“The Delves, Egton Grange” sounds like a four-bedroom bungalow in a cul-de-sac in Ingleby Barwick.
In fact it describes the lovely, shallow, wooded valley hidden away to the South of Egton Bridge. This two-hour walk begins at Egton Station which is accessible on the brilliant M&D 99 bus from Whitby, or of course, by train.
Walk down the station approach and resist terminating your walk after just 20 yards, by turning your back on the excellent Postgate Inn and heading along the main road under the railway bridge.
Pass the impressive St Hedda’s church and turn right along Broom House Lane. Cast your gaze upwards to admire the stunning arboreal spectacle as a series of huge trees climb up into the blue. Three hundred yards further on, as the road kinks right, look out for the “to the stepping stones “sign on the wall on your left.
A short path leads down to the river through the very obvious infrastructure of an old water mill, before heading across the Esk on two sets of stepping stones. (Check the map for an alternative route along the road from St Hedda’s Church should the river be in flood, or if your knees are made exclusively from jelly).
When I crossed, after two months of drought, I would barely have got my boots wet if I’d fallen in. But despite the lack of water in the river, the trees were alive with birdsong and I watched in admiration at 30 or more swifts gathering mud for their nests at the water’s edge – perhaps their only Jewson’s for miles around.
After emerging near a road junction, head uphill on the main road opposite (signposted Goathland).
After 30 yards, head right on a signed path into the bushes, soon over a stile, then bear left uphill with a ramshackle wall/line of bushes on your left. Ignore a track heading to your right and head steeply uphill adjacent to the bushes and a wire fence.
Cross a stile and head up to a gate, (or use another stile 20 yards to your right), and follow the well defined track behind it, to your right.
Keep right at a fork in the track through a few holly bushes, then as you attract the attention of a large pack of hounds in Hall Grange Farm way down in the valley, pass a derelict barn on your left that is just begging for owl residence. Carry on through a waymarked gate into a little avenue of trees, then down a wide track heading South to Swang Farm.
At this point, I became aware of a Labrador charging up a path from Hall Grange, as if sent as a scout by the Hundmeister. It got within five yards, had a good look, then scarpered back half a mile to HQ with its report. All very bizarre, frankly.
Just before Swang Farm, go right through a metal gate and head down and slightly left in the field, swerving past a group of confident looking cows like a 737 avoiding a thunderstorm. A waymarked gate away to the left provides a route through to a wide track with lovely views that runs for a mile or more before bending right to Grange Head Farm.
At the farm buildings, go through a wooden gate on your right and (keeping a small stream on your left), head downhill through two gates.
Next, it’s diagonally right across a field to another marked gate then downhill into thin woodland before crossing a footbridge over a stream.
Follow a track for a short distance, but then leave it to climb steeply left and up to the farm above, where a marked wooden gate takes you into Lodge Hill Farmyard. Your guess is as good as mine as to whether or not it’s inhabited. If it is, the net curtains could do with a wash, to be honest.
Keep on the same track as it snakes on and through Butter Park Farm, then a few hundred yards after the farm buildings go right at a junction in the track. When you reach the road at the Delves, turn right and then almost immediately right again along another signed path which is very popular with the local nettle community.
Drop steeply down, straight across a track (two stiles) and down through a field to a footbridge over the Potteresque Butter Beck, which coincidentally is the only place in the area I’ve seen an Owl (Barn, I think) in broad daylight.
Head slightly right and uphill to a gate, then uphill through bushes to a stile leading to a wide track. Packs of dogs and a curious Labrador are nearby on the right, so head left to eventually join the road leading downhill to Egton Bridge. After a ford in the road, you soon come to the Horseshoe Hotel, Egton Bridge’s second superb pub.
Excellent ale, great food and a lovely beer garden in one; great food, excellent ale and a lovely beer garden in the other. I couldn’t name one pub in the whole of Teesside as good as these yet the tiny hamlet of Egton Bridge has two. But... the winter weather did them no favours financially, so do yourself a favour and use one or other of them before they disappear for good. Or preferably, both.