Coast to Coast – Clay Bank to Blakey Ridge

It’s a beautiful morning with blue skies the width of the horizon and the warm sun means the lizards and the odd snake will be out warming their blood before the cold autumn winds and shorter days reduce the length of this life-preserving opportunity.

We’ve only got a couple of snakes in this part of England and only one of those can deliver a venomous bite. The adder is easily spotted with zigzag stripes along its body. I’ve seen a few on our travels over the years and tend to find that they’re timid and certainly not interested in hurting you if they can get away. The moral is that if you leave them alone then they’ll leave you alone. We also have a non-venomous grass snake also very timid. We’re not going to see either of them on this outing but the weather makes us more vigilant.

Clay Bank has a well-known car park for walkers and for people who just want to look at the view. There are no facilities but the park is well maintained situated where the view is superb.

Kathy and Otto have set off from their lovely B&B at the wonderfully named Beak Hills at least two hills the other side of Wainstones. They’ll have covered a couple of miles before they reach us and we set off in their direction and find ourselves walking with a retired GP from one of the local villages who reminds us that there are two ways to reach Wainstones and there is every possibility that if they take the lower route then we’ll miss them.

We’re about 400 feet up Hasty Bank and discussing the fabulous views of Carr Ridge and the vale towards Teesside and Redcar with the windmill farm in the estuary almost all at a standstill, no energy from them on this beautiful still day.

Initially, there’s a degree of indecision as we discuss the two options. If we go over the top and they come around the lower route then we’ll miss them and it’ll put us back a good hour. If we take the lower route but only walk to the point where we can still see the rock from where they’ll appear if they take the upper route then at least we can do the u-turn and not lose time.

So the lower route it is and we retrace our steps to the forestry commission track towards the road!

We walk towards Wainstones on the forestry track and within just a couple of hundred yards we see two figures in blue, ‘bingo’, this is the second time we’ve walked towards them and managed to meet once in the Lake District and again today – excellent.

The track up Urra Moor and Carr Ridge is steep and we’ve done it countless times before. We stop from time to time and survey the valley and vale, life doesn’t get better than this. At the dry-stone-wall, we stop and take a break then walk through the gate to be confronted with a beautiful but timid dog. He’s unsure as to what to do and won’t come to me. It worries me as there is no way I’m going to carry on whilst this lovely animal is looking at me expectantly but, at the same time, timidly. I talk to him gently and he wags but as soon as I walk towards him he panics and threatens to run. Kathy and Otto have gone on ahead with the pilgrim unaware but, fortunately, another walker appears through the gate and sees my predicament.

She talks to the dog and he’s happier with her, she has a small dog with her and he seems to be reassured by this so we agree that I hold her dog and she approaches him talking all the time. There’s a couple of false starts when he seems to be spooked but then she’s next to him and stroking him and he begins to settle. He’s alright now and I approach slowly and allowed to stroke him. We get the number of his owner from his tag on his collar and I ring the number. The lady on the other end is hesitant until I tell her we have her dog when she breaks down and thanks us for finding “Her baby”. She promises to ring back as soon as she’s spoken to her partner who is out looking for him and we wait.

After ten minutes we’re a little concerned and I ring again. She’s clearly not happy that her partner has not rung back so I put a bit of pressure on and within a few minutes he rings me. Apparently, he’s been driving and is now at the car park where we left our vehicle. The lady that has gained the confidence of our new found friend is going back to the car park anyway so she volunteers to take him down. I’m slightly uncomfortable with the attitude of the guy in the car park, why wasn’t he here on the moor? However, I’m absolutely comfortable with the lady that he’s with and I know that she’ll do the right thing when she gets down to Clay Bank. I think animal lovers know the score and she’ll not allow this dog to be returned under duress and I’m reassured by her comments as she disappears through the gate.

My chums have noticed my absence and have returned so we’re back to our walking group and set off across the moor.  We’re on the tops now and it’s very easy going. There are curlews calling in the distance and the odd buzzard (actually Otto christens them huge eagles so that’s what they become!). There’s also a sign at the bottom that warns us to beware of the eagle owl that is prone to a warning swoop if we get anywhere near its nest or young and believe me a beastie with a wingspan over 6 feet dropping out of the sky with talons flared would scare the crap out of me – The Pilgrim, who’s not keen on birds at the best of times, would be a stretcher case!

We cross Urra Moor and skirt the appropriately named ‘Round Hill’ then turn slightly south-east towards Bloworth Crossing. Now here’s a place with a bit of history…

Bloworth Crossing is a place of significance. It was and remains a significant landmark on the Cleveland Way and Lyke Wake long-distance footpaths. It was a railway crossing for a railway that served the ironstone mines of Rosedale. It was an 11 miles (18 km) goods-only railway line running from Battersby Junction across the heights of the North York Moors to reach iron-ore deposits in the remote hills of Rosedale Valley. It opened in 1861 and closed in 1929.

The height difference between Battersby and Bloworth was approximately 1200 to 1500 feet and the incline 1 in 5 or 20%. This was way beyond the capabilities of any steam engines so a rope system was incorporated to create a funicular railway where the full trucks would pull the empty trucks to the moor top and the speed was purported to be 20 mph. The Rosedale Branch was opened in 1861 but more iron was found near Blakey and a few years later there was an additional branch constructed and it will be this old track that we follow for the rest of the walk to Blakey Ridge and the Lion Inn where Kathy and Otto will stay tonight.

The weather is beautiful as we begin walking the meandering track first on embankments then through cuttings with occasional strips at moor height through heather and bracken. In the late summer, this area is purple as the heather blooms and the view so intense it almost hurts the eyes.

As we walk, an occasional grouse will suddenly shoot out of the heather with a mixture of flapping wings, squawking vocals and a zigzagging flight presumably to avoid the several dozen tiny pieces of lead that will be projected their way after the ‘Glorious 12th’. For those of you not familiar with the term, the Glorious 12th is the date on which it becomes legal to start shooting the grouse, it’s the equivalent of the hunting season declared in many other countries.

Although the track has minor slopes both positive and negative, it does largely follow the contour at around 370 metres (1100 feet) and the going underfoot, very easy.

As we reach High Blakey the views down Farndale are magnificent and I’m reminded of the numerous walks that we’ve done in that beautiful dale in daffodil season when the wild daffodils carpet the valley with a vivid cover of uplifting yellow.  We’ve also walked the many tracks at other times of the year when it’s equally wonderful.

We’re rounding the final curve and can see the Lion Inn over the valley, it actually looks closer than it is and we realise the track is meandering around the contour in a huge arc but the weather has held and the actual distance versus the perceived one is welcome. The final two hundred yards are across some undulating heather and soft moss and turn out to be hard going but the thought of a beer and bite-to-eat in this wonderful remote pub is encouragement indeed so in we go.

The door is low and the ceiling no higher, to anyone of normal height i.e. me, you have to duck to avoid the beams and look out for the steps at the same time, it’s a conflicting technique but mastering it is essential in this lovely, atmospheric, olde-worlde pub where being dazed from hitting your head is as hazardous as over-indulging in their excellent beers.

After a couple of hours we leave and a brief hug later we’re on our way with plans to meet two days later.

This is a lovely walk with great company and we still get to meet them at the end in a couple of days time. Oh yes, and there’s a tale to that too when Kathy has a brief brush with the NHS and the outcome, well you’ll have to wait and see…

Enjoy the snaps…G..x

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