A Stroll With Stu: back in the countryside for spring walk around Commondale, near Whitby

Spring is sprung and we’re back in the countryside enjoying the sunshine and some stubborn daffodils.
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Oh, and also on the trail of a rejuvenated old pub so far up the Esk Valley that it’s not even on the River Esk.

An unusual amount of this six-miler from Kildale to Commondale is on quiet country roads, reflecting the fact that most of the paths take a vertical hike up onto the moors, but there is ample opportunity to hack your way through the undergrowth or get lost in the heather.

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Starting at Kildale station (15 minutes late due to ‘operational difficulties’), head up the road and turn left at the top.

Looking towards Commondale, near Whitby.Looking towards Commondale, near Whitby.
Looking towards Commondale, near Whitby.

On your left, the previously excellent Glebe Cottage Café is sadly now closed, but rather than taking the sign up, they’ve hidden it behind a blank wooden board – giving a glimmer of hope that it may one day re-open.

Carry on along the road past Kildale hall, hidden in the trees on your left.

After a mile or so, the road (which might get a tad busy on a weekend, but is otherwise nice and quiet), bends left to a bridge over the railway line.

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At the bend, a path goes straight on through a gate, hugging the road for a while before edging right alongside the train tracks.

Daffodils at Commondale.Daffodils at Commondale.
Daffodils at Commondale.

After a series of increasingly dodgy stiles – jaunty angle/smashed/AWOL – bear right through a wooded area, home to the gurgling River Leven.

The path climbs to the right of what appears to be an old quarry, where you should negotiate a fallen tree as best you can, to soon go through a gate into an open field.

Turn right, then left ahead of the wire fence 100 yards up the slope.

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There are lovely rural views now ahead and to your left, as well as – on my visit – lots and lots of lambs bleating for their mums as this big sweaty lummox approached in an ungainly fashion.

Sleddale Beck.Sleddale Beck.
Sleddale Beck.

Mrs Sheep of course, was too busy gassing to her mates about 300 yards away.

The signposted path eventually bears right through a gate, but you need to soon bear left towards the elbow in the road down at the bottom of the slope.

Just ahead of the road, you can make out the track bed of the old railway that served Warren Moor Ironstone Mine, hidden behind the hill.

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The mining venture was never really viable, but a 64ft chimney remains at the site and becomes visible as you climb the road towards Commondale, later on.

Sheep basking in the sun.Sheep basking in the sun.
Sheep basking in the sun.

Follow the road left past a pretty cottage next to the railway bridge, then slog up the hill to a junction and turn right along the road for Commondale.

Somewhere along this road is the watershed (and I don’t mean that you have to wait till 9pm), between rainfall that drains behind you into the River Leven and ultimately under the Transporter Bridge at Middlesbrough, and the wet stuff that drains into the River Esk through its feeder becks, to the swing bridge at Whitby.

Drop down to cross Sleddale Beck and up the other side, shaking your head in dismay at the plethora of plastic bottles on the verges – way too many for me to carry to the next bin.

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Beggars belief that people pop out for a drive to admire the scenery, then desecrate it by casually lobbing an empty bottle of pop out of the window.

Pause at a bend near the top, where the scenery is majestic. Wild open moorland away to the east, the valley down below and the columns of the Warren Moor Mine chimney and Captain Cook’s Monument on the skyline.

Half a mile after the summit, opposite Wayworth Farm, a path on the left takes you into the heather.

The most obvious path keeps bearing left, but after a few hundred yards you need to track right above the small crags ahead of you, to reach a wider track dropping down right into Commondale village.

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It is fair to say that sheep tracks and little paths taking little men in waxy jackets to shooting stations, make for difficult navigation.

Good luck!

My ultimate goal on this walk was to visit the newly re-opened Cleveland Inn.

It’s been in the family for years and it is fair to say that it has needed some investment for years too, and now – through Kirsty Rossiter and several colleagues/family members – new life is being breathed into the old building.

It has been tastefully redecorated inside, with outdoor seating overlooking the brook, and is a genuine, old-fashioned community pub going against the grain of those hoping for Michelin stars and mentions in Country Life magazine.

There is still much to do and I will undoubtedly be back to see it as it happens!

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