Cold, slate-grey skies, torrential rain and sleet – where can we go? The answer lies in a scenic car drive to a bird-watchers’ car park to observe our delightful feathered friends and grey squirrels feeding there. Of course in good weather this makes a grand 7.5 mile walk if someone can pick you up at Irton Mount on the A170 Racecourse Road.
From Scarborough, take the A171 Scalby Road by bus or private transport, only as far as Lady Edith’s Drive, with the Yorkshire Coast College to the left. Keep to this drive as it skirts Thoxenby Mere, and continue along Low Road. You’ll observe Ox Pasture Country Hotel off to the right, serving refreshments etc. Follow Low Road along the perimeter of Raincliffe Woods.
Extensive tree-felling has taken place this year, as you’ll observe. Huge piles of timber are stacked near the road and car parks. Such drastic action has caused great distress to many local walkers.
The idea is to remove many conifers and introduce native, broad-leaved trees which attract insects and birds etc. Wood clearance allows more light to penetrate the trees, and stimulates the growth of ground flora. In three or four years, regeneration will produce more favourable conditions for all.
The winding road leads to a junction at Green Gate. Here, turn left as signed to East/West Ayton. Keep close to the road verge as you enter Forge Valley, with the River Derwent to your right. Seek just ahead, a sign to the right of a car park, ‘bird watchers’. Welcome to Forge Valley Woods! Here you’ll find about 16 bird tables and several nets of food to attract a variety of birds (and mammals)! Usually the tables are heaving with food, but during our visit a net of fat balls proved the attraction! There’s an excellent information board to aid identification of birds you’re likely to see.
Upon arrival, our first record was a nuthatch on top of the litter bin. Flying into the surrounding woodland, it returned again and again to seize a portion of fat to wedge into the tree-bark for later consumption! Blue tits, coal tit and great tit were likewise feasting there, but no long-tailed tits this time. Male and female chaffinches, two robins, blackbirds, pigeons and pheasants rummaged along the foot of fencing. The highlight, briefly glimpsed as it flew into a tree, was a great spotted woodpecker.
Do go along and take a variety of food, eg peanuts, sunflower seeds, meat bones, cheese crumbs, rotting fruit etc to suit all tastes.
Leaving the car park turn right and continue through fabulous Forge Valley. Look out for the duck-boarding walk on the opposite bank of the River Derwent, which is ideal for spring walks, when the flush of flowers returns once more.
To your left is Ruston Cliff Wood with several quarries to explore in drier weather. Reaching a large car park to your left with a tree trunk acting as a barrier beyond, halt here. This is Seave Gate Gill – named on the right fence. The quarry face produces many interesting fossils. We used to discover huge gastropods, like giant whelk shells.
From the weir and Seave Gill, continue past stone-built cottages as you gently ascend to East Ayton Lodge Hotel. Just beyond, take the first turning left along Castle Lane. You will have admired Ayton’s remains of the castle on the far bank of the River Derwent. Castle Lane, with its stone walling and bungalows, leads to a road junction. Here, go left, and meeting the next road junction keep straight forward up Moor Lane. This remote country lane is hedged and becomes narrower as it gently ascends, with fields to either side and rural views.
At the top, meet a track. Osborne Lodge lies to your left, so turn right from the barns with Black Rigg Plantation to your right. Hedging and gorse bushes grace the verges. Keep to this lane as it heads to the wireless station.
Passing the visitor car park, descend to Irton Mount on the A170. This makes a good finishing point should you wish to be collected by a friend. Otherwise, turn left if you wish to return to Scarborough.
Distance of scenic route: 7.5 miles easy walking.
Refreshment: Ox Pasture Country Hotel on Low Road and East Ayton Lodge Hotel on Castle Lane.
Map Reference: Ordnance Survey, Outdoor Leisure Map 27. Scale 2.5 inches to one mile.