A shame really, I thought I was on to something, so maybe I should abandon amateur ornithology and stick to things I know about.
Cue the pub. I haven’t been in The Forge Inn at Aislaby since it reopened, so this reasonably short (five miles) walk from Whitby had a specific goal in mind when I set off on a nice February day.
When I got there, imagine my surprise to be greeted by another customer who was my best mate at Infant school in Thornaby, way back in 1960. Good to see ya, Tommo!
From the station, head up the road past Pannett Park and at the roundabout toddle along South End Gardens (adjacent to the Arundel Guest House), to access the cinder track.
Soon under a bridge, take the steps right immediately thereafter. A quick right-left combo and 100 yards on a stone trod leads to a swing gate and a wide track going left in front of some houses.
This path narrows and descends past allotments, eventually leading to a junction where you should follow the sign downhill, eventually alongside the railway and onto the main road in Ruswarp.
Turn left, then right at the road junction heading for Sleights. Cross over and take a look at the elaborate structures and weir channelling the River Esk into the mill buildings (converted into apartments inn 1989). The corn mill was built in the 18th Century for one Nathaniel Cholmley MP, son-in-law of Sir Rowland Winn (owner of the huge Palladian Mansion, Nostell Priory, in West Yorkshire).
He married the daughter of Sir John Wentworth, (1st Baronet, whatever that means) and his own daughter went on to marry the Earl of Mulgrave.
I shrewdly suspect that they weren’t short of a Bob or two and it is probably best to doff your cap before re-crossing the road and entering the grounds of Esk Leisure.
This is the home of Mini Monsterz, an indoor play area designed to teach modern children how not to spell while ridding them of E-Numbers.
Climb up towards the main building, but go straight on to a tall wooden gate ahead.
This leads to a path cutting inconveniently through the grounds, channelled by two huge fences that would have had the escape committee in Stalag 17 rubbing their chins in dismay.
Make your escape through another gate at the far end, following the path as it curls right and uphill past a series of mysterious wooden boards to cross a footbridge before emerging onto a wide track.
Head uphill for a while, then veer left ahead of a gate. The signed path crosses a couple of stiles and follows field boundaries alternately on your right and left, before ultimately dropping down onto a cul-de- sac at Briggswath (Sleights’ posher cousin).
Follow the road, then turn left at the end down Carr Hill Lane.
A plum coloured Dormer Bungalow here, the contemporary Giraffe House there - they might look out of place elsewhere but I thought this was one seriously pretty little lane.
At the bottom, pop into your Brother-in-Law’s house for a cup of tea (it worked for me), then after just 50 yards or so on the main road, start climbing right up Featherbed Lane - seriously slothery at first, but improving as it climbs.
Cross the main road, to rejoin the path opposite and prepare yourself for a cardio workout.
The path becomes so steep as it soars up to Aislaby, it incorporates hairpin bends as if you are negotiating an Alpine pass. You will need a breather and while sucking in air, you can admire the views to Sleights and over to Whitby Abbey.
As the slope mercifully relaxes, turn left on a wider track which quickly takes you into Aislaby.
The Forge Inn is on the right of the road and is a lovely country pub which has regenerated more often than Dr Who. I think it was called The Huntsman the last time I was in, but I like what they have done to the interior and recommend a visit.
The X93 bus runs through the village every hour, but if you want a couple more miles there is a lovely path back to Sleights which you can reach by walking further through the village and taking a left opposite the bus stop layby. It curves right at first, but then it is downhill and left at the bottom of the hill through woods and into Sleights.
I stayed in the pub having a nostalgiafest with Tommo, until it closed at 3 (“Sorry mate – have to pick the kids up at 10 past”). Very nice way to spend a Thursday afternoon!