Cleveland Way, 2009




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Scarborough Ramblers

I spent several hours checking bus and train timetables to find an arrangement that would allow us to drive from our home in Scarborough, park the car, walk each stage of the Cleveland Way, and use public transport to return to the car, or catch a bus to the start and walk to our car.

This is feasible only in August, when the North York Moors Park authority subsidises a Moorsbus service in the area.

Thursday July 30, Roseberry Topping

Roseberry Topping is an optional extra, which many walkers prefer to bypass, as it's an out-and-back, up-and-down diversion of 1.25 miles.  The outline of the hill is a feature of the earlier stages of the walk, its distinctive pyramid coming in and out of view on the approach from the south.  

By coincidence, a led walk that we joined two days before our official start of the Cleveland Way provided a tour of Roseberry Topping, so we were able to tick this off in advance.  The panoramic views from the top, of the Tees estuary to the north, and the hills that would be tormenting us in days to come to the south, are excellent...but certainly at least equalled by those we would see from the high moors later. 4.7 miles

Saturday August 1, Helmsley to Sutton Bank

The weather was unhelpful, with frequent spells of heavy rain.

However, Maureen and I drove to Helmsley and set off at about 10am.

Underfoot, the paths were not as bad as we might have expected,   The worst obstacle was in woodland where a broad track was several inches deep in sticky mud because of the passage of heavy forestry vehicles.

At one point just after Flassen Dale, water rushed down the track, so that it seemed as though we were walking along  a stream bed, not a path.

The rain was so heavy and persistent that it inevitably found its way through every minor crack in our defences.

The official distance for the leg of 10.5 miles includes an optional  there-and-back diversion to the Kilburn White Horse, but as we were familiar with the feature, and we were in no mood for optional excursions in the downpour - which seemed to be getting heavier by the minute - we headed straight for the park centre at Sutton Bank, a distance of 7.9 miles, which we had covered without any real breaks.

We were disappointed that despite its supposed mission to serve and encourage park visitors, the entire emphasis seemed to be to make money from them.

There was no indoor provision for eating, unless one wanted to buy food and drinks in the café - in fact, the centre forbids anyone from taking their own food onto the premises. 

We ate our sandwiches on the only bench outdoors that offered any shelter from the rain, then ventured into the entrance lobby to pass time while waiting for our bus.

A group of cyclists who entered in muddy outer clothing had to drape it over a handrail in the lobby - there seemed to have been no thought at all for the needs of outdoor activity participants.

The 2.15 Moorsbus took us back to Helmsley.

Running total 12.6 miles.

Sunday August 2, Sutton Bank to Osmotherley

The Moorsbus service does not provide a service from Osmotherley  to Sutton Bank after 11.25am, but there is a later one from Osmotherley to Helmsley.

We therefore drove once more to Helmsley, and caught a service bus to Sutton Bank, where we began walking at 9.35am.

Once more, we felt let down by the parks centre, where we found that the toilets did not open until 10am.  There were already many vehicles in the pay-and-display car park, and a considerable number of cyclists and walkers milling about. While it may suit the park management to keep all of the facilities closed until 10am, it seems absurd to provide such poor service on a Sunday in high season.

The weather was close to ideal, with many sunny periods, but there was also a refreshing cool breeze.

There were many more people out and about, compared with Saturday.  At one point, we were passed by a party of 23 cyclists, and Hambleton Drove Road was particularly popular with walkers, cyclists and runners.

We were a little anxious at times about the fact that we were tied to bus times, but we had the option of catching the 2.05 from Osmotherley, or stopping at Square Corner, two miles before Osmotherley, to take the same bus at 2.15, or as a last resort, catching a bus at Square Corner at 3.50.

We had a welcome 20-minute break for lunch on a grassy bank on the descent from Black Hambleton, and reached Square Corner with 55 minutes left to reach Osmotherley.  We arrived with a comfortable margin, having covered 11.7 miles, and we wished we could have spent an hour or two in the village, which was extremely busy with visitors.

The Moorsbus service to Helmsley provided us with an opportunity to doze before beginning the hour's drive back to Scarborough.

Running total 24.3 miles

Monday August 3. Osmotherley to Clay Bank

Another day of perfect weather, for the most demanding leg of the walk. The climbs to moors over 1,000ft, followed by steep descents on uncomfortable stony tracks, just keep coming.

There were many highlights, though, with the first being Scarth Wood Moor, a sea of heather, offering a first glimpse of Roseberry Topping on the horizon.

For much of the day, the route is shared with the Wainwright Coast to Coast route and the Lyke Wake Walk.

Live Moor  (1,024ft) was followed by a descent, then a climb up to Carlton Moor (1,338ft) then down we went again, to the welcome of Lord Stones Café.  This celebrated building is half buried in a cliff, and not too easy to spot.  We bought welcome cups of tea to wash down our lunch.

We climbed again to Cringle Moor (1,380ft), went down and up to Cold Moor (1,316ft), then down and up to the Wain Stones (pictured left), continuing to Hasty Bank (1,280ft).  I accidentally led a rather adventurous route up and through the Wain Stones, which led to Maureen complaining quite reasonably that she hadn't signed up for any mountaineering.

We finally arrived at Clay Bank with about half an hour to spare, and sat down to drink our still-chilled orange juice from our flask.

This added up to a slightly shorter distance than yesterday, at 11.5 miles, but they were 11.5 very hard-earned miles. 

While we waited for the bus, we chatted to a couple who were doing the Coast to Coast walk and were waiting to be collected by the company moving their luggage from place to place.

The bus took us into Stokesley, where we bought basic provisions, enjoyed watching the world go by, and sat on a bench to eat fish and chips while waiting for the Moorsbus to take us back to our car.

Running total 35.8 miles




Tuesday August 4. Clay Bank to Great Ayton.

This promised to be a much easier walking day than yesterday, with the switchback moors behind us.

There was one last hang-over, however, as we climbed a rugged, stony path to Carr Ridge (1,250ft).  The weather has also turned against us with a vengeance, with a roaring wind and thick mist as we crossed the moorland. We passed close to the highest point in the region of the Cleveland Way, 1,490ft, on Round Hill, as the weather showed no signs of brightening.

The mist was intense, and was mixed with occasional drizzle, and we had to wear full waterproofs for part of the walk. 

Although this section of the Cleveland Way offered much easier walking, along fairly even tracks, it is the most remote part of the route, and there is little opportunity to make a quick escape to lower ground - in the main, you either go on or go back.

After a couple of hours, the mist gradually lifted and the sun made a welcome appearance, and the final two miles to the small village of Kildale - the first contact with civilisation for almost ten miles - were by country lane.

We had lunch on a grassy bank near Kildale, then started a stiff climb to Easby Moor, to see the monument to Captain Cook, before descending off-route to Great Ayton.  There, we had a welcome cup of tea and a fester on the village green while waiting for the Moorsbus to return us to our car at Clay Bank.  Distance covered: 13.5 miles

Running total 49.3 miles


Wednesday August 5, day off

Maureen does voluntary work at the local hospital, and we took the day off so that she could help them keep the paperwork up to date.  Back in action tomorrow.

Thursday August 6. Great Ayton to Saltburn

We caught the bus from Saltburn, but on arrival at Great Ayton, I found the zip had stuck on the waterproof pocket on my daypack, with my GPS inside.  I had to go to the nearby chemist and spend £2.99 on a pair of nail scissors, so that I could cut a slit beside the zip.

We set off at 9.35, and walked a mile to join the Cleveland Way about midway between Captain Cook's monument and Roseberry Topping.  Great Ayton Moor and Newton Moor offered a further taste of previous days' conditions underfoot, but without the drama of high ground, before we reached forested areas overlooking Guisborough.

Most of the day was then spent on tracks, farm roads and belts of countryside.  We had lunch at a roadside picnic spot near the tiny village of Slapewath.

On the way back, we reconnoitred Sandsend for tomorrow's bus stop and parking space. 13.7 miles.  

Running total 63 miles.

Friday August 7, Saltburn to Sandsend

The day started badly, as the bus was almost 30 minutes late arriving in Sandsend to take us to the start of the longest leg of the walk, at 17.5 miles.

We alighted at Brotton Station and followed a footpath to the coast at Saltburn before turning south.

This was a challenging walk in hot weather, with steep climbs up hills to 330ft (three times), 230ft and 666ft, each followed by descents to at or near sea level.

It was, nevertheless, very satisfying, with the sea our near-constant companion.

We live in sight of the briny, but we never tire of  the experience of watching its changing moods.

We had lunch close to the highest point of the day, on the cliff top approaching Boulby, and treated ourselves to ice creams at Runswick Bay, where fortunately, the tide was out sufficiently to allow us to complete the necessary half-mile walk along the beach.

Running total 80.5 miles. 

Saturday, August 8, Sandsend to Robin Hood's Bay

As this was to be a relatively short day, we decided to start our walk at about 11am, allowing us to have a sit-down lunch in Beckett's Café in Skinner Street, Whitby, where Julie Curry provides excellent and imaginative panini and gorgeous cakes.

The walk of a couple of miles into Whitby passed uneventfully, and I was soon wrapping myself around a smoked sausage, sweet chilli sauce and mozzarella panino, while Maureen had basil pesto, tomato and mozzarella.

We were concerned to discover that the swing bridge across the River Esk in Whitby had been opened, and we feared a long delay, but it was closed within a few minutes.

The afternoon's walk was under a very hot sun, and the passage over the cliffs, with many ups and downs, proved hard work. 

On most previous days, we saw very few other walkers, but today the paths were relatively crowded, mainly with visitors to Robin Hood's Bay and Whitby.  We have been surprised throughout the walk by the apparent scarcity of other Cleveland Way walkers.

As tomorrow is Sunday, we anticipate quite a lot of company from strollers and dog walkers close to communities and leisure spots along the way - we left the wilderness behind when we came off the moors. 

This was the last day that we would need the car, as tomorrow we catch a bus to Robin Hood's Bay, and on Monday we take a bus back from Filey.

10 miles

Running total 90.5 miles.

Sunday August 9, Robin Hood's Bay to Scarborough

We set off from Robin Hood's Bay soon after 10.30am, climbing away from the harbour area along a narrow street. At some point, we missed a left turn, and continued to climb behind the south cliff, rather than to the sea front.

Rather than retrace our steps, we pressed on to join the old railway line near Boggle Hole, and followed this to Ravenscar.  This added about a mile to our walk and caused us to gain much unnecessary height, but this was balanced out by the fact that the terrain was easier underfoot.  There was also the advantage of gaining a different perspective of the seascape, from a higher level, and provided some excellent views on the approach to Ravenscar.

Much of the remaining route was very familiar to us, as we clambered up and down Hayburn Wyke, Cloughton Wyke and many minor dips in the cliffs.  Scarborough Castle and Oliver's Mount, which overlooks our home, came tantalisingly into view about a mile south of Ravenscar.

Shortly before reaching Scalby Mills, we were thrilled to reach the sign for the start of the Tabular Hills Walk to Helmsley, which we completed this year. 

This meant we had completed a circular route of about 150 miles across the hills and dales of north-east Yorkshire, the moors, the cultivated land west of Saltburn and the coast.

The weather remained warm, but until the later stages of the walk, it was (thankfully) not as hot as yesterday.

There is no formal route for the Cleveland Way through Scarborough, so from Scalby Mills we followed the promenade to The Sands development, then walked along North Marine Drive, Victoria Road and Northway to the Valley Bridge, which led us home.

Just one more, relatively short walk to Filey to go, to complete the Cleveland Way.

16.5 miles.

Running total 107 miles.

Monday August 10, Scarborough to Filey

We had planned to set off between 9am and 10am for the 8-mile walk, so that we could eat our packed lunch on the seafront at Filey.

However, rain started soon after breakfast, and we kept postponing the start.  Eventually, we decided to have lunch at home and walk in the afternoon.

Fortunately, the weather was brighter, and we were soon plodding along the familiar muddy path past Scarborough Golf Club.

We dutifully followed the diversion past the landslip at Knipe Point, although it was clear that some people had been sticking to the original path.  Our amended route took us to a roadside pavement for half a mile, before we returned to the woodland route via a very sticky path.

The rest of the walk passed uneventfully and enjoyably, until we finished our passage of the Cleveland Way at the strangely located start/end point, a mile out of town on the edge of a country park.

7.6 miles.

Final distance 114.6 miles.





















The execution of our plans depended entirely on the availability of public transport, so we took a keen interest in the performance of the bus services we used.

I qualified for a bus pass two months before our walk started, and most of Maureen's trips on Moorsbus services were discounted because we had saved tokens attached to Moors Park car park tickets.

The vehicles were operated by, variously, the transport giant Arriva, East Yorkshire Motor Services/Scarborough & District, and in the case of most of the Moorsbus routes we used, Hutchinson's of Easingwold.  

Our most anxious time occurred in Sandsend, while waiting for the Arriva service to Brotton.  The bus, which had only to come a couple of miles from Whitby, was almost half an hour late reaching Sandsend, and the driver announced, alarmingly: "I'm in a terrible rush!"  This wasn't the most reassuring of messages to receive from a public transport operator.

The only other timing issue occurred when a driver left a timetabled spot five minutes early, on the grounds that he had made a necessary connection with an arriving bus.  

The Arriva bus 5, which we used twice, this year replaced a bus with a different service number, running to a changed timetable.  However, the old timetable is still published on the internet, and most confusingly, is the one that is displayed at the stop at Whitby Bus Station.

Of course, a total of 12 journeys could not be regarded as a sample that would necessarily representative of any company, but we do have one general conclusion: Hutchinson's drivers are the tops.  Each one had his own individual traits, of course, but each of them was, without exception, friendly, helpful, cheerful and polite, and it was a pleasure to travel with them.  We felt they really cared about the quality of the service they were providing.

The route

The Cleveland Way route is well established, and in general, we followed the itinerary in Paddy Dillon's book The Cleveland Way and the Yorkshire Wolds Way, with the Tabular Hills Walk (Cicerone, ISBN 1-85284-447-7). We had already used this book when we completed the Tabular Hills Walk from Scarborough to Helmsley earlier in the year, and found it to be rather more helpful in its directions on the Cleveland Way.

Paddy's suggestion of following a short, easy leg from Clay Bank to Kildale with a much longer one to Saltburn, incorporating climbing to Captain Cook's Monument and Roseberry Topping at the start of the new day, is not, with respect, the best possible plan.  I do not know why Great Ayton is off route, but I suggest to future walkers that they consider passing through Kildale, climbing to the Cook Monument, then descending to Great Ayton to end the day.  This is a large village with lots of facilities, trains, and frequent buses.  Next day, walk out of Great Ayton, climb Roseberry Topping and continue to Saltburn.  

The Way is variously recorded as being 108, 109, 110, 111 or 112 miles long in guide books and on markers en route, and although we were using a GPS receiver, and are therefore confident that we walked 114.6 miles, we are unable to contribute to the general point, as the necessity for us to continue to bus routes, the fact that we climbed Roseberry Topping as a separate leg, on a circular walk, and the extra mile that we walked between Robin Hood's Bay and Scarborough, added to our total. 

2009 bus schedule

Day 1
Drive to Helmsley and park.
Walk to Sutton Bank.
Scarborough & District (S&D) 128 leaves at 1.15, 2.15, 3.15, 4.15 for Helmsley.

Day 2
Drive to Helmsley
Catch S&D 128 to Sutton Bank at 9.15, arriving 9.30.
Walk to Osmotherley.
Catch Moorsbus M91 at 2.05, arriving Helmsley at 2.56.
Or if you run late...
Walk to Square Corner.
M91 leaves Square Corner at 3.50, arriving Helmsley at 4.48.

Day 3
Drive to Osmotherley
Walk to Clay Bank.
Moorsbus M2 leaves Clay Bank at 3.45, arriving Stokesley at 3.55.
Settle down with a book/get a meal.
Moorsbus M9 leaves Stokesley at 6.20, arriving Osmotherley at 6.40.

Day 4
Drive to Clay Bank.
Walk to Great Ayton.
Moorsbus M2 leaves Great Ayton 4.25, arrives Clay Bank 4.45.

Day 5
Drive to Saltburn..
Moorsbus M16 leaves Saltburn 8.35, arrives Great Ayton 9.25. (Becomes M2 in Guisborough.)

Day 6
Drive to Sandsend Hotel
Arriva bus 5 leaves Sandsend 9.18, arrives Brotton Station 10.00.
Walk to Sandsend.

Day 7
Drive to Robin Hood's Bay.
Arriva bus 93 leaves RHB 10.21, arrives Whitby 10.40.
Arriva bus 5 leaves Whitby 11.08, arrives Sandsend 11.19.

Walk to Robin Hood's Bay.

Day 8
Arriva bus 93 leaves Scarborough Railway Station 8.20, 9.20; arrives RHB 9.01, 10.01. (Sunday leaves 9.40, 10.40, 11.40)
Walk to Scarborough.

Day 9
Walk to Filey.
Frequent buses from Filey to Scarborough.