Hidden away only a few miles from Great Ayton, discover Kildale Falls, a little known North Yorkshire beauty spot.
Properly known as 'Old Meggison Falls', surprisingly this delightful beauty spot has only recently made it onto the local radar, so you can still expect to find it a relatively quiet setting. Leave your car in Kildale at the railway station, or at the top of the steep bank where the Cleveland Way enters Coate Moor Woods from the east. Better still, make a good walk of it, either by using the railway from Great Ayton to Kildale, or walking there and back from the village itself. The following is a suggested route, taking in Old Meggison Falls, starting from Kildale Station and heading back to Great Ayton.
Park at Kildale Railway Station car park - room for several vehicles and rarely busy - or indeed catch the train at (timetable from 14th Sept. 2020) 7.16, 10.41, 14.27 or 18.21 (on Sundays it's 9.02, 11.10, 14.13 and 17.15). The rail journey takes 14 minutes, via Battersby.
- Turn left out of the car park towards the village and then take the left turn just as the first buildings appear. An intermittent tea shop springs up from time to time (closed at the time of writing) at the house on the far left corner.
- Follow the lane downhill and under the railway bridge, next crossing the stone bridge over the river. Watch out for grey wagtails and even dippers in the Leven at this point.
- The road emerges from the trees over a cattle grid and after about 250 yards, as it swings right and uphill, you'll see a stile and gateway into Mill Bank Wood. Access is kindly allowed along a permissive path into the woods from here. It's mostly gravelly from now on, but can be fairly muddy at times, so wellies or boots will be an asset after wet weather.
- Crossing the stile, you'll have the evergreen plantation on your right which breaks up into deciduous trees and open glades as it crosses the path. Below you to the left, sometimes down steep banks, the River Leven is your companion. In the spring, the dappled forest floor hosts bluebells, celandines and wild garlic amongst its floral carpet.
- It only takes a third of a mile - 10 - 15 minutes' easy walking, unless you have small people with you who enjoy picking up every last twig, pebble and nut! The river changes from a stream flowing amidst rocks, first to a series of stony flats with cracks that the water swirls through and then it suddenly widens and cascades over the broad band of rock into a large pool below - Old Meggison Falls. The fall is quite high, about 12-14 feet, best viewed after a downpour when it is a huge sheet of frothing white. On drier days, the darker rocks over which it tumbles lend it a beautiful broodiness.
- Take some time to enjoy the spot: the steps down are private, but there is a muddy alternative if you want to risk it! Once down, a deep plunge pool, good enough for a paddle or wade in the rusty or 'chalybeate' waters. The view is mesmerisingly beautiful, especially once the forest canopy of summer has begun to let light flood back into the valley. A good camera and owner will reap rich rewards. It's also the obvious place for a tranquil picnic while kids and canines do what they do best.
- Heading home, you have 2 choices: the intrepid, and those not afraid to call it a day and retrace their steps, might like to wander deeper into the woods and follow the track up to the right. You'll need to watch you don't miss the turn, about 600 yards along, lest you end up at the dead end as the land to the west and south is private. As the track then climbs steeply up north, you can either swing further round to the east on the wider route (A) or else take the obvious short cut path up to join the large east-west forest track (B). In either, case, you'll turn left when you meet it. The alternative is to retrace your steps from the waterfall and back to the road. Once you're back on tarmac, either head back to Kildale Station or, if you're walking back to Ayton, turn left and up the steep road until the first corner. Here. as the road heads right, you turn left along a substantial forest road which has recently been re-ballasted and improved. Following this for nearly a mile, you'll eventually emerge from the forest at precisely where route (A) joined this track.
- From the edge of the plantation, the fields fall away to your left and a bracken clad moor rises steeply up on your right. This is Easby Moor, and, as you walk along its edge on a relatively level, contour-hugging path, you'll spot lots of routes bashed through the bracken towards Captain Cook's monument. Of course, you might want to head up to the top and then down to Gribdale Gate, but the easiest way home is to follow the footpath, straight and gradually downwards until you emerge at the top of the cart-track down to Fletcher's Farm. Turn left for the farm, its cafe and Little Ayton; keep straight on for Dykes Lane crossroads and Station Road, turning left back down to the village.
- From Great Ayton to Ayton Station, then Kildale Station to Great Ayton, via the falls and taking the simple retraced route back to the road is about 5.3 miles (c.2.5 hours of walking).
- From The same route (Great Ayton to the Station, then Kildale Station to Great Ayton), via the falls and then continuing through the woods is a little under 4.5 miles (c.2 hours of walking).
- From Kildale Station to the falls and back is a mere 1.75 miles (45 minutes walking).
Article written by David Fox. Photograph copyright of Lizzi Fox.