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Swainby to Scarth Nick & Osmotherley

In his delightful 'Rambles in Cleveland' of 1901, M. Heavisides says of Swainby that "it is yearly sought out by many a weary, jaded townsman, anxious to restore health and vigour to a weakened constitution".

This pretty village still has the capacity to invigorate visitors and makes a good starting point for this 8 mile walk across the wooded slopes and moors which link the north facing Cleveland Hills with the west facing Hambletons.

Distance: 8 miles

Time: 4 to 5 hours

Grade: moderate

Conditions: well signed, one steep climb, no stiles on main walk

Refreshments: Swainby, Osmotherley

OS Explorer Map OL26

Originally published: 30 April 2010

We start from the bus stop and little car park in Emerson Close, (GR 476022), at the north end of the village close to the Blacksmiths Arms. Turn right up the high street parallel to Potto Beck. After passing the parish church of the Holy Cross of 1879 on your left and just beyond the the village shop, turn right into Claver Close. In 50 yards a path leads ahead between houses and then across fields to Back Lane where we go left.

Our walk now follows the Hambleton Drove Road along which in the 18th and 19th centuries thousands of cattle from Scotland and Northumberland were driven annually to southern markets. At this point, having already crossed Yarm Bridge, 9 miles to the north, they would be starting the steep climb to Scarth Nick, the narrow defile giving access to the moors beyond. We shall recross their route at that point on the return leg.

In about 400 yards turn right on to a track which almost immediately fords a tiny stream before continuing past Loverice Cottage to Scarth Lees Farm. Keep to the left of the farm buildings and follow a green bridleway to Scarth Wood Farm, prettily decorated with ball finials on the gable ends. The right of way then crosses two fields  and enters the extensive Arncliffe Wood, part of Cleveland Forest.

In some 200 yards where the bridleway strikes off right across the fields go ahead on a forest track which climbs over about a third of a mile to a junction. Turn right down to a barrier and a well used track coming up from the handsome 18th century Arncliffe Hall, visible below in the trees. Bear left at the junction and follow the track for about 200 yards before branching off, left, on a well signed footpath which climbs the steep Tile Bank to another level, but muddy, forest track.

Go right along it for some 400 yards to meet the signed Coast to Coast long distance path, Follow it left to reach a gate at the edge of the wood in some 200 yards.

(NB The track you join coming up from the 18th century Arncliffe Hall is the Coast to Coast Long Distance Path. Therefore there is no need to climb Tile Bank. Instead continue along the forest track which passes Park House Farm before climbing through the trees to "the gate at the edge of the wood".)

We now join the Cleveland Way and cross three fields to Chapel Wood Farm. The Way continues for half a mile along Ruebury Lane to the edge of Osmotherley.

However, I've also mapped a short diversion. Instead of going through the gate at Chapel Wood Farm, double back uphill on a green path, and encouraged by a Walkers Welcome sign, cross two stiles to reach the remote Lady's Chapel. Built in the late 14th century it was given to the Carthusisan monks of Mount Grace Priory, a mile away at the foot of the hills. It then became a hermitage, the last occupant being Thomas Parkinson, who existed on money provided by Queen Catherine of Aragon. After the Reformation it was a place of pilgrimage for Catholics. Sadly it became ruinous but was rescued by local Catholics in the 1950s who rebuilt it in its original Perpendicular Gothic style. It's now a place of pilgrimage again and an oasis of tranquillity with picnic seats and breathtaking views across the Vale of Mowbray.

From the chapel follow the access track to rejoin Ruebury Lane at an orientation table which acts as an excellent guide for the panoramic views to the west and south. Bear left here to reach the lane from Osmotherley to Sheepwash in about 400 yards.

Here there's a choice. The village with its pubs and cafe is a quarter of a mile down to the right. From the market cross there are buses back to Swainby, (not on Sundays). Alternatively you could return suitably refreshed to rejoin the main walk.

This turns left along the lane for about 50 yards before bearing left again on a tarred track which climbs for over a mile up on to Swinestye Hill. From the top there are yet more expansive views back across the moors to Black Hambleton and, closer to hand, below to the popular Cold Beck reservoir and the picnic spot at Sheepwash.

The track eventually bears left to the BT microwave radio station 982 feet up on Beacon Hill. Turn right here and head east on the Cleveland Way, at first along the edge of Arncliffe Wood. In about 300 yards the path emerges from the trees to a glorious vista of the line of the Cleveland Hills. The nearest is Whorlton Moor whilst the most distant are Battersby and Easby Moors. The outlying cone of Whorl Hill is unmissable at 2 miles whilst Roseberry Topping, 12 miles distant, is unmistakable.

The path now descends for nearly a mile over Scarth Wood Moor to the gap of Scarth Nick up which cattle on the old drove road once toiled from the plain. In those days such was its notoriety that Arthur Young, the notable agriculturalist wrote in 1771 that "you go through such steep, narrow, rocky precipices that I would sincerely advise any friends to go 100 miles to escape it".

The Cleveland Way crosses straight over the lane and continues through Clain Wood, at first on the level and then steeply down a track once used by nearby limestone quarries. At the bottom go left, off the Way, and down the grassy Limekiln Road for 300 yards to a tarred lane. Turn right for the final half mile down into Swainby.


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