Rosedale and Farndale – backpacking a double horseshoe

by backpackingbongos

I have to admit that I have only previously visited the North York Moors twice.  A bit of an oversight considering that they are only two and a half hours drive away.  That makes them my second closest upland area after the Peak District.  With a reasonable weather forecast over a Friday and Saturday I decided at the last minute to head there for an overnight wild camp.  I noticed on the map the long line of a disused railway track contouring high above two valleys.  This was used as the main skeleton around which the rest of the walk was planned.

Day 1 – 10.7 miles with 610 metres ascent

It was gone midday when I parked up in the lovely village of Rosedale Abbey, using one of the free car parks.  Reuben was along for the ride so I saddled him up with his Ruffwear panniers full of his food and warm camping clothes.  The village was pretty much deserted as we passed the campsite and climbed a stile into a very boggy field.  This field was the toughest section of the whole trip and my trail shoes were soon filled with muddy water, my trousers filthy from the knees down.  Three cows watched lazily from a corner, thankfully unfazed by Reubens presence.

I don’t know much about golf but something tells me that the golf course in Rosedale Abbey is not up to international standards.  The whole site is on a steep hill, much of it at around a 45 degree angle.  Surely any ball that is hit would simply roll down and get lost in the hedge at the bottom?

A steep path zigged zagged its way up the hillside, finally coming out at the wonderfully situated cottages at Bank Top.  High on the edge of the moors they have got a stunningly extensive view.  Rosedale Abbey lay below in a pastoral scene of green fields, the flat and extensive moors filling the horizon.

The dismantled railway track gave easy level walking, little effort for the big views.  A large bench with the words ‘Work shift over, in the sun, on the hill, having fun‘ caught my eye as a good place to sit for a while and satisfy my rumbling belly.  I’m not sure it was as appreciated by my canine companion though.

After a rather late lunch stop it was an easy mile or so along the railway track before heading across the open moor.  Approaching the road along Blakey ridge I was surprised just how fast and busy it was.  On the map it is shown as a minor moorland road, when in reality it is more like a main thoroughfare.  We quickly crossed leaving the noise and fumes behind and descended through the heather towards Farndale.  The view that opened out was rather lovely, another valley with a patchwork of green fields backed by heather moorland.

It looked like the heather had only turned recently and it still had a purple tinge to it.  I would imagine that it would be an impressive sight when in full bloom, the North York Moors being the largest area of continuous moorland in England.  The ealy autumn colours were rather vivid as we descended along a narrow path into the dale.  The green grass of summer replaced by shimmering browns, the bracken dying down and the leaves on the trees just changing colour.

We walked through the small village of Low Mill, the area being famous in spring for its daffodil display.  Here I passed the only hiker I would see all day, a rare occurrence in a National park.  A narrow lane followed by a bridleway took us into the secretive West gill, a subsidiary of Farndale.  I sat for a while on the bridge over the stream for a snack, dismayed when I realised that what I was sitting on was sticky with creosote.  A smell that reminds me of growing up in rural Suffolk, but not welcome when it makes the seat of my trousers sticky!  The bridleway climbed though pastures before turning into a narrow trod across the moors, a lone tree emphasising the bleakness.

We picked up a track heading north along Rudland Rigg and started a long and dull route march.  The track is open to vehicles and its width and the numerous signs negated any feeling of wildness.  I was glad it was a Friday as I am sure it would be busy the following day, sure enough the next morning I heard the unmistakable sound of scrambler bikes.

With the sky becoming grey and a cold wind blowing I was just keen to get this section over as soon as possible.  The views from the top were not that special to be honest, just flat and very manicured moorland stretching into the horizon.  The only points of interest were the odd marker stone and a couple of boulders.

Even Reuben was underwhelmed.

A waymarker pointing across an area of dense rushes signaled the end of the trudge and we left the track for a bit of heather bashing.  The right of way did not exist on the ground and it was hard going through deep heather and hidden drainage ditches.  Finally the moorland gave way to sheep cropped grass and the possibility of a decent wild camp started to look promising.

We ended up descending further than originally planned to find a good flat pitch.  I was aware that we were coming close to the network of fields rather than remaining on the moor.  In the end the extra descent was worth it when I found a perfect area of flat short-cropped grass next to a band of trees above the stream.  It was beginning to get dark so I pitched the Trailstar and went to fill my water bags.  It was a beautiful location, sheltered and with a feeling of seclusion, the nearest dwelling still a distance away.  I spent an enjoyable evening in my sleeping bag reading my kindle, looking out into the darkness every now and then.  Reuben as ever was keen to try to get onto my thermarest, which I am sure is not built to withstand his claws of steel.

Day 2 – 11.5 miles with 390 metres ascent

The night was cold and still, producing copious condensation within the Trailstar.  I had pitched it as high as possible giving maximum headroom and extra ventilation.  Even so I woke to being dripped on, showing that no shelter is immune to condensation in the right conditions.  It was a perfect early autumn morning, the rising sun slanting through the trees.  The sunlight slowly made its way down the hillside, finally warming and drying out my shelter.

The surrounding hillside had some impressive fungi.

Packed up we set back off the way we had come the evening before.  The contrast could not have been greater, there was not a cloud in the sky.  The sun had chased away the chill from the air and it looked like it was going to be a warm day.

We battled through deep heather once again until we came to the line of the disused railway track.  This gave exceptionally easy walking as it contoured around the head of the valley.  Our pace quickened accordingly, just stopping every now and then to take in the view.  Being early in the morning we had the track pretty much to ourselves.

The track soon became busier, indicating that we were approaching civilisation.  We turned a bend and spotted The Lion Inn sitting high on the Blakey ridge.  As usual, Reuben managed to garner a few comments about his panniers from those that we passed.

We took a short cut and climbed directly up a path across the moor to the pub, the car park already busy with visitors.  I felt that it was too early for a visit so crossed the road with its speeding traffic.  A waymarked path led down towards the disused railway track that contours around the head of Rosedale.  Here nature has claimed it back a bit more than the one around Farndale.  At times it is little more than a single groove through the heather, widening to a soft grassy track.  It was much more of a pleasure to walk than the wide hard surface of earlier.  The views were pretty good in the quickly changing light, the odd dark cloud providing contrast against the sunshine.

I soon found that the easy and level surface made my legs ache after a while.  I am used to walking slowly across rough ground, so perhaps the change in pace and the repetitive manner of my stride was affecting my leg muscles.  I found a grassy nook out of the wind and got the Jetboil on for a cup of coffee and a packet of couscous.

After lunch the landscape changed and became much greener, with evidence of the past mining activity.  A fascinating area to walk and the sunny weather had attracted the crowds.  I highly recommend that you park up in the Village of Rosedale Abbey one Sunday and catch the Moorsbus to The Lion Inn.  You would then have an exceptionally easy walk along the railway track back to the start.  Great views with almost no effort, my sort of hiking!

At hill cottages we took to a network of field paths that led us back to the car at Rosedale Abbey.  There was one moment of brief excitement as a cow decided to run up a hill towards myself and Reuben.  A bit of jumping up and down whilst waving my arms persuaded it to stop before any damage was done.  I am beginning to realise that the main hazard of walking with a dog is cows.

I was pleased to find the village shop still open, where a homemade sandwich and a drink filled a hunger gap before the drive home.

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9 Responses to “Rosedale and Farndale – backpacking a double horseshoe”

  1. You obviously had superb weather that weekend too! I’ve walked over much of the same route in the past, but have never yet wild camped on the NY Moors – it always looks as though it might be a bit harder to find good spots. Didn’t look too bad where your Trailstar was though!

    • Two weekends in a row with good weather, can’t ask for more than that Chrissie. I think that the moors would be difficult to find a pitch with all that heather. Drop down a bit and the ground is much more grassy.

  2. I like it. To be honest an area I don’t ever think of for a walk. Looks like it would be worth a visit.

    • I would image that it is one of the closest hill areas to you Martin, a quick blast up the A1 and you are there. It’s good striding country for when you fancy covering a bit of distance.

  3. Like you James, I have only backpacked in this area once before, but it was very enjoyable. A area worthy of more visits.

  4. Never walked or even visited the North Yorkshire Moors so great to get an impression of what it’s like. It’s such a long way from my home that there is always the thought that having driven that far I may as well go to Scotland. Some great photos and what looked like a cracking wild camp site

    • I have had my eyes on that camp site for a while now, glad that it turned out to be a good one. The North York Moors are not as good as Scotland it has to be said, but for a shortish journey they hit the spot.

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