Thursday 14th February 2002

Weather: Mainly sunny & pleasant

Today's Walk: Esk Valley Walk - Stage 1

Blakey Ridge - Esklets - Westerdale - Castleton ( 9 miles )

The Esk Valley Walk follows the River Esk from its source high on the North York Moors to the coast at Whitby
taking you through a variety of countryside from open moorland to farmland pastures.

The walk is clearly waymarked for most of the way with the 'leaping salmon' signs...

The route in the official guidebook, Esk Valley Walk, published by the North York Moors National Park,
begins at Castleton Railway Station and the first stage is through Danby Dale to Blakey Ridge.
However, we will just walk the 25 miles from its source to the mouth of the River Esk...


Today's section of the walk begins at the The Lion Inn car park on Blakey Ridge ( Grid Ref. 679 997 )

We set off alongside a drystone wall towards a standing stone set on a mound just a few yards north of the pub...



Blakey Howe ( or Cockpit Hill ) was an old burial mound of the Neolithic period
- just behind the stone is a hollow where the illegal cock-fights once took place.

At the corner of the stone wall we bear left (west) and follow a moor path downhill to a disused railway trackbed . . .



We turn right and follow this track for the next couple of miles - it was the former route of the Rosedale Mines Railway
which ran from
Blakey Junction, via Bloworth Crossing, to Ingleby Incline and eventually on to the steelworks in Durham.

The track nowadays is a permissive footpath, meandering along the contours of Farndale Moor...


...enjoying superb views west to Farndale and beyond, Rudland Rigg


At Grid Ref. 654 007 (above) we leave the railway and join a track heading north into Westerdale
enjoying a spectacular view of the distant dale and the rocky outcrop of Esklets Crag on the right of the photograph
- in my opinion, Westerdale is one of the finest dales in the whole of the North York Moors


A final glimpse back to the railway embankment across a frozen pond


Further on, at this gate, we get a closer view of Esklets Crag and Westerdale Moor



As we reach the bottom of the dale we first hear, then see, a few trickles of water
- several small becks run down the hillside before converging to form the beginnings of the River Esk


Just after crossing the tiny stream we arrive at this pair of gateposts and just beyond...


...the ruins of Esklets, once a monastic sheep farm (12th century) owned by the monks of Rievaulx Abbey
but sadly abandoned as a working farm in the 1940's due to its isolated position (Grid Ref. 656 017)

In today's morning sunshine though, it was the perfect place to stop and enjoy a warm cuppa.


From Esklets the track continues along, then down towards the young river - a very boggy section has to be
carefully negotiated before the river is crossed via a small, wooden footbridge

The peaty track then continues along the bracken-covered western slopes of Westerdale Moor,
heading roughly north west and fairly easy to follow with the river down to our left



After leaving moorland, we walk over a couple of grassy fields then cross back over the river at this ford (Grid Ref. 652 036)


The track continues almost parallel with the river (now to our right), first passing left of Wood End Farm and then
across a series of fields (quite boggy today) - the path is fairly indistinguishable at times, but it's a pretty safe bet
to keep looking and heading roughly north towards the field stiles ahead, each one marked with a yellow arrow


Near New House Farm (Grid Ref. 652 047) we join the access track and follow it for the next mile or so
past the farm at Hawthorn House, then Stocking House (above)...


...from where we enjoy lovely views south east across to the pretty village of Westerdale

From Stocking House we walk uphill before joining the surfaced John Breckon Road which we follow
until it reaches a road junction at Grid Ref. 657 072 where we turn right for a couple of hundred yards
before turning left off the road at a footpath sign (Grid Ref. 657 070) and onto Westerdale Moor...


...enjoying more superb views south to Westerdale and the valley we have come along (right of photo)
- notice the line of trees bends and tells us where the River Esk is flowing at this stage of its journey
- by now it's now flowing east and continues to do so until it reaches the North Sea at Whitby.

Of Westerdale Moor...

"High on the summit of this moorland spur is to be found the remains of an Iron Age settlement, with a circular enclosure
and some remarkable drystone walling. Crown End - as this area is known - has its history steeped in folk-lore.
From this we learn that Crown End was won and lost five times in a day in battles fought with spears and arrows.
Another current version says that three battles were fought in a day between Crown End and Stone Rook Howe
above High Stone Dike on Castleton Rigg. Another variant is that a battle was fought between the Romans and
the ancient Britons all the way from Crown End to Stone Rook"

(From 'Round and About The North Yorshire Moors' byTom Scott Burns)


Continuing along the moorland track past a large stone house (Dale View), we walk parallel with a drystone wall,
(Dibble Bridge Farm ahead), before descending from the moor down a steep bankside to a wooden footbridge...



...where Stan watches Luke have a swim as he retrieves a stick - by now the river is about 15 - 20 feet wide


The first substantial stone bridge we reach is the ancient double-arched Dibble Bridge (Grid Ref. 676 078)

"The name Dibble Bridge is a misinterpretation of 'Depehil', 'Depilbrigge', 'Dybell', which should read
- 'Bridge near the deep pool'.


From Dibble Bridge we follow the surfaced road uphill to a junction at Grid Ref. 679 079, then turn left
and follow the road downhill towards Castleton road bridge, passing the village cricket field on our right.

Castleton village stands on a ridge which dominates the valley below...

"Oh! the little town that clusters
Round the castle on the hill,
Here I wandered in my childhood,
Now, grown old, I love it still."

(John Gilbert Baker)

I know what he meant! As a young child I used to come here on many a weekend with my Mam to visit
my Gran & Grandad who lived in a pretty, oak-beamed stone cottage on Primrose Hill.
My Grandad was called Matty Pearson, a well-known character in these parts - by 'horse & cart'
he used to deliver fresh fish and fruit, in all weathers, to the surrounding isolated farms and dale villages.


We end the first stage of the Esk Valley Walk at Castleton 'New Bridge' (Grid Ref. 685 084)
- its ancient predecessor, 'Bow Bridge', was demolished in 1873 much against the wishes of the locals.

location map


Stage 2: Castleton - Danby - Lealholm - Glaisdale

Stage 3: Glaisdale - Sleights - Ruswarp - Whitby

( If any photographs fail to download, click the right mouse button on the blank space then choose 'Show Picture' )


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