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Esk Valley to Beck Hole

Esk Valley to Beck Hole

When the railway came to the Esk Valley in the 1830s it transformed both life and landscape. Explore the line of George Stephenson’s original Whitby to Pickering railway by following a 3-mile level linear route that avoids the hills at the beginning and end of the full ‘Rail Trail’. The starting point is the isolated hamlet of Esk Valley, part of the way along the line from Grosmont, which involves a roundabout approach by road from Grosmont via Egton Bridge (4½ miles/7.5km) or Goathland (5 miles/8km). Your halfway point reward on the walk is the charming hamlet of Beck Hole, which has a fine old riverside pub by the bridge.

Walk info

Great for:
easy access, riverside rambles, history buffs
3 miles (4.8km)
2 hours
Parking area, bottom of hill, Esk Valley hamlet
Grid Ref:
NZ 822 043
OS Map:
Ordnance Survey OL27
Beck Hole, Grosmont, Goathland
Grosmont, Goathland

About this walk

icon-footprintThe path has a compact, hard surface and is fairly level. The ‘Rail Trail’ (signposted to Goathland and Beck Hole) follows the old railway line, through bluebell woods and alongside the Murk Esk. You’ll cross the tributary twice before reaching the end, at the hamlet of Beck Hole. There are numerous seats along the route, which is well signposted. The path from the old railway line into Beck Hole is a slight uphill gradient, with a gravel and grass surface.

icon-paw-printThe route runs through woodland and along the River Esk. Please help prevent disturbance to wildlife by keeping your dog under close control at all times, preferably on a short lead.

Don’t spare the horses

In May 1836 the new Whitby to Pickering line opened and railway engineer George Stephenson basked in his latest glory. In the beginning carriages were pulled by horses and it took 2½ hours to get from the seaside to Pickering, with the carriages hauled up an incline at Beck Hole. As you walk the route you’ll be following in the wake of an army of wheelbarrows, picks and shovels wielded by navvies, who toiled to make Stephenson’s dream a reality.

Full steam ahead

Nine years after the first carriage set off from Whitby the line was bought by the ‘Railway King’, George Hudson. In a mere two years his ‘York and North Midland Railway Company’ transformed the isolated horse-drawn railway, building a new tunnel, bridges, stations and engine sheds. On 1 July 1847 the first steam loco puffed and chugged its way to Pickering. The line thrived for almost a century, transporting everything from the ‘bucket and spade brigade’ and local farmers to lime, stone, timber and groceries.

Esk Valley hamlet

The walk starts at the hamlet of Esk Valley, which started life in 1860 as a row of four cottages, built for workers at the ironstone mines to the north. Beneath the living quarters could be found a blacksmiths’ shop, a joiner’s, a tiny office and a washroom. A few years later, as the workforce expanded, a terrace of 24 cottages was built on the other side of the track. Esk Valley relied on the railway to bring coal, food and provisions until 1951, when the community raised enough money to construct the steep road leading down to the hamlet.