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Guisborough to Slapewath

Guisborough is deservedly a "Walkers are Welcome" town, a status 'conferred on towns and villages which have something special to offer to walkers'. It has used its situation below the scarp of the forested Cleveland Hills by developing a variety of well maintained and signed rights of way which cater for all, from those out for a gentle stroll through to walkers wanting more of a challenge.

Distance: 5 miles

Time: 2 hours

Grade: easy

Conditions: well signed paths and bridleways, one short, steep climb through Guisborough Woods

Refreshments: Guisborough

OS Explorer Maps OL26

Originally published: 17 February 2017

This 5 mile walk heads south east out of the town and up the scarp to join the Cleveland Way. It then descends to the road to Whitby at Slapewath before returning along Cleveland Street, another long distance trail.A  shorter walk of 4 miles is included, much of which is suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs.

We start from the market cross at the east end of Westgate (GR 614161). A market has existed since 1263 but the cross is 18th century and was altered in 1817. Walk down Bow Street, past the site on the left of the early hall of the Chaloners, lords of the manor, who figure prominently in any account of Guisborough. Admiral Chaloner, a renowned benefactor of the town in 1873 built the Cottage Hospital, on the right side as we turn left into Whitby Lane at the traffic lights.

Some 250 yards along the road go right along Butt Lane, a bridleway which climbs on to the moors to join the Quakers Causeway near Commondale. This was one of several tracks which linked the town with the southern reaches of the medieval parish which stretched across the moors. They also linked Gisborough Priory  with its many granges in Eskdale. It is named for the butts or shorter strips of land at the edge of the huge medieval open fields. The ridges and furrows of the former East Field are still visible on the left after about 200 yards.

In half a mile you reach the line of the former Cleveland Railway completed in 1861. Follow it left if you wish to shorten the walk, turning left when the lane from Old Park Farm to the A 171 is reached after half a mile (mapped). The longer walk  is rejoined at the main road. The railway walk is suitable too for wheelchairs and pushchairs but you would need to return by the same route.

The main walk takes the rising path on the left of the railway which it crosses in 200 yards. In another quarter of a mile the path reaches the edge of Guisborough Woods. Go through the gate into the trees. Facing you is one of the alum quarries owned by the Chaloners who worked the hillside from Slapewath to Highcliff Nab from the 17th to the 19th centuries. In Jefferys' atlas of Yorkshire of 1771 the whole area is labelled Alum Banks.

Follow the forest track into the wood. The track bears right to a junction where go left. It then continues across a more open area and follows the same contour for about 300 yards before turning sharp right and climbing more steeply to reach the Cleveland Way at the top of the bank. A footpath which cuts off both zig zags is very steep and can be slippery.

Turn left and follow the Way for the next one and half miles. When you emerge from the trees and begin the descent there are widespread views to the left over Guisborough, the Eston Hills and Hartlepool Bay. The Way then leaves the broad track it has been following and, passing through two gates, joins a concrete road coming from Round Close Farm.

Turn left and in 200 yards go right along the Way into Spa Wood. Apart from the name nothing is left of the spa which existed from 1822 to the 1840s. The site was transformed by the development of Spa and Spawood ironstone mines in the 1860s.

After some 250 yards turn left where the Cleveland Way bends to the right. The path passes through the site of the former Spawood Mine which operated from 1865 to 1931, the final owners being Dorman, Long. The office buildings and workshops are now a private residence, on the left of the right of way which continues down their access track. In a few yards on the right is the impressive 11 arch Waterfall Viaduct which carried the main line on to Brotton.

The track passes under the railway to reach the A 171 where it rejoins the shorter walk. Go left here across the track to Old Park Farm and to the right of Little Waterfall Farm. A path via a stile is signed "Cleveland Street Walk". Cleveland Street is of medieval origin and was probably the route connecting Gisborough Priory with its grange at Brotton and Whitby Abbey. After a second stile the path drops to cross a beck where there are the scant remains, a few stones and a bank, of the boundary pale which once surrounded Margrove Park, a hunting demesne leased by the priory to the lords of Skelton Castle.

The well signed path then crosses three more stiles over fields where ridge and furrow cultivation is very much in evidence before continuing over a larger field to the farm access track to Foxdale Farm. Away on the right is Gisborough Hall Hotel, the late 19th century residence of the Chaloners. Turn right down the track to a cattle grid and pass through a kissing gate out on to Whitby Lane. Turn left.

In some 50 yards go through another kissing gate on a well used path  which heads for Gisborough Priory's distinctive east window, the most prominent feature remaining of the once powerful house of Augustinian canons founded by Robert de Bruce in 1119.

The path heads to the right of the priory precinct wall before passing the parish church of St. Nicholas. If it is open then the church is worth a visit - its finest treasure is the Bruce Cenotaph, an early 18th century monument to the Bruces' relationship with the priory. Figures of 5 Bruces from Skelton and 5 from Annandale in Scotland line the two longer sides.

From the church our walk  then passes the priory's Norman gatehouse before the market place.


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