Maps: OS Landranger 94; Outdoor Leisure 27
Start: Bus stop at Goathland car park (833013)
Finish: Coach Road bus stop Sleights (867081)
Distance: 9.2 miles
Going: Moderate in good weather although second half more challenging in wet weather
Natural England NCA: 25 (NY Moors and Cleveland Hills)
Special interest: Goathland, Whinstone Ridge, Falling Foss, May Beck, The Hermitage, Scarry Wood
From the bus stop/car park walk down to the railway station. Cross the rail line to the path junction (L) and take the middle path up the steps. Stay on this until, after the gradient lessens, it meets a broad grassy and stony track. Bear left and stay on this gently rising track as it swings from side to side across the moorland.
At the minor road cross straight over to the deep cleft running at right angles to the walk direction (M). This marks the line of the disused Whinstone Dyke quarries. Turn right and walk past the car park and on to the A169 at (N). This point offers a possible escape route.
Cross carefully and continue along the line of the Whinstone to the two boundary marker stones at (O). Here branch off left and follow the narrow path along an old boundary line (not the official p.r.o.w. shown on the OS map) to join the wide track by the corner of the FC plantation at (P). Remember that periodic tree-felling may not have been recorded on the OS map.
Turn left on the track, cross the ford over Parsley Beck and turn immediately right on another stony track, again not the p.r.o.w. as shown on the map. This runs parallel to the beck on our right, enters the improved farmland at (Q) and continues as a grassy farm trail known as Leas Head Road before bending round towards Leas Head Farm.
Where the track turns sharp left (R), go through the gate straight in front and walk down the field to the sign for Falling Foss Waterfall. Here bear right on the track; cross over Parsley Beck; climb up the gentle grassy slope; bend left and continue down and up to join a wide farm track at the T-junction (S).
Go left to Foss Farm, then continue on the main track towards the bridge over May Beck. However, immediately before this bridge turn left and pass Midge Hall (T) in order to view Falling Foss Waterfall. This is a good place to stop for refreshment. Then cross the footbridge and bear left up the steps on the path towards Littlebeck.
This next stretch of the walk, part of Wainwright’s ‘Coast to Coast’ and high above the beck below, is delightful. Note the Hermitage on the way and then be prepared for a slowing down of pace as the path becomes a little more undulating, especially going through Scarry Wood.
At the hamlet of Littlebeck (U), turn right up the road, stay left at the fork, then turn left again at the footpath (V). Keeping close to field boundaries, the path goes alongside six fields to (W). Turn left and go down past Low Farm to the roadway and turn right.
The route twists along beside Little Beck and crosses two sets of stepping stones before reaching the footbridge at (X). Over the bridge the suggested route turns left. It should have been cleared this year, but if it has not and the path is still overgrown, it will be necessary to turn right up the track called Tom Bell Lane. Assuming the first alternative is useable, follow the path beside the beck into Iburndale (Y)*.
Turn left on the road, cross the beck and take the footpath on the right to Sleights. At (Z) turn left on the tarred bridleway and walk beside Iburndale Beck to Sleights railway station and then go left again up to the bus stop on the A169 road.
(* Afraid you’ll miss the bus at Sleights? You could go up the road and catch it at St John’s Church on the A169.)
Goathland is today known for its location as Hogsmeade Station, the stop for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’. The Hogwarts Express stops here on arrival from platform 9¾ at King’s Cross. The village is also the setting for Aidensfield in the TV soap ‘Heartbeat’ as well as being the start and finish of the 54 mile Crosses Walk which takes in 13 moorland crosses.
The Whinstone (or Cleveland) Dyke is a ridge of very hard igneous rock (basalt) injected from below. The dyke varies in width from 2m to 25m and the stone was much in demand throughout the 19th century as ‘setts’ for paving the streets in London, York and towns in the West Riding as well as locally. The first workings in this area were surface quarries but these were limited in depth by the weakness of the rocks on either side. The opencast Sil Howe quarries were in use from about 1873 and were later supplemented by a mine. A self-draining mine tunnel (the ‘old mine level’) was driven in at right angles from the moor but this is not accessible to the public; the workings are both flooded and dangerous. From the point where the level met the dyke, headings led in both directions. They appear to have been about 6m high and there were two other levels reached by steep inclines from the lower one. The mine only ever employed about 25 men in all (10 miners) and finally closed in 1950. The gently rising track followed on the Coastliner walk is the remains of a horse-worked tramway which brought the whinstone from the mine and the quarries to the crushing and screening plant above the railway station.
Falling Foss, almost hidden among the trees but next to the Midge Hall tea-rooms, is a 15m foss (‘force’ or waterfall) and the most spectacular of the falls on the moors. They are formed when the hard sandstone of the moors meets the softer shales which are more easily worn away.
The Hermitage is not a genuine hermitage but an 18th century folly or fake romantic ruin created to adorn the landscape and provide a picnic spot. A natural boulder was hollowed out to create the shelter in 1790 for Jonas Brown, owner of Newton House. The initials are those of local school master George Chubb who organised the work. On top are two chairs, also carved out of solid rock, and known as the wishing chairs. The story goes that if you make a wish in one chair, you must sit in the other to make the wish come true.
Little Beck Wood (also known as Scarry Wood) Nature Reserve has SSSI status and is described as a glorious mix of oak, ash, alder and cherry with an understory of hazel, holly and rowan. Under the canopies lives a wealth of other plants, mammals and insects. The nature reserve is split into two halves by the stream called Little Beck. There is a small pasture at the southern end and the site avoids the worst of the North Yorkshire Moors weather because it is situated in a secluded position at the bottom of the valley. The pasture is cut for hay and grazed by neighbouring farmer’s livestock.
In the spring and early summer wood anemone, bluebell, primrose and early purple orchid are in full flower, whilst ferns dominate the shadier areas. Badger scrapes may be discovered around dense areas of bluebells, whilst deer tracks might be seen in the damp sections of the path and rodent holes in the banks around the site. Sightings of birds are commonplace, including the secretive treecreeper and dipper. Dead wood provides an important food source for insects, several of which are listed in the Red Data Book as being rare; these in turn support the population of birds and animals higher up the food chain.
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust has worked to maintain the woodland since taking over the lease in 1970 from the Forestry Commission and then later purchasing it in 1986. Bird boxes provide vital breeding spaces for nuthatch, tits and owls.
The North York Moors Railway runs from Pickering to Grosmont, where it joins the Middlesbrough to Whitby line. George Stephenson originated the line in 1836 using stagecoaches on bogies drawn by horses along the track. This ran from Grosmont to Goathland via Beck Hole where the gradient was between 1 in 15 and 1 in 10. This steep incline meant that the wagons had to be hauled uphill by rope. Steam was introduced in 1845 by George Hudson but the incline still caused trouble. So in 1865 the incline was bypassed by the blasting of the present Deviation Line. Closed by Beeching in 1965, the line was rescued by the NYM Railway Preservation Society.