20170330_Levisham Moor and Hole of Horcum Circular Walk
Post-1 of 4 – Saltergate to Levisham Station
When : 30 March 2017
Who : Just Me
Where : North York Moors
Start and End Point : Grid Ref. SE853,937
Distance : Approx 10 miles (16 km)
Significant Heights : Not much really [see end of post-3 of 4 for details]
Map : 1:25,000 Outdoor Leisure Map No.27 … North York Moors Eastern Area.
[My map is pretty much an ancient relic, probably a slight over statement, but it did only cost me £2.95 which gives an idea of its vintage. I’ve no idea how old it actually is, but essentially the moors don’t change much and despite it being in a slightly dilapidated state (slowly falling apart at the folds) it did me fine for my trip. Next time however, I think a new map may well be on the cards, and won’t need Sellotape to hold it together].
Full Walk Summary : A circular walk starting near Saltergate with fine views over The Hole of Horcum, walking anti-clockwise over Levisham Moor, Views over The North Yorkshire Moors Railway, Short drop down to Levisham Station in Newton Dale, Climb back up to Levisham village (and The Horseshoe Inn) and return to Saltergate via Dundale Griff, Horcum Slack and through the bottom of The Hole of Horcum.
If you click on a pic’, it should launch as a larger image on my photostream on Flickr … a right click should give you the option of launching in a separate window/page.
After my exertions of my big 16½ miler the day before (see my previous posts), I felt a smaller gentler day might be on the cards, so after a good perusal of my map and a search of my memory banks, I decided on a 10 mile wander based on The Hole of Horcum just off the A169 Pickering to Whitby road. However, even within the confines of the planned 10 miler, there were various options to either shorten the route or even extend it depending on how I felt during the walk. That’s the beauty that walking on your own gives you, total flexibility without having to think of anyone else other than yourself.
The first thing I had to do was climb up from Boggle Hole Youth Hostel (where I was staying) to the car-park on the minor road above; quite a steep little pull, and after the walk of the day before, I kind of struggled to get my legs working properly. But at least once at the car, I had quite a bit of a drive to reach the start point of today’s walk.
My starting point proper was a car-park by the side of the A169 near Saltergate (it’s like a very large layby on the eastern side of the road). After paying the car park charges, I crossed the busy road, picked up a well-worn path and turned right, with the main road on my right and with The Hole of Horcum dropping dramatically below me on my left.
I don’t know how romantic you are, or if you’re into practical geography, but there are a couple of conflicting claims of how the huge bowl of The Hole of Horcum came into being; either,
a) The giant Wade’s argument with his wife Bell, where he scooped up the earth and threw it at her some miles away, forming Blakey Topping in the process.
b) A natural occurrence of erosion by springs.
I’ve now written a follow up diary post (post 4 of 4) for an expanded explanation.
Anyway, whichever way the hole was made, my route to start with was just about due north but soon swung around to the left following the sweep of the road, which in turn follows the northern sweep of the Hole of Horcum itself. This afforded super views into “The Hole”; after a while the views opened up to the north also, out over Fylingdales Moor and the famous RAF early warning installation, and in the far distance to the furthest/highest point of my walk of the day before. Very soon, where the road makes a sharp hair-pin bend to the right, I was faced with a choice of routes.
1) Left, downhill into The Hole of Horcum.
2) Straight on (generally westwards) following Gallows Dike out onto the highest part of Levisham Moor.
3) Half right, dropping below a small scarp, out onto a wide, almost flat area of moorland.
It was this third option I’d planned on, and I picked out a narrow path heading over to the valley of Havern Beck, a steep sided, partially wooded gash in the moor. After a little explore here for a while I then picked up a path, (little more than a sheep track really) skirting the southern edge of the Havern Beck valley (heading north west) to reach a corner of a fence/wall above Pifelhead Wood (grid ref. SE846,948). From here there were some fantastic views to the north, out over a deep flat-bottomed valley (North Dale) bounded by moorland and dense forest.
The most notable feature being the sinuous lines of a railway track in the valley bottom. This is no ordinary track though, this is the famous North Yorkshire Moors Railway [NYMR], which often has stream trains running between Pickering in the south, via Levisham Station, Newtondale Halt, Goathland, Grosmont and on to Whitby in the north, and of course in the opposite direction too.
I’d heard that The Royal Scot (not to be confused with The Flying Scotsman) had been due to run on the line today, but, because of technical reasons, it had been cancelled. However, I was hopeful that I might catch a glimpse of one of the other steam engines (rather than the diesels) that run on the line. At the time I had no idea of the timetable however, and as such I didn’t have a clue as to whether any train was due at-all. I hung around for quite some time, buffeted by the gusty wind and started to feel rather chilly. So, I contented myself with a couple of photos of the valley/railway track and headed off on a narrow path heading roughly westwards around the edge of the moor above the steep wooded drop down into the valley. The moor’s edge is known as Yewtree Scar here.
I’d maybe gone about 500 yards when I became aware that there was a train approaching from the direction I’d been stood for all that time (it was a distant toot on the train’s horn that alerted me). I turned on my heels, and scooted back as fast as I could, given the roughish ground, ruck-sack and trying to stop my camera [and it’s long lens] bouncing around on my chest. I probably didn’t look very elegant. Well I managed to reach a spot where I could see the train coming around a bend partially hidden by the wooded slopes of the valley and yay I was in luck, it was being pulled by a steam engine. It turned out, that it was also being pushed by a diesel engine doubling up on the power supply.
Well I tried as best as I could to get a half decent photo or two; in the absence of a tripod I tried using an aged fence post as an impromptu support. I guess I was asking a bit too much of my skills/equipment in the gloomy overcast conditions, strong breeze, long zoom and raised heart rate from the mini-dash. The results were decidedly weak really, the images not at all sharp, but I did get something recognisable as a steam train so I suppose I ought to be a little bit happy.
By retracing my steps back along Yewtree Scar (moving quite quickly hoping to perhaps catch another glimpse of the train again) I was lucky enough to see it stopped at Newton Dale Halt, albeit with a better view of the diesel engine, with the steam engine enveloped in smoke and steam. I managed to grab a couple more pic’s. Now there’s no way you could call me a steam train enthusiast, but it was quite exciting catching these fleeting glimpses and I would have been quite happy even if I didn’t see another train for the rest of the walk.
I seem to have written a lot of words already, for what probably hadn’t totalled two miles into the walk, but is a reflection on the time it had taken so far; so, I’ll press on with the route now, much like I decided I needed to with the walk itself.
I soon reached the end of Yewtree Scar at a place called Hudson’s Cross on the map, which is where a path drops steeply down into Newton Dale, and would take you to the halt on the railway. My route however was to continue contouring around the edge of the moor, again with woods dropping away on my right (Talbot Wood), the edge is now known as Huggitt’s Scar, although still pretty much the same as Yewtree Scar in terms of terrain and views.
Huggitt’s Scar starts off heading west, takes a half turn to the south-west and then when Talbott Wood ends, it takes another half turn to head not quite due south. Leaving the woods behind opened up the views, down, into and across Newton Dale taking a wide sweeping bend to the right, again with the railway nestled in the valley bottom. Letting my view follow the edge of the moor brought my eye to a small ruined building, the greyish stone almost disappearing in the haze and matching colours of the moor in its winter colours (or lack of colour). The ruin was my next destination as I thought it would make a good refreshment spot, hopefully with a bit of shelter from the keen breeze. The tower was probably just over a mile away “as-the-crow-flies” but I needed to swing around across the moor picking a faint path through the tussocky terrain heading for the mini scarp of West Side Brow and some of the higher parts of Levisham Moor as a whole. Just before reaching the base of the scarp, I picked up a larger path, turned right and was able to stride out somewhat, my pace picking up quite considerably heading across an area marked as Levisham Bottoms on my map.
Just to the right here were some old quarries, and rather skirt around the top of the hollows towards the ruined tower, I took a narrow path down into quarry bottoms, getting out of the wind in the process. I emerged back on to the top path, several hundred yards further on, surprised at just how close I’d reached to the ruins, arriving at the structure just a couple of minutes later.
The ruins are called “Skelton Tower” and according to information I found on the North York Moors National Park website, it was a two-storey shooting lodge dating to about 1830 built by the Reverend Robert Skelton, former rector of Levisham. Some say that he wrote his sermons in the lodge, but it is also rumoured that he escaped here to enjoy a quiet drink! The headland it sits upon is called Corn Hill Point because the pastures around about were ploughed up and used for growing crops during the Napoleonic wars.
So, it seems my idea of using the tower as a refreshment stop wasn’t the most original thought in the world (I suppose a lot of picnics have been taken here over the last 187 years), but my idea that it would give a degree of shelter was indeed correct, so I settled myself down for a hot drink and a bite to eat. During this time a couple of ladies arrived, bedecked in wellie boots and accompanied by a bouncy friendly dog. Upon chatting it turned out they were a mum and her daughter. It transpired in our conversation that one of the younger lady’s friends down in the midlands could well have been a mutual friend/colleague of my daughter doing the same university course in Birmingham:- What a small world! She also said she had a part time job in the pub in Levisham village, which came as a bit of a surprise as a pub is not marked on my map, and I think maybe sowed the seeds of an idea in my head for later in the walk.
Anyway, chat over, short break over, ruck-sack packed away and hoisted onto back; I was about to start walking again, when I heard the unmistakable sound of another train in the valley below, and yes, it was another steam engine and there it was just below me. I quickly shot off another couple of pic’s and added another slice of satisfaction into my memory banks – Nice.
I was quite happy to continue, on a grassy path, easy walking heading roughly south, re-joining the main path running across the moor with the scarp on my left. In fact, the whole area here felt just a little less harsh than earlier in the walk, grassy pasture becoming far more evident, with grazing sheep, and I particularly liked a line of trees up on the ridge, silhouetted against the sky. The main path led me to a very minor road where it takes a hair-pin bend.
I’d initially planned to continue straight on here, or even take a turn to the left if I’d wanted to shorten the walk, but I was feeling OK, my legs bearing up after the exertions of yesterday’s walk. So, as the weather had cheered up somewhat (there was even some blue skies above) I decided to turn half right, to follow the road heading downhill towards Levisham Station. The wide grassy verges meant I didn’t have to walk on tarmac either, which is always good.
It didn’t take long before I’d reached the valley bottom, passing a finger post to Levisham Village via The Inn Way (photo taken to remind me to have a look what The Inn Way entails), and soon after found myself walking into the pretty hamlet of Levisham Station, obviously dominated by the railway passing through.
That’s probably a good place to stop this post, to be continued on a second post (post 2 of 4) in a while, from in and around Levisham Station, the majority of which will probably consist of photo’s and not so many words.
So, I hope you enjoyed my scribblings …. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome. I’d love to hear from you.