Let's Walk the North York Moors – Southern Area
The North York Moors
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The southern area of the National Park consists of a line of parallel but quite individual valleys, penetrating deep into the moorland watershed. These pastoral, steep-sided dales are well-settled and remarkably beautiful, contrasting vividly with the extensive swathes of heather-clad moorland surrounding them.
Starting with Bransdale, these picturesque valleys extend eastwards along the perimeter of the National Park, overlooking the Vale of Pickering. Each dale has a unique individuality and remains relatively unchanged by modern-day influences. Although the area has large-scale forestry plantations at Broxa, Cropton and Dalby, boundless expanses of heather moorland dominate elsewhere.
Bransdale, also known as the ‘lost dale’, is one of the most isolated valleys in the North York Moors, only accessible via a single road that loops around the dale head. The dale’s only sizeable settlement is Cockayne, whose name brings to mind a medieval legend of an imaginary land of luxury and pleasure. However, the hamlet most likely gained its name from its church or conceivably from the Cockam (or Cockan) Cross on Rudland Rigg. While it has seen the mining of ironstone, jet, coal and limestone quarrying in the past, nowadays Bransdale is mainly agricultural, with most of the land now owned by the National Trust.
To the east, just across Rudland Rigg, lies Farndale, a long, remote valley probably the best known of the dales, which owes its fame to the multitude of wild daffodils which bloom in springtime. However, when you visit this valley, take care not to anger the guardian spirits, such as the Farndale Hob, and beware of Sarkless Kitty.
Across the treeless moorland plateau of Blakey Ridge lies Rosedale, now a peaceful, rural dale containing some of the best upland hay meadows in the North York Moors, a legacy of traditional farming methods. It’s hard to imagine this picturesque valley once had a bustling mining industry. Nevertheless, it did; between the 1850s and 1920s Rosedale was a hive of industrial activity with ironstone mines, kilns and nearly five thousand miners; it also had a moorland railway.
Further east lies Newton Dale, a spectacular gorge gouged out by glacial meltwater at the end of the last Ice Age. No roads pass through the valley, but one of England’s most scenic railway routes runs through the gorge. When the infamous Dr Beeching closed the line in 1965, a group of enthusiasts came together to prevent its destruction. They reopened the line between Grosmont and Pickering in 1972, which now operates as the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, one of the UK’s most popular heritage railway lines.
As the rivers and becks drain south into the Vale of Pickering, they encounter another of the area’s dominant features – the Tabular Hills, which extend from Helmsley to Oliver’s Mount at Scarborough. The Tabular Hills mark the southern boundary of the National Park, impressing their unique qualities on the landscape. The hills derive their name from their distinctive table-top shape; they rise gently from the south and end abruptly in a series of steep, north-facing headlands known as ‘nabs’.
The Vale of Pickering is a fertile plain of agricultural farmland, with its attractive towns and principal villages arranged around the edge of the vale. A reminder that this area was once marshland, a legacy of the last Ice Age when an enormous meltwater lake formed and the whole of the Vale of Pickering was underwater. The lake was around 32 miles (51.5km) long and 8 miles (13km) wide at its broadest point, much larger than any lake now found in England – almost three times larger than Windermere.
This personal guide incorporates:
Full-colour maps with numbered arrow pointers for each of the walks.
Route directions with grid references beside each map to aid navigation.
Background information for each walk.
Illustrated with 33 colour photographs of prominent features seen during the walks.
Walks in the North York Moors
|Rudland Rigg and the Ingleby Incline
|The Rosedale Ironstone Railway
|Rosedale Abbey and Sheriff's Pit
|Hutton Ridge and Spaunton Moor
|Gillamoor and Douthwaite Dale
|Appleton-le-Moors and the Seven
|The Hole of Horcum
|The Bridestones and Stain Dale
|Ellerburn and Howl Dale
|Broxa Forest and Whisper Dales
|The distances are in miles
Sample pages of walks featured in the books can be viewed and printed out from The Walks page.