Sutton Bank, the Kilburn White Horse and Lake Gormire
Sutton Bank is one of those places we all bomb through on the way to the coast,
and rarely give a thought to, but it actually has a lot going for it. To those who
don't know, Sutton Bank is the steep steep route from the A1 up the escarpment of
the North York Moors and up onto the road to Whitby and Scarborough. It's so steep
thay don't allow caravans, and HGVs regularly come to grief.
the top of Sutton Bank is a visitor centre with a cafe. It's modern and well stocked,
and car parking is only £2 (2007) all day, so it's a good place to start a walk
from. You can also catch the Moors Bus from here.
The Moors Bus allows
you to travel virtually anywhere on the moors for £4 all day, and even better, you
get a £2 off voucher with your parking ticket. And it gets better, a family ticket
is only eight quid!
The bus stops and picks up anywhere in the countryside so all kinds of non-circular
walks are now possible. The buses run every day in August and September, and on
Sundays and Bank Holidays from the beginning of April to the end of October. This
is a fantastic service - make use of it.
But back to Sutton Bank. This is a nice easy half day's walk taking in so much of
interest it's unbelievable. And there's very few sheep about so it's largely dog
Set off from the visitor centre, cross the main road and walk along the edge of
the escarpment. This is nicely laid out and signposted, with audio points along
the way which amazingly enough haven't been vandalised yet. It's a lovely walk with
open fields on the left. Only it's not open fields, it's the runway for the Yorkshire Gliding Club, so keep off as you can't hear gliders
coming and getting squashed by one could quite possibly ruin your day. The walking
here is lovely and the views are magnificent, right across the Vale of York to the
dales on the far side. On a clear day with young eyes you should be able to see
York if you can figure out which direction it's in.
Continue walking along the edge, watching the gliders take-off and land and eventually you come to the Kilburn White Horse. As landmarks go, this one's pretty hard to
miss. At this point our route goes down, but you can detour and continue round to
the gliding club to have a look round. Like most sports clubs, food and the bar
are vital elements in the club's revenue, so they welcome visitors. There's food
available on most days during the season and if you want to know about gliding there's
folk who'll talk about it all day long. You can even have a trial lesson for about
£75, but obviously you have to arrange that in advance.
However, back to the White Horse. This is really disappointing close up, because
it's just too big to make out the shape. It just looks like a pile of whitewashed
pebbles, which is what it is. It was dreamed up by the local schoolmaster in 1857
who got his pupils to mark it out, and then locals came along and cut out the turf.
Now down South, that's all it takes when you create a figure in a chalk hill, but
this hill isn't chalk it's grey sandstone with a very thin covering of greyish chalk which breaks-up easily!
So the shape of the horse was covered
in gravel/pebbles and whitewashed. This has to be done every so often to keep it
in good nick, so please don't walk on it as it's easily damaged.
The path leads down the side of the horse, and is well maintained with steps cut
into it. At the bottom of the path is a quiet and peaceful car park and picnic area
surrounded by woodland. This is really nice and completely free, so you could start
the walk from here and save the parking fee at the Sutton Bank Visitor Centre. Pity
is, you still can't see the horse properly from here as the head is over the brow
of the hill.
The path we need enters the woods at the foot of the escarpment. Follow this for
a couple of hundred yards, then take the track bearing left down into the valley.
This brings you to the main track through the woods, and at the point where it splits
in two, keep left to emerge from the wood opposite Hood Grange.
Take the bridleway across the fields to Hood Grange, then bear left in front of
the farm. This can ve very muddy indeed. Join up with the farm track and walk up
it to the main road. From here we're walking to Lake Gormire, but the map is all
wrong so beware. Cross the road and go left for a few yards and you come to a driveway.
This is our footpath. Proceed up it until it veers left and then go right following
the footpath sign. The paths here have all been diverted, but follow the one up
the field side heading towards the escarpment and then turn left to pass two little
lakes in the woodland below. As you pass the end of the wood the path goes
right, left and straight on. Take the right and pass into the magnificent mixed
deciduous woodland surrounding the lake and walk down to the southern end of the
Lake Gormire is an absolute gem. It's beautiful, it's surrounded by wonderful ancient
woodland, and because it's not accessible by car you're unlikely to see another human being. There's a permissive footpath all the way round the lake, and it's
pretty easy going. There's no streams coming in or out of the lake, but apparently
springs from it emerge on the far side of the wood near High Cleaves Farm. On a
sunny day the dappled sunlight coming through the trees is just fabulous; this could
be the best picnic site in Yorkshire.
Walk round the lake in a clockwise direction. Pass the amazing tree at the tip of
the lake and continue round to about halfway down the Eastern shore. At this point
a good broad track leads off and up through the woods all the way up to the top
of Sutton Bank. This is a long pull, so take your time and admire the woodland and
the views as you go. Near the top are a couple of amazing boulders with holes like
swiss cheese. Finally, emerge from the trees onto the top of Sutton Bank and the
visitor centre is just round the corner on the right.
Pictures of Sutton Bank, the Kilburn White House and Lake Gormire