North York Moors Walk - Osmotherley

Stretch your legs on the North York Moors with an accessible walk of contrasting views and religious connections, says Terry Fletcher

Osmotherley is an attractive moors village sitting snugly below the western flank of the Cleveland Hills and is an ideal place to start a bracing walk. Certainly local farmer and master rambler Bill Cowley thought so. He chose it as the starting point for his daunting Lyke Wake Walk, a leg-sapping 40-mile crossing of the moors to Ravenscar on the East Coast.

This much gentler outing makes use of another, though even longer walk, the Cleveland Way, which passes through the village on its 110-mile route around of the North York Moors.

Our route also allows for a couple of short but worthwhile diversions to two long-established religious sites with links to Henry VIII, one a still-used chapel founded by his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, the other a priory closed on his orders after the Reformation.

From the centre of Osmotherley walk up North End, an attractive street lined by stone cottages with pantiled roofs. At the crest of the hill look out on the left for a Cleveland Way sign pointing to Scarth Nick. This is Rueberry Lane. Turn up this, passing several cottages and bungalows as it climbs steadily uphill until the view opens out across the wide plain below to the distant Pennines.

Soon a fork is reached with a sign to Lady’s Chapel. Although off our route it is worth a few minute’s diversion to see this old building, said to have been built by Catherine of Aragon and claimed to be the site of several miracles which have made it a modern place of pilgrimage for Roman Catholics.

Back on the main track, carry on along the Cleveland Way to Chapel Wood Farm, where it is possible to make another ecclesiastical diversion, this time dropping down the slope to Mount Grace Priory, a former Carthusian Monastery now in the care of the National Trust, who make an entrance charge.

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Otherwise, pass through the gate to continue along the Cleveland Way, ignoring a track rising to the right. Soon the path enters Arncliffe Wood. Immediately through the entrance gate take the right hand fork which begins to climb the hill through the trees, becoming narrower for a while before passing a telecommunications station.

Carry on past this and along the escarpment until the views open up north and east with the dramatic escarpment of the Cleveland Hills, leading the eye to the shapely cone of Roseberry Topping in the distance. The path eventually begins to lose height and drops to Scarth Wood Moor. Pass through two gates in quick succession as the atmosphere of the walk changes from the broad arable plain to sterner moorland terrain.

Carry on along the clear track, which becomes flagged for a while before eventually curving round to meet the road at Scarth Nick, a notch carved out by glacier meltwater after the last ice age. Turn right up the road and walk over the hill and down the other side until the waters of Cod Beck Reservoir come into view.

On a right hand bend just before reaching the lake a footbridge leads left onto the moor. Cross this and climb the steep track beyond. This is the start of High Lane, a broad track which forms most of the return leg of the walk. After passing a wood on the right the track becomes metalled. After a couple of hundred yards on the Tarmac look out for a footpath sign on the right, pointing the way down another broad track whose entrance is guarded by metal posts and a chain. Go down this, walking along the ridge with extensive views to the lowering hummock of Black Hambledon to the south.

At the end of the track cross a stile and descend two fields until Osmotherley appears in the valley below. Pass through a couple of ramshackle fences and climb a stile to reach a muddy track. Turn left along it and drop steeply down the sunken way to a junction with a farm access track.

A few yards before the junction is reached a finger post on the right signals a junction with the Cleveland Way. Squeeze through the narrow gap stile and turn right along the track towards the farm until another Cleveland Way sign directs you rightwards round the buildings and down into a wooded valley. Cross the stream at the foot of the hill by a wooden footbridge and climb a stepped path up the slope beyond. This leads to an enclosed track and Osmotherley.

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