50 years of the Cleveland Way

12 February 2019

Malcolm Hodgson, National Trails Officer at the North York Moors National Park Authority invites us to celebrate 50 years of the famous Cleveland Way.

On 24 May, the Cleveland Way National Trail in the North York Moors National Park will celebrate its half-centenary and it’s worth reflecting just how much pleasure the 109-mile route has provided people over the years.

From those early days back in 1930 when the Middlesbrough Rambling Club and the York, Scarborough and Hull regional group of the YHA first began mooting the idea of a long distance route across the National Park, the Cleveland Way now has a legion of fans from all walks of life.

Cleveland Way from Sutton Bank

The beautiful Cleveland Way from Sutton Bank. Photo credit: Chris J Parker. 

When it first opened in 1969, the trail was mainly popular with hikers as they strode out along stretches between the starting point in Helmsley and the finish at Filey.  

Today hikers are still as prevalent but they are now joined by trail runners, painters, Nordic walkers, yoga practitioners, wildlife enthusiasts and stargazers, to name just a few.

All are attracted to the sheer diversity of the landscape and terrain that makes the Cleveland Way special – whether they’re after a quiet sandy cove, beautiful moorland or dramatic scenery such as Sutton Bank’s escarpment from which author and vet James Herriot declared the view to be the ‘finest in England’.

Irrespective of whether visitors use small stretches of the trail as part of a day out or undertake one of those life-affirming challenges by completing the whole route, there is no doubting the value of the Cleveland Way in helping improve people’s health and wellbeing and reconnecting them with nature.   

Since the trail opened, numerous businesses have also reaped the benefit – from pubs running special walk-inn packages through to cafes and tearooms who provide an essential element in the enjoyment factor.

Runswick Bay by Tony Bartholomew

Runswick Bay on the Cleveland Way. Photo credit: Tony Bartholomew.

To mark the 50th anniversary and celebrate the popularity of the route there’s a bumper programme of events lined up for the year ahead.

Debbie Loane has been appointed as the Cleveland Way’s artist in residence and is painting a body of work based on seven stretches along the route for the 109 Miles exhibition that will be staged at the National Park’s Inspired by… gallery in Danby in May and June.

The two annual walking festivals, the National Park’s WalkFest 2019 (24-27 May) and the Redcar & Cleveland Walking Festival (15-23 June), will both be dedicated to routes along the trail.

A booklet has been published listing the general public’s suggestions for the 50 best things to do on the Cleveland Way; the production of a new film is underway; and a special 50-mile ultramarathon trail running event will be held on 16 March organised by the Hardmoors Ultra Series. 

On 24 May a number of walkers will don 1960s hiking gear as they stride out from Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey for a commemorative event, which will no doubt see guests raise a glass of the Cleveland Way’s own specially-brewed beer Striding the Riding in honour of the trail.

Throughout the celebrations we’ll also be thanking the army of volunteers right along the Cleveland Way who are instrumental in helping us maintain it for the enjoyment of others.

By Malcolm Hodgson, 

National Trails Officer at the North York Moors National Park Authority