Celebrating 50 years of the Cleveland Way
PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 January 2019
Get your hiking boots on and celebrate the Cleveland Way's special milestone
Salisbury Cathedral might be high on the must-see list for Russian ‘tourists’ now, but back in 1971 Soviet intelligence officer Oleg Lyalin was more interested in the winding paths of the Cleveland Way.
He wasn’t a particularly keen rambler but he was very enthusiastic about Hayburn Wyke, a stretch of the 109-mile coastal walking trail between Scarborough and Whitby.
The picturesque, secluded little cove is the perfect lunchtime stop-off but Oleg was not there to enjoy the views while tucking into his fish paste sarnies and tartan flask of tea. This Soviet scamp was comprehensively mapping the site for Department V, a section of KGB foreign intelligence specialising in sabotage and covert attacks, as a possible air and sea infiltration point.
His Cold War ramblings came to light when he decided he’d quite like to stay in the UK – he had presumably discovered the joys of eating chips with a wooden fork and paddling in the balmy waves of the North Sea – and handed himself in to MI5 via his local police station.
As a fan of the Cleveland Way, albeit a rather unusual, some might say nefarious one, Oleg is not alone. Since it was launched in May 1969, the National Trail has attracted thousands of visitors from around the world every year (it’s particularly popular with Dutch and German hikers).
It is one of a linked series of 15 long distance walks in England and Wales covering about 2,500 miles and is set to be a key stretch of the England Coast Path, a 2,795-mile route due for completion in 2020.
But this year is all about celebrating the trail’s 50th anniversary with walking festivals, fun runs, fundraising and art.
‘When the trail first opened it was mainly popular with hikers,’ said Cleveland Way National Trails officer Malcolm Hodgson. ‘Not, however, runners, families and artists are just as likely to enjoy sections of the route as well as those with particular interests, such as bird watching of fossil hunting.
‘It’s also the sheer diversity of the landscape and terrain that makes the Cleveland Way so special. It has everything, whether you’re after a quiet sandy cove, beautiful heather moorland or dramatic scenery like Sutton Bank’s escarpment from which author and vet James Herriot declared the view to be “the finest in England”.’
Landscape artist Debbie Loane, from Easingwold in North Yorkshire, has been getting to know this view and many others along the Cleveland Way’s 109-mile horseshoe-shaped route as part of her role as artist in residence for the 50th anniversary.
Her impressions of the trail, which runs across the North York Moors National Park from Helmsley to Filey Brigg via Osmotherley, Saltburn, Whitby and Scarborough, will be on show as part of a major exhibition entitled 109 Miles from May 11th to June 9th at the Inspired by… gallery at Danby.
She has spent a great deal of time studying six distinct stretches of the route, chosen specifically to reflect the diverse landscape, including the tree-lined walk above Rievaulx Abbey, the sweeping escarpment of Sutton Bank, the clifftops at Skinningrove and Boulby and the townscape of Scarborough.
Debbie’s Cleveland Way collection follows in the (hiking boot-shod) footsteps of her 2016 commission to retrace the ramblings of JMW Turner across Yorkshire for an exhibition at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes to mark his bicentenary.
For more details about the Cleveland Way and the UK’s other long distance walks, visit nationaltrail.co.uk
Cleveland Way milestones
The founding of the Youth Hostels Association in 1930 prompted Middlesbrough Rambling Club to start promoting long-distance walks along the coast and cliffs.
Alec Falconer, a founder member of Middlesbrough Rambling Club, was instrumental in the development of the Cleveland Way, which took around 16 years to plan out. Sadly, he died in 1968, a year before it opened. He is suitably remembered, however, with a memorial toposcope on Cringle Moor at Falconer’s seat.
The trail was launched from Helmsley YHA, with a ceremony at Helmsley Castle, on May 24th 1969 as the second of the county’s long distance paths (now known as National Trails)
A root and branch path restoration programme took place on the Cleveland Hills
The Cleveland Way launched the first series of geocaching days with the National Trust in 2010, encouraging youngster and their families to enjoy the delights of the coastal trail.
In 2015, it became the first National Trail to have an official beer, Striding the Riding from Helmsley Brewery.
Full Google Streetview coverage of the entire Cleveland Way route was revealed online for the first time on Boxing Day 2016.
In June 2017, the Cleveland Way Adoption Scheme was launched, offering people the chance to ‘own’ a stretch of the trail as a way of boosting maintenance coffers.
Artist in residence Debbie Loane was appointed in 2018 in preparation for a year of 50th anniversary celebrations in 2019.