Leader : Barry Lee Distance : 8.5 miles.
By the time we were all assembled in the layby adjacent the Grapes pub at Scaling we were eleven, eleven fit and healthy enthusiastic individuals all champing at the bit ready to get going indeed a football team, if only Sunderland and the Boro were so lucky. The plan to park adjacent a pub had a certain logic to it but unfortunately as informed by national media The Grapes which once boasted of offering real value for money, charging punters £40 for the teatime special had been closed after health inspectors discovered serious breaches of elf & safety regulations. The car parking looked clean enough.
A roadside grass verge walk of about three quarters of a mile began our journey and the manic drivers hurtling their chariots towards Whitby and a day in the sun along the bustling A174 made crossing the road just a little hazardous. With careful stewardship though we all made it safely and once through a dilapidated wooden gate we entered onto the wild and desolate Easington Moor & its close cousin Danby Low Moor which were to form the platform for most of our day out. A couple miles of gently undulating heather tracks and a little bog dodging then took us to the commencement of the first serious descent of the day and we dropped just over 300 feet to cross over a bridge on a small bubbling beck wandering on its way to join its larger sibling the River Esk that in turn eventually empties itself into the North Sea nearby Whitby. It goes without saying that the thoughts unsaid turned to the phrase what goes down must go up and such was indeed the case. As a sweetener our leader kindly offered the far bank of the beck as a lunch venue before the inevitable climb commenced- how generous!
During our walk as during previous moors excursions we came across and travelled along one of the ancient stone trods or pannier ways and in this instance some kindly soul, from way back when, had placed a marker stone to ensure the unwary had proper bearings although judging by the unusual arrangement of Whitby it is hard to tell if the mason chose too large a font or perhaps too small a stone.
So after a rather sharp 250 feet climb from the beck we reached a metalled moors roadway which allowed us a more gradual ascent and after a mile we reached the famous and historic Danby Beacon site. The Danby Beacon dates back to the 1600s when the country was living under the threat of invasion from France but over the years the wooden structure deteriorated and was eventually lost. The current beacon was erected in 2008 and was ceremoniously lighted for the first time on 22nd October of that year. In the 1930s, the site also became home to one of the first radar stations guarding the North East Coast during the Second World War and helped to protect the British Isles from enemy invasion. The station closed in the 1960s. Ironically on the far horizon we frequently had glimpses of the RAF Flingingdales Early Warning Station on Snod Hill although its comparatively new ugly external appearance makes it much less attractive than the iconic golf balls of some years ago.
Now with the dam visible on our northerly horizon the way back to base was clear and after more tramping over the sheep trails of Leaholm and Black Dike moors, where bright specks of purple gave evidence of nascent heather blooming, we eventually reached the environs of the Dam itself. The reservoir is the largest lake in the national park and was completed in 1958. As well as the renowned Sailing Club the water is a haven for wildlife and Lapwings & Oyster Catchers are among the many birds to be seen in the special nature reserve created in 1972. A brief stop was made for some sweet toothed individuals to indulge in ice cream from the Dam cafe and then having completed the designated circular path we made the short way back to our parking place outside the disgraced Grapes Inn having once again run the gauntlet of the madding A174 traffic. Fortunately some of our cohorts were experienced in dealing with closed pub problems and immediate contingency plans were put in place to call in on the Jolly Sailor nearby, a hostelry that has experienced the clomp of our boots before. A beer and a chat al fresco concluded what had been a really lovely day out on the moors .