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Goathland Rail Trail

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In this episode, we commit ourselves to the Goathland Rail Trail which links Goathland and Grosmont via a very scenic walking route. This was part of the original George Stephenson route for the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Therefore, this walk is not only scenic, but historic with an attraction thrown in.

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Today, we are visiting Grosmont and Goathland on the North York Moors to follow George Stephenson’s original railway route linking the port of Whitby. The former route is now a public right of way known as the Goathland Rail Trail. We are taking the steam train from Pickering to Grosmont and walking this route back to Goathland.


Pickering Station

Goathland Rail Trail


Of course, you can simply drive to either Goathland or Grosmont to do this walk, but to add to that perfect day out we are going to get into the spirit of things and travel by train to Grosmont. The station has a car park, but you will need to check if trains are running owing to season as well as the pandemic.

Our locomotive today is a BR standard 4 tank engine which is going to take us part way through one of the country’s longest heritage railways. Pickering station hasn’t always been a terminus as in its heyday, the route linked up with the York to Scarborough line at Rillington near Malton.

It is recommended to sit in the rear carriages as you have better views of the locomotive on curves, especially after Levisham. You can purchase tickets at the station or if you have cash, you can purchase them on the train.

The walk we are doing is around 3 miles between Grosmont and Goathland and the walk itself can be done anytime of the year. If you decide to walk back to Grosmont, this will be a 6 mile walk in total. Both Goathland and Grosmont have places to park and there is under normal circumstances, somewhere to purchase food and drink.

You can either alight the train at Goathland and walk the route up to Grosmont or alternatively you can alight at Grosmont and walk to Goathland. Today, we are going to alight the train and take the Rail Trail back to Goathland.


Grosmont Station

Goathland Rail Trail


The North Yorkshire Moors Railway meets up with the Esk Valley line, of which is an equally stunning route between Middlesborough and Whitby via Esk Valley. Grosmont station is mainly centred around tourism in the modern day, but in its heyday was a largely industrial area owing to ironstone discovered here. At the same time, the railways were changing industry and despite plans for a canal, George Stephenson’s railway for Whitby was established. The station has been styled in the 1950’s era.

Outside of Coronavirus lockdowns, there are tearooms, toilets as well as a public house in case you require fortification first. Goathland also has places to eat as well as free public toilets.

Before getting started on the Rail Trail, you may want to watch your train depart for Whitby. There tends to be a locomotive change here and as you can see, the BR Standard 4 is being switched for a diesel locomotive, namely a class 25.

In any case, we are not here to train spot, not even on an intriguing heritage railway. We have an idyllic walk to accomplish, yet this isn’t the last time we see the North Yorkshire Moors Railway today.

Just over the level crossing you will see a signal box as well as the Station Tavern public house. However, over the opposite side of the road is a path alongside the railway line which is the beginning of our walk to Goathland.

The walk is already railway themed as you have the railway on your right hand side of you. There is also a viewing area with a viewing platform which you can take advantage of if you desire to watch the trains enter and depart the station.

One thing I do recommend before engaging on the walk is to take a quick look at the workshop. You simply walk through the pedestrian tunnel and you can make you way into the workshop where there is a gift shop also.


Along the Goathland Rail Trail

Goathland Rail Trail


Just before the pedestrian tunnel to the workshop, you will cross a watercourse known as the Murk Esk. This watercourse combines with the River Esk nearby, and of course the Esk empties into the North Sea at Whitby.

You will see a signpost for the Rail Trail which takes you uphill and eventually you will find yourself at tunnel height. Before the steady ascent, you will notice an information board about the original horse drawn railway between the two villages.

You will pass by a former school which is now a coffee shop which may pull you away from your walk. However, immediately next door is Grosmont Priory which has a very distinctive bell tower, and it is the only survivor of only three Grandmotine priories in the country. The Grandmotine’s were an order originating from Normandy and the priory was established around 1200. This was because Robert De Torneham gave the Grandmotine’s 200 acres of land that stretched beside the River Esk in the Forest of Egton.

At the summit of the hill, you now have a clear view over the station below and the line bends to the right as it crosses the Esk out of view owing to the trees.

Going through the gate you meet up with a fantastic vista with rolling countryside which is typically Yorkshire. Of course, the blue skies enhance the experience somewhat and you can just see the hamlet of Esk Valley in the distance.

Further along you will see some engine sheds on your left as well as our locomotive today. Our BR standard 4 is being refuelled with coal and water ready for its next journey.

We may consider the Moors Railway having only steam engines, but they also have several heritage diesels too including this Class 24 locomotive which is currently awaiting overhaul at the time of filming.

You might also witness some diesel shunters too which are mainly class 08’s. There were almost a thousand of these constructed and are the most numerous of British locomotives.

We come down to track level and follow the dedicated path which eventually bends to the right closer to the tracks. The right of way widens a little and you might see something like this. This is a class 101 diesel multiple unit amusingly known as Daisy, These were constructed at Washwood Heath near Birmingham. They are actually one of the longest serving first generation DMU’s and the last was withdrawn on Christmas Eve 2003.

At this stage of the walk, you are the closest you get to the railway line although it is never that far away. However, no matter where you are, you are not short of some amazing views over the national park.


Esk Valley

Goathland Rail Trail


Hidden behind the hill was an Iron Mine and the hamlet of Esk Valley housed some of the workers here. Grosmont which was originally known as Tunnel had a huge ironworks complex that produced around 1000 tonnes of iron each week. The mine was also known as Holme House Mine, and is a prime example of how the Victorian’s established small communities around industrial facilities of the day. You may have seen the hamlet from the train window.

Today it may seem hard to imagine how such as scenic area as this can have had an extremely industrial past. You can still see remnants of this industrial history en-route. Iron was only part of it too, as Goathland also had a whinstone quarry too which was next to the railway.


Following a Watercourse and Historic Railway

Goathland Rail Trail


On your left, you will come to a footbridge with a further path to Goathland. This is a differing route which takes you via Darnholme and you could come back this way if you want to extend your walk. Staying on the rail trail to Goathland, we are going to head onwards to Beck Hole.

This is a dog friendly route providing they are on a lead, and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway permit dogs on their trains. Of course, in the height of summer they need to be protected from ticks as the moors are prone to them. As there are grazing sheep, it is important to close gates behind you.

As the paths are well established, this walk is an all year rounder albeit much nicer in the summertime when everything is in bloom. It is also a very popular walk possibly owing to the heritage railway and it’s reasonable length. Of course, the main star of the show is the stunning moors which is also a major attraction to this walk.

We follow the Murk Esk just as much as the railway which is a combination of Eller Beck and West Beck. Crossing over a wooden footbridge is only a foreshadow of this watercourse as we later find out. However, it is one of those footbridges where you just have to stop and look over the sides.

Another common feature is the sheep on this trail. In fact, it is a common feature of the moors full stop. The moorland isn’t ideal for crop growing but it is for grazing ruminants such as sheep. In fact, there is a common right in place with the Duchy of Lancaster for sheep to roam freely, even in villages such as Goathland. There tends to be more sheep wandering around Goathland than there are humans and you will often see cars and buses having to stop and wait for the road to clear. Albeit a little dangerous, I like the idea of sheep roaming freely.

Following the route further, we encounter a large pasture area which is pleasing not only to grazing ruminants but also to the human eye. In fact, it is incredibly scenic, and the sheep seem to be unconcerned about complete strangers walking by them.

You will also see these very historic stone outbuildings which more than likely house the animals in the winter months. Holiday accommodation in the summer and pens in winter perhaps.

You will also see some farms set in the hills as you pass, and in spring and summer, amongst the plethora of golden gorse bushes.

Speaking of greenery, we now enter a more wooded expanse but we also come closer to the watercourse we speak about. This confluence of two becks in the Goathland area bubbles along side you as it meets the rocky terrain. Villages including Goathland and Grosmont were built on rivers and streams as their source of water for the villagers in times past. The streams here tend to consist of natural spring waters and certainly add to the idyllic theme of the North York Moors.

But this is what I value about the North York Moors, it’s scenery often changes in an instant. You can at one point be walking through heather covered moorland, then suddenly you are in woodland until you find yourself in grassy pastures. The scenery is very diverse which makes walking in the moors more intriguing and satisfying. Of course, this encourages a wide range of wildlife too.

Prior to reaching a junction for Beck Hole and Mallyan Spout Waterfall, you will notice forestry in the hills before you. Again, another scenery change. It is hard to imagine this being the original route of George Stephenson’s horse drawn railway, let alone an industrial area.

However, following the path just a little farther, we are now not far from the convergence of West Beck and Eller Beck as well as being situated between two local waterfalls.

Close to Beckhole, you will see an orchard which was created by the Beckhole Woodland and Heritage Foundation which were formed in 2006 by local residents. In Victorian times, there were many orchards in the area and people would visit the waterfalls and enjoy a picnic under the apple trees. This orchard was established in 2009 with land donated by the Ainley family.


The Waterfalls

Goathland Rail Trail


You will notice a path to the left into Beckhole where you will see a public house. Just over the stone bridge is a path to Thomason Foss, the smaller of two waterfalls in the area.

However, just a little farther along the rail trail is a signpost for Mallyan Spout. You can walk to Goathland this way although it is steeper than the rail trail. You can walk alongside West Beck and visit Mallyan Spout which is the taller but narrower of the two waterfalls. Thomason Foss is a little more of a challenge to get to however, typically because of the mud and rocks. Mallyan Spout has some steep ascents from here, but more manageable and it is worth it in the end.

It was Mallyan Spout Waterfall that put Goathland on the map long before the Heartbeat drama series, and was especially popular with Victorian day-trippers especially when the railways were more established.

Mallyan Spout empties natural spring water from a 70ft ledge into the West Beck below it. What is rewarding about this waterfall is that you can walk right up to it and literally place your hand underneath.

There is a path containing steps which aid you up the steep hill back to Goathland and comes out at the Mallyan Spout Hotel opposite St Mary’s Church. If you prefer, you can walk back to the rail trail if you wish to avoid the steep ascent.

Back at our signpost on the Rail Trail, we rejoin our route back to Goathland which is much less steeper than the other. Opposite the sign post you will see Incline Cottage which is a very aesthetic former railwayman’s cottage for times of the George Stephenson route.

This route is mainly a straight path upwards through a woodland area. We have covered this route in our Goathland episode in series one, along with Mallyan Spout Waterfall.

Again, this path is well established and suitable for all seasons as there are no muddy fields to cross. However, there are some tempting seats too including this memorial to Peter Walsh who established the British Rail Wednesday Walkers.

As you walk further along the woodland path, you will notice a very narrow beck running beside you on the right hand side. How much water there is is obviously dependent on how much rain there has been.

When you come to the crossroads, for the car park and railway station you head straight across, but for the village you turn right. Today, we are heading straight across for the railway station.

One surprise, at least to me the first time I was here, is the small red fire station which is run by brave volunteers. Just beside it on the right, you will see a lane which we take as a shortcut to the railway station. It is sort of a street yet the road is more like your everyday bridleway. At the end we turn left downhill for the station if you are heading back to Pickering on the train.

As an alternative, you could walk back to Grosmont if you have a return ticket, perhaps after a walk around the village. Another alternative still is locating the Goathland Hotel which of course was the Aidensfield Arms in the Heartbeat series. Along the right hand side is a public right of way to Moorgate as well as the caravan and camping site.

This is also part of the original George Stephenson’s route but as a word of warning, it can get a little muddy down this stretch, particularly under the trees. Having said that, you can generally walk around these hazards.

This section takes you to the cattle arch which is beside Moorgate, one of the main roads from the A169 which touches on Goathland at the far end of the village.

This again is a very attractive walk and is straight all the way along as it was part of the railway’s route. The path is treelined almost all the way down and you eventually get quite close to the current railway line once again.

You can often see some interesting birdlife and at the time of filming we witnessed a woodpecker, but I have also seen green woodpecker more recently.

You will eventually see a gate which has a pedestrian gate beside it. On the left you will see Sadler House before arriving at a large white farm gate for Moorgate.

Just over the road you will see where the line would have continued in George Stephenson’s day, and you will also see the cattle arch underneath the earthworks for the railway.

If you are hungry at this point, Goathland Tearoom has an attractive garden where you can eat outside in good weather, but please check their website first during the pandemic.

We have enjoyed our walk today, we hope you enjoy yours! Until next time.


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