After last month’s strenuous slog up Fryupdale, this gentle saunter around Grosmont was an inviting and enjoyable contrast.
It’s no more than a couple of miles, leaving plenty of time for a good look around the North York Moors Railway engine sheds, or can be extended to six miles if you prefer a diversion up to the ever lovely and iconic Birch Hall Inn at Beck Hole. (It is perhaps a sign of my advancing years that I chose the team sheds!)
I was ejected from Northern Trains sardine special – so shamefully packed, that a party of scouts and cubs had to be turned away in tears at Commondale – and climbed the pretty footbridge heading away from the village.
An information board at the foot of the steps gives an indication as to why the name of this village – unlike the more usual Viking place names in the area – has a French derivation.
It is named after Grosmont priory (there are no visible remains, though feel free to have a poke around in the bushes), one of only three Grandmontine Monasteries in Britain, dating back to the 11th Century.
This monastic order originated in Normandy and spread its wings to North Yorkshire where there were links with the local landed gentry who donated some land to build the priory.
The village itself didn’t actually exist until the railway came through from Pickering, and perhaps with a history book laid around, the link to the Grandmontine priory spawned the name of
Grosmont. (So, nothing to do with a big hill then).
Many years later, as the information board explains, ironstone mining and a brickworks saw the population grow rapidly, and the remains of some of those old ironworks can be found among the trees ahead of you.
Walk directly away from the bridge in what is a large car park in the woods, emerging fairly quickly onto the road where you should turn right.
Cross the bridge over the River Esk and go straight on to re-cross the river on a footbridge before turning left along a quiet lane adjacent to a ford.
A year or two back I tried crossing this ford on my bike and much to the amusement of some ghouls on the footbridge, my front wheel descended sharply into a large hole, tipping me over the handlebars for an early bath.
Naturally I acted all nonchalant, pretended I meant to do it all along purely for their mild amusement, strolled quietly away and didn’t resort to much colourful language at all.
Fortunately there are at least five cafes in Grosmont, as I think I may no longer be welcome in the one where I put their electric bill through the roof by drying all of my clothes under the hand dryer in the gents.
Follow the lane as it climbs steadily, revealing cracking views back across the valley behind you.
At the top where the road bears right, head between farm buildings to go left on a wide track.
This soon reveals great views right towards a line of old miner’s cottages at Esk Valley, and then left over Grosmont village.
If you fancy the diversion to Beck Hole, turn right at a gate leading to a rail side path, go past those cottages and follow the old course of the railway for a mile and a half.
This is possibly the most popular stretch of footpath in the whole National Park, linking Grosmont to Goathland for those who prefer a one way ticket on the steam train.
Beck Hole is signposted before the incline up to Goathland and the tiny Birch Hall inn with its fabulous little bar, a built in sweet shop and a lovely beer garden is a top spot for refreshments.
There is a return route through the woods, but the easiest way back is to just retrace your steps.
I chose to drop down into Grosmont through a kissing gate near the church, and headed left through an old tunnel to the engine sheds.
You may meet the superstars from Channel 5’s Yorkshire Steam Railway as they go about their daily chores in the repair sheds.
Then again, you might not but you will see at close range a genuine working railway repair shop, lots and lots of derelict, part restored and fully functional steam locos (some not that much older and in better nick than the old wreck I arrived on from Middlesbrough) and other memorabilia, and an excellent gift shop and café above the loco shed.
I dropped a few bob in a collection bucket and returned to the village where I sought out the newest of those five cafes I talked about – the Steam Café in the front of the superb Geall’s Art Gallery on Front Street.
Yummy stuff to end a short, but yummy day out.