North York Moors Walks
Date: 17th March 2014
Distance: 10.3 miles
Time: 4 hours 45 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: NZ664106
A fascinating walk from Commondale on to Gisborough Moor and Skelderskew Moor visiting a series of interesting features including ancient cairns, tumuli and earthworks.
Route Summary: Commondale - Whiteley Beck - War Memorial - Hob on the Hill - Gisborough Moor - Penrod Hill - Gisborough Moor Trig Point - Gisborough Woods - Westworth Wood - Hob Cross - Quaker's Causeway - Black Howes - Smeathorns Road - Sand Hill - Commondale
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: Using up my last two days of annual leave I'd initially planned to spend a couple of days based in Alston bagging some hills to complete my set of Deweys (hills over 500m) in the North Pennines. Due to a poor forecast I changed my plans and instead on the Monday headed out for this walk in the North York Moors, the aim of which was to finally visit the top of Gisborough Moor, one of only three Marilyns in the North York Moors.
As forecast it was a grey cloudy day. Early on the cloud was literally like a smooth grey blanket that had been placed over the sky with barely any definition or shading and this made conditions for photography quite difficult. However, despite the grey conditions this walk proved to be far more interesting than a mere summit bagging expedition.
Starting from the small parking space next to red bricked church in Commondale I walked through the village and then up the side valley of Whiteley Beck. After crossing the beck I followed a nice little path slanting up the east side of the valley to meet one of the first features of the day, the heathery mound of the Park Pale that encircles the valley and which marked the boundary of an old deer park.
A bit further on I arrived at a war memorial, unmarked on my OS 1:25,000 scale map, to two young men, Robbie Leggott and Alf Cockerill who were killed in the First World War. Shortly afterwards I came across what was perhaps the most interesting and unusual feature of the whole walk. Marked simply as 'Earthwork' on the map it was another long heathery mound similar to the Park Pale except that this one was mounted by a succession of small standing stones.
According to the The Modern Antiquarian this line of stones is called the Bridestones and over a distance of 1km there are over 50 standing stones. Some of these are almost adjacent, while there are substantial gaps between others. Some stones seem to have found their way into nearby grouse butts suggesting that there was once a lot more stones. One theory is that rather than forming part of defensible earthwork these very ancient stones formed an old boundary.
Near the Bridestones I also made a short diversion to two tumuli, one of which is mounted by a boundary stone inscribed as 'Hob on the Hill', the date of 1798 and the initials RC which refers to Robert Chaloner who was once the landowner in these parts. I was intrigued by the name of the boundary stone as 'Hob' is an old name for a goblin and I wondered whether the stone was named as such when it was erected in 1798 or whether it predated the current boundary stone.
From Hob on the Hill I walked back to the main track which I followed all the way to the summit of Gisborough Moor - an ancient cairn, also seemingly situated on a tumulus and which has been shaped into a shelter. Unfortunately due to the cloud the views were fairly unremarkable so I ate a quick lunch before continuing north along the track for another mile or so to reach the trig point which stands only four metres lower than the summit.
Along the way I'd seen a few 'No bikes' and 'Keep Dogs on Leads' signs which was fair enough but I thought whoever had painted 'No bikes' on to the trig point had taken things a step too far. From the trig point I headed into Gisborough Woods. Apart from a nice open view from the top of an old quarry I found the woods rather messy with some extensive areas that had been felled looking particularly desolate. It was with some relief that I thus entered the much more congenial surrounds of Westworth Wood.
Just beyond the woods I visited the rather unusual site of an abandoned reservoir. On fairly recent maps, including my North York Moors Memory Map software still shows the reservoir filled with water but apparently it was abandoned and the dam broken down some time ago and now it has been mostly reclaimed by heather.
After a slightly rough passage through some heather to get back to the bridleway I next encountered Hob Cross, not marked on the map and given the name and the fact that it is also inscribed RC and 1798 seems to be a twin to the Hob on the Hill boundary stone that I'd visited earlier on in the walk. The final feature of the walk was a slabbed path called the Quakers' Causeway which seems to have been a path to and from Guisborough Priory.
The walk concluded with a pleasant descent back into Commondale from a bend in the moorland road that connects the A171 with Castleton. Despite the weather, and because of the many interesting historical features I'd really enjoyed this walk. On a late August day when the sun is out and the heather is purple it would prove to be a grand day out indeed.