A Stroll With Stu: walk from Littlebeck to Falling Foss, near Whitby, offers stunning beauty
This was the 26th anniversary of my 40th birthday weekend away with “the lads” (average age 66), and after a 12-month Covid delay, we were happy to spend a couple of days away comparing side effects of the jab and other creeping debilities.
Many thanks go to Neil at the excellent Arncliffe Arms, Merv and his minibus, antacid tablets and some glorious weather.
Now, the walk didn’t quite go according to plan (more detail later) and at one point we’d scattered into five separate groups, so although it was meant to be a nine-miler, I’m only going to describe the prettiest bit – a 4.5 mile circular from Littlebeck to Falling Foss waterfall.
Merv tested his brakes and clutch to their limits as he dropped us off at Littlebeck at the bottom of the steep, narrow and winding road from Blue Bank near Sleights.
And off we toddled.
Facing west, head over the stream towards an old chapel and go left through a gate, over a little beck (!) and up into the trees.
The path climbs relentlessly for some time in a wooded nature reserve, before emerging into an open field on the flat.
Curve slightly left with the field boundary on your right to skirt more woodland on your left and up to a crossroads of tracks.
There are lovely views here on this very quiet and pretty path, the lush green woodland concealing the waterfall on your left, contrasting with the fields and distant moors away to your right.
Go sharp left through a metal gate down to Leas Head Farm, then where a signpost tempts you straight on, it’s sharp left again in front of the farm, through a gate or two and back into woodland.
The path soon begins to descend through the last of the wild garlic and bluebells, to reach a footbridge over a quintessential babbling brook.
Now, this is where the plan started to go a little awry.
You can reach the foot of the impressive Falling Foss waterfall by turning upstream, perhaps crossing and re-crossing the beck as you search for the easiest route (and it is worth a look as it is only a few hundred yards away, though I guess it is slightly less inviting after heavy rain).
However, if you want to get up to the café with about 500 other people, the direct route is not something I can heartily recommend to anyone who hasn’t done an apprenticeship in acrobatics at Billy Smarts Circus.
It seems to me that there may once have been a proper path climbing up the slope a little way to the right of the footbridge.
There are a few crude steps cut into the earth, and someone has optimistically tied some Z-grade washing line from Poundstretchers to the trees, which you can use to haul yourself skywards after a rudimentary risk assessment.
Exposed tree roots and fallen branches are there to help, but although we survived the ascent (well, not all of us – one of the group vanished and we didn’t see him again for three hours), I am not recommending this and I hereby wash my hands of all liability….
Instead, return to the footbridge and follow the path gently upwards to turn sharp right on the wide track at the Hermitage (more of which later).
After a half mile of fairly level walking high above the stream, there is a cracking view of the falls through the trees.
Shortly afterwards, you might fancy a cup of tea and a flapjack at the very popular café, thronged with people who had chosen an easier route involving the B1416 and a large car park.
Retrace your steps down to the curiosity that is The Hermitage.
This fascinating folly is a small room carved out of a large boulder by one George Chubb in 1790 (see the date and initials above the entrance), and you’ve got to hope he had a decent chisel.
Opposite the entrance are two stone chairs, and if you sit in one and make a wish, that wish will come true – but only if you then go and sit in the other chair while the magic happens (it works too, honest – I’m typing this on a beach in Bermuda!)
The path continues for a mile downhill, to emerge through a kissing gate into the hamlet of Littlebeck, where you started.
The plan from here was to walk on to Whitby but the Bear Grylls audition in the woods had taken at least four miles out of my daily knee allowance, so some of us called it a day and a rescue taxi took us to the excellent Arch and Abbey pub in Whitby.
We’d done the best bit and if you avoid the uphill scrambling, this is a lovely little walk just up the road from Sleights.