Thursday, 19 April 2018

Cleveland Way, stage 3. Osmotherly to Clay Bank.

If temperatures hadn't been so high today's weather would have been perfect for walking; the pint (of lime and soda!) at The Lordstones was very welcome.  Again the walk follows the steep scarp of the moors with first excellent views of the Vale of York gradually revealing vistas up to Teeside as the route turns east.  Shortly after the start we walked above Mount Grace Priory which we visited the next day.  Established quite late in the 14th century, the priory was founded by the Carthusian Order.  The monks made a deliberate attempt to reintroduce the solitary way of life as practised by the early religious hermits.  Nine Carthusian houses were established in England and Mount Grace provides the best and most extensive ruins of them all.  Today's stage is the most strenuous section of the Cleveland Way with so much up and down that it involves over 3000 feet of climbing.  As we began to turn east not only does the route provide the first extensive panorama of the Cleveland plain, the iconic hill of Roseberry Topping comes into view, but it will not be climbed until stage 5.
After the welcome respite in the pub at The Lord Stones the final section involves a climb up through a group of rocks called the Wainstones, used by local rock climbers and then along the top of Clay Bank before descending to the car.  As we approached the Wainstones we passed a sign informing walkers that a Eurasion Eagle Owl had taken up residence in the area and was known to be defensive of its territory.  Although found in much Europe and Asia it is not indigenous to England.  However there have been records of breeding on the Yorkshire moors over the past 30 years.  Commenting the "The chance would be a fine thing, it will be out of the sun in the pine forest!" I set off up the hill.  A sort while later walking with head down I suddenly heard a series of hoots.  Looking up I was amazed to see the sky full of 6 foot wings and gleaming talons and was so surprised I stumbled and fell over, bruising my ribs.  Heather and Dorothy who had seen all reported that the owl drifted up over the edge of the escarpment and headed straight for me after which it flew off down the slope again.  Annoyingly I never really saw the bird myself never mind get photos.  Nursing bruised ribs for several days afterwards I became used to having my leg pulled about my 'eagle owl injury'. 
Apart from the owl the wildlife highlights of the day were primroses studding the banks and woods, wood anemones wood sorrel and dogs mercury and the leaves of wild garlic or ramsons and bluebells now showing.  The leaves of wild garlic make a fine soup which I enjoyed one day whilst cycling the Way of the Roses coast to coast ride a couple of years ago.  Chiffchaff and nuthatches were calling in the woods and a red grouse allowed me to get close enough to capture a frame filling photo even with my compact camera.  Butterflies are now beginning to show, but I was amazed to see a painted lady high on the moors.
An interesting day!
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