There were streaks of snow on the colder slopes of the Cleveland Hills but in Great Ayton, ice cream consumption continued institutionally at Suggitts' caf.

Visitors to this famous refuelling stop looked out over the River Leven; hard core cyclists slurped tea and eyed their fast-not-flash winter roadrunners. Down river is the Low Green; up the street is the High Green and Captain Cook's schoolroom museum. A mile further, into the hills, on Roseberry Topping, is the farm Cook worked at, and near it, my white-painted home for 20 years (that's the last mention of me and the great explorer in the same sentence).

But how things have changed! The car park in the hills has always been popular for easy access to the landmark viewpoints, but on a shopping-day Saturday we shared it with the following: the Cleveland Hunt, who were knocking back large slugs of Glenfidich whisky and gnawing at scotch eggs; runners, who ran off with no fuss; walkers various; mountain bikers who tweaked their fancy forks; hunt followers and last, but not least, off-road Hells Angels, two of whom revved off over the moors, clad in psychedelic leather, their flailing and wailing pillions in pastel trouser suits. It was too cold to picnic, there are tables.

We read the info board; this is part of the Captain's 'Boyhood Walk' and we climbed through the woods to his 50-foot monument on Easby Moor. From it, with binoculars, if you lived in one of the plains villages, you could see granny in the conservatory. Beyond lies the brooding grey of Teesside. The Cleveland Hills were less blue than usual; the Dales were white.

East next, on the Cleveland Way, on the boundary between wooded slopes and wooded Coate Moor, then north down gated Tarmac that gives a good feel of the amphitheatre quality of Lonsdale.

Next came a climb by a plantation to a suitable sandwich stop. A stoat made a darting foray. Hounds were combing the woods and a deer broke cover and moved over exposed valley territory. Mountain bikers with mobiles were reporting errant motorcyclists to the authorities, but unfortunately no National Park helicopter gunship responded.

The rest of the route is an arcing sail over Great Ayton Moor. Roseberry Topping and Captain Cook's Monument shift relative positions for the last time, and they make for navigation with a sea captain's confidence. The views are (or can be) long and peaceful to moorland skylines. Finally a descent to the car park that, though busy, is well located and out of sight (if not sound) until the last minute.

Fact file

Distance: Four miles.

Time: Two hours.

General location: Cleveland Hills.

Start: Gribdale Gate. GR. 592110.

Right of way: The complete route is along public rights of way.

Date walked: Saturday, March 2, 2002.

Road route: From York A19 then A172 to Stokesley, A173 to Great Ayton. Station Road out of village, over rail line, straight through narrow crossroad, until, 1 miles out from Great Ayton, road twists up and left bypassing upland terrace of mining houses. Car park mile.

Car parking: Large and free.

Lavatories: Great Ayton, near High Green.

Refreshments: Pubs and cafs in Great Ayton.

Tourist and public transport information: Great Ayton TIC opens Good Friday. In the interim Middlesbrough TIC 01642 358086.

Map: Based on OS Outdoor Leisure 26 North York Moors western area.

Terrain: Forest, moor and valley.

Points of interest: A surfeit of interest, do on a quiet day. Museum open April to October. Great Ayton cairns are Neolithic to Iron Age.

Difficulty: Moderate, up and down, some tracks muddy.

Dogs: Suitable.

Weather forecast: Evening Press and recorded forecast 0891 500 418.

Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.


When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.

1. From car park at Gribdale Gate woods, path uphill into woods (signed Cleveland Way and Kildale). Watch out for viewbench on right.

2. Left at Captain Cook's Monument.

3. Fork right at 'Y' junction (signed Cleveland Way).

4. Left to road.

5. At barns and bend, straight on uphill to track by edge of woods (fieldgates).

6. At moor and a road end, fieldgate and immediately left to fieldgate to moor and fork left (footpath sign). Ignore right fork 200 yards from conifers.

Click here to view a map of the walk

Updated: 10:26 Saturday, March 09, 2002