The extensive moorlands between the River Greta and the Arkle Beck are crossed by a network of ancient trackways, now little frequented, which provide excellent walking opportunities.
Distance: 9 miles, no stiles (10 miles with 3 stiles for longer walk)
Time: 5 hours
Conditions: good, well marked paths, inadvisable in bad weather
Refreshments: Barningham, Greta Bridge
OS Explorer Map OL30 Originally published: 17 October 2008
This 9 mile route begins in Barningham and follows a pannierman way west to East Hope before climbing on to the lower slopes of Cocker Hill. The return is by a clearly marked path descending gently over Barningham Moor.
We start from the entrance to Barningham Hall, (GR 086103), home of the Milbank family since the 17th century. Go through the arched gateway, a memorial of 1874 to Lady Augusta Milbank, on the other side of the village street. The passage between high walls leads to the 19th century parish church. Pass to the left of the church to a gate where go right. In 25 yards turn left on to Low Lane.
In 150 yards this crosses the road to Greta Bridge and continues for a mile as a delightful, winding, tree shaded route below Barningham, which straggles across its ridge away to the left. After a ford it swings south to join the road to Scargill where go right.
In 200 yards, where the road bends to the right, turn left, up an unsigned, leafy bridleway which soon leads out on to open moorland. The track then leaves Bragg Farm well away to the left and reaches a tarred lane, where turn right.
We follow the lane for the next 2 and a half miles. To begin with it follows closely the boundary between the moorland and the farmland to the north. 200 years ago it would have been busy with packhorses for it once connected Bowes with Barningham. It was sufficiently important to be included on Jefferys' great map of Yorkshire of 1771. In about a mile, and beyond Haythwaite it crosses the slope of Scale Knoll and then enters the huge plantation which covers the area known as The Stang. The hamlet of East Hope with its grazing lands almost enclosed by the forest, is reached in another half mile.
We continue beyond the houses for about 400 yards to where a signed bridleway strikes off left. This is another packhorse route, still called the Badger Way after the itinerant hawkers who used it as a link between Barnard Castle and Marske in Swaledale. At first it runs through the trees and is taken over as a metalled forest track after some 300 yards. It then skirts the edge of the East Hope fields and continues ahead as a rutted path, away from the forest track which bears left. At Black Hill Gate it enters the open moor.
Arthur Raistrick in his 'Green Tracks on the Pennines' describes the route as dividing soon after the crossing of Woodclose Gill and some 300 yards after Black Hill Gate. The Badger Way went left here for Marske but is difficult to find. (We come across it again on the return leg of the walk). I followed the more obvious route which, as a distinct green path, heads for the heights. A couple of low cairns mark the way on the middle slopes before you reach the plateau where there are breathtaking views into Teesdale. Barnard Castle and the Bowes Museum are easy to pick out.
At the top you pick up a green track occasionally used by vehicles. Follow it left, along the edge of the moor some 200 yards parallel to the long saddleback of Eel Hill away to your left. The track then stays high above the tangled rocks of Osmaril Gill before turning south to a gate in a long fence. The boggy land is pitted with shake holes forming natural drainage through the limestone rock.
Do not pass through the gate but instead turn left along the fence to a trig point set in in the middle of the Bronze Age barrow of How Tallon. From here the views are even more expansive down to the Vale of Mowbray and across to the North York Moors.
The views remain with as we descend gently across Barningham Moor. It's an exhilarating path, easy to follow by keeping a wall on your right. Only the call of the plover and the harsh cry of the resident grouse can be heard.
Some 500 yards from How Tallon look out for the huge stone called the Badger Way Stoop. It is now set in the 19th century enclosure wall, but once would have been a prominent waymarker for travellers across the moors. 100 yards below the stoop the Badger Way crosses our path en route through a gate on the right to Marske.
Continue along the wall side for another mile to the next gate where our main walk goes half left, following a track across the lower slopes of the moor to the top end of Barningham's village street.
If you want to extend the route by a mile, (as I did),by making a circuit of Barningham Park, then continue along our same wall to a corner at the edge of the moor. Cross over a gate next to a ladder stile, (which has no rungs on the far side). You then drop down over two fields to Park House. Here use the ladder stile to the right of the buildings and then head for the park wall in front of you, two fields distant. Bear right along it for about 300 yards and then go left, over a low fence.
In another 150 yards turn left through a gate and over one field to another gate which gives access to the park. An easy to follow path leads through the trees and past the magnificent sloping gardens of the Georgian Barningham Hall back to our starting point.