Bransdale & Rudland Rigg (North York Moors)

The last weekend of September found us walking a little closer to home, in the North York Moors National Park at Bransdale, which is considered to be the most isolated of the moorland valleys. 

We began our nine mile circular walk from the hamlet of Cockayne, parking by the  little church of St Nicholas.  Although there has been a church on this site since the late 13th century, the present building was erected in 1886 and was extended in 1934.  It's what's known as a chapel of ease, which means that it's a small church built within the parish of a larger church for the "ease" of those who are unable to travel to the main church.  In this case the main parish church is All Saints, Kirbymoorside, a distance of some nine miles away, across isolated moorland. 

St Nicholas Church, Cockayne

From the church we walked along the road and across a field to Bransdale Mill, an 18th century watermill currently in the ownership of the National Trust and used today as a bunkhouse.  In the early 19th century the mill was owned by a William Strickland of Farndale whose initials W.S. are displayed in iron lettering along with an inscription to the effect that he rebuilt the mill in 1812.  

Bransdale Mill

A short distance from the buildings, in a field overlooking the mill, I discovered a sundial bearing the inscription "Time and life move swiftly".   I took a few photographs of the mill and the sundial with the intention of trying to find out more upon my return home.  Disappointingly, I haven't been able to find out very much at all about the Stricklands of Bransdale.  All I've discovered so far is that William Strickland's  son Emmanuel, who for a short time was the Curate at Ingleby Greenhow, was responsible for a number of inscriptions at Bransdale Mill.  And a little further on the walk another curious inscription turned up...more on this later!
Sundial, Bransdale Mill
From Bransdale Mill our walk returned us to the road and then onto the high moorland between Bransdale and Farndale.  Here the road between the heather climbed steadily over Shaw Ridge, past lines of grouse butts and eventually onto Rudland Rigg.  Here we turned onto the old coaching road known as the Waingate, which leads from Kirbymoorside to Stokesley.  I was keen to photograph one of the old stone waymarkers which were erected to guide travellers across this isolated section of moorland.  This one is inscribed "Kirby Rode" on one side (road to Kirbymoorside) and, less distinctly on the other side "Stoxle Rode" (meaning Stokesley road). 

Waymarker on the Waingate, Rudland Rigg

The name "Waingate" derives from the Anglo-Saxon name for wagons, the wain (as in "haywain" or "wainwright") and on this ancient isolated track it was easy to imagine packhorses, wagons and stagecoaches transporting food, wool, timber and passengers.  Rudland Rigg would have been the motorway of its day!
A mile or so further along the Waingate sits the Cammon Stone ("common" stone), a single standing stone dating from the Bronze Age.  The stone stands at approximately 1.6 meters high, has a cleft down the centre and is inscribed with curious lettering which translates from Hebrew to the word "hallelujah  ".  This, like the inscriptions at Bransdale Mill, is believed to be the work of Emmanuel Strickland and, looking at the wonderful views over Farndale, it's easy to see why this particular word sprang to mind.

 The Cammon Stone
Hebrew "Hallelujah" inscribed on Cammon Stone

We continued along our route until the national trail the Cleveland Way crossed the Waingate at Bloworth Crossing.  Here the Rosedale Ironstone Railway crossed the Waingate as it headed towards Ingleby Incline above Ingleby Greenhow (home to Emmanuel Strickland).   Ingleby Incline is 1430 yards long and ascends to an altitude of 1370ft at the top starting at 1 in 11 gradient steepening to 1 in 5 by the top.  Little wonder then that there was once a rope shed at Bloworth, where ropes were stored to pull the engines.  Today the only evidence of the railway are the remains of some sleepers at the crossing point.  From here the Cleveland Way follows the track of the former railway line, heading off to the left on my photo below, whilst the Waingate continues winding its way over the moors towards Stokesley.

Bloworth Crossing

We retraced our steps back along Rudland Rigg for a short while before taking a track down into Bloworth Woods.  The woods here are owned by the Forestry Commission and although the track is not a public right of way it's what's known as a permissive footpath which enabled us to cut back towards Cockayne, passing signs of intensive forestry work.

Forestry work in Bloworth Wood

This was my first every visit to Bransdale.  After the busy footpaths and hills of the Lake District it was pleasant to walk in such a peaceful  and isolated area, and I'm sure we will return here again before too long.


  1. If you read one of Herbert Read's autobiographies "The innocent eye" "Annals of innocence and experience" "The contrary experience" you'll find that the Bransdale Mill (as well as the Howkeld Mill downstream on Hodge Beck) used to belong to relatives on his mother's side.


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