After a good pub lunch, GEORGE WILKINSON enjoys a relatively new path across MoD land at Hudswell, near Richmond.

HUDSWELL’S George and Dragon was our rendezvous with some friends from Richmond and we had a good, leisurely, chatty lunch in this communally owned pub. The afternoon turned out bright and chilly and we set off at a slow march along a quite new permissive walk along the top edge of the valley of the River Swale, through land owned by the Ministry of Defence.

Out of the blue, the air shook with half a dozen, deep, reverberating, non-civilian-sounding booms. ‘Howitzers’ suggested Charlie. The MOD can shut the route, but this is not likely and, reassuringly, one of their info boards mentions ‘blank rounds or thunder flashes’.

The Labrador sought out the decayed body parts of sheep and rabbits, gorse blazed, bulbs pushed up in gullies and a rookery had dozens of noisy nests. There’s a good snapshot of Richmond and its castle, and there’s a pan over Swaledale to the white crags and black yew trees on the far side, and then you turn away for the grasslands of the moor.

This is more like it, definitely, a tough place, wild and perhaps rewilding. Historically the moor has yielded little; it holds some shallow greened over pits from small-scale lead and coal mining. Rough grassland flows to the horizon. We didn’t see anyone, not even a soldier, though you could hide a tank or two in the pattern of regimented conifer plantations, and walkers should note some paths are faint to invisible. If you’re lucky you may see a rare black grouse.

The best bit of the route is over White Scar, from where you can look down to a curl of the River Swale that holds grassland rippled by terraces. We had been chatting just where we should have been concentrating, where navigation was pole by distant pole, and strayed off across an expanse of grassland. A zig-zag later and we reached Downholme’s quarry which is nicely presented and still has one of a pair of limekilns.

In the hamlet stands the Bolton Arms, but a two-pub walk was not on the cards, and all the enthusiasm seemed to be for tea, scones and damson jam in Richmond. So everybody and the Labrador got into the car we had parked up for the lamed or lazy, so I was denied my stroll along the open back lane, into the evening, over the top of Downholme Moor.


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 car park at village hall, right to road, 1/3 mile. Fieldgate on right (fp) to path towards church, gate into churchyard, right to gated footbridge and left to path by stream down gully.

2. Path/steps on left (fp Permissive Path to Downholme), ford stream. Path near top edge of old wood. Gate (white arrow/permissive path) and right to ford stream, on grass by fence and above wood. Short climb to viewpoint.

3. Ignore stile into National Trust Hag Wood, 50 yards uphill to stile (fp/MOD map), right by fence/wood and through small rundown fields.

4. Below farm on hillside, stile (wm) in and out of steep gully, ford stream by fence to right (wms), path on grass above/ by wood.

5. Metal gate (wm), 50 yards, right to ford stream (wm), 50 yards by fence, left at fencepost (wm), 200 yards across rougher grass via post (wm), aim for conifer wood.

6. Gate in wall, 20 yards to wood corner, left on grass track, 50 yards, right (fp footpath), faint grass path. Isolated fingerpost (permissive footpath), 300 yards, keep about 100 yards above wood.

7. Isolated fingerpost (footpath) above end of wood, angle left for 300 yards aiming for far/left end of conifer plantation.

8. Fieldgate (wm), past conifers to right, right near conifer wood corner (fp), left at end of conifers (fp), by wood to right (MOD signs on fence).

9. Over stream (wm post), grass track 200 yards, gap in wall (wm post), over grass and keep on top of terrace. Take care, cliffs.

10. Post (wm), 100 yards, gate/stile (wm) and ignore track in grass and head 1 o’clock across rougher grass towards rushes for 400 yards. Fingerpost (footpath), negotiate rough ground, then path, 200 yards. Fingerpost (pointing another way), 100 yards then 25 yards path down.

11. Stile (wm) to path through quarry, gate (fp).

12. Left to road back to Hudswell.

Fact file

Distance: Four or seven miles.

Car parking: Village hall at Hudswell.

Right of Way: Permissive and public.

Date walked: March 2015.

Tourist information: Richmond TIC 01748 850549.

Refreshments: The George and Dragon at Hudswell and the Bolton Arms at Downholme.

Map: OS Explorer 304 Darlington and Richmond.

Terrain: Mainly moor.

Difficulty: Tricky navigation.

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