by Maureen Robinson
Summer sunshine, magnificent trees, a rippling beck close by, the splendour of an ancient castle, and ‘the stones of St Oswald’s Church,’ combine to create a splendid walk! Just one thing to remember – the days of opening. The Mulgrave Estate Woodland is open to access on foot only, every Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday. It is closed throughout May.
Access to the start is from Sandsend, which lies three miles north-west of Whitby. It’s reached along the A174 road to Staithes etc. Well-named, Sandsend marks the end of Whitby’s sandy beach where a rocky shoreline commences.
Approaching Sandsend from Whitby, pass The Hart pub on the left and take a sharp right-angled turn over East Row Bridge, swinging immediately left into a rough car park. Although there is no entry charge for Mulgrave Woods, there is now a £4 all day parking fee. Be warned, as parking spaces are restricted, and Sandsend may be packed in summer!
Start from the car park, and walk to its far end, where a gate opens into the woods. You are requested to keep any dogs on leads please.
East Row Beck is to your left, as a good track is followed through the trees to a timber yard. Continue uphill to pass a detached residence to the right prior to a green gate opening into woodland. About a mile ahead, a wooden hut with corrugated roof is observed off right. Keep to the main track, and less than a quarter of a mile beyond, the track forks. Here, fork right on the upper track, as the left fork descends to a bridge over the beck.
Proceed to the brow of the hill and seek a seat at the junction of ways, and a tunnel to your right passing under a ridge, but don’t enter it yet!
Instead, to reach Mulgrave Castle go left as signed to the old castle. Only a few paces ahead, turn off right along an ascending footpath and railed steps which lead to an information board detailing the castle’s history.
Briefly, since 1214 the castle has been the home of the de Mauley family.
It once served as a prison, and as a base for poaching and cattle-raiding etc. Lord Sheffield converted the neglected buildings into a hunting lodge around 1690. The castle was besieged twice during the Civil War and then blown up. In 1743 the estate was inherited by the Phipps. A programme of repair began in 1995 and ended in 1999.
Walk around the castle’s perimeter wall and ascend steps for further exploration. Can you find the well quite near the steps?
Having admired the remains and the glorious views, descend the steps and retrace your route to the seat near the tunnel’s entrance.
Enter the dark tunnel beneath the ridge, and continue along the track beside the rhododendrons, which are magnificent in season. Cross a fine stone bridge spanning Sandsend Beck.
A long, gentle rise through glorious woodland follows, with breaks in the trees creating open spaces. You’ll eventually find a seat to your right providing an excellent view-point.
Beyond a beech wood is a T junction. To your left is a private drive to the ‘modern’ Mulgrave Castle which dates from around 1735. It’s the home of the Marquis of Normanby.
Keeping Mulgrave Castle’s private drive to your left, take the firm track to your right. This leads across sheep pasture to the Lodge which is situated beside your exit onto Lythe Bank (the A174). Just turn left up Lythe Bank to discover the ancient church of St Oswald with its spectacular views across the coastline to Whitby.
This imposing church continues the tradition of worship at this site that almost certainly began in Viking times.
“In the medieval period the church was rebuilt in the early English style, and perhaps it was then that the outstanding collection of Anglo-Scandinavian grave stones were used as building material. They were built into the walls and buttresses and used for repairs.”
During the church’s restoration in 1910-1911, about 37 carved stones were discovered, dating mainly from the 10th century.
These Viking stones, mostly monuments from a Christian graveyard, form one of the largest and most important collections in the country. The stones were cleaned and conserved in 2007 and a selection were put on permanent display at the west end of the church in 2008. Do go along and view 37 carved stones and read all the details about them. The remainder are stored in the crypt.
To arrange to see the reserve collection, call John Secker on (01947) 893338, or Sue Mason on (01947) 893308.
St Oswald’s is open every weekday from 8.30am to dusk. Parking is available in the lane or in the adjacent field. [Please close the gate.]
Leaving the church, return to Sandsend down Lythe Bank to recover your transport.
Distance: As arrowed approximately 5 miles.
Refreshment: A selection of inns, cafes and shops in Sandsend, or take a picnic.
Map Ref: North York Moors Eastern Area. OL 27 – Scale 2½ to 1 mile.