GEORGE WILKINSON heads for the hills as he enjoys a grand winter walk at Moor Gate, near Hawnby.

Moor Gate near Hawnby is indeed a gate to the moors. A hundred thrushes flew over the parking area; a few paused at a solitary ash tree but most, probably a mixture of fieldfares and redwings, battled on into the headwind, flapping over the heather towards Osmotherley, to eat the berries.

That was it for mid- winter afternoon wildlife on the moors.

We cut across nearby Ladhill Gill, a small and wooded valley, and bridged Ladhill Beck using a timber and steel lattice footbridge, a design characteristic hereabouts since the flash floods ten years ago.

Thereafter, we took the fastest tracks, some very old ones. The sky was mostly blue, the wind was strong and cold, so we kept going, kept warm, moaned about a chilling passing cloud and didn’t much enjoy a sandwich stop in the mean shelter of a grouse butt; but it was a grand walk, with views on the move.

Off to the west there’s a ripple of headlands, I think the furthest is Black Hambleton. To the east is the deep valley of Bilsdale. To the south are the Hawnby Hills.

North, up ahead, the heather is laid quite flat for miles and the mast of the Bilsdale Transmitting Station pierces the sky; it transmits to York, Teesside, Harrogate and Barnard Castle, it transmits the Archers.

‘Everyday stories of country folk’ are here mostly old. Sour Milk Hills is an old name and here there are round barrow burial mounds.

Most farms are sandstone ruins, even Bumper Castle. A field at Wethercote Farm bulges with bell pits dug for coal, Low Thwaites seems renovated as a shooting house, a quarry is now a pond and the highest pastures of Ladhill Gill are remarkably preserved, exactly as on the OS map of 1893.

Our turnaround was at 1200 feet, so we had climbed 500, but very gradually and we had not noticed with the wind. Now we drifted down for miles into the blinding low sun. My navigator said ‘the sky has turned red’, but not with my shades, the smooth rounded Hawnby Hills were silhouetted, quite black.


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 parking area by cattle grid (info board), track downhill (fp). At farm, left at fieldgate to small footbridge (wm/fp), by wall for 100 yards. To cross valley, gate on right (wm), cross field, gate (wm), 10 o'clock via wm post and into small field, left by old boundary and at gateway right downhill by wall to your left (wm), fieldgate, down through wood.

2. Footbridge and right (wm), 100 yards, path curls up to gate (wm), path via rock, 150 yards, left to track, 200 yards.

3. Right fork uphill at 'Y' junction on track, 150 yards, wall to right, track leaves wall then picks up another.

4. Stay on main track as it curves left away from wall. Sometimes fields to your left.

5. Left to track by wall at triangular junction.

6. From wall corner, 50 yards, right fork to lesser track back to parking area.

Fact File

Distance: Six miles.

Car Parking: Free parking area.

Right of Way: Public and Open Access.

Date walked: January 2015.

Tourist information: Pickering TIC 01751 473791.

Refreshments: Hawnby Tea Room and the Inn at Hawnby.

Map: OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors western area.

Terrain: Mostly Moor.

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.