Maps: OS Landranger 100; Outdoor Leisure 27
Start: Pickering roundabout (799838)
Finish: Fox and Rabbit pub (845883)
Distance: 8.1 miles (incl Visitor Centre)
Going: Easy except for last steep climb up through wood just before end of walk
Natural England NCA: 25 (NY Moors and Cleveland Hills)
Special interest: NYM National Park, Thornton-le-Dale, Ellerburn Church, Dalby Forest
Start from the bus stop 50m SE of the roundabout; walk back to Kirkham Lane (A169) and turn right, then right again at Ruffa Lane (E). Follow this road through the houses and then continue ahead on the track and the field edge path to the gap in the hedge at (F). Turn left for a short distance; go through the hedge on the right, then bend back right again on a clear path to Hagg House.
Cross the drive in front of Hagg House and go through the gate into the trees opposite. At the end of the wood, carry on ahead along the field side to the stile in the hedge at (G). From here the p.r.o.w. goes across four fields to the A170 road at (H).
Continue along the main road and through Thornton-le-Dale to the path beside Thornton Beck (I). Turn left; follow the path to Priestman Lane; turn left again and continue to the old converted mill. A delightful path runs beside the stream to Low Farm. Here turn left to St Hilda’s Church (J) and make certain that you take time to explore this North Yorkshire gem.
On leaving the church, carry on a short distance and then at (K) swing right to follow the bridleway on the south side of Welham Park Fish Hatchery. The track passes Low and High Paper Mill Farms before coming to the path junction at (L). Stay left and, ignoring all right turn-offs, follow the broad Forestry track for about 1.6 miles to Low Dalby on the Moor to Sea Cycle route.
A call at the Visitor Centre is recommended, before returning to the road bend at (M). Here turn and cross Dalby Beck and walk a short distance to the waymarked path on the right (N). Turn off here and soon join another wide track. Turn right and continue to the waymark post at (O).
Turn back left; cross the field and climb the steep path up through the trees to the fence at (P) – note the woodland is more extensive than that shown on some OS maps. Carry on through the gate to the Fox and Rabbit Inn and the bus stop is just a short way down the minor road running SSE back to Thornton-le-Dale.
The North Yorkshire Moors and Cleveland Hills (NCA 25) also includes the Tabular Hills. Some 85 per cent of the total NCA falls within the North York Moors National Park. It is a region of considerable variation with magnificent moorland as well as superb coastal cliff scenery. Heather moorland is a globally rare ecosystem and Britain is thought to have almost 75% of what remains in the world. The NCA contains its own ‘Dinosaur Coast’ which has yielded internationally important fossil remains.
Thornton-le-Dale is mentioned in Domesday Book as ‘Torentune’ and it was only in early 19th century that ‘Dale’ appeared in the name. The village is regarded by many as the prettiest in the National Park. With its Market Cross, (replacement) village stocks and delightful cottages it is clear why it has received this accolade. Beck Isle Cottage, dating from the 16th century, is one of many fine cruck framed buildings, all of which would originally have been thatched.
The Lady Lumley Almshouses were completed in 1670 to provide for 12 poor people of the parish and the same benefactor built the Grammar School.
All Saints’ Church is unusual because, apart from the chancel, the main body of the building is all constructed in the ‘Decorated’ style of architecture. The churchyard contains the grave of Matthew Grimes, reputed to have guarded Napoleon on the Isle of St Helena.
St Hilda’s Church Ellerburn made the BBC News in 2011 under the title ‘Bats leave bad smell’. Bats had been roosting in the Church for at least 10 years, leaving an appalling smell of urine and faeces as well as damaging the furnishings. When we first visited, this holy place of worship looked (and certainly smelt) desecrated. ‘If people damaged an ancient building like this, you would say it was criminal damage,’ complained the church warden.
Four species of bat (Common pipistrelle, Whiskered, Natterer’s and Brown long-eared) are found at the church, although it is the latter two types that caused most of the damage to the furnishings because they both roosted and flew inside the building. However, bats are protected species and it is an offence to kill, injure or handle a bat or to obstruct access to any place used by bats for shelter.
Installing a false ceiling was a popular idea but this was not acceptable because it would have seriously altered the whole historic appearance of the church. So instead the church congregation and two benefactors spent £40,000 trying to offer alternative sites for the bats but they refused to move. The lych-gate was adapted and a barn at a neighbouring farm was provided with insulation and plastic lining; even a low voltage heater was installed. It was all to no avail and the new roosts were never used.
The Archdeacon (the person in charge of church buildings in the diocese) went to Parliament to put the case for some sensible compromise to be reached. Eventually, after an extensive operation by Natural England that included tagging the bats to determine their movements, a solution was agreed. Rather than installing the false ceiling, the church was permitted to block off all possible access points inside the main area of the building but the bats would still be able to reach their roosts in the roof space from outside. So the roosts are not disturbed but the bats cannot get into the worship area below. The church should no longer be fouled by bat droppings. In 2015 the church was declared clean and that summer the long-awaited Flower Festival was held. Everyone happy? Well, perhaps, but a great deal of time, effort and money had been wasted.
That all sounds rather unsavoury, so don’t let it detract from the glories of this Anglo-Saxon gem, dating back to 1050 AD and with some parts as old as 850 AD. Make sure to look for the pieces of pre-Conquest stonework that are built into the walls of the church and are illustrated in the guide notes available inside the building.
Around 1106 Henry I declared Dalby Forest to be part of an extensive royal hunting forest; although there’s no record of his ever having visited the place. Dalby claims to be home to the nation’s rarest fly – the soldier fly, found in the limestone rich wet areas of Dalby and so named because of its smart appearance like a military uniform. Until discovered in Dalby Forest, it had been assumed to be extinct in the UK. Dalby has 59 Scheduled Ancient Monuments including rabbit traps which were specially constructed to catch rabbits in order to provide furs for the 19th century hat industry.