From the panoramic viewpoint at Saltergate, overlooking the Hole of Horcum, this scenically attractive walk has sharp contrasts and tremendous vistas.
Start from Saltergate car park, about eight miles north of Pickering on the A169 Pickering to Sleights road, or from Scarborough, head north from Thornton-le-Dale. From the latter, turn right up Whitbygate to the Fox and Rabbit, to continue along the A169 from there.
Old Wife’s Way Ancient pack horse track once used to transport salt to the coast
In summertime you’ll find a mobile display unit in the car park, and you can talk to voluntary rangers, who are pleased to help.
Walk from the car park, head northwards along the roadside path beside larch and pine trees. Very shortly turn right along a farm lane as indicated by a bridleway sign. Remain on this lane leading to Newgate Foot Farm. Enter a handgate beside a farmgate warning, ‘No Through Road’.
This is the Old Wife’s Way, an ancient pack horse track once used to transport salt to the coast, and cured fish from the sea, inland. The ‘old wife’ may have been a tinker selling trinkets to farmers’ wives wandering the moors.
Listen to the silence, broken only by sheep, and the ‘ticking’ of grasshoppers! View Long Gill and a reservoir, taking you back in time to the end of the Ice Age, when melting glaciers carved out a deep valley.
Ahead rises the mound of Blakey Topping, above the forestry of Langdale, sheep may be your sole encounters as you follow the concrete lane towards Newgate Foot Farm, ignoring an off-shoot right to the Bridestones, etc.
Descending steeply, you’ll observe a reservoir off left and should seek a diversion sign off left, and up the bank to a handgate before the farm is reached. You’ll use this later on your return from a little detour to Blakey Topping.
[Short detour: Descend to Newgate Foot Farm and go left between stone out-buildings. Pass corrugated sheds to reach a farmgate and the National Trust sign to crosscliff and Blakey Topping. Enter and take the grassy slope ahead beside left woodland. A handgate opens onto Blakey Topping, to be explored at leisure.]
Return to the farm, swing right up the lane past an out-building, and from a sign go right up the bank to a handgate, as previously mentioned.
Veer left on a grassy footpath at the foot of the bank. Post and wire fencing is followed, as you descend steps to a handgate. Cut across rushes and meadow to the farm gate, just to the right of pine trees. Enter the gate, and cross sheep pasture to the Blakey Rigg forestry boundary. Pass between gate-posts and soon post and wire fencing is to your right. Your grassy bridleway continues via an open gate, becoming a narrow path up sheep-grazed moorland, with plantations further to your right. Leaving by an arrowed stile, keep straight ahead.
Crossing an expanse of bracken, bilberries and heather, glance back to view Blakey Topping. The path returns you to the forest’s perimeter and another gate opening onto the approach to Malo Cross. This cross is an ancient way of indicating the salt route to Whitby. From the signpost is a view north to Fylingdales Moor and the Ministry of Defence’s radar equipment at the ‘pyramid’. Another view is towards isolated Nab Farm, best observed alongside Whinny Nab.
Turn left as directed to Horcum, between Whinny Nab and post and wire fencing, with a steep drop as you ascend, to the right.
Follow blue bridleway arrows, and beyond the next gate a narrow footpath guides you to the right of an electricity pylon. Enter a handgate, and follow the left post and wire fencing past conifer woodland to your immediate right.
Leave by a gate opening into the Old Wife’s Way. Turn right, as this leads to the A169. Here, turn left to the car park, and with any luck ice-cream may be available. [By this time, we were like three drowned rats and more in need of a hot bath!]
NB Legend asserts that the deep hollow of the Hole of Horcum was dug by Giant Horcum, who flung the soil far afield, giving rise to a huge mound of earth east of Blakey Rigg, named Blakey Topping.
The scientific explanation is that the hollow was created by the action of springs gradually eroding the soft clay which lies below the limestone beds. Blakey Topping wears a cap of hard sandstone named Kellaway’s Rock. This has protected it against erosion by the weathering elements of wind, rain and frosts etc.
Distance: Five miles to include a glimpse of Blakey Topping too.
Refreshment: The Fox and Rabbit on A169, or a picnic!