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Approaching the car park at Maybeck Approaching the car park at Maybeck

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Route No. 451 - Sunday 22 January 2012
Falling Foss, Littlebeck, Maybeck,
John Bond's Sheephouse circuit - 11km
North York Moors . . .

Route map from Ordnance Survey Open Space service.

Map: OS Explorer OL27 North York Moors Eastern area


Midge Hall at Falling Foss
Midge Hall at Falling Foss

Path along the valley from Falling Foss
Path along the valley from Falling Foss

About 150m before we reached Midge Hall we turned right to follow a path overlooking the Falling Foss waterfall. You can get a good view of it now when all the trees are bare, but it's obscured by the leaves in the summer.

The weather forecast today was for a generally dry day with some sunny spells and a few scattered showers. My wife and I drove to the car park at Falling Foss above Little Beck at map ref. NZ888035 a little over 1km off the B1416 about 6km south of Whitby town centre. From the car park entrance we turned left down the track towards Midge Hall. Midge Hall is a cafe but it's not open in the winter.

Falling Foss waterfall
Falling Foss waterfall

Path along the valley from Falling Foss
Path along the valley from Falling Foss

Woodland path to the Hermitage
Woodland path to the Hermitage

The Hermitage over looking Little Beck
The Hermitage over looking Little Beck

Steps down from The Hemitage to the beck
Steps down from The Hermitage to the beck

In the 1700's the rock was hollowed out to form a small shelter, a 'make-work' folly typical of that period. From the Hermitage we continued along the path down the valley.

We followed the path down the valley above Little Beck. The path climbs up to the valley rim where there is a large rock called 'The Hermitage'.

Woodland path to the Hermitage
Woodland path to the Hermitage

The Hermitage over looking Little Beck
The Hermitage over looking Little Beck

Steps down from The Hemitage to the beck
Steps down from The Hermitage to the beck

Woodland path heading for Littlebeck village
Woodland path heading for Littlebeck village

Woodland boardwalk heading for Littlebeck village
Woodland boardwalk heading for Littlebeck village


Shale cave, a remnant of alum mining

Alum was extracted from the shales in the Whitby area for around 200 years from the 1600's to the 1800's.

A little further on we came to a shale cave by the path. The cave was excavated when alum was being mined in this area.

Woodland path heading for Littlebeck village
Woodland path heading for Littlebeck village

Woodland path heading for Littlebeck village
Woodland path heading for Littlebeck village

Little Beck at the foot of a shale cliff
Little Beck at the foot of a shale cliff

Road to the ford at Littlebeck
Road to the ford at Littlebeck

Commemorative plaque
Commemorative plaque

Little Beck at the ford in Littlebeck village
Little Beck at the ford in Littlebeck village

Rider approaching the ford in Littlebeck
Rider approaching the ford in Littlebeck

After our break we took the path into the woods next to the ford heading back upstream on the other side of the beck.

After about 1km from the Hermitage we reached the village of Littlebeck. We walked down the road across the ford over the beck. Near the ford there is a tree planted to commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V in 1935. Across the ford is a seat by the road side. It's quite a pleasant spot and we sat there for a drink and a snack. There was very little traffic, two cars and a friendly lady on a rather chunky pony with fetlocks.

Commemorative tree to the Silver Jubilee of George V
Commemorative tree to the Silver Jubilee of George V

Little Beck at the ford in Littlebeck village
Little Beck at the ford in Littlebeck village

Crossing Wash Beck next to the ford
Crossing Wash Beck next to the ford

Path up through Little Beck Wood
Path up through Little Beck Wood

Looking back towards the coast at Whitby
Looking back towards the coast at Whitby

We continued on the path across the fields for a few hundred metres to Leas Head Farm.

We followed the path up out of the woods and on the way we passed a long length of hedge that was being laid to help generate new growth from the base of the hedge.

A newly laid hedge by the path
A newly laid hedge by the path

Finger post near Leas Head farm
Finger post near Leas Head farm

Track leading to Leas Head Farm
Track leading to Leas Head Farm

Path down to Parsely Beck
Path down to Parsely Beck

Climbing up from Parsely Beck
Climbing up from Parsely Beck

We followed the track to Foss Farm, a collection of out buildings but no farm house.

From Leas Head Farm we continued to follow a track across Parsley Beck and climbed up to a grassy track.


Bridge over Parsely Beck

Finger post near Foss farm
Finger post near Foss farm

Heading for Foss Farm on the hillside opposite
Heading for Foss Farm on the hillside opposite

Looking back along the track through Foss Farm
Looking back along the track through Foss Farm

Heading for May Beck from Foss Farm
Heading for May Beck from Foss Farm

After about 1km we came to the car park at May Beck. May Beck is the same watercourse that changes its name to Little Beck just below Falling Foss.

We followed the track through Foss farm and just through this farm we turned right off the track to follow a path through the woods.

Track up through the wood from Foss Farm
Track up through the wood from Foss Farm

Heading for May Beck from Foss Farm
Heading for May Beck from Foss Farm

Heading for May Beck from Foss Farm
Heading for May Beck from Foss Farm


Approaching the car park at May Beck

Path following May Beck upstream
Path following May Beck upstream

'Alan's Seat' by the path
'Alan's Seat' by the path

Initially the path climbs up above the beck and there is a memorial seat called 'Alan's Seat' by the path where we stopped again to admire the scene and have another drink and a snack.

At the May Beck car park we crossed the beck on the car park access road and took a footpath up some steps on the right to follow the beck upstream.

Leaving the car park to follow the beck upstream
Leaving the car park to follow the beck upstream

Path following May Beck upstream
Path following May Beck upstream

Path following May Beck upstream
Path following May Beck upstream

The path criss-crosses the beck
The path crisscrosses the beck

The path criss-crosses the beck
The path crisscrosses the beck

The path criss-crosses the beck
The path crisscrosses the beck

There is a picnic table by the beck in a very pretty spot, occupied by a family and two dogs as we passed by.

We continued along the path as it drops down to the beck and crisscrosses the beck on a series of stone slab and timber plank bridges as it makes its way upstream.

The path criss-crosses the beck
The path crisscrosses the beck

Picnic table beside May Beck not far from John Bond's Sheephouse
Picnic table beside May Beck not far from John Bond's Sheephouse

The path criss-crosses the beck
The path crisscrosses the beck

The stone walled pens here would have been used for handling the sheep.

A few hundred metres beyond the picnic table we came to John Bond's Sheep House. This is a ruined shepherd's hut that was occupied by John Bond, a local shepherd.

The ruins of John Bond's Sheephouse
The ruins of John Bond's Sheephouse

The ruins of John Bond's Sheephouse and sheep pens
The ruins of John Bond's Sheephouse and sheep pens

Footbridge over the beck at John Bond's sheephouse
Footbridge over the beck at John Bond's sheephouse

Gate onto the open moor from the forest
Gate onto the open moor from the forest

The Old Salt Road across the moor
The Old Salt Road across the moor

Gate off the moor back to May Beck
Gate off the moor back to May Beck

A few metres along the fence from the gate is a Scots Pine at you can see almost all the way along the muddy track. This muddy track is part of the 'Old Salt Road', a traditional trade route from the coast at Robin Hood's Bay.

From here we followed the path over a little wooden footbridge across the beck and along the path now heading northwards through the wood to a gate onto the open moor. We followed a very muddy track over the moor for about 1km to a gate on the left at map ref. NZ900027.

Heading for the open moor
Heading for the open moor

The Old Salt Road across the moor
The Old Salt Road across the moor

Looking out to the coast from the Old Salt Road
Looking out to the coast from the Old Salt Road

The landmark Scots Pine near the gate
The landmark Scots Pine near the gate

Heading down towards the car park at May Beck
Heading down towards the car park at May Beck

The car park access road at May Beck
The car park access road at May Beck

Path beside May Beck heading downstream
Path beside May Beck heading downstream

The path drops down the hillside to the access road into the May Beck car park. From there we followed the path along the eastern bank of the beck heading downstream.

From the gate we followed a track down the hillside and after about 250m the public footpath turns left off the track and is not well signed here.

Path beside May Beck heading downstream
Path beside May Beck heading downstream

Path beside May Beck heading downstream
Path beside May Beck heading downstream

Woodland path from May Beck car park towards Falling Foss
Woodland path from May Beck car park towards Falling Foss

Woodland path towards Falling Foss
Woodland path towards Falling Foss

Woodland path towards Falling Foss
Woodland path towards Falling Foss

Woodland path towards Falling Foss
Woodland path towards Falling Foss

The whole walk was 11km and took us a total of almost 5 hours including our stops. I'm getting slower and slower!

This last kilometer from May Beck car park back to Falling Foss is through some lovely woodland sometimes above the beck, sometimes beside it all the way to the falling Foss car park.

Woodland path towards Falling Foss
Woodland path towards Falling Foss

Woodland path towards Falling Foss
Woodland path towards Falling Foss

Returning to Falling Foss car park
Returning to Falling Foss car park

Falling Foss waterfall
Falling Foss waterfall

Background Notes:
This walk is a circular route of 11km, about 7 miles, through some very pretty woodland in the valley of Little Beck and May Beck near Whitby. It's all one valley, the beck just changes its name. The woodland is part of the Forestry Commission's Sneaton Forest and we start from the public car park at Falling Foss. We follow a track down the valley side from the car park towards an old game keeper's cottage called Midge Hall that dates from the late 1700's. It's now a tea shop cafe but it's closed in the winter. Just next to the cottage is Falling Foss, a 10m high waterfall on the beck. It seems to be called Little Beck below the falls and May Beck above the falls. From the falls we follow a path down the valley and soon reach The Hermitage. This is a large boulder that was hollowed out to form a rough shelter with a doorway, window and bench seat all carved from the solid rock. It's a make-work folly made in the late 1700's on the instructions of a local man, George Chubb and his initials are carved over the door. If you scramble up to the top of the boulder there are two chairs carved from smaller boulders. These are the wishing chairs and if you sit in one of them, it doesn't seem to matter which one, make a wish, then stand up and sit in the other chair your wish should come true or so the story goes. From the Hermitage we follow the path downstream and along the way we pass the site of the old Littlebeck Alum Works. This was a thriving industry for about 150 years from the mid 1600's. The path goes over a shale bank that was the raw material for the extraction of alum and over the bank there is a cave cut into the shale that survives from the alum workings. In those days the alum was used in the cloth dying and leather tanning industries. We continue down the valley to Littlebeck village where our route passes a tree on the roadside with a plaque commemorating the silver jubilee of King George V. There used to be a water mill by the beck here but it's now a private house and the water wheel is long gone. We follow the road across the beck and take a path heading back upstream and climbing up the valley side to cross pasture land with some good views down the valley to the coast at Whitby. We pass Leas Head farm and cross the valley of Parsley Beck to climb up to Foss Farm. At this point if you want to cut the walk in half you can continus past the farm and follow the track back to the Falling Foss car park. Just past the farm our route takes a path on the right following the valley up stream through some pretty woodland to the car park and picnic site at May Beck. It's a popular and very attractive spot and there is often an ice cream van parked there in the summer. We cross the beck here and continue upstream on a path quite high above the beck at first. It's a really pretty valley and the path criss-crosses the stream on a series of stone slab and wooden plank footbridges. The path takes us to the ruins of a small cottage and some sheep pens. This is John Bond's Sheep House. He was a local shepherd who occupied this place for many years. We follow the path around the edge of the forest and onto a rather muddy track over the open moor. This track is part of the Old Salt Road from Whitby and Robin Hood's Bay inland to Pickering, it was a medieval trade route used by pack horse trains. From this track we drop down the hillside back to May Beck car park and follow the path through the woods along the beckside. It's a very pleasant final leg to our walk, bringing us back to the car park at Falling Foss and the end of our route.

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