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Chop Gate to Bilsdale West Moor & Orterley

Chop Gate is popular with walkers for from it radiates a web of rights of way which scale the heights of the surrounding moors as well as threading Bilsdale. This 7 mile walk climbs an old track on to Bilsdale West Moor, turns south over the heather to the TV mast before making a more sedate return along paths that link the west side of the dale.

Distance: 7 miles

Time: 4 hours

Grade: moderate

Conditions: one steep climb to Trennet, well signed paths and tracks, inadvisable in misty conditions

Refreshments: Chop Gate

OS Explorer Map OL26

Originally published: 6 October 2017

Chop Gate probably derives from chapman's road, named for the travelling peddlers of the past who brought a wide variety goods for sale as well as news of the outside world to isolated communities. One of their routes came across the heights of Urra Moor to the north east, passing through Chop Gate before either turning up Raisdale or ascending Trennet, the prominent hill to the south west.

We take the latter route. Leave the car park of the village hall (GR 558993) on a track at the far end. It immediately crosses Raisdale Beck close to its confluence with the River Seph before passing through a gate with an adjoining stile. After bearing to the right we leave the track on a signed path to the left. The right of way follows a deep hollow way, an indication of its antiquity. It can be muddy and many walkers prefer a parallel route along the rim on the right.

In about 300 yards the two routes join and head up towards a fence below Trennet. Ignore a stile on the left and instead bear right to another stile immediately below the steep slope of the hit four pitted area which in the late 19th century was heavily worked for jet. The OS map indicates a long line of similar workings all on the same contour to the south and also into Raisdale. Chop Gate prospered in this period, its three pubs providing meeting places where the jet was bought by middle men who sold it on to the jewellers of Whitby for polishing and fashioning. We continue our climb up Trennet from the stile. The path then crosses open moor past the cleared site of Todwood. The summit is soon reached, marked by a small stone pillar surmounting the Bronze Age barrow of Cock Howe.

Outstanding views are the reward. Away to the west is the sombre mass of Black Hambleton, at 1309 ft one of the highest in the national park. To the north is the long line of the Cleveland Hills with the jagged rocks of the Wainstones easily recognisable. Beyond them the Durham moors some 30 miles distant are visible on a clear day. A similar distance south the Wolds are outlined beyond the long stretch of Bilsdale West Moor and the cultivated limestone slopes of the Tabular Hills.

From Cock Howe a path goes ahead into upper Ryedale, but we turn south on a stony track across heather moorland lined with the eroded tumps of round barrows as well with boundary stones carefully inscribed over a century ago with the landowners' initials. You cannot lose yourself here for whilst other walkers are few (I met no-one on August Bank Holiday Sunday) we are heading for the Bilsdale TV mast two miles away which at 998 ft, is unmissable. Your are following a prehistoric ridge route which was also used into historic times to connect the Cleveland Plain via Carlton to Hawnby and Helmsley before the building of the valley road. It was important enough to appear as late as 1771 in Jefferys' Atlas of Yorkshire.

In about one and a half miles and just past the barrow of Miley Howe the way divides. Fork left past the 'Beware Adders' sign. The track skirts the extensive bog of Meggy Mire before turning sharply back to the inconspicuous buildings at the foot of the mast. From here there is a panoramic views of Bilsdale with its pattern of walled fields surrounding the two lines of scattered farms on either side of the River Seph.

We now follow the tarred access lane which drops down the steep valley side before curving round to Stingamires, a typical example of an 18th century dale longhouse. Just before the farm go left on a path which crosses two fields to a wooded gill, a delightful shady place with a ford and a little waterfall.

The well marked path continues to a similar gill before crossing one field to a junction of tracks. Turn right through a gate and, with the roofs of Beacon Guest below on the right, drop down to the right of way linking the farms on the dale's west side. Turn left, following the path which for the next two thirds of a mile follows closely a wall on the right.

Where the path emerges through the wall into an open field, head left uphill across the field to a gate on the right. Then cross the middle of the next field aiming for the buildings of High Crookleith below.

The right of way descends to a lane which brings you to the farm buildings. Where the lane turns sharp left, 100 yards from the three storeyed farmhouse with its distinctive white painted lintels, go straight ahead leaving a pond on the left, and head across the next field to a gap in the high hedge and a footbridge over Hollow Bottom Beck. Turn left along a farm access track and almost immediately right up to Low Crookleith.

From here a bridleway leads, right, across four fields to Orterley, a complex of buildings which developed from the standard longhouse where the house and byre were combined. Whilst some of these longhouses date from the 16th century, those at Orterley appear to be some two centuries later.

At Orterley turn right, keeping a large barn on the right and the main farm buildings on the left. Beyond the last building turn left off the access track to a ladder stile. The path beyond continues with a fence on the right to a field above the River Seph. Go half left here, under power lines to a stile close to trees and the riverside in the far, lower corner of the field.

The path then follows the riverside closely where, after rain, there may be a number of muddy sections to negotiate. Cross one last field to the bridge over Raisdale Beck.


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