Goathland Station on the North York Moors Railway
It was my final day in Goathland and with a long bus trip planned for tomorrow I wanted to find a walk that didn’t require public transportation. I chose to head in the opposite direction from yesterday and began by taking the public footpath towards Abbots House. This is an old favourite that forms part of a short circular walk around the village. After passing through a handful of fields and a campground I turned left and followed the old rail line back to the village, past the cricket ground and exiting on the road near the Goathland Hotel. The groundskeeper was busy rolling the wicket for a Sunday afternoon fixture and I was tempted to hang around to watch but the weather was misty and cool, not the greatest for spectator or player.
I headed to the Goathland train station to have a look around. I didn’t ride the North York Moors Railway this trip but I have enjoyed the steam train on previous visits. The station and the village of Goathland will be familiar to viewers of “Heartbeat“, a British TV programme that was extremely popular for the better part of two decades. It still attracts visitors today despite the series having ended in 2009.
I used the footbridge to cross over the tracks to the other platform and then followed a footpath behind the station that led up to the moor. The trail passed a reservoir and continued to climb to the main road that leads into Goathland. The path was mucky in spots and the temperature continued to drop as the wind intensified. I followed this minor road for a good mile, not the highlight of the day as it was exposed to both the wind and the holiday traffic. I joined a track that led to an old quarry at which point the moor really opened out in front of me. The vista wasn’t spectacular but it certainly was atmospheric with the mists rolling across it.
Stone markers from 1784
My mid-90’s Ordnance Survey map showed a large forest on the horizon but there has been considerable logging since then. Fortunately the power pylons are exactly where they were two decades ago and so I was able to track my progress. I was looking to link up with a bridleway through the heather and noticed a pair of old stone markers from the 1784 Sneaton Liberty Assizes. There were no clear signs of a bridleway but a closer look revealed a broken bridleway marker lying in the heather. I carried on down a soggy sheep trail towards the corner of a what used to be a forest and then linked up with a dirt track that was more or less going in the direction I wanted. It followed the contours of a hill and slowly began to descend through fields filled with sheep and a herd of cattle that included a bull.
I carried on for another mile or two and had been walking away from Goathland for a good 2.5 hours. With the weather deteriorating I decided it was time to plot a route back. I decided to backtrack a short distance and to look for a bridleway that would provide an alternate route back to the main road. I spotted the bridleway sign pointing through the middle of a field that disappeared up and over the horizon. I marched off in the general direction, through long grass and grazing sheep, looking for a gate. I couldn’t see one so I did what I normally do in these situations and made for the fence and followed it until I came to the gate. I was now back on a dirt track which passed through several stone enclosures and fields. I soon realized the track was going to merge with the power lines which meant I had missed my turn. I could tell from my maps that I was meant to cross the power lines near a pylon at the top of a small hill and so I replotted my course towards what looked to be a likely candidate.
Before long I was back on a track leading to the busy main road which I followed for ten minutes before rejoining the minor road I had followed this morning. I wasn’t on it for long though as I headed down an even quieter road signposted for Beck Hole and Greenlands Farm. I’d never been on this road before although I did cross it when I walked to Whitby earlier in the week. The scenery was lovely, all the more so when the road descended towards Beck Hole and then through the tiny hamlet.
It was bank holiday Sunday and so the Birch Hall Inn was packed with walkers and day trippers. It was my final visit to the pub and so I shoe-horned myself into the public bar with at least 18 others and 5 dogs. I supped my pint of Black Sheep and soaked up the atmosphere one last time.
Goathland’s cricket ground in the distance
Tricky to read this one
Stone markers from 1784
It won’t do much good down there
On the road down to Beck Hole
The track down to Julian Inn (not what you think)
A late morning start but one that would see me revisit the Roman road atop Wheeldale Moor. I left Goathland on the route that passed the small tarn I photographed on the day I arrived in the village. I carried onto the moor and could see Hunt House road below. I needed to find my way down to it and after some back-tracking through the heather I did so and followed it for a mile or so. Parts of the route were familiar, especially the section approaching Wheeldale Lodge which was a youth hostel the last time I visited but has now reverted to a private home.
Just before Wheeldale Lodge I met a walker from Sheffield and his dog, a golden Lab who spent as much time as possible in whatever water it could find. A farmer at Wheeldale Lodge asked him to put his dog on a lead as it was lambing season but he claimed not to have one. A conversation ensued which had the potential to heat up but the farmer let it drop. I thought the farmer was being very reasonable and that the walker was being more confrontational than necessary. Attitudes like this do nothing to improve the relationship between walkers and land owners so I was glad to see the back of him when we parted ways at the top of the hill.
The Roman road atop Wheeldale moor
If you’ve never visited the Roman road in this remote region of the North York Moors I highly recommend it. As the photo shows the cambered road is remarkably well preserved and the drainage ditches on either side are clearly visible. I followed the road south for a good mile or so until it merged with Wheeldale road at which point I turned back in the opposite direction. Half an hour later the road descended steeply to a ford where several vehicles were parked and one family was enjoying a picnic under overcast skies. I took a break here myself and found it cool enough to put on a fleece.
While the walk to this point was familiar territory the remainder would cover new ground. From the ford I climbed up a switchback road until I joined a footpath that traversed the hillside and eventually summited near a farm. After crossing several fields I joined a dirt road leading to Hillion Farm where I passed a group of six walkers and their dogs. The track, featured in the photo at the top of the page, was very picturesque and led me down the hill through pasture and a small woodland to a farm called the Julian Inn. The gate in the farm yard was roped off but I was confident this was a right of way and so I untied the rope, made my way through the gate and tied it up again.
The farm track gave way to a footpath as it descended the hill and then entered a woodland that included some steeper descents and muddy spots. Concentration was necessary to ensure I didn’t end up on my backside or hung up on the barbed wire that bordered sections of the path.
I had the woodland entirely to myself and emerged at a footbridge near … wait for it, Beck Hole. In case you’re counting this is my third visit but I’ve made a point to arrive by a different route each time. I enjoyed a pint and a pork pie at the very busy Birch Hall Inn although most walkers were sitting outside and so the public bar contained only myself and two ladies and their very soggy Spaniels. I returned to Goathland via the ‘Incline’ and rested up for my final day in the North York Moors.
The Roman road atop Wheeldale moor
“The Tarn” near Moss Rigg, Goathland
After my walk from Llangollen I decided a new pair of walking shoes was in order and the next day was spent in Shrewsbury looking for suitable replacements. I was hoping to find a pair of Eccos but only one shop carried them and only women’s shoes. After visiting several shops I settled on a pair of New Balance hiking shoes, the most comfortable Gortex-lined pair I could find. My Eccos were donated to a Shoe Bank in Ellesmere.
The following day I headed to Goathland in the North York Moors, a full-day journey involving two buses and three trains. Goathland is one of the “old haunts” I referred to in a previous post. Back in the late 90’s I operated a small group walking tour company and the North York Moors was one of my favourite destinations. It’s been 17 years since my last visit and I’m pleased to report very little has changed.
I arrived late in the afternoon and headed up onto Moss Rigg to stretch my legs. The light was wonderful but a brisk northerly wind meant it was downright chilly. Half an hour next to the coal fire in the lounge of my b&b was in order after my short walk.
The Birch Hall Inn in Beck Hole
The forecast for tomorrow afternoon was grim and so I decided to make best use of the morning. I headed out immediately after an exceptionally good breakfast and managed to get a couple of miles in before digging out the rain gear. I looped back to Goathland and headed down to Mallyan Spout where I encountered a group of 20+ walkers. I followed the beck for a short while before seeking refuge in one of my favourite pubs in Britain, the Birch Hall Inn in Beck Hole.
The Birch Hall Inn’s public bar is tiny, about 12′ by 12′, and hasn’t changed in 17 years. I suspect very little has in half a century. It’s perfectly suited for muddy walkers with (or without) soggy dogs and its close confines guarantee you’ll soon be part of the conversation. I met a British couple who were amazed to learn I was from Victoria. For the past 12 years they had escorted caravan groups through British Columbia and knew my city well.
After enjoying good beer and good conversation I returned to Goathland via the ‘Beckhole Incline‘, a one-mile path following a short-lived mid-19th century horse-drawn railway. A visit to the Goathland War Memorial rounded out a short but enjoyable walk in the North York Moors.