An indisposed George Wilkinson sends his navigator on to follow his chosen route at Helmsley.

HELMSLEY is charming in the winter. On a cold and frosty morning, sweet and aromatic cafés were doubtless warm. But my navigator did not cosy down.

She quickly availed herself of a portable tasty treat or two, and then strode out like a shopper, not down the seductive alleys, but out of town and up the Cleveland Way.

For a mile or so the way was unusually quiet, bar "sporting gunfire", and "all a bit icy" with a drop into Black Howl Wood. Then, be conditions clement, there's her recommended sandwich stop. It's the site of the abandoned medieval monastic grange village of Griff.

Glass was made here, the sheep remain. Now the field site is open access and shows land shapes and the views are fine.

A couple of dozen goldfinches flew above a hedge and so did a great tit. The permissive paths were good except for a “bit of horse use on one”. She walked over a nameless patch of upper farmland and it was ‘glorious walking’ on a sunny winter’s day.

For a field or two the path parallels the road to Stokesley, this was quiet, all being in Helmsley.

Then a thin steep road took her down into Rievaulx where it was still and chilly. And perhaps because of this, it seems that my navigator, after a cursory glance at the great gaunt ruins of the abbey, dived into the English Heritage café.

Here she lingered over tomato and red pepper soup with granary bread that, though nice, at £4.80 did encourage her to think it was for a good cause. The manager asked if she was on an expedition. She was impressed with the English Heritage boot brush and scraper.

Rievaulx was busy with walkers, the River Rye was “quite high and grubby” and my navigator took the “long walk back” on the Cleveland Way, that is all of two and a half miles, over-fed and too warm. Along this route are the rock faces of old abandoned quarries and these drip all year with hearts-tongue ferns.

This walk is the all year free variant. You can pay, be it the season, to walk the terraces at Rievaulx, and you can explore the abbey; until recently there was an ace option through Duncombe Park.

Helmsley was excited with chatter, the lovely marketplace square was solid with expensive motor cars, heavy with parcels. She caught the town in an urgent hour, before the shift to night time glow and country sparkle.


When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.

1. From car park entrance, track (fingerpost Cleveland Way, Rievaulx 2½ miles), 200 yards, straight on uphill at bend (waymarked post), gate/fieldgate into field (waymark), track, gate/fieldgate.

2. Gate (fingerpost), left to surfaced and fenced path, 150 yards, right by edge of wood (fingerpost).

3. Path enters wood and immediately turns right downhill (waymark), steps downhill to valley bottom, bridge, steps uphill, gap (waymark), path by wood edge.

4. Right to track on valley edge at view bench and stay on main track as it bends right and pass house to your left. Fieldgate (white arrow) into field, 200 yards, left across grass 25 yards (white arrow), gate and right on field-edge track.

5. Gate on right (white arrow) into open access field. Explore this field, or turn right by field edge. Gate/fieldgate (white arrow) in corner to track, fieldgate. Left at farm (waymark), gate/fieldgate.

6. Cross road, gate/fieldgate (waymark), grass field-edge track, left at corner by wood.

7. Leave field and cross grass and left to road downhill (sign Rievaulx). When Terrace is open, option to walk along drive and take steep path downhill on right through woods. Road through Rievaulx and pass abbey. Left at T-junction by bridge (signed Helmsley 3).

8. Just before bend uphill, path on right-hand side of road (fingerpost Cleveland Way), uphill, track (fingerpost Helmsley 2 miles) on right through wood. Pass house on left and at direction number 4, cross track and retrace outward route.

Fact file

Distance: Six miles.

General Location: North York Moors.

Start: Helmsley.

Right of way: Public paths and permissive access.

Dogs: Legal.

Date walked: December 2012.

Road route: Various.

Car parking: Long stay car park or roadside in Helmsley.

Lavatories: At long stay car park and in centre of Helmsley and at Rievaulx Abbey.

Refreshments: Many and varied.

Tourist & public transport information: Helmsley TIC 01439 770173.

Map: Drawn from OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors western.

Terrain: Valley and above.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.