Thursday 22nd August 2002
Weather: Mainly cloudy but pleasant
Today's Walk: Chequers - Black Hambleton - Thorodale - Dale Head
( 11½ miles - Moderate )
Today's walk begins
at Chequers Farm (Grid Ref. 476 971), a mile east of Osmotherley,
once an ancient drovers inn
until it lost its 300-year licence in 1945 - it is now a working farm, but provides tea room refreshments.
'Chequers' was derived from the chequers which were issued to
drovers to be exchanged
for refreshment at the inn after their arduous trek over Black Hambleton moors.
The Flintoff family
kept the inn for over 100 years and tradition has it that the
turf fire within
had never been extinguished for over 150 years.
The original inn
sign is now enclosed in a glass case on the front wall but can be
in its original place on the old photograph above - on it is the following cryptic message:
BE NOT IN HASTE
STEP IN AND TASTE
Tomorrow never comes; it is always 'today'. One old rustic
decided to indulge himself in a goodly fill of liquor,
and stayed the whole day and night in the hope of being served. Much to his disappointment and surprise,
the next morning brought the 'free ale of tomorrow' no closer to his parched lips and thirsty throat.
('The Walker's Guide to the Cleveland Hills' - Tom Scott Burns)
From Chequers walk
south along the narrow roadside for a few yards before crossing
the road to a good track
- follow the track to the gate above and continue south-west and downhill to Oak Dale.
Join the Cleveland Way trail by turning left at a stone house near the bottom of the dale at Grid Ref. 469 963.
Follow the pleasant track south-east soon reaching the edge of a picturesque reservoir - continue straight on...
...then cross a
stile and climb gently up a path above Jenny Brewster's Spring
before turning near the top to admire the view back down to pretty Oak Dale.
The path reaches a junction of tracks opposite a large car parking area at Grid Ref. 479 959.
Turn right and
follow the sign above pointing towards the hulk of Black
- you are now joining the ancient drovers road.
The track becomes
fairly rough and stony as it ascends between the western slopes
of Black Hambledon
and the large forest down to the right (left on the photograph looking back) on Nether Silton Moor.
Just past a large
stone cairn the track begins to level out and continues on,
running almost parallel with an excellent example of a drystone wall to the right.
At this time of
year the views east are of a mass of purple heather on Arden
Great Moor and to the west,
as from the gate above, there are spectacular views across Kepwick Moor and the Vale of Mowbray.
Here's the view
looking back north along the drovers road towards Black Hambleton
and Arden Great Moor
- in my opinion this is some of the finest walking terrain on the whole of the North York Moors - I love it up here!
At Grid Ref. 491 919, almost opposite the gate above, turn left along a grassy track (above right looking back).
Where you leave the
drovers road look for evidence of the ruins of Limekiln House,
once an isolated inn like Chequers
- sadly, there's very little to see of it nowadays, just a few rough stones and raised mounds.
"Luke Kendall -
whose family had the last licence there in 1891 - related to
James Herriot (real name Alf Wright)
how the drovers would drink well into the early hours of the morning, and on one particular night, having been
tired out by the continuous attention of the hardy drovers, Luke deposited two large buckets of ale from the cellars
on the floor, and announced that he was off to bed and that they could help themselves!"
('The Walker's Guide to the Hambleton Hills' - Tom Scott Burns)
The path leads us through a gate and onto a narrow moorland track through heather and bracken with a wall to the right...
...before reaching a 'surprise view' at the head of one of the North York Moor's hidden gems - beautiful Thorodale.
A steep path (today through tall bracken) leads down to the valley bottom where it can become a bit boggy.
The path gets drier
and better as you follow it beside the narrow, trickling beck -
down here, all is peace and beauty
and there's no better place to sit than beside the stream and enjoy your packed lunch.
Continue along the path, then up a wider track to the left of the forest...
...before entering the woods at the gate (above left) at Grid Ref. 503 916.
the woods for about a mile keeping to the main track which can
become wet and boggy in places
until you cross a couple of more open spaces before reaching the gate (above right) at Grid Ref. 519 908.
Go through the gate
and follow a couple of field paths to Mount Pleasant Farm (Grid
Ref. 526 911)
with good views ahead towards Hawnby Hill.
Follow a track to the left of the farm and gently uphill...
...soon arriving at the ruins of Harker Gates, which was obviously once a delightful stone cottage.
It doesn't appear to be long abandoned, and I often wonder how people can leave a place...
...with superb views like this across lovely Ryedale to Hawby Hill and Easterside Hill beyond
Continue on north
along the good forest track going straight on at the first
junction until bearing right
at Grid Ref. 525 922 downhill along a rougher, more overgrown track to reach a stile.
Cross the stile and
go straight down a steep field aiming for the farm on the
opposite side of the valley
- cross a small footbridge over the young River Rye and climb steeply up the grassy bank on the other side
to the farm buildings of Brewster Hill at Grid Ref. 525 924.
Continue on just to
the left of the buildings and downhill to a gate into Green's
Wood - follow the path
through the woods and over a small beck. On emerging at the other end of the wood follow field paths
in a northerly direction keeping the stone walls to your left...
...eventually reaching this old ruined stone barn - Cow Wath.
From Cow Wath bear
slightly right and downhill until a decent path can be seen going
left along the valley side,
following the line of a drystone wall on its left and parallel with the beck down in the valley bottom to the right.
About half a mile further on from Cow Wath are more ruins - those of Far House.
Continue on past
Far House following a series of field paths running more or less
with the valley bottom until reaching Lower Locker Farm at Grid Ref. 509 940...
...from where there's a wonderful view back south-west across Ryedale.
From Lower Locker
Farm climb over a couple of ladder stiles and go out onto the
- the path becomes poor so aim down to the right through the heather until a much better track is reached.
Follow this path which leads across the heather-clad slopes of Locker Low Moor, then cross a small stream...
...before arriving at yet another ruined and recently abandoned farm - that of Dale Head (Grid Ref. 496 948)
It must have broken someone's heart to leave such a picturesque place like this behind - it would have mine!
A good track leaves
Dale Head in a north-westerly direction with Black Hambleton high
above to the left
- about half a mile later the track emerges onto the Osmotherley to Hawnby road at Grid Ref. 488 955.
Turn left and join
the quiet, narrow road and follow it straight ahead and then
round a sharp right-hand bend
- continue for about another ¾ of a mile back to the starting point at Chequers.
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