There's a lot of leisurely walking possible in exploring the gentle grasslands in the triangle between Stokesley, Great Ayton and Great Broughton, and there's always the backdrop of the Cleveland Hills to admire too.
Distance: 11 miles
Time: 6 hours
Conditions: good grassy paths, some muddy after rain
Refreshments: Stokesley, Great Ayton, Great Broughton
OS Explorer Map OL26
Originally published: 20 January 2017
We start this 11 mile route from the Plain or market place in Stokesley, (GR 525085). With your back to the Renaissance style town hall of 1853 go straight over the car park, bear to the left of the 18th century Manor House and follow the main street east to a roundabout.
Go ahead across another car park and in 150 yards keep to the right of a supermarket. From here a path leads to the A 172. On the far side the path continues for a delightful, easy 2 miles, much of it upstream along the banks of the river Leven There are herons and waterbirds to spot and there's always a distant view of Roseberry Topping to aim for.
At length the path passes in front of The Grange on the edge of Great Ayton. Turn right at the first road and follow the riverside across Low Green. At the far end of the green, away to the left is the old Norman church and the gravestone of Captain Cook's mother and some of his siblings.
Do not cross the bridge but continue up the High Street with the river on your right. 200 yards after passing under a huge cedar we turn right over a footbridge opposite the ever popular Suggitt's ice cream shop and just before the museum dedicated to the years Cook spent as a schoolboy in the village.
The path passes through two new kissing gates before skirting the cricket ground. Ignore signs 'To the Riverside' and head out into open country. After two fields you cross diagonally the pronounced ridge and furrow of the village's medieval Applebridge Field. At a fence corner go right, across an extension of the field to Cross Lane. Turn right.
In 400 yards, at a T junction, turn left and then immediately right on the tarred track to Ayton Firs. In about 100 yards a footpath, left, crosses several fields to the Stokesley to Kildale road. Turn right and then left after a few yards up the track to Easby Firs. Just before the farm buildings take a stile on the right on a well signed path. After one field you cross a handsome footbridge before continuing to Crow Wood. The right of way passes in front of the house, squeezed between a fence and a hedge. At the next stile turn left along a bridleway.
According to the OS map we are passing through Little Broughton. However the settlement has long been deserted, replaced by a scattering of fine farms. Beyond Castle House we follow the access track which passes under the abandoned railway line which once linked Stockton to Battersby Junction and from there on the existing line to Whitby. Built in 1856 it carried 23 passenger trains daily in its heyday before World War I. It was closed in 1954.
At the road from Great Broughton to Ingleby Greenhow go right and then left, past the 18th century brick built Red Hall. In another 300 yards, and after you have passed Chapelgarth on the left, look out for a path, also on the left, which, after one field, climbs through trees to ancient Meynell Hall. Its core appears to be Elizabethan but there is evidence of an earlier, larger building.
From the hall take the track back, right, past the farm buildings and, where it swings to the right, go left over a stile. In 50 yards the path goes sharp right and heads directly for Great Broughton less than a mile away. When you reach the village street, the B 1257, turn right.
The busy flow of traffic will probably inhibit sightseeing, but it's worth ambling along the pavement as far as the village shop or even the Jet Miners Arms. Here, in the second half of the 19th century there was a brisk trade in jet, mined on the Cleveland Hills and sold to buyers from Whitby.
A few yards short of the shop go left down Backers Walk, (named for the bakehouse which once stood nearby). It leads to The Holme, a quiet backwater with some pretty cottages and a number of little bridges spanning Holme Beck, once the village's water supply. Go right, along the lane and then left at a T junction.
In a few yards, at Chapel Cottage, turn right on to a field path. The right of way is easy to follow especially if you use two old gateposts some 250 yards ahead as markers. There are then 3 more stiles before the path enters a large field where you should keep to the hedge on the right.
After recrossing the former railway line the path then loops through a paddock before skirting around Kirby Bridge Farm. Follow the farm access track, left, to the Stokesley to Kirkby road where turn right,.
We follow this busy road briefly. About 100 yards past the Station Hotel on the left, look out for the entrance to Field House on the same side. The right of way crosses the lawn before going right, across the drive and passing down the right side of the buildings. The route is then carefully marked out with white flags across one field to the river Leven Flood Diversion Channel.
Go downstream for a few yards to a footbridge and on the other side keep to the left side of a field to the Stokesley by-pass. The path continues on the far side across two fields, emerging on to Stokesley's riverside from behind a row of cottages. Turn left to the packhorse bridge spanning the Leven. There are records of it from at least 1638 and it once carried the old tracks from the town to Kirkby and Great Ayton. For walkers it makes a fitting entrance into the market place.