I think many people prefer a linear walk to a circular route. I certainly do nowadays, unless I’m very familiar with the area. A direct, linear route means you can relax without referring to a map. Consequently, you can chat to fellow walkers; turn back when you’ve had enough; have no fear of getting lost, or blocked paths due to lack of maintenance. Just stride out and enjoy the freedom.
Lockton, like its neighbour Levisham across the ravine, is a scattering of stone cottages, with a squat-towered church on its eastern side from where this impressive and spectacular linear walk begins. The remote, single-track lane provides ideal ‘marching’ terrain for a bracing breath of air and stimulating scenes. It’s a while since we first discovered this area, and at that time Highland cattle gave a hint of Scotland, and The Pantry revitalised walkers upon their return to Lockton. Perhaps the Lockton Tea Rooms and Gallery could be just your cup of tea!
Access to the start of this walk is from Thornton-le-Dale heading north from The Buck Inn towards Whitby. Reaching the Fox and Rabbit Inn, the A169 Lockton Lane is followed for a good mile before turning off left, as signed to Levisham 1.5 miles. Passing the site of Lockton’s Youth Hostel (YHA) on the right, the village church lies just ahead.
Take time to admire Lockton church with its 15th century tower and medieval nave and chancel - the latter with a fine 14th century arch.
Almost opposite the triangular green furnished by a seat “underneath a spreading chestnut tree,” seek a plaque on the side of a house. It’s on your left as you walk down the street and commemorates the building of a well in 1697. The names of eight benefactors were originally recorded, but one has been removed.
On this dry upland plateau, water is still a precious commodity. A pumped storage tank supplied water to the village. Leaving Lockton, veer right as signed: ‘Levisham Only 1.5 miles’. In the valley bottom, immediately over the bridge, view a preserved water mill on the right. It no longer grinds the area’s wheat, but is a very pleasant private dwelling. Downstream, and glimpsed to your left from the lane, nestles the hidden, isolated church of St Mary.
Entering Levisham one is immediately impressed by its superb setting around the village green. Passing the village hall, at the top of Levisham’s one main street you face the welcoming Horseshoe Inn. During the summer season the spacious lawn is a popular family venue.
From the inn fork left along Braygate Lane as signed to Levisham Station 1.5 miles. Just ahead you shortly fork left again along Braygate Balk, and beyond a cattle grid you just may discover a herd of handsome long-horned Highland cattle. The views are tremendous as you drop down into the valley, keeping to the metalled track all the way to Levisham Station. The North Yorkshire Moors Railway opened in 1836, when Raindale New Inn was the ideal spot to pause for a drink on the two-hour journey between Pickering and Grosmont. Take a look at Levisham Station. The station buildings all had slate roofs and over-hanging eaves which were typical of those along the line. Slate was transported from North Wales or the Lake District by the railways. Levisham village is out of sight, about 1.5 miles south-east of the station, and about 300ft from the valley floor - not very convenient for the village!
The railway, it its early years, relied on horses to pull the carriages. Here, a new pair of horses was harnessed to haul the train up to the summit. On the downhill trip to Pickering, the horses were unhitched. They were put in a dandy cart behind the carriages and had a much easier time. By resting the horses, naturally increased the amount of work they could do each day.
You may wish to wander beyond Levisham Station into Newtondale. Nowadays the Forestry Commission places emphasis on conservation. Instead of planting spruce and fir trees for timber production, a variety of species are planted. How many can you identify?
Returning to Lockton, by re-tracing your steps, the scene is quite a contrast to that of your outward-going route.
Distance: 6 miles (or just 3 miles if you walked from Levisham).
Refreshment: The Horsehose Inn, Levisham, and possibly The Pantry or Lockton Tea Rooms.