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Country walk at Cowhouse Bank
George Wilkinson heads into the forest at Cowhouse Bank.
Cowhouse Bank has a good and large car park courtesy of the Forestry Commission. And the views from it are far and to the north, and there, on the moors, snowdrifts lingered.
Three buzzards circled for a minute or so, a Labrador snuffled for car park crumbs, a family set out and so did we, along a track for a good smooth mile on the high-top edge of the long escarpment, with a greening of the trees and bilberry around the pines.
Then, after this rather level intro, a quick, dark path, brightened by wood sorrel, took us sharp to the bottom of the escarpment. Here, hundreds of feet lower, the birds were quieter and the day warmer.
Another super forest track took us into Riccal Dale, where Cowhouse Beck, its stream, had enough flow to be noisy at a hundred yards.
We were here for the bluebells, so perfect in Riccal Dale, as carpets under the oaks. Only one in a hundred of the plants were out. Paths meander along the stream, deep in the valley, a place of springs and dappled light.
The best colour of the day was on a big black and red beetle that Georgina, my eight-year-old neighbour, identified as oiceoptoma thoracicum, the red-breasted carrion beetle. Perennial and tough tinder fungi had sucked the last of life from a birch tree. The three buzzards were four, good luck to them, they will need it. There is a pheasant pen, and a scout camp, and, before we left the zone, a solid patch of bluebells coloured the sunniest bank. And not to forget, twice on the walk, we skirted big, red seething heaps of ants, but be reassured, not in the bluebells, There followed a stiff, slippy, steep climb. At the top, a permissive path through a quartet of fields brought views to the Howardian Hills and the Wolds and the day’s big skies that darkened by the minute, thundered and then rained.
On the drive home I had another look at Cowhouse Beck, two miles downstream, there named the River Riccal, and recently featured in drought reports.
The boisterous flow we had seen and heard was all gone, underground.
When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.
1. From far end of car park, forest gate to track, 1¼ miles.
2. Path on right (waymark post), 20 yards, steepish downhill through conifers, then by field.
3. Right at junction with stone track (waymark post). After 100 yards, ignore the left turn downhill and keep uphill. Track levels, ¾ mile.
4. Cross road to track (sign), 400 yards, ignore left fork down to cattlegrid/fieldgate with a ‘Private Property Please Keep Out’ sign, 500 yards, ignore a track angling up on right. Half a mile.
5. At junction with path either side and bench on left (waymarks), left downhill on path to pass bench. Fifty yards before stream, right at gate on left (waymarks), path, through clearing with huts, track with fencing, gap beside gate, right at junction, 200 yards.
6. Right to main track, ½ mile.
5. When back at this junction 5, left (Tabular Hills Walk sign and waymark) to path steep uphill through conifers and by wire fence to your left. Left to track at top (fingerpost), pass one field to your right.
7. At next field boundary, turn right 25 yards across field to hedge (stewardship sign) and field-edge path by hedge to your right. Through gap at corner, cross track, snickelgate (waymark), left 30 yards then right by fence, stile. Snickelgate on left and permissive sign to field-edge path by wood, cross road to car park.
Distance: Six miles.
General location: North York Moors.
Start: Cowhouse Bank.
Right of way: Public and permissive.
Date walked: April 2012.
Road route: From Helmsley, via Carlton.
Car parking: Large, free Forestry Commission car park, signed.
Tourist & public transport information: Helmsley TIC 01439 770173.
Map: Drawn from OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors western area.
Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.