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Rosedale Abbey to Hamer House & the valley of the Hartoft Beck

Situated at the mid point of the valley, Rosedale Abbey is the only village in the 9 mile long Rosedale. It is named for the nunnery founded here in 1157 by Robert de Stuteville. Little remains except for a fragment of  a spiral staircase and the inscription 'All is Vanity' on the lintel of the doorway of the present church.

Distance: 10 miles

Time: 5 hours, although worth a day

Grade: moderate

Conditions: easy to follow on moor and field paths, (though a few more arrows would help)

Refreshments: Rosedale Abbey and Hartoft End

OS Explorer Map OL26 and OL27

Originally published: 30 May 2008

The surrounding moors are criss- crossed with ancient rights of way. We use a selection of them on our 10 mile walk which starts from the bridge over the Northdale Beck (North Gill on Google Maps) on the road to Castleton, some 50 yards from the Milburn Arms, (GR 724960).

Take the path along the busy stream which is one of the main tributaries of the dale's River Seven. Along here in April is a carpet of daffodils. Above to the left are two rounded hills capped by hard sandstone which has resisted the erosion of the softer rocks around them. Bell Hill, the second, provided a rich source of iron ore in the valley's 19th century industrial period.

After about half a mile and beyond three ladder stiles the path reaches a footbridge. Just before it, go right, uphill, on a steep grassy track, keeping a stream and a wall on the left. After 200 yards turn left through a signed gate and left again after passing through a second gate. You now follow a track which runs below North Dale Plantation to a tarred road which goes ahead towards the imposing Northdale Farm.

In a few yards, just after a barn, go right, up the valley side. Our bridleway bends to the right. Beyond a second gate you reach the open moor and should take a green track half left. This continues uphill over another track and then via a hollow way to a gate on Northdale Rigg on the edge of Rosedale Moor.

A few yards from the gate a metalled shooting track is crossed. Go straight ahead on an easy to follow path to the right hand end of a line of black and white painted posts. The path continues beyond the posts and is easily discernible as it follows over the moor close to the left side of a long wall. Where the wall turns sharp right our route continues ahead to some prominent mounds and the road from Rosedale to Egton.

The mounds are spoil heaps of a scattering of coal pits worked in the 19th century. The ruins by the road are the scant remains of Hamer House, once called the Lettered Board. At 1085 feet it was an inn on the busy route from Egton and Whitby to the south, and was last occupied in the 1930s. In its heyday it prospered from the passing trade in lime. Carters from the north would carry coal  to exchange for lime which was used on the pastures of Eskdale. The limestone was quarried near Cropton some 8 miles to the south.

We cross straight over on to a bridleway, once part of this lime road and now well used by farm traffic. We head south east to a prominent barn in a walled intake. All along here there are magnificent views south to the distant Wolds. At the end of the wall bear half left where the vehicular track and ancient lime road  bends to the right. Your now follow a broad green track  over Owlet Moor to a gate where the open moorland is left for green pastureland.

From the gate follow a distinct hollow way up a gentle slope before heading for the far corner of the field where a gate gives access to a plantation. Here, for about 200 yards, the path has been obscured by recent felling but the right of way is blazed by a succession of

painted orange markers. It requires careful footwork, (and for horses too, for this is a bridleway), but you soon return to a good path, first of all through the trees and then along the edge of the forest. There are fine views down into the valley of the Hartoft Beck. The name is Anglo-Saxon for 'homestead by the rocks'. There are still a dozen or so farms today, 4 of them sited above the 700 feet level.

From a very welcome seat continue for another quarter of a mile to a crossing of tracks. Turn right via Head House and its access lane which descends to a ford over the beck. I've also mapped two alternative routes from the crossing to the same ford. The first is to continue through a gate along a level forest track and past St. James's Farm, before taking the next track, right, down to the delightfully named Low Muffles.

The other option is to attempt, as I did, the path marked on the OS map which drops to the ford from St. James's. However, it's for pioneers only for, although in the middle there are one or two direction arrows, there are also a couple of low walls to scale,  a fixed gate to climb as well as 200 yards of light undergrowth to penetrate on the final steep slope.

From the ford climb the steep lane on the far bank to the road that runs along the west side of the valley. Go left and follow it for half a mile past Low Farm to the Blacksmith Country Hotel at Hartoft End on the road which runs up Rosedale.

Opposite the hotel a footpath sign indicates the return section of the walk. The path goes down across a field disturbed by 19th century coal mining. We cross the River Seven by the picturesque cottage of Scugdale before joining a well used path which continues upstream with the round hills above our starting point clearly in view some 2 miles distant.

After a mile and a half the path reaches Hollins Farm where it joins a track which leads on to Rosedale Abbey. Close to a cattle grid look over left to the spoil heaps of Hollins Iron mine,  described as producing the richest ore in the county.

The track joins the Rosedale Chimney road by the White Horse Farm Hotel. Turn right here down the hill to the bridge over the Seven  and into Rosedale Abbey.


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