The Cleveland Way ~ Day One (Helmsley to Sutton Bank)
The Cleveland Way was recently voted the nation's favourite national trail. It is a walk that has always appealed to me for the variety of landscape that it traverses, taking in the western, northern and eastern edges of the North York Moors and the coastline from Saltburn to Filey.
This year I have set myself the challenge of walking this 109-mile trail, which starts in the market town of Helmsley and ends in the seaside resort of Filey. My mum, who is a seasoned rambler, was keen to join me on the walks, which we figured were do-able in day walks from our homes, so on each leg we are covering 10-12 miles.
Day One starts out from Helmsley which as well as being the start of the Cleveland Way, is also the end of both the Tabular Hills Walk and the Ebor Way plus the start and end of the Inn Way. Today's walk will end at the Visitor Centre at Sutton Bank.
The start of the Cleveland Way is marked in sandstone by the car park near Helmsley Castle and the Walled Garden. The path rises gently as you leave the town, taking a sharp turn to the left and runs alongside Blackdale Howl Wood before passing the abandoned village of Griff with great views back over the town.
Once out of the woodland we walked along the road which passes the route to the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey. You get a wonderful view of the ruined abbey from the road and luckily there's a gap in the hedge for photo opportunities.
The abbey was built by the Cistercians who clearly had an eye for finding some superb settings for their abbeys (think Fountain's Abbey, Byland and Jervaulx).
Once we had done marvelling at this view of Rievaulx Abbey, we continued along the route across a stone bridge over the River Rye. At this point we were so busy admiring the gorgeous cottages and gardens in this hamlet that we went off route heading up the hill instead of straight on.
Having located our whereabouts on the map, we retraced our steps and got back on course continuing along the road until we reached a woodland track - and by sheer luck, the perfect spot for some lunch which we were ready for after our detour.
What an idyllic spot - a deciduous woodland bank to the left and these two ponds and not a soul in sight apart from a couple of friendly anglers who turned up as we were leaving.
After hopping across a series of tall stepping stones over the beck we entered the coniferous woodland of Flassen Wood before climbing up a path leading to Cold Kirby.
Here you get fantastic views back towards the moors and the wolds and a good impression of the setting.
We entered the village of Cold Kirby by a grassy slope with St Michael's Church on our left and walked along its high street before turning left along a track towards Sutton Bank and the Hambleton area.
Towards the end of the path we passed through a farmyard, obviously racing stables judging from the gallops we spotted. This area was once so famous for its horse racing that the Hambleton Downs Racecourse was once the primary racing venue outside Newmarket hosting some of the country's most prestigious races.
After leaving the stables we got back onto a track and onto the main road for a short walk towards Sutton Bank. You can cross the road here to take in the section of the Cleveland Way that leads to the White Horse at Kilburn, which is a there and back stretch, but as we had both visited this several times before we omitted this part.
It took a bit of navigating to get us back to the Visitor Centre at Sutton Bank as there are lots of cycle tracks here which take you up into the forest. We had time to stop off at the café for a well-earned cup of tea before our lift home arrived. This stretch had been a 10-mile walk although we'd probably added an extra mile or so with our detour (that early error will definitely make us vigilant for checking signs and our map next time). This first stage is a lovely walk in itself and has certainly whet our appetites for the next section.