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Country walk at Westerdale Moor
GEORGE WILKINSON takes his walking boots to Westerdale Moor.
Ralph’s Cross is the emblem of the North York Moors National Park. It stands proud, high in the centre of the moors. A stone’s throw away is the little car park.
My navigator looked down the lovely valley of Rosedale, there being miles to see of it before you’ve pulled on your boots. I gazed at the Lion Inn at Blakey, a long mile down the ridge road. Hereabouts you might meet Lyke Wake walkers.
Soon, only a little way towards the Lion, we turned from the pub, for the moor where we met Margery Bradley. She is a large, ancient, and rather flat boundary stone and she was our first guide to Westerdale Moor.
There are other boundary stones, not so old, and some are down and broken.
The moor was sombre; the winter norm, the path was thin, the day was clear and so the views opened. We joined the track bed of the railway that once serviced the Rosedale ironstone mines, and also leads to the Lion Inn.
The line feels like the great divide, with Farndale starting to the south and Westerdale starting to the north.
And Westerdale it was, without ado, and steep down a track to a little pattern of old fields. But this is mainly a shooting valley.
There is charm and promise, for here the River Esk begins its flow to Whitby and feeder streams that tinkle down are named the Esklets, though two ran ironstone red.
And actually we were on the Esk Valley Walk for a while but left it for a green lane track out of the valley up to Esklets Crag which is an impressive half mile curve of good rock that carries 24 named rock climbs including Esklets Eliminate and Holly Tree Wall.
But it wasn’t the day for birds and it snowed, but not much and only for half an hour or so as we did a steepish climb of seven contours, by grouse butts numbered one to nine and then the same again. The butts are being renovated with dressed sandstone. Nearby, near the middle of Westerdale Moor, is a car park for shooters that is bigger than ours.
The moor is freshly slashed with drainage ditches. Nearby there are the most sumptuous and moist pillows of club moss. The last leg of this walk is the quiet open road that comes up from the 25 houses of Westerdale village and in the end you pass under Ralph’s Cross, or you might end up in the Lion.
When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.
1. From parking area, left to road, 25 yards, left to main road (verge). 2. At big stone and barrier, track on right (access land sign), 25 yards, fork left to track. Pass boundary stone, track becomes path, boundary stone, cairn by broken boundary stone, cairns as path descends.
3. Step-ditch and right to disused railway line.
4. At junction, track on right (three-way fingerpost, the fourth way, our way, missing from its socket in post), downhill.
5. Fieldgate to track into field (Esk Valley Walk waymark), 200 yards, fork right at ‘Y’ junction, track bridges stream, fieldgate (yellow dot), ignore grassy track on right, uphill, track swings left and levels to follow valley side and bridges side-stream, fieldgate, fieldgate.
6. Gateway by trees between fence and wall and track ends, two o’clock uphill across grass to fieldgate and track, gateway, 25 yards, fieldgate in wall.
7. Fieldgate in wire fence to moor. Pass crags.
8. On sharp left-hand bend, take dirt/peat/grass track on right, 100 yards, track swings left uphill, pass sunken grouse butts double numbered one to nine from each end.
9. From last butt numbered both 9/1, angle one o’clock 25 yards, turf crossing of ditch, five yards, right, 20 yards, left and ditch crossing and uphill, 50 yards, right, 300 yards to old stone grouse butt No.1. Turn left to butt number 2, wooden lined. Uphill by these single numbered butts.
10. After butt No.7, right fork to take less steep route into small valley head, pass butts 8, 9, and unnumbered, footbridge, 100 yards uphill, left to stone track.
11. Right to road, right to main road and return to parking area.
Distance: Five miles.
General location: North York Moors.
Start: Ralph’s Cross NZ677019.
Right of way: Public and Open Access.
Date walked: January 2012.
Road route: From York via Hutton-le-Hole.
Car parking: Small car park.
Refreshments: Lion Inn at Blakey.
Tourist and public transport information: Danby Moors Centre 01439 772737.
Map: Drawn from OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors western.
Terrain: Moor and valley.
Difficulty: Moderate if fine.
Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.