Isolated Bransdale can only be approached by road from Helmsley and Kirkbymoorside, 10 miles to the south. It's worth a visit, though, even if just for its remote, tranquil setting, encircled by high moors. From other directions it can be reached only by paths. Our 9.5 miles walk to Bransdale from Farndale involves two crossings of Rudland Rigg and two sharp climbs out of the two dales.
Distance: 9.5 miles
Time: 6 hours
Grade: moderate, two short but steep climbs
Conditions: well signed moor tracks and field paths
Refreshments: Feversham Arms, Daffy Cafe (Fri-Sun until end of September)
OS Explorer Map OL26
Originally published: July 2010
We start from Church Houses at the bottom of Blakey Bank, (GR 669975). With your back to the Feversham Arms take the lane round the corner to the left. This leads to High Mill and the popular daffodil walk, but we follow it only to the first gate. Go right here, (signed to Cow Bank), and cross the River Dove. Take a path to the right which climbs up two fields to the lane which runs along the west side of the dale.
Turn right along the lane, continuing ahead at a junction. Just beyond Monket House on the right go left through a gate on a hard surfaced track which climbs rapidly up the valley side. After passing some worked out stone quarries on the left there are extensive views along the length of upper Farndale with its twin lines of farms.
After an ascent of some 400ft from Monket House you cross a flat heather moor past Dickon Howe to reach the track running along Rudland Rigg.
This ancient right of way may have prehistoric origins judging by the number of Bronze Age barrows close to its alignment. Particularly prominent are the Three Howes visible on the skyline away to the right. In later times the track was a busy trading route linking Kirkbymoorside with Stokesley.
You could halve the walk here by turning right up the track for just over a mile, rejoining the main walk where it recrosses the Rigg at GR 634987.
Our main route to Bransdale crosses straight over the Rigg track. In about a third of a mile go left at a barrier along Shaw Ridge where you get the first views of Bransdale, green fields bisected by stone walls, a scattering of pantile roofs, surrounded on all sides by high moors.
Some 200 yards beyond an imposing cairn turn right on a signed bridleway to reach one of the access roads into the valley. Go right following the road as it drops to Spout House, a 200 year old farm which, with its finely chiselled herringbone masonry and extensive outbuildings, is typical of the dale.
Turn left between the farm buildings following the lane for 200 yards to a footpath on the right. This leads down across fields to Hodge Beck, Bransdale's little river. At a junction of paths go straight ahead on a path high above the beck. After three fields a wooded section with paved causeway signals the proximity of Bransdale Mill. Now owned by the National Trust this is one of the finest 19th century corn mills in the county. As well as the large mill there are stables, a smithy and cartsheds. It was rebuilt in 1812 by William Strickland whose cast iron initials adorn the mill house.
There are curious inscriptions too in Hebrew, Latin and Greek on the house and on a nearby sundial. They were the work of William's son, Emmanuel, curate of Ingleby Greenhow. They proclaim "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing" and "the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge". The impact on the dalesfolk is unknown.
If you wish to save a mile by cutting out the viewpoint at Bransdale church then climb the inviting well worn steps by the house and cross three fields, emerging on the lane to the left of Cow Sike. Go left for 100 yards to rejoin the main route where it starts the climb out of the dale.
The main walk follows the mill access track to the valley lane. Turn left, drop down to cross Hodge Beck before climbing, right, up to St. Nicholas's church in its outstanding position at the head of the dale. The church dates from 1886 though there was a chapel on the site in the 13th century. There are benches outside for picnics or just for contemplating the panorama.
Our second climb of the day follows. Retrace your steps over Hodge Beck and back uphill. Some 250 yards beyond the mill access track turn left through a gate on to a bridleway which rapidly climbs around a plantation and out on to open moorland. Keep to the main right of way as far as the Rudland Rigg track.
Cross straight over on a little used but easy to follow path which offers stunning views into Farndale especially from two nearby flat boulders which afford a resting place after the exertions of the climb. It's worth reflecting here that if public pressure in the middle of last century had not prevailed then all the valley below would have been flooded by a dam to provide drinking water for Hull. The scheme was only abandoned in the 1970s.
The path now bears left in a cutting before curving round, right, down to Fox Hole and the remains of a walled enclosure. It continues through the wall and then downhill to Daleside Road where go right.
It's easy going from here. The lane passes Frost Hall, a good example of an extended longhouse with the farmhouse proudly inscribed Joseph and Ann Aconley, 1826. A few yards past Duffin Stone, surely named for the huge wayside boulder just before the house, we turn left, down to a gate on the left in the first field. Then go right and then right again through the first gate in the wall on your right. Now head over the next field to find a footbridge over the Dove a little downstream. On the far side the path heads straight up a long field to the east side road.
Turn right for the final one and half mile amble back to Church Houses.