GEORGE WILKINSON enjoys a lovely walk through the woods

MAY Beck is as pretty as its name; the gorse bushes glowed with flowers.

Walkers, all sorts, hikers and seasonal meanderers, took the myriad paths.

Most followed the beck, over the polished roots of oak trees, to Falling Foss waterfall, a 30- foot splash deep in the woods, greening all around.

And here is Midge Hall and its tea garden. I can recommend the coffee and the lemon and poppy seed cake, to the sound of the falls.

Two coast-to-coast walkers told of thick mist in the outside world on the North York Moors.

My navigator had been here the day before, all sunshine and birdsong; my day was rather silent.

And so it was I sat for a while, alone in the Hermitage, a rock precisely hollowed out around 1790.

The hermitage has a faraway view but was never, I think, home to a notable hermit, indeed there is integral seating for a dozen.

But try this for a contemplation – less than a mile northeast from here, where you turn off the Ruswarp Road for May Beck, is where York Potash want their mine head.

The lovely paths took me down into Littlebeck Wood Nature Reserve, the beck tinkled under cliffs of shale, the ground is topsy-turvy; much of the shale was dug for alum, on and off for 150 years.

Littlebeck is a hamlet connected by tortuous roads.

The paths are fine and climb through more of the nature reserve and then over a higher patch of pasture where sturdy lambs clung to sheep.

Gulls called, Whitby is close, and maybe a sparrow hawk clipped a hedge but that was probably just wishful thinking because a drop of rain hadn’t washed away the mist.

It was nice to meet a farmer who could have a laugh about his gate. Then came the bluebells, the best sweeps were not yet out. Everywhere the trunks of fallen trees were fleeced with moss. Now and then, cherry blossom floated on thin branches, like snowflakes.

I came back to Midge Hall, deserving of more cake, with just a final valley side of May Beck to come.

Back at the car park, two women drove up in a minibus.

They were searching for their party of college students, hours overdue and “lost but not in danger".


When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed. (wm=waymark, fp=fingerpost).

1. From car park, bridge over beck, immediately left (fp Falling Foss), 200 yards, path climbs to above stream, gate into woods (arrow), step-streams.

2. Footbridge, 50 yards, left fork (no sign), duckboarding.

3. Left to track and over bridge, right to track (fp Littlebeck), footbridge, tearoom, left-hand path uphill by fence, view of Falling Foss waterfall, uphill.

4. Left to path (3-way fp Littlebeck), left (wm post), Hermitage rock, downhill. Wall gap to Little Beck Wood (sign), steps, footbridge, snickelgate.

5. Left to road, ford, or, if flooded, nearby footbridge and left. Path between info board and bench, stepping stones in stream (metal bridleway post in wood) and right to gate to path (info boards) into wood, curves uphill. Fieldgate, path by wood.

6. Left-hand gate (fp, wm), 75 yards, gate, by fence/hedge on faint grass track uphill, gate at wood corner, sunken grass track, gate (4-way fp), 10 yards, gate and left downhill on track.

7. At farm, either DIY diversion left to skirt farmyard (if signed) or, fieldgate into farmyard, left, by house, fieldgate, pass caravan, gate, and immediately right to ‘stile’ (no sign) to wood. Path high above stream.

8. Footbridge over stream, not over nearby footbridge, right to path uphill, some steps.

9. Right to path above and behind Midge Hall.

10. At wide stone track, right uphill, 30 yards, good path on left (no sign). Stay on top path in edge of wood.

11. Left to gate, not stile straight on, path, down, over track, to car park.

Fact file

Distance: Five miles.

Car parking: Free car park Right of way: Public, permissive and open access.

Date walked: April 2014.

Tourist information: Whitby TIC 01723 383636.

Refreshments: Falling Foss Tea Garden.

Map: OS Explorer OL27 North York Moors eastern.

Terrain: Valley.

Difficulty: Intricate.

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