George Wilkinson goes in and out of the mists on a rainy day at Sutton Bank.

SUTTON Bank was quiet, the National Park Visitors Centre was suffering a grey day and the posted weather forecast read: “Cloudy, cool, heavy showers”. The showers bit was optimistic. But the café offered a friendly refuge, an outlook of rain bouncing off the bird feeders, and the woman who served our cuppa and cake smiled and said: “You don’t look enthusiastic.”

We cheered up with the orchids in the centre’s grounds, but there was no joy looking far and beyond for the famous view, because it just wasn’t there.

So we tramped the top edge of the escarpment on the Cleveland Way, and then went down. Down and down, 400 feet, the same drop as the road takes, only more steep and slithery. Here was nature wet in leaf and branch, and a semi-natural nature reserve numbered at intervals at special rocks and such.

At the bottom there is a rare treat, rare because Gormire Lake is one of the few natural waters in Yorkshire and a treat because it is very beautiful.

If you’re into ‘wild swimming’, here’s some info. An enthusiast friend tells me he’s dived it and it’s about 20 feet deep, and I can report it’s seething with leeches. A sign suggests ‘quiet enjoyment’.

We left the stippled surface and penetrated the dark and scented woods. Eventually the-miles-from anywhere sense was broken by the end of a back lane. Now a track led along the bottom of the escarpment, under chestnut, ash, thorn, hazel, bird cherry and the tallest, the poplars. This brought Midge Holm Gate and Southwoods Hall.

The hall was once owned by the vet who was Siegfried Farnon in the James Herriot books. Since his day it has been remodelled and now boasts a large black eagle, industrial security cameras, and many ‘private’ signs. One of its stone gateposts had been violently ripped down with the iron gate.

The route circles the house. A field held a couple of dozen handsome all black cattle; they seemed little concerned with us.

Of course sooner or later there was the escarpment to climb. At first this was via open grassland, not that steep and very well way marked. This led to the steam-wreathed woods. Here we found a contour path that looks as though it has been recently cleared as trees had been felled along the line.

After a mile of that we joined a bridleway that cut back up to the tops and the Cleveland Way again. The ascent had been much easier than we expected.

Finally, the rain stopped but it didn’t bring the views, as we were in the vapours that linger here when the warm air is pushed up from the plains to cool and condense. So we sped the last mile or so left along the tops and zipped past the crags with no thought but a café cup of tea.


When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.
1. From Sutton Bank Centre, trail by building, grass path ten yards from road, cross side road, path (fingerpost Cleveland Way).

2. Path on left steep downhill (fingerpost Nature Trail). Ignore right turns (fingerpost Gormire Lake).

3. Right to lakeside path, leave lake and keep straight on (no signs).

4. Left at T-junction to wide path downhill, 25 yards, left to path (three-way fingerpost-bridleway), 100 yards, right to road end before house, 25 yards to fieldgate to track (waymark and sign on right in vegetation).

5. Fieldgate (Midge Holm Gate, waymark), cross drive, gate (fingerpost Tang Hall-Southwoods) and path in field by fence, becomes track.

6. At fence corner (waymark), right uphill 50 yards, stile (waymark), uphill by fence then cross field from corner up to but not over stile to trees, turn round and downhill across field to fence corner and path by fence to your right, snickelgate (waymark), 50 yards.

7. Stile (waymark), by fence 20 yards, corner, two o’clock for 100 yards up to fieldgate by walls (waymark), 100 yards, left uphill on grassy path via waymarked post (fingerpost to your right), path up to fieldgate/squeezer (waymark), angle 11 o’clock on path uphill, waymarked posts after 50 yards, 100 yards, 200 yards, 50 yards, 50 yards.

8. Gate into wood to sunken path (waymark), right to grassy track, 20 yards, left to path angling uphill.

9. Path on right before gate out of wood so wall to your left. No signs but recent pathside felling. Keep to path within about 20 yards of wall to your left that is just remnants in places.

10. After three-quarters of a mile the path vanishes about 100 yards before wall turns right and dips downhill, look out for and step through gap in mossy wall, ten yards to sunken path and left uphill (no signs).

11. Right to cliff top path (three-way fingerpost, Cleveland Way). At left-hand bend, left after gate, that is second path on left so wall to your left (3-way fingerpost).


Distance: Five miles.

General location: North York Moors.

Start: North York Moors Visitor Centre, Sutton Bank.

Right of way: Public.

Map: OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors western area.

Dogs: Legal.

Date walked: July 2008.

Road route: Via Thirsk or Helmsley.

Car parking: Pay and display at visitor centre. Moorsbus.

Lavatories: Visitor centre.

Refreshments: ‘Hikers Lunch’ etc at visitor centre café.

Tourist and public transport information: Visitor centre on 01845 597426.

Terrain: Escarpment.

Points of interest: Re questionnaire at visitor centre – how about some information on display about the Crow Act and Right to Roam land?

Difficulty: Moderate.

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