Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Perfect day for a walk - Great Ayton to Captain Cook's Monument to Roseberry Topping

Roseberry Topping, the fantastically named local landmark was one of
Monument to
Captain Cook 
the first things we saw when driving up with Bailey last Thursday. The hill has such a distinctive shape and colour. Dave did some research online and found us an almost eight mile walk that combined climbing Roseberry Topping with visiting the nearby monument to local hero Captain Cook so we set out this morning on what became a pretty perfect walk on a pretty perfect day! If you would like to 'virtually walk' along with us, Dave has plotted the route on this map.

We drove to Great Ayton which is a lovely village built alongside a picturesque stream and popular with walkers and tourists alike. James Cook went to the school here, which is now a museum to him, and a statue of him aged 16 stands on the village green. We got lucky finding a parking space by the tourist office. I imagine Great Ayton must be absolutely crammed in high season - it was busy enough today.

Our walk took in varied environments starting with narrow lanes and
Tree tunnel path 
heading gradually uphill along a bridleway track. I loved how the tree roots across our path formed steps and their branches overhung to make a leafy tunnel. A challengingly steep climb through scented pine forest took us up to the height of Captain Cook's Monument which is a tall obelisk originally built in 1827. Many people have chiseled their names and initials into the brick and I don't know if the railings around it are a later addition to prevent more of this, or were always there and people climbed over. The views from the monument are spectacular. We had a clear day and could see for miles across the valley one way and across heather-clad moor another. The earth is pale sand so footpaths are easy to spot. We saw several enticing us to divert towards distant hills and I think, so long as today's stunning sunshine becomes the norm, that we might well be adding a third week onto our planned stay here. It is fantastic walking country!

Roseberry Topping can be seen from Cook's Monument and, likewise, the Monument from Roseberry Topping. I found it interesting that the monument appears as though it would be much bigger when viewed from a distance than it actually is close by! As we walked away, I spotted this plaque commemorating an air crew who crashed in the area in 1940.

We stopped for lunch at Gribdale Gate, a picnic spot with tables and tree
Amelia's tree at
Gribdale Gate 
stumps topped with metal plates inviting visitors to 'place their BBQs here'. I was intrigued by Amelia's Tree which I learned was planted in 2004 but there was no information about who Amelia is/was or why her tree is here. Brief googling was also unfruitful. Do you know the story? We watched some real Boys from the Blackstuff trucks driving up during lunch. There must have been half a dozen lorries full of tarmac waiting around, but nothing else happened so we walked on. The path is one of The Must-Do Walks around here so we saw plenty of other people en route one way or the other. The National Trust owns a large section of the moorland and also Roseberry Topping itself, and there isn't any charge to walk the paths! I wouldn't have been surprised if there was though because a lot of effort has been put in to 'pave' them with large slabs of stone and rock. Presumably this helps against erosion?

Having been proud of our achievement in getting up to the Monument,
Dave before we started our ascent 
we now had another steep climb up Roseberry Topping. We made it, but not without much puffing! Even more superb views awaited us and we could even hee de hea (as Dave's mum used to say). We gazed out for a while before starting back down again. A little way further on is a small stone building that we guessed was a folly but, once we got up close, we learned that it is actually a Shooting Box, commissioned in the late eighteenth century by one Commodore Wilson as a refuge from inclement weather for shooting parties. It was restored in 1983. Grouse are still raised and we saw a young one later in the afternoon. Having been perfectly hidden in a corn field, it heard us coming and leaped into plain sight! We also saw a chaffinch-like bird which turned out to be a Stonechat (or possibly a Whinchat).
The Shooting Box 
Descending Cliff Ridge proved a minor challenge as path choices led off unseen through more pine woods so we ended up taking a roundabout way down, but at least it wasn't too steep. The path then strikes out, Roman straight, back to Great Ayton. I think we passed through what used to be the grounds of a country house as there were large deciduous trees standing apart from each other on neatly mown meadows. Having started walking at noon and stopped for a twenty minute lunch, we returned to the car at four thirty-five.

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