July/August) this stretch is probably the best of this whole route.

As a result, I don't linger to take photos and head on towards a gate in the distance.

At this gate I will begin to turn my course, having been heading West so far and start shifting my path towards a South-Western direction. Soon I will reach Osmotherley and begin my Southward passage towards Thirsk.

Just before the gate I'm greeted by a minor swamp. As I reach it, I'm passing a group of walkers who are tenderly and cautiously looking for an easy path through, but I'm a man on a mission today and so I simply wade through to the other side.

From here my path starts to turn as I look out over the A19 and its tiny cars far below my feet, offering a modern contrast to the wilder countryside at the start of the day.

From here to Osmotherley it is a lovely walk through some woods, but as the woods give way I'm soon passing through boggy marshland that more than once swallows up my shoes and leaves me doing the one-legged hop.

By this point I've given up all hope of having anything like dry or clean shoes and before long every step includes the squeltch of mud-filled shoes. Eventually becomes easier as the fields give way and I find myself on a road heading down to Osmotherley.

Road to Osmotherley
I'm now well and truly looking the part and it offers me great amusement to pass an immaculately dressed family washing the specs of dirt they find upon themselves in a little stream that runs across the road.

However, this does remind me of the fact that I'll be stopping for supplies in Osmotherley which in turn means that I'll be making a mess of someone's shop :S.

This can't really be helped but the floor at this shop is washable and I do my best to keep any mud deposits to a minimum as I buy some sugary snacks to keep my energy levels up for the remaining part of my walk. To be fair, I'm sure a lot of their passing trade in winter comes from weirdos like myself who are dumb enough to be out and about.

Upon reaching the middle of Osmotherley my onward path heads down a tight alley, through fields of horses and down to the Cod Beck (made famous by its reservoir which acts as a Mecca for much of Teesside on a sunny day). 

Before crossing over the Cod Beck, I descend down a steep wooded valley and then start the climb up the slippery and steep fields on the other side.

Having avoided any major falls I rest on a bench at the end of the slippery section, about a third of a way up my climb. Here I finish the last of my snacks and drink and prepare for the rest of the climb.

Before long I'm up the top and passing over a road and towards the much less appreciated Oak Dale Reservoir. This is usually a nice place to rest, but I've been doing enough of that already and instead head up on yet another ascent to the car park above.

Looking Back to Oak Dale Reservoir
This is a quiet car park that should be marked on the map for any lazier cyclists that don't like ridiculously big climbs as from here on the road offers some superb rises, falls, bends and scenery, without being anywhere near as punishing as the climb up to this spot.

However, we have legs not wheels today, so we pull off the road and prepare for yet another steep climb.

Another Steep Climb
The path here will once again restore our level at the heights of the Cleveland Hills and fortunately this marks the last real big climb of the day. Sadly though, its a pretty big last climb of the day that follows on from a big climb already.

Having reached the top of the ascent, it is a return to the rougher terrain of earlier in the day, although ahead the path is flat and straight along the Hambledon Hills and the old Hambleton Drove Road.

This old route, believed to have been used since prehistoric times, is most famous for being used in the 18th and 19th centuries to drive Scottish cattleherds down into English market towns. 

These old roads can be spotted throughout the Moors, but are generally less dramatic than the rugged hilly edges of the Moors that are for obvious reasons less ideal for moving cattle along. 

Still the views of to the side remain dramatic as I head along this old (and now fairly quiet) road.

View to the Side
Drovers Road - Yup, Long and Ever On
Levels of excitement tend to wane at this point with the road being so long and unchanging so for the next few miles or so it is a case of putting one foot before the other, waiting until more exciting countryside starts to emerge.

Along this stretch I'm keeping myself entertained with audiobooks, mainly with the story of Facebook's creation. In summer the bright sunshine makes this stretch something special, but on a dull dreary day like today it is all about the in-house entertainment!

Many  miles later I reach the woods at the end of this stretch.

New Scenery!
This offers a welcome break from the repetition of the last few miles.and I'm also joined by a wide range of animals which includes these rather noisy fellows:

A Noisy Bunch Which All Flew Off Just Before This Photo Took!
Not being a bird expert I can only categorise these as being a noisy breed, but they make for delightful company hoping from tree to tree in front of me staying within my eyeline, but without letting me get too close.

Soon though I have to leave these guys behind and turn right towards High Paradise Farm which also doubles as a cafe, but I'm not going to be stopping by and instead head down towards Low Paradise Farm.

Here The path cuts through a small field with a very friendly population.

A Friendly Sheep
A Friendly Horse
Of the two the horse was my favourite and fortunately I was the right side of the gate before he decided to block it off, with the two of us spending a fair few minutes bonding and getting to know each other.

Heartlessly I left my two new friends behind and after a short stretch along a wooded path I reach a road. Here I could cross over and head on to Sutton Bank, but the faster route takes me down on the road towards Thirsk, which I take.

In the peak of summer I might try repeating this walk, but heading on and then back to Thirsk via Sutton Bank and Lake Gormire, but for now I have to turn off to make the most of the remaining light.

Down the Road
That said, this is a quiet and very pleasant road that winds down the hill and round towards Boltby offering up numerous signs of spring.

Spring Rabbits
Spring Snowdrops
It has been a long cold winter so these signs of spring are more than welcome, although the weather remains cold and suggestive of a summer that will be heavily delayed.

Before long I arrive in the lovely village of Boltby that sits under the shadow of Sutton Bank.

Heading on along the road it is a long passage round to Felixkirk, but in time I reach this second village on my way towards Thirsk.

From here on in, I'm 1 hour shy of Thirsk and the passage of 12 hours since I left my house this morning. 

The remaining route consists of relatively unexciting roads that I must pass on my way to Thirsk, so I'm back to audiobooks and my own in-house entertainment.

In time houses start to appear on the side of the road and I eventually join up with the main road into Thirk, passing over the A19 and through Thirsk, stopping off at Tesco's on the other side.

Even having reached Thirsk it is a 30 minute walk to the station on the otherside and upon reaching my destination I collapse onto a bench and await my carriage home.

Maps: If you wish to follow this walk the route can be determined using 93 (Battersby on) and 99 (to Thirsk). 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!