A Stroll With Stu: Autumn walk in memory of Joyce, 95

Across Egton Banks to Lodge Hill.
Across Egton Banks to Lodge Hill.

In 2011 in this column, I made a crass comment about the appearance of a cottage a few miles south of Egton Bridge.

Six years later, I discover that the place was the beautifully kept home of 90-year old Joyce Hewitt, who was not best chuffed at my feeble observations.

Joyce and Bill Hewitt

Joyce and Bill Hewitt

Sadly, she passed away last year at the ripest old age of 95 and accordingly, this month’s column is dedicated to her memory.

If you want to tread in Joyce’s footsteps, start from the iconic Beggars Bridge, below Glaisdale Station.

Head back under the railway, over a footbridge, then bear right to follow a wide track climbing steadily uphill for over a mile.

Emerge from the cutting at Snowdon Nab (always a cheery wave from the occupants) and soon turn right along the road coming up from Egton Bridge.

3/11/17 - 1.15pm. Bald bloke with dodgy rucksack, escorted off premises

Stuart Bell

Another half mile of steady climbing later, and very near the summit, take a marked path left through a gate into an open field.

Follow the track away from the road until it swings sharp left, whereupon you need a thinner track straight on and downhill towards a wall.

Keep the wall on your left, then left again through a gate. Ahead of some thick gorse, track downhill through rough pasture (including the widest variety of fungi this side of the Masterchef kitchen), to turn left alongside another wall.

Ahead of you is the house to which I refer – Lodge Hill. Joyce and husband Bill, moved here in November 1977 (Bill worked at the nearby Butterpark Farm).

Crimson waxcap mushrooms.

Crimson waxcap mushrooms.

They had a family of six, and youngest daughter Philippa speaks fondly about the place, which Joyce proudly maintained after Bill sadly

passed away in 2000.

This visit was on a chilly and overcast autumn day.

The views were beautiful, and last time I was here a sprinkling of snow made it prettier still.

A refreshing pint at the Horseshoe Hotel, Egton Bridge.

A refreshing pint at the Horseshoe Hotel, Egton Bridge.

But, imagine what it was like for the Hewitt family in the bitter winters that we used to get.

Philippa tells me they sometimes had to get the weekly shop delivered by tractor from the nearest half-decent road a mile down the valley.

I’ve enjoyed the occasional chat with people who live in remoter parts of the North York Moors and wish I’d done so with Joyce on that visit in 2011, I suspect she had a million great stories to tell.

Clearly a special and dear old lady, I hope I’ve done her a bit more justice this time around.

Go through a gate into the immediate grounds of Lodge Hill, but immediately u-turn right through a second gate and head downhill keeping the gorse on your right.

Follow in the Hewitt family footsteps along a wide track downhill to a footbridge in the field corner, then up to a gate with trees on your left and onwards to Grange Head Farm.

Go through a gate into the farmyard, then left in front of the buildings along the access track. I was ushered away by the yappiest of yappy little dogs that commendably hadn’t finished its work until it spat me out onto the track leading down the valley halfway up the hillside.

Once there, it scuttled back to do the necessary paperwork: “3/11/17 – 1.15pm. Bald bloke with dodgy rucksack, staring vacantly at map. Escorted off the premises”.

At a double waymark, take the clear track back down the valley rather than the higher option.

You’ve already gained enough height to get spectacular views of this little valley which never quite gained the grandeur and scope of say, Glaisdale or Fryupdale, but has the huge advantage of being more densely wooded.

Consequently at this time of the year the place was a riot of golds, russets and auburns, as all those trees closed up shop for another year. (There is also a berry-laden Holly bush in these parts, the location of which can be revealed for a small fee).

Apparently (good old Google) the yellow/orange pigments are always present, but are masked by the bright greens of chlorophyll.

As sunlight reduces in autumn and chlorophyll production follows suit, the other pigments become dominant and we are treated to our annual fiery display.

This easy track takes you through pretty Hall Grange Farm, where the noise from a series of kennels made Grange Head’s yappy dog sound like Nat King Cole, then soon reaches the road close to Egton Bridge.

If you turn left when you get to the road, climb uphill for less than a mile and a path through Arncliffe woods will return you to Glaisdale.

Otherwise, head down across the ford, to reach the ever lovely Horseshoe Hotel.

Pleasingly busy for a mid-afternoon in November, the bar is one of my favourites in the Esk Valley and just a stagger across the stepping stones from the railway station.