Day 8- Scarborough to Levisham Moor
Today was Day One on the 50 mile Tabular Hills walk from Scalby Mills, near Scarborough, to Helmsley. However it was actually my eighth day on trail, the previous week having been spent completing the Cleveland Way. My intention was to spend three days on the walk, thereby completing a large circle around the North York Moors over ten days.
It had rained for an hour overnight but I slept well and rose around seven just as the rain set in again. I was excited to be off on another trail and though this was only my second night at the Scalby Mills camp site, I felt I had settled in too much and it was time to move on. I forced down a breakfast of cereal and real milk purchased from the site shop the previous day and enjoyed couple of pints of tea. Then I decided to polish off a couple of chocolate brioche and a pint and a half of milk while I waited for the rain to stop. Once it had, I quickly struck camp and heaved an inordinately heavy pack on to my back. Unsure of what the water situation was going to be today, I was packing along three litres of water. The Sea Cut, looking more like a canal, was pleasant walking away from the coastal campsite. There were lots of migrant birds in the trees including Pied Flycatcher, I was pretty sure I saw Yellow Browed Warbler too.
Leaving the Cut I joined Mowthorpe Road where I was accompanied by dozens of competitors in Trackrod rally 2019 as they loudly accelerated up the hill on a road section of their competition. It struck me as slightly dodgy putting such enthusiastic drivers on the same road as everyday drivers including farm tractors and quad bikes. I stopped in at the genteel Everley, not only for a decent pot of tea and bacon sandwich but as much for respite from the race cars hurtling past me.
Once I was able to get away from the road and out into the countryside, my trail rose toward Wykeham Forest where it followed various quiet tracks through the trees. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before I was walking into Dalby Forest and the distant sound of revving motors had turned into the unmistakable sound of a car rally taking place. I wondered if I was going to be able to proceed as there were various signs up and marshals at some junctions. But despite the sight of numerous cars having drifted around corners in the soft trackways, today’s racing seemed to be occurring elsewhere and, though slightly nervous of coming across a car, or twenty, racing down the track toward me, I was able to keep going until exiting the forest on to Grime Moor.
I neared the Hole of Horcum, which is only a large depression in the terrain, albeit a depression with a wealth of local legend attached. The usual account being giants ripping clods of earth and throwing them around. Commencing my walk across Levisham Moor I stopped to chat to a large group of friends that had just finished a walk across the moor. Conversation moved to our view of Snod Hill where the odd RAF Fylingdales station is sited. The tetrahedron structure is an eyesore for miles around, it is a radar base that forms part of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. I well remember the three 130 foot diameter geodesic domes that preceded the current station, they were dismantled between 1989 and 1992. We all agreed that, regardless of politics, the golfballs had been more attractive.
After an 18.5 mile day, tonight’s halt was a wild camp on Levisham Moor and I was well aware that the area is frequently visited in the evening by farmers checking their grazing sheep. So I had to be careful where I tucked myself away. My pitch wasn’t ideal but it did provide a view over the Pickering Beck valley. Grazing sheep and highland cattle regarded this interloper with disdain. The tent was up by six thirty which gave me a bit of time for a simple tent wash, change into insulation layers and cook a meal before dark fell. It was a lovely evening but I was aware that a change was forecast. It was going to get very wet before dawn came.
Day 9- Levisham Moor to Hutton-le-Hole
I didn’t sleep fantastically well, kept awake first by rutting deer in the forest slopes below, then by the howling wind and driving rain. But I snatched some hours of sleep before rising early for a mug of tea before packing and getting away. I actually enjoyed the wet trudge through the remaining part of the moor in the early morning. Sheep started upon seeing me approach them on the path and ran away a short distance before turning to watch me pass with baleful rheumy eyes. It was a very very damp morning.
At Levisham I dripped my way into the village pub. The chappie in charge swiftly made a bee-line to me. “can I help sir?”, “yes, can I have a pot of tea please?”, “oh no sir, but if you would like to wait in the lounge we begin afternoon tea at midday”. It was eight thirty, I looked around at the tables mostly occupied by people drinking tea, coffee and consuming breakfast and got the message- Piss Off.
Today was one of those days where you just have to put your head down and take it. It rained for just about the whole day until brightening up just slightly toward the end. I had 17.5 miles to complete and the views were mostly non-existent, there was little of interest passed. One example of how wrong the day was occurred when I reached a small run down farm. The waymarked trail crossed strands of barbed wire via a rocking loose stile, then crossed a stream via a sloping tipping narrow metal bridge, more barbed wire before depositing me in a cow shit strewn farmyard, I was circled by snarling dogs, with no idea on how I could correctly exit.
About the only thing that was positive during the day was my lunchtime halt. I stopped at the New Inn in Cropton. This is the brewery tap for the micro brewery situated there and I enjoyed roast beef sandwich, bowl of soup and a pint of their ale. There is even a campsite here, but my destination was further on and I couldn’t stop for longer than it took me to dry out a little before the next deluge.
Tonight’s halt was at another farm, though this was the other side of the coin from that encountered earlier. Hutton-le-Hole Caravan Park wasn’t cheap but it was immaculate. I was the only camper and arrived to an unmanned reception. A note on the desk welcomed me and directed me to the best drained field. Having pitched, showered and feeling human again, I eventually met up with Annabel to pay and buy a few provisions for tonight’s meal. All comfort food- it was hotdogs, beans and mash followed by lots of dark chocolate accompanied by mugs of hot tea. The sun even showed its face. Final day on trail tomorrow.
Day 10- Hutton-le-Hole to Helmsley
I slept well and rose early. Tea for breakfast and ate bars on trail in the first hour. Annabel had showed me a way across their fields at the back of the campsite which returned me to trail far quicker than the way I had come in yesterday. Beautiful walking across bracken strewn hills, the sun was shining and the land had a glow about it. I felt good and was looking forward to a drier day of walking.
Despite starting with dry feet, my trail shoes were quickly sodden after yesterdays heavy rain but such is the nature of the soil around here that it drains quickly and there was little standing water.
The Tabular Hills walk is a Regional Trail, an initiative of the North York Moors National Park Authority, it is a bit bitty. While the Cleveland Way follows a natural series of geological features, the Tabular Hills is more a way of joining up the two ends of the National Trail. I enjoyed parts of it but felt there wasn’t enough to make this walk a destination in itself.
Beyond the bare hill tops and wet valley bottoms, I slowly moved in to more agricultural areas interspersed with occasional woodlands and scrubby fields. Today was also a series of similar attractive little villages. Belted Galloways were unconcerned enough to not bother even getting up as I passed them. It was a good last day on trail but pretty short at only 14.2 miles.
Before I knew it I was on the final stretch, a steadily descending track drops through Ash Dale down toward Helmsley. This little valley has steep wooded slopes on each side and was such easy going that I contemplated jogging the last few miles. Instead I decided to take my time, no need to finish earlier than I would otherwise.
I arrived back in Helmsley early afternoon so with plenty of time to spare before returning to the Youth Hostel where this little adventure began ten days earlier, I went to explore Helmsley Castle. Needless to say, I also visited the Brewery for another pint of Striding the Ridge before going to the hostel. I had booked a private room for this final night to allow for a pack explosion. Clean and back into ‘town clothes’, I walked back in to town to The Feathers, facing the market square, for my celebratory steak and bottle of Shiraz.
With only slight diversion and extra miles, my seven days on the Cleveland Way totalled 113.56 miles. I walked 50.2 miles on the Tabular Hills walk, so 163.76 miles in total over my ten day hike. Despite my general lack of hill fitness and some awful, if seasonal, weather, it had been a grand autumn hike