WALKERS have marked the Cleveland Way’s 50th anniversary by retracing the first footsteps on the national trail.

The 109-mile Cleveland Way National Trail was launched half a century ago on Friday, May 24.

The trail, which runs in a horseshoe loop across the North York Moors National Park from Helmsley to Saltburn before following the coastline down to Filey Brigg, has since been enjoyed by millions of people from hikers and runners through to artists, stargazers and bird watchers.

To mark the 50th anniversary, more than 150 walkers retraced the steps of the early walkers by striding out along a three-mile stretch of the trail, aptly known as the Pilgrim’s Walk, from YHA Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey.

Leading the group were apprentices from the North York Moors National Park kitted out in 1960s walking gear.

The day also saw the first showing of a new video about the Cleveland Way produced by students from the University of Teesside updating the original public information film that was created back in the 1970s.

Malcolm Hodgson, Cleveland Way trail manager, said: “The success of the trail over the years has been due to the hard work of our volunteers and bodies such as Natural England, the National Park, YHA, English Heritage and National Trust in helping to preserve the route and the qualities that make it so special for thousands of people each year.”

James Blake, YHA (England and Wales) chief executive, added: “YHA has long been an advocate of access to the countryside. This was the case when we first mooted the idea of the Cleveland Way and remains so today.”

Defra Minister Lord Gardiner said: “For half a century, this famous walking route has given thousands of visitors the chance to access fabulous views and landscapes – from stunning moorland to precious ancient woodland and breathtaking coastlines.

“As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Cleveland Way, I am delighted to celebrate the important role National Trails play in allowing us all to experience the benefits of the natural environment and connect with the beauty of the English countryside.”

Natural England interim chief executive Marian Spain said: “Cleveland Way takes walkers on a journey through some of the most stunning and diverse landscapes in Britain, from picture-postcard villages to big-sky moorland and dramatic coastline.”

Events marking the anniversary continue into the summer. For more information, go to northyorkmoors.org.uk/clevelandway