George Wilkinson hits the trail again, for a moorland walk among the heather.

Regular readers will have noticed that a couple of weeks ago the paper described me as 'incapacitated' (much to the amusement of my friends) and Victoria Ellis has kindly done a couple of walks. She has sprained an ankle, so as the least 'incapacitated', I am back in gentle action.

Not that I am complaining because during this month, walkers will be allowed on to the North York Moors again. Most paths will be opened and the Bransdale Open Access Area is 'presumed open as with the paths'. So I headed for the heather.

The start has a middle-of-nowhere feel, nothing showing itself in developed form but it was just so nice to walk a mile of track across the heather, holding an altitude around a thousand feet. Not any old track, we are on the Thurkilsti, very ancient and important, and thought perhaps to have lead from York.

Last month's solid purple has broken to a scattering of colour. No matter, clouds ripped across the sky flashing slopes dark then bright. Bumblebees hugged the ground, water spiders skitted on temporary ponds, rivulets gushed from the moors and grouse kept an educated distance.

There are distant shapes, perhaps the Howardian, Cleveland, Hambleton and Tabular Hills.

At a four-way track junction we turn back towards the heart of Bransdale and take a freshly-surfaced shooters' track then an older track round and down to Stork House. There are perhaps two houses in Bransdale with perfect views of the length of the valley. Bransdale Lodge at the north end and from the south end Stork House, once a sandstone farmstead, now a designer ruin, clothesline-free so not to despoil the preserved beauty of the dale. Or so one imagines.

Next comes a climb back up to the moors top, a straight and narrow path hemmed in first by bracken then bilberry and seemingly kept open by sheep this year.

By the way my 'incapacity' (which is above the knee and below the waist) felt fine and will soon, after 24 hours in York District Hospital, be repaired.


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

1. Two tracks leave the road corner, ignore one straight down hill, take the southerly and sunken one that is marked with the blank temporary highways sign. Ignore faint side tracks. Gently up then down hill.

2. Four-way track junction (plus short track to adjacent quarry). Take the shooters' track on the left that is resurfaced and curls round to head northeast. Uphill then gently down.

3. As shooters' track steepens take older track fork to left (waymarked).

4. Stork House (ruin). From entrance gate to its yard retrace steps for twenty yards. The first 50 yards of path uphill is grass patches. After that path is clear and straight but narrow. You pass within about 20 yards of the top of the 'parallel' stone wall, and further up about the same to the left of an ash tree. I set my compass on 290 degrees but didn't need it in the sunshine.

5. Right at main track and back to start.

Fact file:

Distance: Three miles.

Time: Two hours.

General location: North York Moors.

Start: Roadside on Pockley Moor, GR 613 953. See 'Road Route'.

Right of way: The complete route is along public rights of way, and tracks through open access area.

Date walked: Monday, October 1, 2001.

Road route: From the roundabout in the centre of Helmsley take the A170 east (Scarborough road) to the edge of the town and turn left opposite the fuel station (signed Carlton one and a half miles). By my mileometer you stay on this road for 7.7 miles. The start is after a straight half mile of road and before a similar length, on the corner and unmistakably marked at the moment by a temporary Highway Sign (blank white circle and red border ) meaning no entry to track for vehicles.

Car parking: Roadside, north of start, including 'parking' area. If full, then verge south of start, lots down at Bonfield Gill half a mile from start.

Lavatories: None.

Refreshments: Cafs and inns at Helmsley.

Tourist and public transport information: Helmsley TIC 01439 770173

Map: Based on OS Outdoor Leisure 26, North York Moors western area.

Terrain: Moor tops and valley side.

Points of interest: The reopening of the moors is complex, and may take a while. The portable horse-powered threshing machine from Stork House is in Ryedale Folk Museum at Hutton-le-Hole.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Dogs: Best not for a while, leads certainly.

Weather forecast: Evening Press and recorded forecast 0891 500 418.

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

Click here to view a map of the walk