by Maureen Robinson
The deeply wooded gorges of Forge Valley have been designated a National Nature Reserve to conserve their natural beauty. The trees are mostly deciduous, changing their leaves to stunning autumn colours before being shed for winter rest, the trees flourish on an alkaline soil which is based on underlying oolitic limestone.
Springtime sees the riverbanks aglow with golden marsh marigolds. Approaching summer heralds anemones, ramsons, bluebells, primroses and a parasitic toothwort in season. The valleys owes its name of Forge Valley on account of the woods having once been coppiced to provide charcoal for the forge when iron-smelting took place.
This delightful route follows woodland paths in the valley bottom before ascending the valley side to discover acres of farmland on the upper plateau.
Start. If driving from Scarborough, I suggest you take the A171 Whitby Road as far as Newby, to turn left along Lady Edith’s Drive into Low Road, which continues to the road junction with Mowthorp Road and the one from East and West Ayton. Leave your vehicle in the scenic car park at Green Gate from where your walk departs.
Start by following the road as signed towards East Ayton. Follow the river in a southerly direction for about 0.25 mile. Seek a footpath sign which leads off the road to take you left up the hillside beneath beech trees etc. Keep heading in the same direction and don’t deviate left or right. As soon as your path descends to the road, you must immediately take the next path uphill which is to your left. You’ll notice that rock has been quarried here in the past. Lime was used in agriculture, and also as a building stone. Look at the warm hints of colour in the quarry face. I was told by a local geologist that the limestone was ‘oolite’. The name ‘oolite’ is derived from the Greek word for fish roe. Look at it closely, and you’ll see the fine grains resembling eggs or roe.
Leaving the quarry, continue down the path to meet the road. Continue beyond the weir and at the route’s most southerly point, you should turn left at a footpath sign. Climb through the woodland away from the road.
The broad path provides easy access to an open area or plateau above. Passing disused quarries to your left, you shortly reach a junction of field tracks. Here, turn sharp left onto a sunken track. This track is broad and direct, heading north towards a belt of trees. After about a quarter of a mile this track narrows, but keep straight ahead, rising all the time until remains of a conifer plantation named Whin Covert ends.
You’ve now reached a good track with beautiful views southwards to the Wolds. Turn left on the unmetalled farm lane and walk towards Osborne Lodge and farm buildings. You’ll see what is known as Skell Dikes to the right of the farm lane. These tree-covered walls are the remains of a prehistoric boundary.
As the lane nears the farm buildings, seek a signposted bridleway to your right. Take this bridleway and go through a gate and turn left to head towards woodland. Entering the woodland turn right and keep to the path as it descends to the car park and your departure point.
Distance: 3.5 miles. Allow about 1½ hours plus.
MAP OS Landranger 101 or OS Explorer OL27 - scale 2½ inches = 1 mile.
Refreshment: Ox Pasture on Low Road if you return along your outward route, or should you return via East Ayton you have a good selection of hotels, Walkers Fish and Chip Restaurant, and shops etc.