Today's walk could have been made for the Moorsbus Service. A short ride from Helmsley takes you to the top of Newgate Bank in Bilsdale and then you can walk back to the town over moors and through the bluebell valley of Riccal Dale using newly designated rights of way.

Rievaulx Moor was flat and breezy, with smashing views from its northern edge to Easterside Hill then Bilsdale then Bransdale.

This was very nice for a couple of miles in the company of curlews that glided across the heather rippling out their fluty songs and black millipedes that processed north across the track.

At a trig/view/sculpture point we angled down the escarpment of Cowhouse Bank and fed into the head of Riccal Dale.

Soon we could see the treeline of the River Riccal running through pleasant pastures with twisted oaks and a rock field. Black ants scuffled on the smooth white forestry track, the heat built up, we clocked the first outlying bluebells and accelerated for an hour, sometimes gaining a hundred feet above the river, sometimes waterside.

The river is more a stream, eventually splitting into marshy islets and after such a rainless spring was bone dry for a mile of so.

The plants are wonderful, in large-scale sequential displays; there is colour to rival Farndale.

I am a bit early for the star attraction: the bluebells. The vision of blue carpet under silver trunks of little old birch should be better caught from Sunday May 5 onwards. There is a downside to leaving it a while, the trees will have leafed up and you won't see so far, but I would wait.

Though for me the prettiest picture was the short white climb through wood anemones that brought us out of the valley and set us up for pastures where lambs posed on tree trunks and gambolled on grassy knolls to a backdrop of Helmsley Castle. Worth the wait.

Fact file

Distance: Nine and a half miles.

Time: Five hours.

General location: North York Moors National Park.

Start: Newgate Bank.

Right of way: The complete route is along public rights of way, some newly designated.

Date walked: Saturday April 20 2002.

Road route: Catch the Moorsbus in Helmsley at 10.30am (later buses from May 5) for a five-mile ride through Bilsdale.

Car parking: Roadside or Long Stay (£3 for six hours plus) in Helmsley. Free car park at the top of Newgate Bank.

Lavatories: Forest Enterprise at Newgate Bank car park. A sign said 'closed for the winter', apparently it has to import the water.

Refreshments: Helmsley.

Tourist and public transport information: Helmsley TIC 01439 770173. Moorsbus information, 01845 597 426 or

Map: Based on OS Explorer North York Moors Western Area OL 26.

Terrain: Moor and valley.

Points of interest: New route and bluebells. Will become popular with cyclists (not exactly my route).

Difficulty: Moderate, smooth surfaces, gentle climbs.

Dogs: Suitable, but ground-nesting birds on the moor and lambs on the pasture.

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


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

1. Car park entrance on the B1257 (bridleway sign), 50 yards then straight on to track through woods (not into car park area, and note, my route is different from posted one), moor edge.

2. Left to Tarmac downhill, first track on right at junction (bridleway sign). After field on right, fork right (blue waymark, ignore left fork downhill) and stay on main track. Surprisingly no more waymarks from now on.

3. Cross road. Stay on main track to west of River Riccal, ignoring side turns down to fords/bridges, and tracks up to valley top.

4. At 'Y' junction, where bank drops 100 foot immediately and steeply to the river, fork left downhill.

5. Ignore track on left with shed, 100 yards, fork right (left goes to river in about 100 yards).

6. Reach field on your left between you and river, 100 yards, path on right uphill, left fork 20 yards to gate. Field edge path.

7. Fieldgate and straight through farmyard to fieldgate, 20 yards, 11 o'clock downhill, fieldgate near wood, fieldgate and immediately left and follow hedge/fence round. Fieldgate (then fence to right), cross stream, track across field, fieldgate, track, left to road, right and back into the centre of Helmsley.

Click here to view a map of the walk

Updated: 16:20 Friday, April 26, 2002