Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Falling Foss and Littlebeck

Angry Skies Over the Moor
Cards on the table with this one - we mostly did this walk to justify a visit to the tearoom at Falling Foss!  Perhaps we didn't need an excuse to visit the tearoom but with walk number 2 from Pathfinder Guide Volume 28 North Yorkshire Moors here we certainly felt justified.  We had heard plenty of good things about the tearoom but in truth apart from its location (which is very beautiful) I'm not sure that the fare on its own is enough for me to drive miles out of the way to get to.  The facilities are rudimentary and although we were more than happy to sit on logs and drink from paper cups, you should not come here if you are looking for a sedate ambience and china cups and saucers.  It is more of a walkers refreshment stop.
Setting Off From the Cafe
It had been rather a cloudy day but glimpses of sun were now coming through at this late part of the day.  Unfortunately I reckon we had the best of the sunshine as we were sipping our tea for within minutes of getting our walk underway the sun went behind a cloud and didn't reappear until we had completed the 3.5 mile ramble.  We decided to take a closer at Falling Foss at the end of the walk on that basis.  We left the rush of the water behind and passed by a gaggle of children playing in the river above the waterfall, heading up the slope and out of the woods.  As we got out into open countryside the views out towards the moors opened up and we could also see right down the valley into Eskdale beyond.  As we climbed the hill further we could also see Whitby in the far off distance - it also looked rather sunnier over there!
Leaving the Woods
The path flirted with the moors briefly but we didn't actually leave the cultivated lower slopes.  After leaving our initial path our onward route took us across a field full of inquisitive bullocks and through a small wood.  The clouds above us had billowed up at this point and none of us much liked the look of them.  They rather took the colour out of the landscape too, such that the odd straggly bluebell still clinging on to spring and the various pink flowers of campion and ragged robin were the only break from an otherwise green landscape.  We passed through a small wood and the inevitable spots of rain started to come but thankfully these didn't amount to anything and we headed out into another field.
Our onward route took us across a couple more fields before we came to another farm (the third already and we hadn't even got halfway yet).  The path took us around the farm and then onto the driveway.  This was a delightful route, lined with plenty of wildflowers and a few butterflies braved the stiff breeze to top up their nectar needs.  The driveway curved round and dropped down into the valley and to the hamlet of Littlebeck.  Here we saw our first person en route - a lonely horse rider with a rather tired looking horse. 
Littlebeck is a delightful little hamlet but I'll bet it has some difficult access issues during the winter, being located at the very bottom of a small valley with steep roads on all sides.  We passed by a small Methodist Chapel and then across a 'ford' that was bone dry.  After walking through the hamlet we plunged into the woods that would be our home for the remainder of the walk. Coincidentally this is the Coast to Coast Walk, made famous by Alfred Wainwright and who devised this most popular route many years ago.  I guess people that would be following it would be thinking seriously about reaching the end at this point, for Robin Hood's Bay is only a few miles further on.

Looking Towards Whitby
The woods line the valley of the Little Beck and many years ago there was quarrying activity along the banks of the stream.  The shale that was extracted was a source of Alum, a chemical used for various things but probably for wool dying at that time.  Alum is used for the production of antiperspirants these days but not from this part of the country.  Any quarrying activity that went on is now masked by the trees and to be fair nature has largely healed the area once again.
The walk up through the woods was delightful although somewhat gloomy without the stream of sunlight coming down through the leaves.  The foliage on the trees was fully out now and that meant that the woodland floor was devoid of light in some places.  The beck tumbled down through the valley and every so often we would come across small waterfalls as it exploited local weaknesses in the rock.  It also meant that we travelled uphill for most of the remaining part of the route.  We didn't notice at first but we did come across a couple of steep sections and on the second one of these we came across a small rock shelter from the 18th Century called the Hermitage.  It was here that we encountered the only other walkers on the whole route.  I think most people had gone home for their tea.
Around this part of the walk we started to get glimpses back cross the valley over the tops of the trees on the other side.  We could also see where we had already walked and our immediate impression was that it seemed to be more than 3.5 miles all the way around!  Our route took us along the top of the valley for a short way until we came to a point where we had to choose between descending to Falling Foss or going straight to the car.  We decided on the latter although in truth it wasn't as easy to get a good view of the waterfall.  We did feel complete though.  The activity surrounding the café had subsided when we got back & the whole area felt completely different without the throngs of people.
This is a modest walk possibly best suited to a summer evening when there aren't any people around.  The only difficulty with that is that you won't get your cuppa at the Falling Foss café!

Falling Foss

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