Tuesday 29th June. 10.5 miles. Hinderwell to Danby.
Not surprisingly the walk starts at my first St. Hilda’s Church. I’m in Hinderwell after a long drive to Whitby and a delayed bus journey, so I’m more interested in the café set up in the old school. Fortified, I go in search of the church. An interpretation board gives me a potted history of St. Hilda, which is similar to my preamble.
There has been a church on this site since the C12th, but the present church was started in 1773, it is dedicated to St. Hilda. The well said to have been discovered by her probably predates her, but gave its name to the village. (Old English Hildewella meaning Hild’s well.) The church is squat and plain and unfortunately locked under Covid conditions. I am able though to find the well in the grounds and yes, there is water in it. One down, seven to go. The first half of the afternoon is spent wandering through farmland rising from the coast. Hay is being cut or rather silage is being baled. The paths are high in vegetation, not good for my hay fever or bare legs. St. Hilda’s Way is not signed, but follows rights of way. It’s all up and down, I suspect that’s going to be a feature of this walk, I’d forgotten how hilly this region is. As a teenager, living in Darlington, we cycled and youth hostelled extensively in the North Yorkshire Moors. Of course in due time we completed the Lyke Wake Walk, Cleveland Way, Wolds Way and the Coast to Coast through the area, but it is years since I’ve been back.
I’ve a good feeling about the authors of the guidebook already. The instructions are clear and precise to navigate the way, which as I said is not waymarked. The logo for the way is an ammonite, which would have been an excellent choice for signing.
The afternoon heat became oppressive, the fields more and more equestrian orientated, so I escaped to the minor road running in the right direction. Here I could make better progress and there were views back to Hinderwell and the coast. Eventually I reached Scaling Dam Reservoir, an artificial lake on the edge of the moors. Once this was skirted, I don’t know why paths on the north side weren’t chosen away from the traffic noise of the busy A171, the walk took on a different character. Open moorland beckoned. The bracken had not yet reached its full smothering growth so the footpath onto the moor was clear. It was good to hear the familiar call of the Lapwings and Curlews yet again this year. Height was gradually gained, and Bell Heather bordered the narrow path. Ling comes later in the year to give the ‘purple moors’ in August. Higher still a broader track was followed, all around on the map were marked tumuli and antiquities, but little was obvious to my untrained eye. I did however make a short detour to the remains of a medieval cross. The base was clear to see, with perhaps a bit of the shaft inside. These must be ancient tracks. Crosses were placed on regularly used routes linking settlements or on routes having a religious or funereal function. A broader track took me up to Danby Beacon Hill which was rather disappointing as a motor road comes up here with all its litter problems. Apart from the car park there was a trig point, a topograph and a modern beacon to visit. Late afternoon was not the best time for distant visibility.
Danby, down below somewhere, was hidden in the trees. Waymarkers reminded me I was in the North York Moors National Park. Rough fields dropped to Clither Beck and a lane took me to the door of The Duke of Wellington, my bed for the night.
I’ve noticed before that bar staff often have poor local knowledge. I was the only one sat in the bar and asked the barman where the pleasant Daleside Beer I was drinking came from – he didn’t know, though he had been pulling pints of it for some time. (turns out it’s brewed in Harrogate) He proceeded to ask where I was walking and then bring up on his phone an indecipherable satellite map of a completely different area where there was a recommended walk. Of course, he hadn’t heard of St. Hilda’s Way, but I wouldn’t have expected him to have. The conversation dried up, so I had an early night.