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Hole of Horcum Circular Walk

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This video is pertaining to the Hole of Horcum Circular Walk where we discover the wonderful scenery situated in the North York Moors National Park.


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Hole of Horcum Circular Walk


In this episode we are committing ourselves to a 5 mile Hole of Horcum Circular Walk situated in the North York Moors National Park. We walk through the cauldron of the Hole of Horcum and gradually make our ascent through Dundale Griff and walk back across moorland before arriving at Saltergate car park.

We are starting at Saltergate car park today which makes a great viewing area over the Hole of Horcum. This spectacular view is made up of heather laced moorland as well as grassy pastures, and is also the birth place of a narrow beck.

In my opinion, the best place to take a photo is at the very tip end of the Hole of Horcum and looking down it towards a derelict farm. In any case, we are going to walk downwards into the Hole of Horcum which is more easy than you might imagine it to be.

There is a legend to the creation of the Hole of Horcum which consists of Wade the giant scooping up some of the earth with his hand and throwing it at his wife during a marital conflict. At least part of it sounds believable.

More accurately, it is in fact a water sculpture of sorts in the sense of water sapping where the water has eroded some of the materials pushing up what’s left at the sides. Another example of this albeit on a larger scale, is the Grand Canyon.

In our first episode of Best North Yorkshire Walks we discovered a path to the Tabular Hills, a pubic right of way between Scarborough and Helmsley along the foot of the North York Moors. Well, the Hole of Horcum is situated in the Tabular Hills and stands as an unusual but intriguing feature. Another feature is the wind, every time I come here I encounter a windy day.

We start our circular walk following the path around to the tip of the Hole of Hole of Horcum before finding a kissing gate and a route down hill into the Hole of Horcum itself.

We have only just begun this walk and already you are wowed by the scenery and sense of space that you receive looking over the entire area.

Most people who drive to Whitby are more than familiar with what is known as the ‘Devil’s Elbow’ on the A169. This is a very sharp bend on a very steep descent. Most people remember the public house that was at the foot of it too. Still from here, you receive a stunning view over the moorland looking towards Fylingdales.


In the Cauldron of the Hole of Horcum

Hole of Horcum Circular Walk


So heading through the gate, we can now descend down hill and believe me it isn’t as hard as you might imagine. The hardest part is walking back up which is why it is best to do this walk clockwise.

As a result of our elevated position we can see our path through the Hole of Horcum across the heath. You will also notice the somewhat derelict farm house known as Low Horcum Farm.

On the left hand side of you, you can see a water generated ripple effect along the edge which looks spectacular in itself. Make no mistake, this may be a beauty spot, but it is also used to graze sheep too.

As we walk gently downwards, you are welcomed by the heathers at either side. During August in particular, these ling heathers are adorned in purple flowers which creates a purple blanket across the North York Moors which is particularly stunning. With ling heather being hardy, it is one of the few shrubs that could exist here.

Even though you are now situated in the Hole of Horcum itself, you still experience a sense of space despite the green walls surrounding.

During the summer months you may have to be slightly cautious of ticks and you may even see an adder if you are in the right place at the right time. Yes the Hole of Horcum is extremely scenic, especially in summer, yet you still have to be cautious at times. If it is brown in colour, it is an adder. If it is green in colour with a white band around its neck, then this is a grass snake which isn’t venomous.

I can’t stress enough to always periodically have a quick look behind you every now and then. Sometimes you can miss some stunning views with your back to it.

The views here are just as panoramic as they are from the top road. The path is in very good condition at this point thanks to the National Park Authority. Water tends to drain naturally here forming Levisham Beck we encounter shortly.

Prior arriving to the former farmhouse the path dips slightly heading towards a wooden gate. You can already see how far you have come as the path is elevated behind you.

In actual fact, you might immediately think you go through the gate, but there is a style at the left behind the bushes. This walk is dog friendly providing you keep them on a lead as there are often sheep about.

The clouds today are allowing in some light in between them which is casting shadows and light patterns along our path. Aforementioned, the wind is quite strong today and the shadows are traversing across the Hole of Horcum quickly. It is not just clouds in the sky that are circulating the Hole of Horcum.

The grassy path now rises slightly before we discover our next landmark. This is one of those rare instances you discover a landmark within a landmark. However, this is no ordinary landmark.


Low Horcum Farm the Wildlife Habitat

Hole of Horcum Circular Walk


The first oddity you might notice about this farm is the lack of windows at the rear. However, there are some holes made in the wall. This might give you a clue to the fact that this is now a converted wildlife habitat.

Just prior to arriving at the farm are some muddy puddles but these are few and far between today. Of course, crossing any heath in wet winter months carries a warning of mud.

The farm hasn’t been lived in since the sixties and I’m doubtful that it has ever had electricity, gas or even plumbing. However, it is certainly not an eyesore, but it also attracts bats and owls. The holes in the wall are for ventilation, and you will notice the peculiar windows at the front which are designed to protect the species as well as give them further ventilation.

It is also surrounded by this fantastic dry stone wall and I’m assuming that this was here when it was a working farm. There’s very little in the way of outbuildings, possibly because they have either been demolished or because of mainly dealing with livestock. Farms on the moors tend to deal in livestock as the terrain isn’t always the best for crops.


A Lush Green Valley

Hole of Horcum Circular Walk


It might not seem obvious at first but instead of walking up the hill to a farm gate, you walk straight down the heath following the valley. This becomes more evident when you walk around the short ascent.

It isn’t just the clouds floating across the blue skies today and obviously this plane is attempting a birds eye view of the Hole of Horcum. However, the views on foot are even more impressive.

It is very difficult to lose your way on this walk as the paths are quite established and also there are plenty of signposts and way markers en-route. Obviously heading down a valley typically has one direction to go.

It is certainly worthwhile looking behind you at this point because the scenery is extraordinary. In fact, this is one of my favourite views on the North York Moors. On the right side of direction of travel, you will probably have noticed the new formed beck that begins in the Hole of Horcum.

If you have your smartphone with you, or even a camera of any type, taking some photos is a great idea at this point. As a tip, rather than aiming your lens straight down the valley, aim it on a angle so that it is off centre. Also, try and layer your photo with an object in the foreground and something in the background to create interest and depth. The path here creates infinity in your shot, but also the rolling hills where it leads to.

You will see a farm gate and a path heading towards the woods. We ignore this and continue further following the valley at this point. You may wonder at this point if you are walking to Pickering rather than doing a circular walk of the Hole of Horcum. However, we just walk a little farther before we change direction along Dundale Griff.


Into the Woods

Hole of Horcum Circular Walk


We pass through a gate and walk upon a boarded section which is handy in winter months. You are now closer to Levisham Beck and the scenery is now more woody as well as laced with bracken at times. Therefore, at this point the terrain changes slightly that adds variety to your walking route.

After passing through a gate, you will walk alongside a dry stone wall. The art of dry stone walling is very ancient, originating from neolithic times. It is simply amazing how gravity can hold the stones together without the need for cement and create a sturdy wall.

Don’t forget to turn around and grab those stunning views. The scenery is pretty overwhelming at this point.

You eventually come down to beck level and the trees follow the source of water here. This path is heavy with bracken too which adds to the decor of foliage at this stage of the walk.

Levisham Beck is heading the way of Pickering after merging with Pickering Beck. This natural spring water tends to be quite clear a you can see the bottom of the beck itself. Undoubtedly, this will attract a plethora of wildlife. It’s currently low level and slow moving but I am sure it has more vigour after heavy rainfall. We cross over this beck using a short footbridge.

Before reaching the signpost for Dundale, you generally use stepping stones over a narrow watercourse. Today it is bone dry which makes it less of a challenge. Still we follow the sign for Dundale Pond up hill. Going further takes you to Levisham village.


Up the Hill to Dundale

Hole of Horcum Circular Walk


I mention uphill but it is far from steep. You might find yourself slightly out of breath but the ascent is manageable and is known as Dundale Griff.

Don’t forget to stop for a drink every once in a while especially in warm weather.

Depending if you are in the right place at the right time, you may encounter a red squirrel as they can be seen on the moors. If not, you’re guaranteed to see plenty of sheep roaming around freely.

We follow this fantastic shady path for a short while until we reach Dundale Pond with a major junction for walkers in the area.

Obviously, it is important to stick to the paths in the North York Moors for safety sake and also in spring and summer some birds nest on the ground. This is one of the reasons dogs have to remain on leads. Sheep are another reason which have the right to roam the moors owing to a longstanding common right with the Duchy of Lancaster.

At the top of the hill, it begins to open out into very scenic moorland with grazing ruminants. They tend to be able to handle the terrain better than I can!

You will also see Dundale Pond here which is a magnet for wildlife including dragonfly. In fact, on the way upon Dundale Griff I had an altercation with one which didn’t want to leave me alone yet was still camera shy. There is another pond further along our route but much smaller known as Seavy Pond.


A Stroll Across the Moor

Hole of Horcum Circular Walk


We now enter a different terrain altogether because instead of a lush valley or treelined path, we are now in open moorland laced with heathers, specifically ling heather which is very hardy. It would need to be out here because it is extremely windy today. Aforementioned, the best time to see the heather when it is in bloom is late July and August.

It was along this path back to Saltergate that I once witnessed the presence of an adder. That might make some people cringe, perhaps even put them off but if you stick to the paths you are generally quite safe. Adders are around on occasion but they aren’t around every corner you turn. I did see a family sat down on the moors eating their packed lunch which I have to say is a definite no, no. Adders can surface on hot days in particular and are amongst the heathers. Also ticks can cause lime disease which is a lengthy illness. Another point, litter and disposable barbecues can cause damage to the environment. It is best to grab your lunch from an eating establishment, in your car or even on a bench somewhere.

You will see Saltergate Car Park in the distance as well as the A169 to Pickering and Whitby. If you’ve timed it right, you might even see the ice-cream van.


Back to Saltergate and the Hole of Horcum

Hole of Horcum Circular Walk


Some may find this part of the walk a little baron without agricultural fields and flat moorland but in actual fact there is more to this section than meets the eye. From here you can see quite a long way off and again there is an overwhelming feeling of spaciousness. There are more sheep than you can wave a sheer at and the heather is a hill to hill carpet here.

Bird life is another feature. In winter months, you may witness columns of smoke and you may assume that there are fires on the moors. Well, in actual fact, there are fires but they are controlled burnings by the National Park Authority. They burn the heathers on a rotational basis during winter when there aren’t any nesting birds and the pete is damp. We’ve all seen on the news how disposable barbecues cause horrendous fires in summer and this is why the controlled fires take place in winter. The fires help to protect the moors from wildfires as well as encourage wildlife when heathers spread out of control. Therefore, you may discover small burned patches on your route through the moorland.

Prior to the first road across the moors it was very difficult to travel to Whitby, and many had to get to the port by boat instead. Today, Whitby is linked by a typically busy A road to the market town of Pickering near by and onwards to Malton. As the road is elevated, it is difficult to miss at this point especially looking towards Saltergate.

On the left hand side of you will discover something of historical interest. You may have noticed a dike engraved in the moorland and this was belonging to a fortified farmstead dating back to the iron age. I am assuming that these earthworks were to house a solid wall. The farmstead would have belonged to, believe it or not, Malton Priory who had land ownership here.

This path may seem longer than you might imagine but the walk itself is just over 5 miles in length. You can extend it and walk to Skelton Tower from Dundale Pond and return to this path. This takes the walk to a total of 7 miles approximately. Another alternative is walking to Levisham Station and boarding the steam train to Pickering, Goathland, Grosmont or Whitby.

The path rises uphill and bends to the right before you begin to get elevated views of the Hole of Horcum once again. In any case, the views are panoramic here and you might benefit from using the panoramic feature on your camera or camera phone.

Albeit a little hazy today, you can see for miles around upon the tabular hills. The tabular hills look almost like a table top and rise gradually from south to north. In fact, they are somewhat unique, especially when you consider the Hole of Horcum in the equation.

What is also unique is that you get to see a birds-eye view of where you have walked when you look down the valley. In fact, it is quite astonishing how to visualise how far you have walked in such shorter time.

I was also taken back by the synchronised farming as the sheep seemed to line up in formation close to Low Horcum Farm. The left also holds some interesting views too, and sadly the once popular Saltergate Inn is now gone which was a local landmark.

One other local landmark is the RAF Fylingdales on Snod Hill. This is a radar base and an early detection for ballistic missiles and can even detect objects in space apparently. Of course, prior to this structure, there were some giant golf ball look alikes in its place but like Saltergate Inn they have sadly gone.

Still you receive some amazing scenery either direction and at the opposite side of the road is Old Wife’s Way which is a route towards Dalby and Dalby Forest. You can also visit Bridestones this direction which is around 3.8 miles away.

Back at Saltergate Car Park, there is a walking route information board where you can see today’s route. As well as paid parking, there are also bus stops for Goathland and Whitby as well as Thornton le Dale, Pickering and Malton.

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


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