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Lythe through Mulgrave Woods to Sandsend

For many years the private woods of the Mulgrave Estate have been open to the public free of charge on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays (except during May). The Humphry Repton designed landscape is well worth exploring and for contrast this 8 mile walk has been combined with a section of the Cleveland Way coastal path north of Sandsend.


Distance: 5 or 8 miles

Time: 3 or 5 hours

Grade: easy

Conditions: well-signed paths

Refreshments: Lythe and Sandsend

Originally published: 21 September 2012


We start from the car park opposite The Stiddy in Lythe (GR 845131). Walk west towards Hinderwell on the A 174 and in 250 yards, just past the school, turn into the grounds of the Mulgrave Community Sports Association. Bear to the right of the main building on a path which climbs a low bank and then encircles the sports ground. It then passes through 3 gates and heads towards East Barnby just over a mile distant.


At the half way point there's a welcome seat and excellent views south across Mulgrave Woods. Readily visible are the towers and walls of the medieval Mulgrave Castle which stands high above the trees on a ridge between the valleys of Sandsend and East Row Becks.


When you reach the tiny village of East Barnby turn left opposite Laurel House Farm and continue down the lane for half a mile to a crossroads which can be flooded by Barnby Beck after heavy rain (footbridges provided). Go ahead uphill and in 300 yards turn left on the track to Barnby Sleights. The right of way passes to the left of the farmhouse and continues across fields to an entrance gate into Mulgrave Woods.


Before entering you might wish to make a short diversion to visit an earlier castle. To reach it follow the path to the left down to a ford over Barnby Beck (with slipperu approaches but a firm rocky surface under water). The castle motte, some 200 yards along the path on the right, was erected in about 1072 by Nigel Fozzard. An example of the earliest type of Norman fortification, it stands impressively some 50ft above the beck and has a diameter of 120ft. It can be visited via another gate in the estate wall.


After retracing our steps via the ford go through the first entrance gate and follow the track through the woods. At a crossing go ahead uphill to the extensive remains of the stone castle built by the de Mauleys in 1214. In about 1300 four semi-circular towers were added to the square keep, a device probably unique in England. In 1600 Lord Sheffield installed the Tudor windows. It was besieged twice during the civil wars and was then 'slighted' or deliberately ruined to make it unusable. In the 18th century, when it was fashionable to have a romantic ruin on your estate, it became an eye catcher in Repton's park for the 'new' Mulgrave castle some 2 miles away. Today it's an ideal picnic spot.


From the entrance to the ruins walk along the outside of the walls to a flight of steps on the right. At the foot turn left on the main track which soon passes the entrance to a tunnel through the ridge between the two becks. Ignore the tunnel and continue for the next mile and a half of easy walking with East Row Beck  on your right. At the half way point  there's a clearing with a seat for admiring the scene.


Too soon the track reaches the comparative bustle of Sandsend and the seaside. Just before the road bridge over the beck look out on the left for the mill buildings where Mulgrave Cement was made from alum shale nodules from 1811 to 1936. Go left at the main road and follow the coast around to the foot of Lythe Bank.


You could of course complete the walk here by catching one of the regular daily buses up the bank back to Lythe.


However the main walk now changes scenery by following the spectacular coastal footpath. Go across the car park at the foot of the bank which between 1607 and 1867 was the site of Sandsend Alum Works. On the left steps climb to the Victorian station which once served the village on the Redcar to Whitby line  which opened in 1883. The coastal footpath follows the trackbed through extensive alum workings, now reclaimed as an attractive wildlife sanctuary.


In less than a mile the path leaves the line where it used to enter a tunnel. There's a steep climb up steps to the cliffs where there are glorious views back to Whitby Abbey and the heritage coast beyond. In half a mile at Keldhowe Steel the path turns west and in another 100 yards and close to the impressive cliffs of Tellgreen Hill, we go left on a path signed to Lythe.


There are two ways which will take you to Lythe church, visible a mile away (both mapped). The first goes straight ahead for one field before entering the woods flanking Over Dale. There's a steep drop down steps to cross the beck followed by a sharp climb before you reach Deepgrove Farm. From the farm follow the access track back to Lythe.


The alternative with slightly less climbing leaves the first path some 150 yards from the coast. Turn right along a field edge and then left in about 250 yards to Overdale Farm. From there a path heads across one field before the drop into Over Dale. Clear signs of a stone trod indicate that it was of some importance, probably the route taken by the people of Goldsborough to their parish church. On the far side of the beck it becomes a hedged lane almost to the church.


If you have time then St. Oswald's is certainly worth a visit. It is admired not just for its Arts and Crafts interior and for the monuments to the Phipps family of Mulgrave Castle. Under the tower is a nationally important display of some of the 37 Anglo-Scandinavian stones of the 10th and 11th centuries found when the church was restored in 1911. Prominent are a slab depicting two wrestlers and hogbacks including one where a man is being attacked by two beasts. The display is clearly described and well lit. It makes a fitting end to a fascinating walk through history.

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