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Country walk at Levisham
IN the early 19th century, the Lord of the Manor of Levisham was the Rev Robert Skelton.
He had no less than three houses in the area. A little eccentric, you might think? Most country vicars in those days were inclined that way and some left monuments behind to prove it.
There is the Cammon Stone on Rudland Rigg, an ancient standing stone which was inscribed in Hebrew with the word Hallelujah by a vicar of the time called Emanual Strickland.
In Stockton, the vicar was interested in spiritualism and was notorious for being carried around the church wall by his parishioners in a glass-topped coffin, alive, of course.
But perhaps our most famous eccentric vicar was the mentioned Robert Skelton. We see his monument to history in an isolated place perched high on the edge of a cliff overlooking Newtondale.
This listed building built by him as a shooting lodge is now a ruin, but there is enough of it left for us to see various architectural gems.
It had herringbone chiselled lintels and there is also evidence of iron glazing window frames and a fireplace on the first floor.
Such luxuries were needed to keep him warm perhaps while he wrote his sermons or merely whiled away the hours gazing out across Newtondale and beyond to the moors.
One of the Rev Skelton’s houses still stands today. It is at the rear of Levisham Station and it is from here that we start our walk around the Lord of the Manor’s estate.
The railway line running through where Levisham Station is today was opened in 1836 and the carriages were pulled by horses.
To get a ride on the railway you would simply signal your intention as it approached. In 1845, the railway turned to steam power and a platform was built, the land provided by non-other than the then Lord of the Manor, the Rev Skelton. A nearby house was used for the person in charge of the station.
Today, as we all know, the line and station is run by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and they keep the station at Levisham in fine condition. Several features can be found of the original 19th century station, and after a visit to the ‘Gents’ I wondered if that was one of them.
Leave the railway car park, turning left onto the road and over the level crossing.
In about 100 yards, go left through a small gate and over a bridge. There is a ‘beware of bull’ sign on the gate but I did not see him. Perhaps it is best to do this walk out of season when cattle are not grazing, especially if you are taking your dog on the walk, as further along the route dogs are not allowed.
Climb the steep, rough bank, then exit into a grass field. Head uphill to a gate and stile in the very top left corner of the field. Continue along to the left, over the stile on a wide track, still climbing and soon you reach the top of the hill.
Go left here onto a wide track. Straight ahead now for some time passing a derelict house and a couple of farms to eventually reach the road. Left now, following the castle sign and Tabular Hills Walk sign.
Soon start a serious descent through the wood and when you are thinking it will never end, a wide track appears on the left and a footpath sign. Go left here to follow the line of the beck and soon pass a colonnade of fir trees, then go through a gateway into open land.
Not far and you enter the wood again, then into another open area. Stiles and gates continue for some time until you eventually reach a medium-sized metal gate into a wood.
Continue along through the wood on a difficult path, but not for long as you exit the wood into a field through a gate. Two more gates, one with a ‘No Dogs Allowed’ sign and into a grass field. In about a 100 yards, turn right and aim to the left of the gorse bushes. This is the field you used on your outward part of the walk. Descend the steep, rocky path to the bottom then cross the bridge to exit onto the forest road. Keep straight ahead now to return to Levisham Station.
Distance – 4½ miles (7km)
Time – two hours
Grading – Moderate with one very steep ascent and descent
Start/grid ref – Levisham Station, grid ref 817910
Best map – OS Outdoor Leisure 27
Parking – Levisham Station, please donate generously
Refreshments – The Horseshoe Inn at the top of the hill in Levisham village
Public toilets – Levisham Station