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Sutton Bank to Boltby

One of the finest stretches of the Cleveland Way runs high above the limestone cliffs in the south west corner of the National Park. Below these heights is rolling, well watered land with large farms and tiny villages.

This 7 and a half mile walk from the Sutton Bank Visitor Centre explores this beautiful area. A day with good visibility is recommended for the views are outstanding too.

Distance: 7.5 miles

Time: 4 hours

Grade: easy with one steep climb from Boltby

Conditions: well signed footpaths in good repair

Refreshments: Sutton Bank

OS Explorer Map OL26

Originally published: 2 November 2007

Leave the centre by the west facing door and head across the car park to where the Cleveland Way meets the A 170 at the top of Sutton Bank. Do not cross the main road but instead walk over a side road and on to the Way and then along the wooded crest of Sutton Bank from which there are glimpses across to Thirsk some 6 miles distant.

In about 400 yards go left following the Garbutt Wood Nature Trail which descends through the trees where oak, birch, hazel and mountain ash  predominate. There are good views of the still blue-grey waters of Gormire, the second largest tarn in Yorkshire, (after Semer Water). It was formed by the damming of a glacial overflow channel.

After passing a huge limestone rock which, according to John Wesley's Journal, tumbled with others from the cliffs in 1755, the path drops more steeply to a junction. Our route bears right, a pretty and mostly level path through the wood to a stile where turn left to reach a bridleway coming in on the left from Gormire. (If you wish to walk by Gormire then go left at the junction ,mentioned above, and right on a bridleway when you reach the water's edge). After converging, both routes continue for 100 yards to Southwoods Lodge.

This was obviously once the entrance to the large 19th hall of the same name. We follow the little used approach drive to the right of the lodge and reach the replacement drive where it passes through two impressive brand new stone gate posts about 200 yards from the hall. Our route continues to the left of the entrance on a grassy track above a pool occupied by a busy pair of coot when I passed.

The path climbs up a gentle slope. At the top it's worth a pause to admire the idyllic scene behind. The hall and nearby farm are set in rolling verdant parkland embowered by thick woods and guarded by the gleaming heights of Whitestone Cliff which here rise to over 1000 feet.

From our vantage point Tang Hall is reached in a few minutes. Go left past the farm and almost immediately right on to a field path. On your right for the next 200 yards is the up to 15 feet deep moat surrounding the 4 acre site of Ravensthorpe Manor, built probably by the de Walkingham family in the 13th century. On the left is the pool which supplied the nearby Ravensthorpe cornmill. It is now dry but still has its dam and sluice gate and was fed by an ingenious system of artificial channels which drew on the waters of Gurtof and Lunshaw Becks. These were fed into the moat which acted as  a reserve for the mill pool.

From here our path heads over fields and crosses both of the becks by single slab bridgestones. Turn right along Gurtof Beck towards the red pantiles roofs of Boltby, half a mile away. Our path joins the village street at the point where it is crossed by the beck. A pretty humpback bridge serves pedestrians when the stream runs high.

Turn right between the rows of sandstone cottages and climb past the former Wesleyan chapel built in 1862. Initials of the trustees or their families are boldly carved into the foundation stones. In another 200 yards the road swings sharp left by a large sycamore. Just beyond the tree go right over a stile and down across one field to recross Lunshaw Beck.

From here the path is well marked as it climbs the scarp of the Hambleton Hills, first of all to Hesketh Grange, once an outlying farm of Rievaulx Abbey. About 100 yards short of the buildings turn sharp right on a bridleway which zigzags uphill and through one gate to High Barn on the crest. Turn right along the Cleveland Way.

From this vantage point the three mile return along the scarp to Sutton Bank is level and easy to follow. The scenery is spectacular too. Almost immediately the path passes a former limestone quarry which was worked until the Second World War and was connected to Boltby by an aerial ropeway.

In another quarter of a mile you walk along the edge of Boltby Scar where there are traces of an Iron Age earthwork.  The path then curves around the edge of the scarp which at this point overlooks Southwoods Hall way below.

The climax of the walk comes at the vertical Whitestone Cliff. Here are the best views. On a clear day the Pennines are readily visible across the Vale of Mowbray. Ahead, the Hambleton cliffs continue in another gentle curve of 2 miles to the buttress of Roulston Scar. To the right is the outlier of Hood Hill with its distinctive plume of trees. Immediately below is Gormire enclosed by its own little wooded ridges.

Sutton Bank is reached in another quarter of a mile.


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