Yorkshire Naturalists’ Trust, 20 Castlegate, York, Yol 1RP
At Cooper Cross car park on A170 between Thirsk (5j miles) and Helmsley (6 miles) Map reference: SE515
2-mile trail down and around limestone cliffs and woodland Nature Reserve -some steep scrambling, so wear sturdy shoes
Illustrated trail brochure from Trust, tourist and National Park offices; car park; white horse (1857) to view
A few miles out of Thirsk, the main North Yorkshire east-west road sweeps dramatically upward by 500 feet within about half a mile in a zig-zag course over the limestone escarpment of Sutton Bank and into the Hambleton Hills. Tumuli, prehistoric dyke earthworks and, nearby, an ancient ridgway drovers’ road makes this a site of considerable historic interest. It is also, in part, a Nature Reserve administered by the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Trust around which a nature trail of about two miles loops.
Starting at the Sutton Bank summit car park (Cooper Cross, an AA viewpoint) the trail traverses the face of the bank for half a mile, dropping about 400 feet down to the Garbutt Wood Reserve. The first part of the trail, following the way-marked Moors Path gives superb views of the York plain and the Vale of Mowbray. To your left is the limestone crag of Roulston Scar with its cave, named the Devil’s Parlour, and, below, the unusual Gormire Lake held in a fold of the hill amid a cluster of trees. The cliffs not only provide the ideal upcurrents of air to be utilised by the Yorkshire Gliding Club from their bank-top field but you will see
there is a foundation of calcareous grit. Here the typical, mountain undergrowth of heather and bilberry contrasts with the more varied flora of the limestone areas.
The trail’s highest point is under the slowly eroding heights of Whitestone Cliff on which a substantial landslide was once witnessed by Charles Wesley while preaching in the hamlet of Sutton. The rough and tumble of broken rocks at the cliff’s foot provides new oppor-tunities for plant life to establish itself. Lichens, mosses and liverworts are profuse.