Fantastic views are your reward when you brave the contours out of Clay Bank, says VICTORIA ELLIS

There is a choice of car parks today. The big one on the top of Clay Bank offers, as a backdrop to boot lacing, the majesty of the Cleveland Plain.

But for a change I dropped down a side road to a smaller forestry clearing.

As we arrived, a bird woman pulled in and distributed delicacies, and the well-trained chaffinches and blue, great and coal tits homed in; all the birds in the wood perhaps, because we did not see any more.

Stage one was Greenhow Plantation, mostly conifer leavened by old oaks. The serviceable track undulates and crosses many gullies, the trees are thinned, you can see out north over pretty fields, tightly bound by the curving wooded escarpment.

The sun does not warm these slopes, snow lingers, down below is Midnight Farm.

When we reached the bottom of the incline and looked up at the daunting straight-as-a-ruler climb, we had second thoughts on the wisdom of our anti-clockwise circuit.

But there's no escaping the fact you have to do the climb at some point in the walk, whichever way you go around, and this way is more interesting; more of a challenge.

Here, in the 19th century, a rail line would lower Rosedale's calcinated ironstone to the plain and on to Middlesbrough, and fuel and provisions would be hauled up on the return journey. We mere humans selected bottom gear, removed a layer or two and began the climb. The best part of a mile, 750 feet of altitude and half an hour later we made the Incline Top.

Expectations were of a blue sky and an easy ride; unexpected was a numbing gale. So instead of serenely sauntering on the Cleveland Way we lurched along zig-zagging with the gusts.

Normally this path provides a long and leisurely look at the Moors, Bilsdale, the Cleveland Hills and across the plains to the sea, with a little detour to the 1,500-foot trig point on Round Hill as a highlight.

A couple of moorland miles later we reached the relative shelter of the Clay Bank car park, said goodbye to Roseberry Topping and Captain Cook's Monument and shuffled off to our low-level car park, blown away and weak at the knees.


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

1. Enter lower car park, 50 yards, path on left from fence by boulders, 50 yards, right to track. Left at track junction and stay on main, wide wood-edge track ignoring side turns.

2. Track swings left downhill after a concrete bridge.

3. Track crosses a gully, ignore a track sharp left downhill.

4. At T-junction, right up Incline (waymarked post).

5. Ignore 'short-cut' track on right, 200 yards, paved path on right (Cleveland Way sign), 200 yards, join track uphill. Ignore a track to left.

6.Track passes close to Trig Point (detour for visit), otherwise continue on track for 200 yards then fork right at 'Y' junction. Track becomes path (gates). Right to road, first right to road to lower car park (signed to Ingleby Greenhow).

Fact file:

Distance: Eight miles.

Time: Three or four hours.

General location: North York Moors.

Start: Clay Bank

Right of way: The complete route is along public rights of way and open access forest.

Date walked: Saturday, January 19, 2002.

Road route: From York either A19 and A172 via Stokesley, or via Helmsley.

Car parking: Either Clay Bank car park, or Forestry Commission car park, both free.

Lavatories: None.

Refreshments: Van sometimes at car park. Pubs at Chop Gate, Great Broughton and Ingleby Greenhow.

Tourist and public transport information: Helmsley TIC 01439 770173.

Map: Based on OS OL 26, North York Moors western area.

Terrain: Forested slope and moorland top.

Points of interest: Marvellous views. Clean walking surfaces.

Difficulty: Energetic. 750-foot climb.

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.

Click here to view a map of the walk

Updated: 08:40 Saturday, January 26, 2002