THIRKLEBY is of three parts, named Great, Little and just Thirkleby. Added together they are nothing sizable, a pleasant scatter of mostly old brick with a church set aside and framed by dark cedars.

This little walk was in part chosen for its ease, a test for my legs, limbs having been in limbo for a fortnight.

Black crows circled the grey sky. More cheerfully, it was nice to be out among the sheep again. Photogenic ones these Jacob type, for reasons beyond their horns and brown and white mottled fleece. I’ve photographed more flocks than people and they require different techniques. The former are best shot sneakily, but with sheep you have to catch their attention, normally a ten-second span before a switch flicks in their tiny brains and they label you safe and nothing will concern them again, not banging on fences or imitation barking, nothing.

But Jacobs are a cut above, they hold their ground and watch.

A stream, a murky colour, cut through Thirkleby Common, metalled farm tracks led through hedges grown out to the benefit of sparrows and their ilk, and the birds were energetic. A soft breeze carried a murmur of traffic from the A19 a mile to the west.

The direction of this breeze was another reason why we were here. Plan one had been an ascent of Hood Hill, a pimple. If the day had been clear we could have seen said hill from this route, and maybe the Kilburn White Horse. But the climate here, near the southwest escarpment of the moors, is distinct. The warmer air rises with the land, cools and condenses and often erases the famous view from Sutton Bank, or in our case the view towards that view. So there was no point in the shrouded Hood Hill.

A neat farm had a trampoline, a play thing quite common with Yorkshire farmers. Yes, that’s where the subsidies go, in exuberant bouncing, or maybe it’s practice for decades jolted by the tractor. Talking of which, a machinery park was typically interesting for the redundant contraptions overgrown by weeds.

We made the best of it, a hare moved at half speed, we did better, tracks turned to stone and hedges to holly. The flat and arable fields are not all enormous, there are pleasing lengths of hedge and the occasional tree, one of which, an oak, made some shelter for a sandwich stop and for once I was allowed the cosiest nook.

Then I got heavy legs. Not the French ailment, or the after-effects of man flu, but the weight of clay from some tracks that are bridleways and horse churned.

For a minute a pale disc of five watt sun showed through the cloud, silhouetting a copse and pylons.

Sometimes the church can provide guidance, as here, namely Thirkleby’s sharp spire on the horizon. More fun is the distraction, on the run in after the mill, of a sculpture of two bodies in the most unlikely and gymnastic of congress. I would suggest this walk for an easy day when the air is clear and the ground frozen or baked hard.


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

1. From Long Causeway road with church, into Great Thirkleby, right-hand bend and downhill to picnic area, paved path on right (sign).

2. Footbridge, path uphill, bench, right to road into Little Thirkleby.

3. Metalled farm road on left (bridleway sign, Oak Cottages).

4. On bend to High House Farm, hedge gap on right (unofficial diversion sign is correct) and immediately left to grassy field-edge path, left-hand corner, pass play area then right to stone track.

5. On right-hand bend, grassy ‘path’ on left between fields (no waymark), after 10 yards pick up hedge to your right for 150 yards, through hedge gap, right at corner (waymarked post) so hedge to your right.

6. Fieldgate/gate and track on left by fence (waymark on gatepost) 7. Grassy track on right at gap 50 yards before a sharp left (no sign) and immediately left 50 yards, right at corner 100 yards, track on left (no sign) with hedge to your right.

8. Metalled farm road on right before farm (no sign) and stay on this back to village.

Fact file

Distance: Four miles.

General location: Near Thirsk.

Start: Thirkleby.

Right of way: Public.

Dogs: legal.

Date walked: January 2009.

Road route: Signed off A19.

Car parking: Roadside in village.

Lavatories: None.

Refreshments: None.

Tourist and public transport information: Thirsk TIC 01845 522755.

Map: Drawn from OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors western area.

Terrain: Flat.

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.