A sudden snowstorm forces GEORGE WILKINSON to change plans on a walk at Helmsley Bank.

HELMSLEY was unusually quiet and some of the few cars that had arrived had snow on them so, with no more ado, we grabbed hot sandwiches from Hunters and drove on out.

Our choice of road ran north, thin and straight for four miles, a gated public highway servicing a handful of farms. We watched the dashboard thermometer that, mile by mile, fell from two degrees to one, to zero and at each fall our spirits rose.

A pack of motorcyclists were warming up cold engines, they had brought their own portaloo.

Further on, at end of the road there was one car parked. It departed, and we were alone, looking out at a semi-blizzard and wondering about our planned route, an exploration further north over the moors. We changed our mind and decided on this simple circuit; call it cowardice.

The first few miles were wonderful, along the top of an escarpment, on the edge of the flat Rievaulx moor; it really felt like winter, with six inches of snow on the track and more coming down at an angle from the north.

I walked in my navigator’s footsteps and then she in mine, safer if you’re unsure about the ground and energy saving if you have the same stride length. With nothing to see beyond the nearest larch trees, being wrapped up like a hoodie with tunnel vision didn’t matter.

Then my navigator shouted ‘look’ and, low and behold, the snow was thinning and the landscape emerged, grainy at first then pin sharp as if the air had been cleaned, with a fillet of blue sky over the Howardian Hills.

At the far end of the escarpment a man threw snowballs at his wife/partner/target. We descended 200 feet, to take a lower track back. There was less snow here, but enough to paint the landscape in the hard contrast of black woods and white fields, though Easterside Hill was nicely stippled grey.

On the last day of the pheasant season, the shotguns sounded amplified not muffled; however, from now on, for a while, it’s the quiet season in the countryside and, as if to celebrate, a kestrel hovered high.

The tracks took us back, easily, past the moor that we had intended exploring. Never mind I think we made the right choice, we got the spectacle, and we got out, the drive back to Helmsley being all downhill.


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, cross road (Rievaulx Moor info board), track for two miles. Track into wood (info board).

2. Barrier gate (fp) and right on drive towards car park for 100 yards via info board, path on left (fp), pass below view platform after 100 yards, path contours then turns downhill. Path/track curves left (wm), 100 yards.

3. Right to main track, uphill (3-way fp). Track for 2 miles.

4. At four-way junction and between metal barrier gates, right to road uphill to car park.

Fact File

Distance: Five and a half miles.

Car parking: Parking area with bench and info board.

Right of way: Public.

Date walked: January 2015.

Tourist information: Pickering TIC 01751 473791.

Refreshments: Helmsley.

Map: OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors western area.

Terrain: Escarpment.

Difficulty: Quite easy.

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

FOOTNOTE: Two stages of the Riponian Car Rally will be going through part of the walk route on Sunday February 22, 2015. Best avoided by walkers.