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Wednesday, 16 September 2020

North Yorks Walks

Map of the North York Moors

It was great to be out on the North York Moors again, although there was a time when I would not have said that. It is where my first proper walks were, with boots, cagoule and rucksack, fifty years ago. My friend Neville used to drive us up on Saturdays in his Ford Anglia and we would spend the day walking. Don’t ask me where: the names Helmsley and Chop Gate sound familiar. Neville had been walking for longer than me and knew all the routes. He persuaded me along and I just followed – literally. 

More often than not he would disappear off into the distance and leave me trailing behind in wretched misery, with swollen ankles, and feet blistered by badly fitting boots. That first pair was fine for a few miles but I could never get the right combination of thin and thick socks to avoid rubbing. Nowadays I wear just one thick pair and stick on a piece of micropore tape at the slightest hint of trouble, which is not very often. As for ankles, from quite an early age I was forever going over and spraining them. I once jumped half way down the stairs and went over with a crunch. The pain was unbelievable. I always went over at least once on Neville’s walks, and still do sometimes, but it doesn’t usually hurt now. Mrs. D. says I’ve got lax ligaments. People cringe when I put the soles of my feet and my knees together at the same time.

On one walk, on Fylingdales Moor near the strange radome “golf balls” (replaced in 1992), I was so far behind I took a wrong fork, and rather than backtrack two hundred yards took a short cut across an area signed “Ministry of Defence. Danger. Unexploded Mines”. I was past caring. Another time, Neville organised a group of us to attempt the Lyke Wake Walk – a 40-mile crossing of the moor from Osmotherly to Ravenscar – but I had to give up less than half-way with one ankle puffed-up like a balloon, and red-raw heels and toes. My heels had blisters upon blisters and my toes looked like they had been stripped with sandpaper. It showed the world for what it is: the beauty and the pain.

The beauty won: the beauty of the Yorkshire countryside. Somehow, I persisted, and my feet, ankles and even I toughened up. We walked in all weathers. I must have been very warm-blooded because, even in the coldest winds and wettest rain, I wore only a cagoule over t-shirt and jeans. I would even go out like that in ice and snow. Now, maybe ten pairs of better-fitting boots later and owner of warmer clothing, I wish I got out more often. So, on holiday last month, it was great to be out on the North York Moors again. One walk was around the enigmatically-named Hole of Horcum.

Panorama of the Hole of Horcum
Panorama of the Hole of Horcum, 2007 (Adam Jennison, Wikimedia Creative Commons)

The Hole of Horcum is a huge natural amphitheatre 400 feet deep and three-quarters of a mile across, just west of Fylingdales Moor. Legend has it as ‘The Devil’s Punchbowl’, formed when a giant threw a handful of earth at his wife. That doesn’t make much sense to me. Apart from the fact that no one would even dream of throwing a handful of earth at his wife, the giant was called Wade, not Horcum. I think Horcum must have been his dog, one of those enormous English Mastiffs, and the hole is where he buried a bone and then dug it up again. In any case, curmudgeonly geo-morphologists have to go and spoil things by telling us the Hole was formed by a process of water-erosion called spring-sapping? 

The Hole of Horcum
The Hole of Horcum, 17th August 2020

My own picture is from roughly the same viewpoint as the panorama, taken from the edge of the hole soon after we began circling anti-clockwise. The purple heather was putting on a better show this year. On reaching the far right-hand side we went off at a tangent along a path to a five-way junction at Dundale Rigg (what a name for a folk band!). From there you can divert to Skelton Tower (an 1830s shooting lodge) and marvel at the steam trains on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway far below. However, we continued on to the sleepy village of Levisham and then looped back East and North along the side of a wooded valley, picking our way through nettles to reach the footpath across the floor of the Hole, visible in the above photograph. In seven miles we had walked the whole of Horcum.

Levisham Village 2002 (Stephen Horncastle, Creative Commons)
Levisham Village

Entering the Hole of Horcum
Entering the Hole of Horcum, 17th August 2020

Another day we walked along the cliff top, along the track bed of the old Whitby to Middlesborough Middlesbrough railway, which closed in 1958. Some of the now-dismantled structures along the line, such as the Staithes Viaduct, were remarkable. At Staithes you can still make out the brick abutment on the hillside across the valley from the village car park that was once the site of Staithes railway station. The viaducts survived as potential Second World War targets only for unaffordable maintenance costs and declining passenger numbers to achieve what Hitler did not.

German WW2 photograph of Staithes Viaduct

We joined the track at Sandsend, following in the footsteps of the intrepid Mr. Yorkshire Pudding who was there last year, and also ourselves in 1997, with the same two people in the next photograph as above. Whereas Mr. Pudding’s group continued the six miles north to Runswick Bay, we turned inland towards the village of Lythe and returned to Sandsend by a higher path across fields, giving a bird’s eye view of the resort.

Sandsend 1997
The old railway track north from Sandsend, 19th September, 1997, looking towards Whitby Abbey

Sandsend 2020
Looking down on Sandsend from the higher cliff path, 16th August 2020

The final photograph is from the cliff tops south of Whitby near the Abbey, which gives fine views in the opposite direction, north towards Sandsend. You can see Sandsend and the wooded cliffs where we walked.

Whitby 2020
Looking north to Sandsend from near Whitby Abbey, 21st August 2020

From the Abbey you descend the famous 199 steps back into town.

For more photographs, this guy’s web site is a real treat:  
Sandsend to Runswick Bay
Hole of Horcum (he starts at Levisham). 

42 comments:

  1. Walking boots are much better than they were in my youth. In those days you had to soak a new pair in cow's urine for a month, then tenderise them with hammers - and you'd still get blisters.
    The golf balls are, as I'm sure you know, a listening station. I would think they were more or less obsolete now what with the internet, but who knows? I love Ford Anglias and coincidentally I was thinking just this morning about the flying one in Harry Potter

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    1. Oh so that's what I was doing wrong! Someone told me it was your feet you had to break in. And it was so difficult. I mean, have you ever tried collecting cows' urine. They don't like it up 'em.

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  2. I know that area well, walked it many times. The scenery is spectacular. Thanks for the photo's. Best wishes.

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    1. Thanks for visiting, Ilona. Absolutely spectacular - the web site I link to at the end has some incredible photographs of more walks than I'll ever do.

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    1. As mentioned in previous response, the web site linked at the end hs incredible views UK wide - it also has an interactive map index.

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  4. Exciting stuff for me. See where Roseberry Topping is marked? That was the view from my childhood home, in a row of ironstone miners' cottages at Gribdale. I climbed it with my family, all much older than I, when I was three!

    Later, as a teen, hiked Eston Moor with friends, usually getting soaked, always cane on to rain. I loved the moors, still think of them as an old lady thousands of miles away. Thanks for the trip.

    My sisters were there as tourists a few years ago and were amused to find our area was now a national park. We'd left in the 1940s.

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    1. A walker from an early age! Roseberry Topping was another of the places I visited in the 70s - another spectacular place - but it was quite a long drive. Even in the 70s you rarely saw a soul, whereas now it is very rare to walk in these places without seeing anyone else.

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    2. Boud - I can see Roseberry Topping from my house - but from the other side. And oddly enough I was at Gribdale a few weeks ago, walking on the moor nearby, but as Tasker says quite a few people about

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  5. Superb photographs - both the scenery and the villages are so very different from those of The Dales where I live. I have been through the Moors a few times on my way to the coast - and towns like Helmsley are very familiar - but on the whole I don;t think Dalesmen and Moorsmen mix!! (I am from Lincolnshire so can be totally impartial and love them both.

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    1. The Dales and Moors are different in colour, vegetation and 'feel'. I like both. Being almost from Lincolnshire with one quarter Lincolnshire blood I'm impartial too, so long as by Dales you don't mean Lancashire.

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  6. As I said before, I was/am looking forward to your walks posts. No disappointment there, and I am glad you persisted in your efforts and came to love the area where you were (more or less) made to walk.
    Good equipment such as well-fitting boots is certainly a plus. But even with the best and most professional outdoor outfit I would become soon disenchanted if I were to walk in rain and cold most of the time.
    The Hole of Horcum is fascinating! I have not yet been there, but would love to see and explore it myself. Helmsley, Pickering, Byland Abbey and several other places on your map - fond memories of good times.

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    1. Thanks. As Liz Gray implies in the first comment, before they were made of modern materials, walking boots used to be quite stiff and unforgiving and you had to gradually break them in. I did seem to have problems with them at first but mostly just put up with it. Perhaps it wasn't the drama I make it out to be. I always found it fun to walk in awful weather so long as I knew I could get warm and dry again at the end.

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  7. What wonderful walks and beautiful scenery you had on this trip! Your photographs are wonderful and I appreciate you also showing a map to help me to place where this is located. The Hole of Horcum is an interesting place to walk and I absolutely love the photos of Sandsend. Thank you for sharing this adventure!

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    1. Thank you. We also did another walk on the moors and another coastal walk and were lucky enough to pick a good week for the weather. Only got wet once and soon dried out.

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  8. I enjoyed this post Tasker and I am rather jealous that you have walked round The Hole of Horcum. I approved of your use of the term "intrepid" to describe me. Other terms you might have used include "suave", "tough", "gifted" and "stud". Wearing comfy boots is essential if you are going to enjoy long walks in the countryside.

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    1. I've heard that pairs of boots kick and climb over each other in the shop crying "me, me, me, me" when you go to buy new ones.

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    2. I need some new boots soon. I will go to Decathlon hoping that the same boots I have had twice before are still for sale. They were comfy and supportive from the moment I put them on. Unfortunately the tread on them is almost worn away again. It's like a line from that song by The Proclaimers.

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    3. You mean they wake up next to you? You sleep with them on?

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  9. I enjoyed your pictures, and enlarged Sandsend just to study and admire it. I've been a great hiker over here, but quite relate to your ankle problem. I never could stand on a pair of ice skates. Wonky ankles was the diagnosis.

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    1. I avoided any opportunity I might have had to go ice skating. The thought of it. Although, I believe that skating boots are very supportive. I like zooming in too and keep thinking I ought to get a higher resolution camera - the one I have is about 12 years old.

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  10. There's a glaring spelling mistake in this post Tasker.

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    1. Grammarly only picks up commas and hyphenations. Do you mean the glaringly awful pun?

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    2. ....and over at the Riverside Stadium the Boro fans are getting very agitated ...

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  11. Marvellous photographs made me just a little homesick for Whitby and its outlying district. Isn't the Hole of Horcum spectacular, the drip, drip of water over time created this great bowl.

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    1. You realise how briefly we are here compared to the processes that form the landscape. Did you look at the Andrew's Walks website linked to at the end? The photographs there are wonderful, and if you go to the interactive map there are a lot more in this area. He has also done the Littlebeck-Falling Foss walk which we also did on this holiday.

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    2. Just been and looked at all those photographs - wonderful. I have always called the RAF Fylingsdale early warning ballistic missiles thingy-me-bub, the 'listening ear'. Shaped like a loudspeaker it replaced the golf balls didn't it? At one time years ago there was always a colourful hippy bus parked down the road, probably protesting of course.

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    3. It is a bit of a blot on the horizon, although that new potash mine at Sneatonthorpe is worse.

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  12. Your photographs make me want to take a deep breath of cool (cold) clean air (and wish I could take a walk there). Brings a smile to my face to see all those glorious views. Thanks for sharing your walks.

    As one who once climbed Old Rag Mountain (Shenandoah National Park) in Virginia in a pair of slip-on loafers--having been told it was just a "nice little walk", I can certainly appreciate what it means to have terrible footwear when hiking.

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    1. Me too - it was quite a warm and humid week and some cool clean air would have been very welcome in one or two places! I've just looked at images of Old Rag Mountain - definitely boots or walking shoes needed. Spectacular views though.

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  13. There is still a Middlesbrough to Whitby line Tasker (I think your spelling of Middlesbrough was the error referred to earlier in the comments).

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    1. I hope Tasker reads my reply before he reads your comment.

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    2. I did. An oversight. The remaining line appears on the map, and where we stayed in Whitby we watched the Northern Rail services coming and going. It was the coastal route from Whitby that closed in 1958. I believe it is still open from Middlesbrough to the Boulby potash mine shown on the map, and for passengers as far as Saltburn.

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    3. Oh, I see about the coastal route, I imagine that would have been very scenic, though having said that the Esk Valley Line to Whitby is one of the loveliest I've travelled on. Yes, there is still a passenger line to Saltburn.

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    4. I'd quite like a trip on the Esk Valley line one day, although it would be a hard task selling a day out in Middlesbrough to the rest of my family.

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  14. It's fun to imagine giants (and their pets) shaping the land. I enjoy the photos you shot as well.

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    1. Geomorphologists have no imagination. The panorama photograph and the images of the village and the bridge are from the internet, althought the others are mine.

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  15. Great walks and lovely photos. Thanks for sharing, wish I was there right now.

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    1. We had a good week. The following week was awful, although the week just ended would have been good.

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    1. Which is what it felt like when I first went walking there and had problems with my feet.

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