Sunday, 10 April 2016

Battersby to Gillamoor and Back (Along Rudland Rigg)

I have often been out and about in the Battersby area and had always seen and noted the Rutland Rigg that heads down South from Battersby into the heart of the moors and curious about it I decided to follow it end-to-end to find out more about this part of the North York Moors.

At the same time this acts as a scouting mission to understand the lay of the land in anticipation of an attempt to walk from Battersby to Thirsk heading South through the moors to Helmsley and Rievaulx Abbey through to Sutton Bank, opening up a new unexplored section of the moors.

Once again I am heading out from Battersby, turning right from the station and then quickly pulling left and on towards the old Battersby Incline train tracks. This track heads flat towards the moors before suddenly climbing up from the plains all the way up to the height of the hills.

This offers a steep climb that continues on for some time, but having reached the top some fabulous views are on offer despite the reduced visibility this morning.

Views From the Top
Having taken in the views from the top I continue along the path as it follows the ridge before pulling away towards Bloworth Crossing, the old railway crossroads upon the top of the moors.

Turning left at this crossroads would take me along the Cleveland Way towards Kildale and heading over would take me towards the beginning of the Esk Valley Walk that meanders on down to Whitby, but instead I'll be turning right and into the heart of the North York Moors.

This will not be a dramatic walk with hills and falls or sunshine glinting on a river bed, but a long trek through the moody moorland and with this this in mind the weather is perfect being fairly moody but with hints of sunshine peaking through the clouds.

Through the Heart of the Moors - The Cammon Stone
As I head out, I soon hit my first landmark of the day, the Cammon Stone, which is a prehistoric standing stone that has acted as a landmark to guide travellers across the moors for many centuries and I can only presume that the route I'm taking today would have been a popular route of old due to its flat route across otherwise very rugged and up-and-down terrain.

Indeed I manage to dig out the following history of this particular spot:
This is thought to be an old established route over the North York Moors which was recognised as a road in the medieval period. The standing stone, which is listed Grade II, is an undressed irregular slab with a heavily weathered upper surface. From it there are impressive views down the length of Bransdale to the south, from much of which the stone will be visible as a small feature against the skyline. Cammon Stone is also intervisible with the prominent group of Bronze Age round barrows known as Three Howes nearly 2km to the SSE.
Ahead of me the path I must follow stretches on into the distance and the plan today is simple - head out as far as possible and then turn round and head back to catch the last train home of the day. With this in mind I'll have to leave a buffer between my turn and the half way point of the day to ensure that I don't miss that train.

As I head out, away to my right lies a valley that falls away while to the left the moors simply run out almost as far as the eye can see, while ahead the terrain is largely featureless, but this makes it all the more interesting when points of interest suddenly veer into view.

Some Sort of Hole in the Ground
Commentary on this walk is complicated by the fact that the path ahead is largely featureless. I began this walk at 500ft, quickly climbed to 1,200ft and will stay at this height till shortly before Gillamoor where I will return to 500ft and repeat.

However, it is hardly quiet up here and I'm soon passed by a cyclist who clearly enjoys the flat nature of this terrain and a group of off-road bikers who lift the contents of a puddle into my face as they pass; I take it well, accepting that I can't complain about the mud having deliberately headed out into the wilderness quite deliberately.

Path Heads Out as Far as the Eye Can See
The next landmark of interest is the Three Howes barrows which prove to be visually uninteresting, but yet remain of historic interest. To once again steal a history lesson from the Historic England extracts:
Despite limited disturbance these barrows have survived well. Significant information about the original form of the barrows and the burials placed within them will be preserved. Evidence of earlier land use will also survive beneath the barrow mounds. Together with other barrows in the area they are thought to also represent territorial markers. Similar groups of monuments are also known across the west and central areas of the North York Moors, providing an important insight into burial practice. Such groupings of monuments offer important scope for the study of the division of land for social and ritual purposes in different geographical areas during the prehistoric period.
The monument includes three round barrows situated in a prominent position on the top of Cold Moor on the north of the Hambleton Hills. The monument is divided into two areas separated by a track. In the area to the west are two barrows, one lying 60m to the north of the other, and in the area to the east is a single barrow. Also included in the area to the west is the undisturbed archaeologically sensitive ground between the barrows where remains of flat graves are likely to survive.
These sorts of barrows typically date from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC, but despite all this history the actual visual site whilst historically significant remains rather unimpressive. As a result, while the history lesson is of interest the reality for me as a traveller are three lumps of earth to the side of the path (at least the Cammon Stone looked pretty).

So I quickly head on with my journey through the moors.

Path Stretches On
This path takes me on towards the old disused coal 'bell pits', where low-grade coal had been dug out of the bedrock. Mining in this area began back in the 1730s, but the coal seams will have only measured around 4 meters deep, although it is believed that coal was once again extracted from these areas during the miner's strike of 1926.

With the heather stretching out over this area and without a helicopter or drone from which to survey the pits from above, the visual impact for me as a walker is once again rather underwhelming, but soon I reach the high point of this area which does offer a visual sight worth recording.

High Point Reached
This means that I will now begin the descent towards Gillamoor which will be slow at first but will speed up over time as I clock increasing miles.

The Descent Begins
After a prolonged slow descent I soon join up with the road that heads on into Gillamoor and a consultation of the map tells me that I should be able to get all the way down to Gillamoor and back round with time left to catch my train home.

At the next road junction I can see that the nicest route down is a path that comes off the road and through a quite lovely farm. However, noting the old couple who clearly live in the farm carefully watching my passage across their land I neglect to take any photos of the farm out of politeness and continue through a field of very tame sheep.

Having left the sheep behind the path continues on winding delightfully through the fields.

Path Through Fields
This eventually take me through a home with some cattle in what would normally be a garage and then I reach the road which pulls right and climbs steeply up into Gillamoor and the viewpoint out to the surrounding countryside.

Gillamoor Church
Gillamoor proves to be a delightful little village, but I've used all my time buffer to get to Gillamoor and so my timing is tight as I turn on a road to the right and back towards Battersby so I'm not able to stop and have a look around.

Soon I'm approaching the farm I'd walked through on the way out and heading back towards familiar ground.

Lovely Little Farm
Upon leaving the road and rejoining the path my climb continues in earnest as I head back towards the high ground by the minor coal mines.

Sheep Above
A short climb later, I'm back on the higher ground and heading along a flat path with only a downward stint towards Battersby remaining in terms of elevation changes.

Back to Battersby
Sheep on the Hill
This leaves an onward march back the way I've come past all the formerly visited sights and features until I once again pass the valley that lies to the side of the path near Bloworth Crossing.

Valley at Side
And once again pass the pit, which with the sun now shining, is more attractively backed by the valley behind.

Hole in the Ground II
By this point my walk is nearly over, but as I've been going I've been working out the best route down to Helmsley for a walk I have planned from Battersby to Thirsk, taking in Rievaulx Abbey and the best route to take heads off early here down into the valley and cutting across country on a short cut to Helmsley.

Turn Off For Next Visit
Passing this turn off by, means that I have now reached Bloworth Crossing and turning left am soon heading back towards Battersby to finish the walk, but with the sun going down the hills give me the most dramatic scenery of the day just before I descend down to the plains below.

Hills In Sunshine
Path Drops Onto Plain
All that remains is to follow the remainder of the old train track to Battersby station, taking in the view of Rosberry Topping as I go.

View of Rosberry Topping to Finish
Maps: If you wish to follow this walk the route can be determined using OS map 94. This post is designed as a narrative and not designed as route directions to be followed... always use a map and be sure of your route before you leave the house!