Roaming in Newtondale

Yesterday I gave in to my itching feet and set out for a stroll on the moors. The initial object of my walk was to track down a fine-looking swimming spot which Christian and I glimpsed from the window of a North York Moors Railway train last summer, and though I failed completely in this task, I did find lots of other interesting things.

The moors are at their most alluring round this time of year, when the flowering heather dapples the landscape with purple and sweetens the air with its honeyed scent. I had half a mind to walk a circuit of the Hole of Horcum, that deep glacial-looking punchbowl bordered by Levisham Moor on one side and Horcum Dyke (along with the busy A169) on the other, but the search for my elusive swimming pool took me up to the northwest instead, dropping down the deep moorland gully above Havern Beck and disappearing into the wooded valley behind.

I love Newtondale, partly because there’s no easy way to get there. Like all the best places, it’s more or less inaccessible by road, and in fact the simplest way in is to take the old steam railway south from Goathland, and get off at Newtondale Halt, a short stretch of platform in the middle of the woods with an open-fronted shelter and a poster warning you to beware of adders.

Every feature in country like this has a name, and they’re all brilliant. You climb steeply up the far side of the wooded valley through a narrow track called Needle Eye, finally emerging into the daylight again at Needle Point, a lookout post towards the dark green shadow of Yewtree Scar, with the moors stretching out beyond. Below you, a steep cliff drops into Beulah Wood, and you follow it west along Killing Nab Scar, detouring a little to avoid a damp channel into the cliff called Yaul Sike Slack. Tolkien couldn’t have dreamed this stuff up if he’d tried.

This pocket of woodland deep in the moors has always been remote, and the tough people who lived here have left their names on the landscape too. From Killing Nab Scar you can see a steep track descending from a junction on the moor called Hudson’s Cross, skirting the edge of Huggitt’s Scar. I wonder who Hudson and Huggitt were, and whether they lived at either of the ruined farmsteads I found hidden in the trees? One of these, Beulah House, looked like it had been abandoned sometime in the mid-20th century, its kitchen range still rusting away in the chimney breast and the remnants of a few wide stone steps crumbling into the nettles [edit: be sure to read the comments below for some fascinating insights into Beulah House]. The other one was so dilapidated it wasn’t even on the map, just the shapes of buildings among the dense fir trunks of Pifelhead Wood, a deer bolting away from me into the undergrowth.

Of course there are folk still living round here, just as there always have been. Some intrepid souls have a smallholding right by the railway line at Kidstye Farm, and a little further down the valley you start to encounter the odd cottage or farmhouse. The first one you come across is the wonderfully-named Kale Pot Hole. As I passed, watching the breeze lift clouds of shimmering thistledown off the paddock, with the ruins of Skelton Tower silhouetted in the sunshine up on the crest of the valley, I considered that it wouldn’t be a bad place to hang your hat.

Crossing back over the valley bottom and climbing up onto the moor again, I was obliged to share the national park with quite a few other walkers doing the Hole of Horcum circuit, but the views were lovely enough that I didn’t hold it against them (too much). My attempt to take a more interesting route back to the car was foiled by a herd of cows blocking my way (I’m still a total coward when it comes to tackling large groups of cattle on my own), but I did find a lot of bilberry bushes lining the steep-sided channel of Dundale Griff. No berries though. Have I missed the season, I wonder?

Anyway. I never did find my swimming pool, but the hunt is not over. I have merely narrowed my search area. In the meantime, I came across a bench at a rather beautiful viewpoint on the cliff above Killing Nab Scar. It was dedicated to one Professor Frederick Allin Goldsworthy, who Wikipedia informs me was the father of the artist Andy Goldsworthy. It was inscribed with the sentence, ‘life is not about the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away’.

If you want to try the route yourself, I’ve put it on OS Getamap here. It’s about 16km, so allow four hours(ish).

 

 

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5 Responses to Roaming in Newtondale

  1. Dinah Appleby says:

    Hi I am staying in Kirbymoorside with friends. I originally come from this area and we were talking about the house my parents lived in on the moors and if we could find it again. It’s not named on more recent OS maps, though beaulah wood is. So we googled it and there was your blog about your Newtondale walk and mentioning the house.
    As far as I know my parents lived there with my elder sister and brother during the war, my father was a CO and was obliged to work in the forest and the house belonged to the Forestry department. After it was left it was partially pulled down. We often walked over from Saltersgate to it as a child. My parents thought it was the best place they ever lived in. My sister use to go to school in Stape on horse back and the train used to stop and drop coal off for them, there was no official Newtondale Halt the. Shopping involved taking the donkey Betsy to Saltersgate tying her up at the inn and catching the bus to Pickering and returning with shopping and loading up the donkey to trek back across the moors.
    About 20 years ago we found the house starting off from Saltersgate, finding NewtonDale halt, but after several adder encounters gave up the search. Then came across it 5 minutes later. It was more or less as I remembered it. We again returned within the year and removed one of the doors off the range, which we now have at our home in France. There was still the the old pear tree growing up the gable end of the house.
    We hope to walk up there tomorrow weather permitting. We thought this time we could take a cutting from the old pear tree, if it’s still there. We understand the forest drive which apparently is now closed, actually went very close to the a path you can take which passes the house. We think we have found it again on the map with it’s out buildings, but not named.
    It was really good to see your blog and your picture of the range.
    Dinah Appleby

    • indyjols says:

      Hello Dinah,

      What a wonderful insight into the history of the house. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It must have been a remarkable place to live.

      Hopefully you managed to find the house, since the unnamed buildings do indeed appear on the OS map just by the decommissioned forest drive, but if you need any more help finding it then it’s just off the signposted circular walk (green arrows) that runs between Newtondale Halt, Needle Point, Killing Nab Scar and Yaul Sike Slack. The easiest way to find it is to turn left out of Newtondale Halt then after a few minutes take a right up a steep track towards Yaul Sike Slack. Part way up the track there’s a tall, split tree stump in the centre of the path, and Beulah House is just off to the right, partly visible through the trees.

      Let me know if you didn’t manage to find it – I was there again recently and I’ve got quite a few photos I could send you if you like.

      Joly

    • Claire Gibson says:

      Dinah. How very interesting to read your piece on this site. We live in Newtondale at Wethead and have been to Beaulah several times. There’s a magnificent stone ‘staircase’ all the way from the house to the bottom of Newtondale. I wonder if you remember that. My partner’s family are from Hole of Horcum and Saltersgate. Their name is Mackley. Do you remember any of them. I understand at one time Beaulah was a convelelscent home for people suffering TB. There was a wooden balcony round the house, do you remember that? Have you any old photos? I’d love to see them if so. I have an interesting newspaper clipping about this house by a lady who used to visit there on holiday. Must have been amazing before the forest was planted.

      • Dinah Appleby says:

        Hi,
        Yes we found the house thanks. unfortunately the pear tree looked dead, having been split by a falling tree which has damaged the gable end of the house more.
        Yes I remembered the staircase well and we have some pictures somewhere and when we are back home in the New Year I will look them out and post them.
        I don’t remember my parents mentioning the name Mackley, but I remember the name Agar and visiting the Agars when I was very small.
        I shall be in Kirkbymoorside again this Christmas, but only for a day, so probably will not get up to Beaulah this time.
        Dinah

  2. John Crosby says:

    I have a photograph of my Uncle Stan Mackley (sheep farmer at Saltersgate) taken at Needle Eye and was looking for a route there when I came across your blog.
    My mothers maiden name was Mackley and they lived at Low Horcum and Glebe Farm, Saltersgate. My Crosby grandparents and then my aunt and uncle (Thistle) lived at Saltersgate pub for a great numbet of years. This may be of interest to Claire Gibson.

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