Walks: Seek wild flowers on this springtime walk

View of Ayton Castle, from Castlegate, Ayton.
View of Ayton Castle, from Castlegate, Ayton.

It wouldn’t be spring without experiencing one of our favourite walks, when wild flowers reach their peak.

The starting point is from East Ayton, situated about 4.5 miles south-west of Scarborough near the beautiful scenery of Forge Valley.

Ayton Castle, just outside West Ayton, is a pele tower (fortified tower house) dating from 1400, which can be viewed from the nearby footpath.

Access is by private or public transport along the A170 Scarborough to Pickering road as far as East and West Ayton’s public library near Ye Old Forge Valley Inn. Either walk from here or drive to the start of the rural section.

Cross the busy road from the library, to find Yedmandale Road opposite.

Ascend this road, passing Mill Lane off right. Then, at the next lane named Castle Rise, you may choose to park here. Turn immediately right along Castle Rise, as signed: ‘Public Footpath to Forge Valley’.

Walk in front of a row of cottages. At the far end, enter a kissing gate beside a farm gate. Please leash any dogs before following a track across a field of sheep.

Ahead is the late 14th century castle remains of its keep. The River Derwent, clear and shallow, slips peacefully past the weeping willows. Stand and admire the scene across the River Derwent.

Read the information board detailing the castle’s history before moving on. About 100m ahead, cut down the grassy slope to reach the hedge to your right as you follow blackthorn hedging. Among the vegetation, and hugging the shade seek the quite rare flower of green hellebore. Please don’t pick!

Re-ascend to the track, and walk to the gate ahead. Enter, and enjoy a delightful level walk across a field. Keep to the edge of Stonyflat Wood on your left. In springtime, listen to the monotonous call of the chiffchaff from the tree tops. Wild flowers are abundant alongside the River Derwent.

At the far end of the field enter a hand-gate opening onto a boardwalk. It’s a great asset, guiding you across what used to be a bog! Ideal for wheelchair users, it provides level access to superb scenery, wild flowers, birds, and maybe an otter if you’re lucky!

Carpets of wood anemones, celandines, golden saxifrage, kingcups, butterbur, toothwort and ramsons are a joy. Seek grayling in the clear water, and a grey wagtail seeking insects.

When the boardwalk sweeps right to a bridge, cross the River Derwent and bear right to read an excellent information board.

Close by is a peaceful picnic area, and car park beyond. Here you may be reunited with your driver if a friend has brought you.

Now you have a choice of return routes:

1) Retrace your steps to the castle, and West Ayton; 2) Follow the adjacent Low Road into East Ayton, and cross the road bridge into West Ayton and your departure point, or choose route 3) returning through woodland. The latter is recommended if you enjoy wooded walks. Just ascend any path into Ruston Cliff Wood, just south of Osborne Lodge. Then head south, keeping more or less parallel with Low Road. You’ll pass a couple of disused quarries before ascending the hill into West Ayton, with wonderful views across the valley to Ayton Castle.

Distance: 3.5 miles to 4 miles depending on return route. The terrain is good, apart from woodland when wet.

Refreshment: Take a picnic. Seats along the boardwalk. There are also inns, fish and chips, and shops in East and West Ayton.

Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL27. North York Moors. Eastern Area - scale 2.5 inches to 1 mile.

Take binoculars for bird watching etc.