A journey with fortification - a walk through Forge Valley's wood

HERE'S a great walk, with easy access from Scarborough, by private or public transport. Enjoy an easy, level boardwalk by Forge Valley's wood and River Derwent, before returning from the Old Man's Mouth through woodlands carpeted in wild flowers.

It's hard to imagine the changes that have taken place in Forge Valley since the Age of Dinosaurs! In more recent times, iron smelting took place in Forge Valley, giving it the apt name. Iron ore was brought in to take advantage of the charcoal made from the woodland.

The River Derwent, which meanders through the valley is rich in wildlife, as you'll discover. The over-sized valley was cut long ago by glacial melt-water after the Ice Age.

To access the starting point, take the A170 Scarborough to Pickering road, and park in East Ayton near the Library and Information Centre, at Chapel Garth. Close by is Ye Olde Forge Valley Hotel.

Cross the main road with care, to ascend Yedmandale Road between stone-built properties. From number 4, turn right along Castle Rise as signed "public footpath". A row of cottages overlooks a brilliant border of polyanthus, wallflowers and tulips, backed by "curtains" of aubrietia, alyssum and iberis. At the far end is a metal farmgate and adjacent handgate. Enter and keep to the track leading across a sheep meadow, with the remains of Ayton Castle to the left, and the River Derwent to the far right.

Reaching the end of the meadow, enter a metal gate opening into Forge Valley Woods National Nature Reserve. This is owned by Scarborough Borough Council and managed in partnership with English Nature. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is protected by law. Please do not disturb the flora and fauna.

Keep to the foot of woodland, beset with primroses in spring, and a field lies to your right, with the River Derwent beyond. Where the river almost meets your track you'll find a kissing-gate. This opens onto a superbly-constructed boardwalk leading alongside the river, which is ideal in all weathers. (Remember those days when we squelched through mud and teetered on the river's margin?)

Just keep to the boardwalk, or relax on one of the seats provided and appreciate the abundant wildlife.

Walk quietly and you may spot an otter or deer. Hear a "plop" and it could be a water vole. Springtime brings dense colonies of golden kingcups or marsh marigolds to wetter areas. Damp ground is smothered with the golden saxifrage and spikes of dull pink butterbur. Galaxies of wood anemones sprinkle the woodland floor like confetti, along with shy violets and insignificant flowers of dog's mercury. Can you find toothwort?

All too soon you'll notice a car park on the opposite river bank. You've reached the foot bridge spanning the River Derwent and your exit from the boardwalk. Crossing the bridge, turn right into Old Man's Mouth car park. (Anyone desiring wheelchair access, should start from here and enjoy the boardwalk in reverse – it’s delightful.)

Read the interpretation board near the footbridge and you’ll appreciate the Derwent is one of the best examples in the UK of a lime-rich clear water river supporting an abundance of wildlife.

From the car park turn right along the embankment, with water gushing from the Old Man’s Mouth across the road. Gleaming white flowers of wild garlic or ramsons carpet the woodland floor. Crush a leaf and smell the garlic!

Stop at the first lay-by. Cross the road to ascending steps into the woodland. Take steps forking RIGHT as signed “Footpath”. Flights of steps and steep paths wander through the heights. Just keep to the obvious main path which is well-used and direct. Toothwort, (the colour of pinkish brown dead leaves) is a parasite of hazel roots. Admire anemones, bluebells and violets in season.

Descending to a broader cross-path, turn left uphill. Reaching three steps off left, ignore these and keep to the original path, which now levels and passes beneath the “arch” of a wind-blown tree. Holly is abundant, and you may find specimens of spurge laurel.

The path enters Wallis’s Quarry which is cut into the Hambleton Oolite, an oolitic limestone composed of tiny, bead-like grains.

The rock was quarried for lime and building stone. The site is now a popular one for a barbecue, as you’ll notice.

Leave the quarry on a descending footpath to swiftly meet a cross-track. Turn right to meet the road beyond the boundary fencing.

Leaving Wallis Quarry car park, cross the road to the footpath alongside the Derwent, and pass the weir - the River Flow Gauging Station.

Seavegate Gill is noted opposite. It is a minor glacial outwash channel and was cut by the torrential waters draining from the melting ice fields which were on the high ground to the north-east. (The Gill supports an unusual flora which is dominated by ferns, liverworts and mosses.)

Leaving the North York Moors National Park your roadside ascent passes Woodend to arrive at East Ayton Lodge. Serving morning coffee from 8.30am; traditional Sunday lunch from noon-2pm; bar meals from noon-2pm and 6pm-8.30pm, and dinner from 6pm-8.30pm. There’s an a la carte restaurant and bar meals open to non-residents. The bar is open all day.

Your final stretch of the walk by Castle Lane provides views of Ayton Castle and your outward-going route. Attractive cottages and gardens feature towards the foot of Castlegate.

Meeting the A170 turn right (unless you call at Walker’s Fish Restaurant first, across the road).

Walk by the old Methodist Chapel dated 1842 and cross the road-bridge over the River Derwent, which divides East and West Ayton.

With your route completed, why not relax on the grassy embankment of the River Derwent on Mill Lane? There are seats provided, and ducks pleased to share a picnic! Then just across the road is your starting point and the inn.

Distance: 4 miles approximately

Refreshment: Ye Old Forge Valley Hotel, Walkers Fish Restaurant and East Ayton Lodge.