Thursday 7th. October 2021
Levisham – Stainsdale
Levisham (Little Field Lane), Limpsey Gate Lane, Dundale Griff, Levisham Brow, Wedland Slack, Lockton Lane End, Staindale Lodge, High Wood, Fox & Rabbit, Farfields, Cross Dale, Farwath, Sleights Road, St. Mary’s Church, Rowl Wood, Little Field Lane (8 miles).
Members; Paul, Keith, Col, Paul ‘Sherlock’ Holmes.
After an almost full house last time out we were back down to just the four of us for a trip up to the North York Moors. The weather report was for a quite unseasonable 20 degrees plus with no rain so hopes were high for a dry day. The journey north to Levisham was uneventful and well before 9 o’clock we were parked up and under starters orders.
We made our way through the village with the only sign of life being the drayman delivering beer to The Horseshoe Inn. We had a brief conversation and he suggested we might give him a hand with the heavy barrels, but we know our place in the food chain affirming that we’d rather be at the drinking end rather than at the delivery end. In fact, between meeting the drayman and arriving at the Fox & Rabbit some 3 and a half hours later, he was the only other person we saw.
The route trod today is one we’ve done many times over the years. It’s such a good route traversing the path down Dundale Griff and along the winding track through the thickly wooded Levisham Brow, it’s one we never tire of. It’s certainly the best part of the year to walk through these woods as autumn begins to gather pace with the trees beginning to turn and all sorts of strange looking fungi to be seen.
The path along the Brow meanders due south for quite a distance before turning west and almost taking us back into Levisham village. But we were looking for the path that heads back in the opposite direction as it drops down onto the valley floor. There have been occasions in the past, in pre-SatNav days, when we’ve struggled to locate this path. The aged and lichen encrusted footpath sign eventually succumbed to nature and was seemingly devoured by the surrounding greenery, as did the footpath, which made it a challenge to find it sometimes. Not today though as a recently erected signpost now proudly stands in place of the old one and the path was clearly visible.
Many places lay claim to be a hidden corner but this path through the woodland down to Wedland Slack is definitely one of the North York Moors hidden gems. Our footpath crosses, then follows, one of the tributaries of Levisham Beck and with dappled sunlight lighting up the north bank of the beck we decided this would be a suitable place to stop for a brew and a butty. And a finer place of tranquillity you’d be hard pressed to find.
In all honesty we could have quite happily sat there all day, but there was walking to be done, so we headed off towards the notorious Wedland Slack. I say notorious as there have been times when we’ve traversed this route where we’ve virtually been up to our knees in the mud and mire. But today Wedland Slack was in pretty good condition, which isn’t saying a lot, and we negotiated it without ending up being caked in mud. The sting in the tail is the short sharp climb up to Lockton Lane End which served to toughen us up for an even steeper climb later in the morning.
From Lockton Lane End we crossed the A169 Whitby to Pickering road then steadily dropped down into Staindale. After meandering through more autumnal woodland, we arrived at Staindale Lodge remembering from a previous visit that the path had been diverted away from the Lodge. We took the initial diversion route which led to the Lodge driveway, but there was little clue as to where the rest of the footpath had been diverted.
So, we decided to head towards where the old footpath used to be, which is what we did the last time we were here, which took us closer to the Lodge. We easily negotiated the barbed wire placed across the old route but we were then accosted by the gardener. Accosted is probably too strong a term as he was quite OK about our alleged trespassing as after all it isn’t his property. He pointed out where the path had been diverted to but agreed the signage could be better. We wished him good day and we carried on across the meadow towards our next objective, the aptly named High Wood.
The path towards the wood contours a steep sided valley which plays havoc with your ankles, especially if the cows have been out and about trampling the ground. Keith resolutely stuck to the official footpath a few yards below us whilst the rest of us stumbled across the uneven and divot infested meadow. Keith’s route was clearly the better and our only defence for taking the more difficult route was that we’d always gone that way. I suspect we won’t next time.
And so across the style and into the gloomy High Wood. The trees have been planted that close together that hardly any light reaches ground level. Not only is it gloomy but the path is very steep so it’s a case of girding up your loins and just getting on with it, upwards and ever upwards until daylight breaks through towards the top of the hill. And even then, it doesn’t stop climbing but it gets less steep with each step.
Taking a breather at the top of the hill it’s about a quarter of a mile to our lunchtime stop at the Fox & Rabbit, so without much ado we set off pub bound. Although the sun kept hiding behind the clouds it was very warm so we decided to sit outside. A good idea really as the pub was full of diners filling their faces and we didn’t want to put them off their quite expensive meals.
After a very pleasant 45 minutes or so at the Fox & Rabbit it was time to set off on the second half of the walk. We headed towards the farm at Farfields and down the steep track into Cross Dale where Col complained that his toes were being scrunched up at the front of his boots. It was suggested he come down backwards but he didn’t seem impressed. Just beyond the farm at Farwath we stopped for a while enjoying the afternoon sun and watching the passing trains on the North York Moors railway.
There wasn’t a great deal left to do during the afternoon so we ambled along the track that runs along the valley bottom. It’s named Sleights Road for reasons unknown (to us) as it certainly won’t get you anywhere near Sleights and it’s far from what could be described as a road. It eventually leads to the tiny ruined church of St. Mary’s which is quite a distance from Levisham which is the nearest village. Although it hasn’t been used as a place of worship since the mid 1950’s, and it’s missing its roof and windows, there have been a few recent burials in the graveyard the latest being from 2019.
From the church there’s yet more climbing to be done with led us onto the Lockton to Levisham lane although after a few yards we struck off onto the path through Rowl Wood. Once clear of the wood and onto Little Field Lane it was but a hop and a skip back to the car although hopping and skipping was the last thing on anyone’s mind.
Not a particularly long walk but a fairly tough one with some good climbs with lovely scenery and autumn tinged woodlands.
Is there a better way to spend a day?