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Mallyan Spout and Goathland's Moorland

From the popular moorland village with its television links, through woodland and over the moor.

Distance 4.5 miles (7.2km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 557ft (167m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Streamside tracks, field and moorland paths, 2 stiles

Landscape Deep, wooded valley, farmland and open moorland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 27 North York Moors - Eastern

Start/finish NZ 827007

Dog friendliness Dogs should be on leads

Parking West end of Goathland village, near church

Public toilets Goathland village

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1 Opposite the church go through the kissing gate beside the Mallyan Spout Hotel, signed 'Mallyan Spout'. Follow the path to a streamside signpost and turn left. Continue past the waterfall (take care after heavy rain). Follow the footpath signs, over two footbridges, over a stile and up steps, to ascend to a stile on to a road beside a bridge.

2 Turn left along the road and climb the hill. Where the road bends left, go right along a bridleway through a gate. Turn left down a path to go over a bridge, then ahead between the buildings, through a gate and across the field.

3 Part-way across the field, go through a gate to the right into woodland. Ascend a stony track, go through a wooden gate to reach a facing gate as you leave the wood. Do not go through the gate, but turn right up the field, going left at the top through a gateway. Continue with a wall on your right and go through a waymarked gateway in the wall and up the field, to emerge through a gate on to a metalled lane.

4 Turn left along the lane, go through a gate and follow the 'Roman Road' sign. Go through another gate, still following the public bridleway signs as you join a green lane. Continue through a small handgate, to descend to another gate and then on until you reach a ford.

5 Cross the ford and go straight ahead along the track, eventually to reach a road by farm buildings. Turn right up the road and, just before a wooden garage, turn left on a green track up the hillside.

6 Go straight ahead at a crossing track, passing a small cairn and bending left along the ridge. The obvious path is marked by a series of little cairns, eventually taking a left fork where the path divides, to go down a small gill and join a clear track. Goathland church soon comes into sight. Pass a bridleway sign and descend to the road near the church, to return to the start.

Goathland is one of the most popular destinations for visitors to the North York Moors National Park. Its situation, around a large open common, criss-crossed by tracks and kept closely cropped by grazing sheep, has always been attractive. Today, however, many tourists are drawn to Goathland because it is used for the fictitious village of Aidensfield, setting for the popular television series Heartbeat. The Goathland Story exhibition tells the village's history from the time it was an Iron Age centre for making stone querns to grind corn, to today - and there's a special Heartbeat collection of actual props and photographs from the series.

The walk begins with a visit to the 70ft (21m) Mallyan Spout waterfall into the West Beck. At this point the valley carved by the beck has a lip of much harder stone, and the little stream coming from the heather moorland above has been unable to carve its way through. In dry weather only a trickle of water may fall from the side of the gorge into the stream below - which accounts for its name of 'Spout' rather than 'Force' - but after rain it can become an impressive torrent. Take care at all times - and be aware that sometimes it may be impossible to pass the waterfall on the streamside path.

After you have crossed the ford and turned on to the moorland by Hunt House, you are likely to find yourself accompanied by the sudden flutter of red grouse as they rise from their nesting sites on the heather moorland. They feed on the young shoots of heather, so the North York Moors, which have the largest area of heather moorland south of the Scottish border, are an ideal nesting ground for them. If you visit in the late summer, the moors will be clothed in the purple of the ling heather: patches of the rarer bell heather with its flowers of a deeper purple, and the rose-pink cross-leaved heather, flower rather earlier. Sheep grazing has for centuries been the traditional way of managing the moors; the animals help keep the heather short and encourage the new shoots. Otherwise, bracken, the pernicious opportunistic invader, will rapidly take over as much as 300 acres (121.5ha) in a single year if left unchecked. To regenerate the heather, landowners regularly use carefully-controlled burning in the early spring or the autumn when the ground is wet. The fire burns away the old 'leggy' heather stems, but does not damage the roots, nor the peat in which they grow. New growth quickly springs up to feed the young grouse.

What to look for

In the valley of the West Beck, and especially near Mallyan Spout, you will see lots of ferns. Among the sorts you might spot are the male fern, with its pale green stems, the buckler fern, which has scales with a dark central stripe and paler edges, and the hartstongue fern, with its distinctive strap-like fronds. They are all typical of damp, humid areas, and like every fern, they are flowerless. Instead, they reproduce by means of spores - look under the leaves to find the characteristic dots that are the spore sacs or sporangia. The spores are dispersed by wind or by animals. Each young fern frond begins as a tight curl which gradually unfurls as it grows.

Where to eat and drink

As you would expect from a popular village, there are cafés and snack bars dotted around Goathland, as well as ice cream vans on the green. The Goathland Hotel offers meals and bar snacks, and the restaurant at the Mallyan Spout Hotel has a fine reputation.

While you're there

Take a trip on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which has a station in the valley below the village. Running from Pickering to Grosmont, the line was laid out by George Stephenson in 1836 for horse-drawn trains. It runs through spectacular Newtondale on its way north and ran steam trains from 1847 until it was closed in 1957. Fortunately, local enthusiasts preserved it, and it reopened in 1973. Most of its trains are steam-hauled.

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