A Stroll with Stuart - Miles of stiles - but a great walk

A Stroll with Stuart
A Stroll with Stuart

I DON’T mind a bit of a breeze or even a heavy shower ... and I love walking in snow.

The one symbol in the weatherman’s arsenal that means you may as well buy a treadmill, is fog.

So, with big cotton wool balls of the stuff rolling in from the North Sea, my planned circular walk around Runswick Bay was hastily postponed.

Instead, I stayed on the bus until Mickleby road-end and went inland. From the bus stop on the A174, walk up the B1266 then quickly turn left towards Mickleby.

Ten yards after the road bends right into the village, go left on a signposted track that soon leads over a stile to a field.

You are now in open country and you simply head directly south, in the general direction of Ugthorpe which lines the middle horizon. You’ll cross a few stiles and little bridges before entering a short stretch of beech woodland ahead of a concrete footbridge over Mickleby beck, then it’s uphill through a gate towards a wire fence.

Head left round an elbow in the fence and over a stile to the right of Primrose House, then straight on to turn right on the road towards Ugthorpe (named after an Australian boot manufacturer).

The view back was increasingly lovely and it was now ridiculously warm for March.

Spring was already in overdrive, with daffodils, catkins, spring lambs and nesting birds all demanding attention, indeed every living thing was simmering like a pan of hot milk about to boil over into full bloom.

The ultimate confirmation of global warming was later revealed when I arrived home with a burned head. This is three weeks earlier than it usually happens and I’ve kindly informed the Met Office who like to keep abreast of these key indicators.

In Ugthorpe, take the first turn left ahead of the church and head down the lane to Barry Bank Farm.

The road curls down over the driest ford in the world and as it reaches the very pretty farm, head right on a track marked “unsuitable for motors”, grateful that there is therefore no chance of bumping into Jeremy Clarkson.

After a mile or less, you come to Ugthorpe Grange equestrian centre and I spotted a party of teenagers enjoying a day out with their steeds.

I suppose you don’t even need a map for that sort of thing, just climb on, engage first gear and admire the view. I’ve only been on horseback once – while on holiday in Greece. The stables’ owner looked my ample frame up and down when I arrived and (rather uncharitably, I thought) said “you’d better have Hercules”.

Carry straight on down the narrow metalled road for a few hundred yards and follow it around sharply to the right, ignoring an inviting track and bridleway that leads east to Mulgrave Farm.

Soon you cross a stile on your right into a lovely grassy field full of inquisitive sheep and go diagonally left to cross another marked stile in the wooden part of the next fence. This leads into a scrubby piece of land with paths heading left and right. You want neither of them – go slightly left, away from the fence, on a thin track heading towards the gorse.

Climb a railing (paying your respects to a dead stile) then follow the fence on your right around to a metal gate, then immediately left over a stile and right down to Coquet Nook farm.

This too has diversified into a small garden centre and firewood market. Keep all this on your right as you head down the stony track towards the A171.

Scamper over the road, remembering to dodge the empty cans of Stella flying out of the car windows, and head left along the old lay-by opposite.

Just past the entrance to the farm a footpath sign points you into a field. Keep the house (Barton Howle) on your right, cross a footbridge, then after a gate go downhill to another gate in the bottom corner. You enter some thin woodland here and you need to keep slightly right to go through a metal gate, then up and ahead keeping the woods on your right, to eventually emerge on to a minor road.

Go right on the road, then left over a stile after 100 yards, then left after the next gate and down passed Moorside Farm to a stile where you head right on a wide track.

Follow this round to the left downhill to Howe House. Go through a gate then follow the fingerpost sign to the right past the winner of the “unnecessary stile of the year” award.

Angle left to keep the stream on your left, then over a stile and soon left over your 100th stile of the day. Go straight on here away from that fence, adjacent to a ditch that leads through another stile down the side of an increasingly steep and pretty valley.

Cross a footbridge then curl up right on a path that gets steeper every time I use it, to (rather unexpectedly) come to Egton Mortuary Chapel and its graveyard where the 18th Century headstones rise from a vivid carpet of daffodils (I love vivid carpets of daffodils, me).

Head left on the road towards Egton, but after a few hundred yards, go right at a footpath sign and keeping the fence on your left, drop downhill (partly through woodland and bluebells), to edge left past a farm at the bottom.

Suddenly, the Postgate Inn, a bus stop for the 99 service to Whitby and Egton Bridge rail station appear all together to signal the end of this particular pleasant stroll.