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Bilsdale from the path above William Beck Farm
Bilsdale from the path above William Beck Farm

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Route No 96 - 21 February 2004
Chop Gate, Tripsdale & the Ship Stone,
Flat Howe, Cock Howe - 14km
Bilsdale, North York Moors . . .

Map:OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors Western area at 1:25000

Ordnance Survey route map on the Landranger series map base

 


Tripsdale from the Ship Stone
Tripsdale from the Ship Stone

This morning was bright and sunny with a cold wind - just right for a good walk on the moors. My son was staying for the weekend and I had a particular reason for visiting Tripsdale. A few weeks ago I received an email via this web site from a lady in California who's family came from Bilsdale. Apparently her great great grandfather was Mr Johnathan Hart of Bilsdale and a family story told of him carving an inscription in the mid eighteen hundreds on a large boulder called the Ship Rock somewhere in Bilsdale. I'm ashamed to say that I had never heard of the Ship Rock but in fact it is quite famous. I eventually found a reference to it in "A Walkers' Guide to the Cleveland Hills" by Tom Scott Burns where it is called the Ship Stone. So to-day my son and I set off to find the Ship Stone and photograph the inscription to send to Johnathan Hart's great great grand daughter in California. Isn't the Internet just wonderful for this kind of thing. At the risk of sounding a bit pompous it's for this kind of interaction that I keep this site going as a free resource for walkers - it's what the Internet does best allowing people to get together in a way that wouldn't be possible otherwise. Anyway enough sounding off, let's get on with the walk.

We drove to the village hall car park in Chop Gate and arrived there at about 10am. We crossed the main road and climbed up past William Beck Farm (It's always so neat and tidy!!) and onto the moorland track at map ref.SE 559993. We crossed the track and continued along the path into Tripsdale to the ford at map ref. SE 582988. At least it used to be a pretty ford with a stone slab bottom but it's been piped in and filled with gravel to make an easy crossing for the grouse shooting parties. From here we scrambled up the bank to the boulder field below the Key Nest crags and made our way along towards the location of the Ship Stone shown on a sketch map in Tom Scott Burn's book. We spotted two double-decker-bus sized boulders and made a careful inspection but there was no inscription. Then just beyond the second boulder I came over a little rise and below me was another large boulder and I could see straight away that there was an inscription neatly carved on its side. We couldn't believe our luck, but there it was. The inscription reads:-

"DEI PLENA SUNT OMNIA.
JOANNES CERVUS, BILSVALLENSIS.
ANNO MDCCCXLIX."

Which, according to Tom Scott Burn's book translates as:-

ALL THINGS ARE FULL OF THE CREATOR
JOHN HART, A MAN OF BILSDALE,
1849

We sat on top of the rock in the sunshine with our backs to the wind for a sandwich and a drink. I took some photos and we set off again down the valley. It was fairly rough going and very boggy just before we rejoined the footpath at map ref. SE 581979. Then I realised I had forgotten to take a map reference with my GPS gadget when we were at the rock. Oh well! I'll just have to make do with an old fashioned one from the map. My best estimate is that the Ship Stone is at map ref. SE 582986. We crossed Tripsdale Beck at map ref. SE 580978. The stream was deep and fast flowing and there was no proper crossing point so we walked upstream about 30m and crossed where there were some rocks to balance on with our walking sticks (oop! sorry they're treking poles). We followed the path round the hill to map ref. SE 570975 where we turned down the hill to cross the road in the valley and continue towards Crookleith Farms. (*See shorter easier route back to the village Hall) At map ref. SE 559976, just before Crookleith Farm, we turned up the hill towards the Bilsdale TV mast near Flat Howe. As we plodded up the steep climb the views along Bilsdale just got better and better - it's a wonderful place. We stopped at the top of the steep part of the climb for another break before continuing across the moor to the track along the ridge. There is no defined path across the moor and even in clear weather it's best to check a compass bearing and the time to make sure you are on the right track. The wind on the ridge was very cold. We paused at Cock Howe (map ref. SE542983) to look at the view and then followed the path down to our starting point at Chop Gate. The whloe route was 13.5km and took us about five hours including two stops and our exploration of the boulders below Key Nest crags. The route includes about 400m of climbing
*Shorter easier route back to the village Hall (see red markers on the route map): At map ref. SE 559976 turn right along the track and then follow the path across the corner of the field by-passing Crookleith Farm. Then cross the farm access track to follow the bridleway across the fields to Orterley Farm and continue along the footpath across the fields by the beck to the track back into the car park. This short cut reduces the walk to about 9km.

The Ship Stone in Tripsdale
The Ship Stone in Tripsdale

The head of Bilsdale from the path above William Beck Farm
The head of Bilsdale from the path above William Beck Farm

Looking across Bilsdale from the moorland track above William Beck Farm
Looking across Bilsdale from the moorland track above William Beck Farm

Looking up Tripsdale from the rocks below Key Nest crags
Looking up Tripsdale from the rocks below Key Nest crags

Tripsdale Beck just below the old ford at map ref. SE 582988
Tripsdale Beck just below the old ford at map ref. SE 582988

Looking back to Tripsdale from the path at map ref. SE 579975
Looking back to Tripsdale from the path at map ref. SE 579975

Hasty Bank in the distance from the moor below Flat Howe
Hasty Bank in the distance from the moor below Flat Howe

Stone pillar at Cock Howe
Stone pillar at Cock Howe

Tripsdale Beck
Tripsdale Beck

Background Notes:
This walk begins at Chop Gate in Bilsdale where there is a public car park at the village hall on the southern edge of the village. It's a circular walk of 14km or 9 miles with a shorter option of about 10km or 6 miles. We cross the road from the village hall and follow a farm access track up the valley side past William Beck farm. From the farm there is a path across the fields climbing up to an access track along the edge of the heather moor over looking Bilsdale. Once through the final field gate that leads onto this track I always stop just to admire the view back across and along Bilsdale. It's a wonderful place looking down the valley to the left and looking up to the head of the valley to the right with the ridges of Hasty Bank, Cold Moor, Cringle Moor and Carlton Bank providing the distinctive skyline. Our route crosses the access track and follows a narrow public footpath through the heather to cross the moor and drop down into Tripsdale. This is a wooded valley with Tripsdale Beck flowing in the bottom. Our path takes us across the beck and we begin the climb up the far side of the valley on a public right of way on an access track used by shooting parties. Just a short way up the hillside we turn right off the access track to pick our way through a boulder field at the foot of Key Nest Crags. This may seem a strange thing to do when there is a perfectly good path along the top of the crag but I came to this place as a result of a request from a lady who lived in California. She contacted me through my web site asking if I had heard of the Ship Stone. Her family had emigrated to America several generations ago from the Bilsdale area and she was intrigued by a family story that her great great grandfather, a man called John Hart, had carved an inscription on a rock called the Ship Stone in Bilsdale. The Ship Stone is, in fact, in this boulder field in Tripsdale, a side valley off Bilsdale. There are a number of large boulders, almost bus sized, that have fallen from the crag but after a short search we found the Ship Stone which does indeed have a sharp end to it very much like the bow of a large ship. On the side of this rock is an inscription neatly carved in the kind of Latin that was popular amongst educated people in Victorian times. Translated into English the inscription reads. "All things are full of the Creator. John Hart, a man of Bilsdale, 1849" I took some photos of the inscription and sent them to the lady in California. We continue down Tripsdale to cross a very boggy area and then cross Tripsdale Beck to follow the path out to Bilsdale. We drop down to cross the road and the River Seph in Bilsdale. Here there is the option of a longer harder route or a shorter easier route back to the village hall car park. The longer route climbs up the valley side to the moor at a place called Flat Howe. It's a steep climb and there is no discernable path across the moor at first and even in clear weather you will need a compass bearing to keep in the right direction until you reach a track running along the moor top to a cairn and marker called Cock Howe. Here there is a good path down the hillside back to the village hall car park. The shorter route stays in the valley and follows a path along the valley bottom past Crooklieth farm and Orterley Farm back to the village hall car park and the end of the walk.

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