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Newtondale and the Hole of Horcum - a circular walk from Pickering using the North York Moors Railway

Route Summary
Distance: About 10 miles walking, plus the train journey
Difficulty: moderate - one big climb up, and a steep downhill
Start: Pickering
Finish: Pickering
Time: about six hours
Dogs: not bad - no sheep on good stretches of the walk

Levisham Station This is a really interesting walk. For years I've driven past the Hole of Horcum on the Pickering to Whitby Road, but this was the first time I've ever walked into it.

I did this walk by starting at Pickering and catching the North York Moors Railway to Levisham Station. This is obviously time consuming and wholly unnecessary, but I do enjoy catching the train and it never disappoints. Timetables vary depending on the time of year, so always check before travelling. And be warned, I've noticed that the first train on a morning is sometimes a diesel! A nice historic diesel of course, but unless you're a train buff that's little consolation.

Alight at Levisham which is a really nice little station, very well kept and with refreshments. Alighting from the train leave the station and head right (North-East) up the road signposted for Levisham. This is a really steep hill but fortunately it's almost traffic free. Ignore the footpath to Levisham and continue to near the top where the footpath begins. It cuts off the bend in the road and then continues straight up the hill opposite. And that's it, most of the climbing for the walk is done, so settle back and enjoy a fantastic view back towards Newtondale.

Dundale Pond It's one very long uphill. But the track is well defined and there are magnificent views up Newtondale, so take your time and enjoy it.

At the top the path continues along the side of a wall, and then at the corner of the wall continues East for a few hundred yards across open moorland to Dundale Pond. The pond is only small but it can be seen from quite a way off so is easy enough to find. From here most of the walk is signposted, so it's even easier.

At Dundale Pond is a very helpful signpost, follow the track directly East towards down Dundale Griff. Griff is one of those terms unique to this area and denotes a stream channel where water flows off the moors. In fine weather these are just trickles, but in bad weather they carry serious volumes of water at high speed. This is a nice sheltered part of the walk with the sides of the valley breaking any wind and trapping the sun. Absolutely beautiful. You can't get down to the stream until near the bottom of the valley, but when you can it's a great spot to stop and eat lunch.

Approaching the Hole of Horcum At the end of the Griff, turn left and head directly North. This is yet another well defined path and leads through fields and small copses along another sheltered valley directly into the Hole of Horcum. When I was younger people always used to call it The Devil's Punchbowl, and there's even a legend to go with it.  According to Wikipedia it was made by a giant, who scooped up a large ball of earth and tossed it aside to create a nearby hill, Blakey Topping. According to the tourist board it was The Devil. Either way, as a trained Historian I'd like some provenance for these stories before I believe it's a real legend. 

After a little way the path reaches The Hole. And I have to say what a let-down it was. From above The Hole is mightily impressive, but from the bottom it's far less so. Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful, but it doesn't have the wow factor you get from above. Pretty much in the middle of The Hole is Low Horcum, the last farmhouse here that was abandoned in the early 1980's. It does look in pretty good condition though, and I'm surprised the National Park Authority haven't developed it as a Bunk barn or something. No doubt there would be problems with the water and electric supplies, but it would be a magnificent asset. Somewhere nearer the edge of The Hole is the remains of High Horcum farm, destroyed by an avalanche (yup, an avalanche) in the 1960's. I don't think even Heartbeat have used a plot  that far-fetched. I couldn't see any trace of it, but it might well be visible in Winter.

Fylingdales And from the bottom, there's but one way to go, and that's up to the top to meet the A169 Whitby to Pickering road. This is a nice place to stop and admire the view. In the distance you can just see RAF Fylingdales, a giant radar station forming part on the United States Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. Originally it was like three giant golf balls, but nowadays it's a much less impressive pyramid type structure. Nominally it's run by the RAF but in reality the Americans fund it and call the shots.

From here take the path trending North-East around the back of The Hole, and then cut across the open moor to the edge of Newtondale. This is quite hard going in Summer because of the bracken, but it's only for a couple of hundred yards. There was a good sized herd of Highland Cattle in this field when we went, and two walkers coming the other way told me they'd been chased by a bull, so I steered well clear of them and they didn't bother me.

climbing out of the Hole of Hoercum Walking South along the lip of Newtondale there are fantastic views down and you can catch glimpses of steam trains running through the valley. Quite spectacular. After less than a half a mile you come to Hudson's Cross, where a footpath goes down the side of Newtondale to Levisham Halt, the next station on the NYMR to where we started. This is a good path down with steps where needed. At the bottom the footpath goes under the railway and brings you down to the station.

At the station you realise why it's called a halt. There's nothing there, just a platform and a small shelter to wait in.

From here it's a nice walk following the far side of the railway track back down South all the way back to Levisham station. Not much to say about it really. It goes through trees, across the odd field and even down a tarmacked track. All very pleasant and suitable for dogs to run free. Alternatively, consult your timetable and catch a train back to Pickering.

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Comments (1)
Enjoyed the description, will probably try the walk you suggest. The pedant in me suggests you look at this sentence - unless it is word that I don't know. Ignore the footpath to Levisham and continue to near the top where the footpath beins.
posted by Pete Carruthers 04/04/2010 23:22:56
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