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Osmotherley to Chequers, Scarth Nick & Mount Grace Priory

Lying on the Cleveland Way, Osmotherley, the start of this 7 mile walk, is nowadays very much a walker's village with an outdoor shop, a cafe and two inns. It has a much earlier history, however, which you can discover by visiting the church with its Norman font, stone zigzag and beakhead decorations of the same period round the south doorway, and remnants of Saxon crosses in the south porch.

We start from the market cross and the venerable stone table where produce was probably displayed on market days. It was also almost certainly used as a platform by John Wesley when he preached here in the 1750s.

Distance: 7 miles (8.5 with diversions)

Time: 4 hours

Grade: easy

Conditions: well signed with 3 or 4 short climbs

Refreshments: Osmotherley, Mount Grace Priory

OS Map OL26

Originally published: 3 October 2008

Look out for the Cleveland Way acorn symbol above a narrow entrance between houses a little to the left of the bus shelter. The passage beyond passes the Methodist chapel of 1754 where Wesley also preached and crosses the village's back street and several fields. It then drops down steps to a footbridge over Cod Beck which in the 18th and 19th centuries powered Osmotherley's linen, corn and sawmills.

The Way then climbs steeply, passing to the left of Whitehouse Farm to reach Green Lane. Go right here down to a tarred lane where turn left. In a few yards go right down the track  into sylvan Oak Dale.

We leave the Cleveland Way here for a while by bearing left, behind Oak Dale Cottage, on a rough track which climbs steeply to reach the Osmotherley to Hawnby road in about half a mile. Turn left.

Your exertions will be well rewarded with outstanding views down to the red roofs of Osmotherley and out west over the Vale of Mowbray to the distant Pennines where the entrance to Wensleydale is discernible on a clear day.

In a few yards we pass Chequers, now a private house, named for its chequered signboard 'Good Ale for Nothing Tomorrow', for it was once an inn on Hambleton Street, the ancient prehistoric track and 18th century drove road. We follow its course northwards for the next 2 miles.

Some 150 yards from Chequers, where the Osmotherley road bends to the left, continue ahead past the ruins of Solomon's Temple, built in 1812 by an eccentric, Solomon Metcalfe, who decorated its walls with apostles, the sun, moon and stars. The drove road descends gradually between a conifer plantation and Pamperdale Moor where only the occasional cyclist on National Cycleway 65 may disturb you.

In half a mile we reach the ford at the popular picnic spot of Sheepwash. Turn right here along the Osmotherley to Swainby road which we follow for less than half a mile to where the drovers,, coming south from Yarm Bridge with their great herds of cattle, used to toil

up the steep defile of Scarth Nick. The noted agriculturalist Arthur Young came this way in 1771 and wrote that 'you go through such steep, narrow, rocky precipices, that I would sincerely advise friends to go 100 miles to escape it'.

We avoid it by rejoining the Cleveland Way which crosses the road at the top of the bank. Go left to climb gradually across open moorland to the 982 ft. Beacon Hill and its TV mast. It's worth pausing here for the views back along the line of the Cleveland Hills. The nearest to us is Whorlton Moor. Battersby and Easby Moors are visible in the far distance to the right of Roseberry Topping, some 12 miles away.

The path now skirts the edge of Arncliffe Wood for a short distance before plunging into the trees. At the foot of the hill we leave the wood and continue across fields to Chapel Wood Farm.

Here, if you have time, the first of two recommended diversions, is possible. Just before the gate giving access to the farm track, a green lane doubles back uphill. Go beyond a stile with the sign 'Walkers Welcome' to another stile on the right which gives access to

the remote Lady Chapel. Built in the late 14th century it was given to the Carthusian monks of Mount Grace. It then became a hermitage, the last hermit being Thomas Parkinson who lived here with money provided by Queen Catherine of Aragon. After the Reformation it became a place of pilgrimage for Catholics. Sadly it became ruinous but was rescued by local Catholics in the 1950s who rebuilt in the 14th century Perpendicular Gothic style. It's once more a place of pilgrimage and an oasis of tranquillity. Return by the same route to Chapel Wood Farm.

Our main walk leaves the Cleveland Way at this point and passes to the left of the farm buildings. Continue down across two fields. In the next field look out for a stile in the hedge on the left. It's from here that, time permitting, you could make a second diversion. Do not

cross the stile but carry on down the field to a stile which gives access into Mount Grace Wood.

From here it's a 10 minute walk down through the trees on a good path to Mount Grace Priory. The finest example of a Carthusian monastery in the country, it was founded in 1396 by Thomas Holland, Duke of Surrey. It's in a beautiful setting at the foot of the hills, fitting for the austere, isolated life of contemplation which each monk had to accept. The church and the two courts of individual cells lie behind the large house which was built from the ruins after the Reformation. After your visit climb back through the wood to the stile mentioned above.

We complete the walk by taking the path from the far side of the stile to Siddle Farm. From here follow the access track for just over half a mile back to Osmotherley.


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