by Maureen Robinson
Littlebeck Valley above Sleights has some delightful waterfalls, and if you ever go in springtime, the valley is filled with bluebells.
Littlebeck village consists of a huddle of cottages nestled in a steep-sided valley framed by woodland and rooted in history.
Access is by taking the A171 north, then turning off onto the B1416 towards Ruswarp. Shortly turn off at Red Gate along and down a steep, single-track lane named Lousy Hill Lane which is near the May Beck off-shoot.
At the foot of the bank turn left into the valley bottom to park just beyond the ford near the Methodist Chapel. Please take care not to obstruct any farmers’ access.
There are times, believe me, when it’s a wellies’ walk, with deep mud most of the woodland way, and slippery conditions. Certainly one winter it was the worst we’d ever tackled, so even in summertime try to pick good dry weather!
Take time to read the Littlebeck information board. Next, crossing the ford, see to your left as you approach a footbridge, an oak tree. This was planted by Henry Ventress Esq to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V, May 6, 1935.
Continue round the steep road-bend by the Old Woodcarver’s Cottage to find almost opposite, your exit from the road.
Enter a kissing gate to your right. Signs indicate the public footpath to Falling Foss and the Coast to Coast walk. Your route through Littlebeck Wood Nature Reserve is along a well-used path leading upstream by Littlebeck. Look out for a pretty waterfall on a tributary to your right.
Follow the path alongside some fencing, with views of the waterfall. Keep to the well-used track as it veers left, with steps quickly leading to the top of a spoil heap of shale from former alum quarries.
Proceed through trees of silver birch and oak to descend steps onto a broad track punctuated by duck-boarding. Keep straight forward, and then your main track veers left uphill via oak and scrub.
Shortly leaving Littlebeck Wood at an exit in stone-walling, climb the bank with boulders and boarding, and eventually...40 steep steps are negotiated.
Handsome trees of beech and oak furnish your stony pathway to The Hermitage to your left.
The Hermitage: This curiosity provides an admirable resting place for refreshment, or a shelter from the elements!
The Hermitage has been hewn out of a solid boulder. Step inside and you’ll find seating around the walls for about 20 people.
Leaving The Hermitage, on the left walling you may still discern the date of 1790. Distant views may be admired over woodland as far as the Pickering to Whitby road on the horizon, from the walled viewing platform.
From this point take the arrowed route which guides you along the edge of a wooded cliff strewn with massive boulders. Keep to the same markers and you can’t go wrong.
Ignore a footbridge seen off right near the waters’ meet, and head for a waymarker and an ascent up a leafy bank of hazel, birch and bracken. The narrow path climbs to a third arrow and woodland way to steps.
At the top turn left to a sign guiding you onwards. Midge Hall may be spotted in the tree-filled valley on your left. Reaching a sign indicating the Falling Foss walk and car park, and Maybeck car park, from here turn right up a stony track with woodland to the left, and sheep pasture to the right.
At a fork, keep straight forward along a bridleway to pass Foss Farm on the right and walk through an open gateway.
With hedging to the left, sheep pasture lies to your right as you seek, 300m ahead, a three-fingered post near a gate. Turn right along a bridleway beyond a gate.
Go over a grassy field, and a sunken track descends into a hollow and shortly follows a hedge to the left boundary of a field.
You may hear sounds of rushing water, and a rippling stream and small lake lie to the left as a field gate is approached. Please leash any dogs. Keep straight forward up a drier track.
Approaching Leas Head Farm turn left as signed: Intake Farm, Littlebeck, Grosmont, Goathland, A169 road. Cross the footbridge and stile into a field.
A track cuts left across the grassy field to a field gate leading away from the farm. Pass through, and a sign indicates your route directly ahead. This is sheep country! Ahead you’ll see Intake Farm.
At a farm gate, stop. To avoid farm buildings take the short deviation to the right via a gate into a field. Keep to the left boundary, and a path leads to a sign. Go through the waymarked gate and turn right as indicated: ‘Public Footpath’. The broad, level way is straight and direct with fields all around.
The road elbows right and gently drops down into Littlebeck. Glance over the stone walling to see the stone-built, red-roofed cottages nestling midst sylvan beauty. A steeper descent soon snakes left into the village.
NB Foss Farm was once a hostelry on the old limer’s road from Lockton quarries to farms near Whitby.
Distance: 4.25 miles
Refreshment: Take a picnic