VICTORIA Ellis did this one solo because I am still weak from a virus, legs like spaghetti, brain like a boiled cabbage. I can remember from my warm bed hearing the rustle of rucksack and she had gone, for some time, to return with a tale of icy tracks Hawnby way.

Her photographs showed said tracks through the heather, luminous with an icing of snow, mist beyond the near, muffled moor, a series of mile after mile rhythmic with the crunch of frozen puddles.

There was some shooting, one imagines rather unsuccessful, and she put up many nervous grouse.

There were bootprints and paw prints but no man nor beast to be seen, only a shadowy sheep, that’s all; nature at its most invisible, asleep or hunkered down in some nook. I like this sort of walking, a pleasure of winter, clean, the biology on hold.

There was a man. He emerged from the mist, there to fix up new stiles and gates, a National Park Field Service Landrover parked nearby.

All the way up there’s a valley to the side named Ladhill Gill but it was hidden in the gloom. After a moorland mile or so there was some reference to location, a tree and the stone wall that is the edge of Hawnby Moor and these were her turnaround to find the way back. Crossing the valley gave no problems, it’s small, half-a-mile wide at the most, tamed by pastures and holding Ladhill Beck that’s no more than a stream here.

But now her route enters open-access land and she was right to roaming, taking more tracks, checking the way now and then with the compass.

There are few inhabited houses, hereabouts cottages tend to rot empty. There is a Bumper Castle that is not a castle, and a Sportsman’s Hall that is not grand but a hub of footpaths.

The Parks man told her that they had rearranged the footpaths a bit to avoid muddy sections. Her route kept her boots clean and dry till nearly back when the beck must be crossed.

I guess she must have been focused on the track, in a little world of map and mist, because she told me that she splashed straight through the water at the ford, only then to look up and see a new bridge a stone’s throw away.

And that was that, with almost all on solid and obvious surfaces, it sounds a good brisk winter walk and, if the weathers clear for you, I can promise a surround of sumptuous land shapes.


When in doubt, look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.

1. From parking area by cattlegrid at Moor Gate SE 540918 (information board), track north and uphill (sign: ‘Unsuitable for Motor Vehicles’). After nearly a mile, ignore good track on right downhill (blue waymark) 2. About 50 yards before wall corner and tree (blue waymark) right downhill on track. At wall corner, left fork to lesser grassy track and downhill by wall then track angles to wooden fieldgate in fence, track downhill.

3. Ford in valley bottom, uphill, ignore a right fork after 100 yards.

4. As ground levels out after climb, ignore a lesser right fork track. In 25 yards the track splits then reconverges.

5. At wall ahead with fieldgate and sheep pens, right to track and downhill by wall for 50 yards then straight on, straight over at tracks crossroads (knee-high post).

6. Gate (yellow dot on stone post) into rough pasture, wall to your left and path angles downhill, becomes sunken, ignore all side turns. New fieldgate. Track picks up ruined wall to your right, down to stream.

7. Footbridge 50 yards from ford, left to track and uphill, bends left after 50 yards, new fieldgate, sunken grass track, two new fieldgates (one waymark).

8. Right to road and back to parking area.

Fact file

Distance: Five miles.

General Location: Hawnby Hills.

Start: Moor Gate.

Right of way: Public and open access.

Date walked: This month.

Road route: From Hawnby take the Osmotherley road.

Car parking: Grass area with info board.

Lavatories: None.

Refreshments: Inn and café at Hawnby.

Tourist and public transport information: Helmsley TIC 01439 770137.

Map: Based on OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors western area.

Terrain: Moorland.

Difficulty: Moderate.

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

York Press: Country walk map around Hawnby near Helmsley