GEORGE WILKINSON goes to extremes to a part of the North York Moors National Park with the highest status and the lowest profile

Bransdale is the most extreme of the valleys of the North York Moors National Park, with the highest status and the lowest official profile. An alphabet of acronyms defines this land, the S often means special. There is only the little church for the rare or accidental tourist, no ice cream, no beer and no loo.

I walked along a quiet valley lane, took a thin path up to the moors and then settled down for the day.

A track, the old Thurkilsti, stretched to the horizon.

The heather flowers were in tight bud, countless spots of white, but dull on a bright day. Some grouse shuffled, otherwise nothing much moved, except the weather that was lively with the chance of a summer storm.

The track took a twist and turn and then two dips across the twin heads of Bransdale, each with their stream.

And here I stopped in the lee of the Badger Stone, and rested at a rock on which was chiselled ‘P. Collier 1969’ and underneath ‘Esq’.

William Atkins imagines in The Moor that the guns, the grouse shooters, hereabouts might feel themselves at one of the ‘world centres’; for more of this, for holiday reading, mix Atkins’ book with George Monbiot’s Feral.

The sky clamped down hot and hazy over Rudland Rigg. The Cammon Stone marks the prehistory of the track, the ‘Kirby Rode’ stone the medieval, and the trashed steel highway sign the modern.

A black pick-up trundled along the miles of the rigg. The sun set to a narrow band of industrial yellow that backlit the Three Howes tumulus. Then I turned down.

In the valley, a smallish tractor manoeuvred small bales in a small National Trust field. And at the Trust’s Bransdale Mill women had lit a barbecue for RefugeeYouth and then a minibus arrived from Gateshead.



When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed. (wm=waymark, fp=fingerpost).

1. From ‘Yorks North Riding’ road junction sign in Cockayne, Helmsley road (signed), straight on up at junction (Helmsley 9), 20 yards, cattlegrid, gate across road, ignore track on right, 200 yards.

2. Path on right (fp public bridleway and ‘Access Land’), up and to right of small shale gully then path in bracken then ‘heather’, to right of a ‘sunken path’ then left of it. Ignore a left at cairn.

3. Right to good track at Stump Cross, 100 yds, right fork to quite straight track for nearly a mile. Ignore track on left to quarry, track turns right then left then, after a straight, right and descends, pass Badger Stone on right.

4. Concrete ford, straight on at five-way tracks junction, down to ford then up.

5. Gate and right to Rudland Rigg track (SSSI board etc.), ten yards, over bridge and stay on track for nearly three miles, ignoring three tracks on right. Pass old stone waymark on left (‘Kirby Rode’), ignore waymarked ‘path’ on right, 150 yards.

6. Right at four-way tracks junction (downed highway sign opposite and other traffic signs), 500 yards, ignore track on left (bridleway sign), downhill, three gates.

7. Right to road, 50 yards, stile on left (fp), across field to wallstile (wm), downhill across field to left of two gates (wm), hedge to right, gate on right (wm), keep 20 yards from wall on left, gate (wm), steps, right at fingerpost, above mill, concrete track, track. Left to road and back to start.


Fact file

Distance: Ten miles.

Car parking: Roadside near Cockayne.

Right of way: Public paths and Open Access.

Date walked: July 2014.

Tourist information: Pickering TIC 01751 473791.

Refreshments: Helmsley or Kirkbymoorside.

Map: OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors western.

Terrain: Moor.

Difficulty: Good high tracks.

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