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Country walk at the Hole of Horcum
12:32pm Saturday 19th May 2012 in Walks
GEORGE WILKINSON becomes a trainspotter for the day on the North York Moors.
The Hole of Horcum looked, as always, awesome. There’s a story that the huge mile-wide hole was scooped out by giant named Wade and that he threw the earth at his wife.
Couples pulled off the road for romantic, scenic photos, and there was scooping at the car park ice cream van, while similar vans hurried to Whitby. We set off in double anticipation, to savour at leisure the day’s fabulous scenery, and with urgency to find the trains.
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway was having a steam gala. We’d seen the posters driving through Pickering, and knew, at the least, that the trains must be coming our way. So it was a bit of a rush over Levisham Moor, a mile or more with blue sky and heather, half round the rim of the hole, and in the heather are ancient dykes and the Iron Age barrows of tribal chiefs.
Seavy pond seemed dead to the season but underwater dragonfly nymphs will be hunting or warming, and we heard the hoot of a train.
Within a quarter of an hour, we were on the lip of Newton Dale, after a fine descent that again we had hurried. And then we spent ages peering into sharp deep valley for a wisp of smoke, and listening for the hoot and chug, trainspotters for the day. Our dialogue was “shall we wait or shall we go”, to find another vantage point, without missing the next loco, not having a timetable, sped on by a distant horn or urgent engines.
The acoustics of the valley are super, on a quiet day. Not that there’s nothing but the trains. Indeed, Newton Dale matches the drama of the Hole of Horcum, so steep and sharp and vivid with the trees and with a history of violent ice age melt water. Moreover, one does have to watch one’s step as this mile is right along the edge of seriously precipitous and vertical cliffs. Silent jackdaws wafted. We descended steep down a gully in the cliffs, with a falling splashing stream, to the warmed-up bottom of Newton Dale, primroses and a glassy Pickering Beck. And here is the tiniest station, named Newton Dale Halt. Dozens of walkers from Newmarket in Suffolk had just missed their train; with cheer they pulled out some cans.
I waited to photograph the next arrival, the Sir Nigel Gresley, but it came in backwards. The floor of Newton Dale is very narrow, just room for the railway line, the stream, and a Forestry Commission track for our fast excited march.
There was a professional photographer waiting at the spot. Keep on the “side of the sun” advised Andrew Gallon, and I stood beside him. The Bittern slid into view, out of a curve of North Dale, big, blue and beautifully streamlined and pulling wooden carriages.
An A4 Pacific said Mr Gallon, like the record-breaking Mallard.
For us there was a slow, steep climb out of Newton Dale.
When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.
1. Cross main road from car park at crossing points, path over dyke 20 yards, right to path along edge.
2. As road bends sharp right, field gate to track uphill.
3. About 25 yards before pond in dip, track on right uphill, curves to left, ground levels off for about 100 yards, pass dyke/ditch on left and ignore rushy narrow path on right.
4. Clear grassy track angling downhill on right, becomes sunken.
5. At bottom, right to join track/path for about 150 yards, left across the moor on faint path. Right at cliff edge, (very steep drops), path, 300 yards, sign (Hudson Cross/Newton Dale Halt), keep to cliff-edge path.
6. Path picks up fence on left, step-stream, uphill 20 yards, left down to gate. Path steep downhill in wood-edge with stream to left, stile (waymark) and left, footbridge (waymark), left, by Pickering Beck, right and under railway line, stile, 100 yards on track uphill.
7. Right to forest track (painted arrow).
8. Steps on right down to gate (waymark), into field, path via waymarked post to footbridge, gate, cross railway line with care, footbridge, gate, 100 yards, footbridge and stile (waymark) into wood (three waymarked posts). Stone ruins and immediately left (waymarked post), stile out of wood, right 20 yards then right steep uphill (way marked post). Path uphill with very steep drops to the left.
9. Snickelgate (waymark) at top to moor, path 11 o’clock, 100 yards, step-stream, 20 yards, grass track 11 o’clock towards the top corner of slope. Stile at top and rejoin outward route.
Distance: Six miles.
General location: North York Moors.
Start: Hole of Horcum.
Right of way: Public and Open Access.
Date walked: May 2012.
Road route: From York via Pickering.
Car parking: Pay and Display, £2.
Tourist and public transport information: Pickering TIC 01751 473791.
Map: Drawn from OS Explorer OL27 North York Moors eastern area.
Terrain: Moor and valley.
Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.