What is the magic of the steam train? I’m not sure, but if North York Moors Railway knew the answer, they’d bottle it. Noisy, smelly, sooty – not the adjectives you’d normally associate with a top class tourist attraction, but on a sunny spring morning in Grosmont, the air positively thrums with excitement. Celebrating 60 years this year, the North York Moors Railway is an unqualified success story.
I was enjoying the best of all possible worlds because I was riding the train from Grosmont to Goathland, and walking back, with my Nordic walking friends. Arriving on the platform around 11am, there was an air of serenity and calm. The view along the platform spoke of all the delights of England’s green and pleasant land. Unhurriedly purchasing a ticket, I gazed around. The pretty blue benches were inviting, but I knew that if I sat down I could be tempted to lose the remainder of the day.
Delicious coffee smells filled the air, and a couple of my ever hungry walking pals wolfed down bacon and sausage sarnies. A tempting array of scones and cakes sat on the counter of the café.
One minute the platform was empty, the next there was a bustle of people and cameras everywhere. “It’s coming!” Sure enough, a loud toot and a hiss heralded the arrival of “The Green Knight”, majestically rolling towards the platform. The cream and maroon carriages gleamed. Hastily snapping away, along with everybody else who wanted to capture a piece of the moment, I scrambled on board just in time. “Tickets please”, that familiar cry, then we were enveloped in ink blackness as we chugged into the tunnel. Jokes about “Murder on the Orient Express” were bandied around, till we emerged unscathed into the sunlight.
I felt unbelievably lucky to be witnessing this idyllic scenery on such a beautiful day. All too soon it was time to alight at Goathland, carriage doors slamming and the guard scurrying about. Reluctantly I left the gentle monster and was herded up and counted by our walk leader.
Another treat was in store. With a fair level of fitness between us, it had been decided that we would walk to Mallyan Spout, and then join the popular Rail Trail along the River Esk. Goathland is “Heartbeat” territory, the scene of a popular TV series, and as such always busy. Many people simply ride the train and stroll around the village. There are just enough public houses, shops and cafes to cater for everyone, and the village green is pure England. Not for us the tempting benches. I doubt if we’d have found a space anyway.
Always when you’re out walking, you know that if at first you’re heading downwards, there will be a price to pay. There are many steps down to Mallyan Spout, and the scramble across the rocks to a viewing point can be challenging, but the amount of rain in recent times had guaranteed that the waterfall would be at its best. So it proved. Satisfied with our efforts so far, we stopped by the river for our picnic, and to exchange tips with passersby.
Time to move on at a leisurely pace, because, of course, the climb was coming. Several of the walkers are in their seventies but they’re a lively and determined bunch, and we had soon earned our reward of a level track to pursue our way back to Grosmont. The Rail Trail is easy walking and can be accomplished by most people. I love to follow a river, and the occasional glimpse and sound of a passing steam train has necks craning to see. The grass verges were laced with tiny blue forget-me-nots and great swathes of wild garlic swamped the senses.
Before long we were looking down on Grosmont, and the trail ended by the Old School House, now an attractive restaurant. A cool drink had certainly been earned and it was lovely to slip the boots off and while away an hour. The gates of the level crossing heralded the comings and goings of the steam giants, but when we returned to the platform en route for the car park and home, all was again peaceful and quiet. Just time for a quick peak in the “ladies room”.
Numerous days out can be spent on and around the North York Moors Railway. At this time of year, it’s just coming into it’s own. For timetable and details of events, see www.nymr.co.uk