On the left the weather when I prepared the walk, on the right as it was on the day. On the plus side at least the parking was easier, bearing in mind it was a bank holiday weekend in a busy seaside tourist town.
We started by the water treatment plant huddled around my waterproof clipboard looking on the map at where there was a water mill in 1850 which milled grain for the Loftus parish. The map showed a mill race of which we could see no sign so perhaps it was wooden and has since rotted or been washed away.
We crossed Millholme Beck over the new footbridge, the previous one having been washed away during a flash flood in 2013 and then the path was lined by mature blackthorn and hawthorn and I pointed out woodland plants (dog’s-mercury) growing at their base and later a rather striking and tall plant of Hairy Brome.
Off along the path we headed deeper and deeper in to the wood with the trees getting taller and more and more ferns appearing in the moist atmosphere. Also of note were huge thick stemmed ivy trunks twining up some of the trees giving the whole area something of the look of a rainforest. The bright red berries of cuckoo pint were particularly noted by the path.
Then, having checked that no one was allergic to wasp stings we then went off the main path slightly to look at two wasp nests in the mud bank that had been dug out by badgers searching for grubs (some speculation over whether nest made in old vole/mouse hole or rotting tree stump). Having looked, one of the group was stung on the bum but said he was fine after a bit of frantic running around and so we carried on up the steps to look at a large oak tree. Whilst I was gesticulating about the age of the tree I too felt a wasp sting me, on the side of my chest, closely followed by the sensation of something crawling around under my shirt. As you can I imagine I proceeded, at speed, to divest myself of various layers of clothes to allow the wasp to leave. Anyway, it turns out we now know who in the group reacts badly to wasp stings. To be fair to the wasps they were probably a bit sensitive to visitors bearing in mind the previous badgers, but it was absolutely fascinating sight to see and worth the pain.
Down the other side of the steps to remark how similar the shale cliffs seemed to the adjacent Saltburn Valley Gardens and to note where the path must have been in 1850 but now washed away.
Further upstream we were halted by a recent landslip that had washed the path away but we stood and looked over at the other side of the beck where a small field was marked on the 1850 map but was now woodland much the same as the rest of the valley. Much discussion of coppicing, wood production and lower canopy levels followed.
On the way back a chocolate stop before the steps and then off back down the gill out of our rainforest cocoon and into the much cooler windier open air, where the rest of the world once more claimed our attention.