From the observation platform (the gift of Timothy James Newham) in the car park at the top of Newgate Bank (GR 563891) there is one of the finest views in the western moors. The entire 7 miles length of Bilsdale lies before you with the Cleveland Hills at the valley's furthest reaches. Closer are the twin limestone Tabular Hills of Easterside and Hawnby and below the latter is Hawnby village set in a gloriously wooded landscape.
Distance: 7 miles, shorter route 6.5 miles
Time: 4 hours
Conditions: well signed, two short climbs to Hawnby Hill and Newgate Bank
OS Explorer Map OL26
Originally published: 30 September 2016
It is this scene that we explore on our 7 mile walk which descends to the confluence of Bilsdale's River Seph and the Rye before following the course of the latter into Hawnby. Hawnby Hill is then climbed for its spectacular panoramas. The return is then made across the moorland at the base of Easterside. I have also mapped a shorter walk which cuts out Newgate Bank.
From the car park entrance cross the road and head left towards Helmsley on a parallel bridle track. In some 250 yards it turns right as a forest track into Newgate Plantation. After a third of a mile the track turns sharp left and the bridleway leaves it, right, after another 50 yards, for Broadway Foot. Once one of the few thatched houses in the national park, the house burnt down a few years ago but is now being restored.
Go left here down the drive and follow a bridleway through a gate on the right in about 200 yards. This drops to the Helmsley to Hawnby road. Turn right across Shaken Bridge which spans the combined waters of the Rye and Seph. We follow the quiet road for about half a mile before taking the first path, right, just before Ristbrow Farm.
Go down the left side of the first field leaving the farm on its terrace above. Then turn left through the first gate (there's a stile too) and continue ahead along a cattle track which climbs a slight rise crossing two fields to Hawnby Bridge, severely damaged in the great flood of 2005 and now faithfully restored.
Cross the bridge to the lower village built in the 1770s by a group of converts to Methodism who were inspired by three of their menfolk, Chapman, Cornforth and Hewgill, who had walked to Newcastle to listen to John Wesley. So impressed were the three by his preaching that they returned to convert their families, causing a scandal which led to their eviction and resettlement at the foot of the hill. When they were still living in hovels Wesley visited the Hawnby Dreamers as they were nicknamed, in 1757, and was impressed by their fervour.
The old chapel of 1770 and the present Tearoom (with its Darlington and Stockton Times enamel plaque) survive from the buildings which replaced the hovels.
We now climb the steep hill which divided church and chapel over 250 years ago. At the top is the Hawnby Hotel and a shelter erected by Reckitt of London in 1909. The walk can be started here by those choosing the shorter route.
Take the footpath to the right of the shelter which climbs past two cottages to a gate. Go up the next field to a second gate and turn right up a steep path which leads to the cairn on Hawnby Hill. At 965ft it commands widespread view in all directions, especially into Bilsdale and to the south where the Wolds are visible on a clear day. To the west, and only a mile away the 17th century Arden Hall peeps through the trees below Murton Common.
The path continues as a ridgeway for almost half a mile. Soon the vast expanse of Hawnby Moor opens up ahead and the path makes the short descent to the lane from Hawnby to Omotherley at Moor Gate.
Cross the cattle grid at this junction of routes and go sharp right on the track to Sportsman's Hall. In about 150 yards, where the track bends to the right, turn right to a stile by a metal gate and follow the farm track beyond to the edge of Ladhill Gill.The signed right of way descends one field to a sturdy bridge over Ladhill Beck. It then continues for another 200 yards as a rough green trail past a power pole before intersecting with an old track bordered by low ruined walls.Go straight ahead on the green trail uphill to a gate by a ruined farm.
We leave the farm on the right and follow a path across the heather moor keeping close to the wall on the right. The well used path climbs gently before crossing a signed bridleway between the two hills. It then winds around the northern base of Easterside before turning south east around its eastern flank, Views now open up along the length of Bilsdale and across eastwards to Rievaulx Moor, at 1,078ft the next in line of the Tabular Hills. Still keeping close to the wall the path soon reaches the lane from Hawnby to Laskill.
Turn left here for a few paces before going right over a stile. The path passes to the left of a house with grey shutters before descending across two fields. After the wide open moor this pretty pastoral landscape is welcome, with a view across the Seph valley to Feather Holme Farm.
At the end of the second field turn left and follow a green track down to two barns. Beyond them a path drops down to a footbridge over the the river and continues straight across the middle of the next field to a diversion to the left of Fair Hill Farm.
If you are following the shorter route then continue beyond the farm down the access track to Broadway Foot to join the outward route.
To return to Newgate Bank go left just before the access track. The path climbs steeply via two stiles before entering a plantation over a third stile. Follow the fence side for some 200 yards to emerge on Newgate Bank. Turn right along the busy B 1257 to the car park.