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Looking to the coast from the path over Guisborough Moor
Looking to the coast from the path over Guisborough Moor

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Route No 158 - Wednesday 5 October 2005
Commondale, Guisborough Woods circuit - 15km
North York Moors

Maps: OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors Western area at 1:25000
Route Map on 'Landranger' base from OS Open Space service

It was a cold bright autumn morning and we drove to the village of Commondale near the northern edge of the North York Moors. We parked at a road junction in the middle of the village next to the carved millennium seat at map ref. NZ 662105.

Millennium seat in Commondale
Millennium seat in Commondale

The start of the path over Commondale Moor
The start of the path over Commondale Moor

We set off along the road up the hill out of the village westwards to for about 400m to map ref. NZ 658105, where we turned right off the road on to a footpath across the moor.The path led us across a little valley that had been planted with trees amongst the bracken.

As we climbed out of the valley a grouse was standing on a post next to a gate on the footpath and it refused to fly away until we were only a few metres from it, so I managed to get quite a good photo.

Grouse perched on a gate post
Grouse perched on a gate post

The path across a little valley above Commondale
The path across a little valley above Commondale
Looking back towards Commondale from the path to Commondale Moor
Looking back towards Commondale from the path to Commondale Moor
Stone memorial to two local men killed in the first world war
Stone memorial to two local men killed in the first world war
We continued along the path, which joined a stoney track, for several hundred metres to map ref. NZ647117 where there is an old goods container with half the side cut off to make a covered veranda for a plastic table and chairs. It looks like a makeshift shooting hut. About a hundred metres beyond the 'hut' we took an indistinct path which forked left off the track and led us to a memorial stone to two local men who were killed in the first world war. We continued on the path for about 1.5km from the 'container shooting hut' to map ref. NZ 634124 where the path crosses a stone trackand continues for another 2km across Guisborough Moor to the edge of Guisborough Wood.

Looking towards the coast from High Moor
Looking towards the coast from High Moor

A grasshopper sunning himself on my leg
A grasshopper sunning himself on my leg

We sat in the sun with our backs to the wall for some lunch. A grasshopper landed on my leg and stayed for a few minutes enjoying the warmth. It seems a long long time since, as a boy, I used to catch them to put in a jam jar with string round the top and a newspaper cover.

Along the edge of the woods are the remains of a wall made from large dressed blocks, much more elaborate than a normal dry stone wall. I think it could have been a boundary of the estate formed from the Guisborough Priory lands

Elaborate wall along the edge of Guisborough Woods
Elaborate wall along the edge of Guisborough Woods

We took the right fork to stay at the top of the woods. We continued on this track which was very boggy in places, for another 1.5km to map ref. NZ 634143. From here we followed a zig-zag series of tracks through some very pretty woodland to map ref. NZ 637138.

After our break we walked west following a path beside the ruined wall along the edge of the wood to map ref. NZ 615137. Here we turned right into the wood for 100m and then turned right again to follow a track through the woods. The Cleveland Way uses this track but after only about 250m the Cleveland Way takes a left fork down the bank.

Seasonal heather burning across Kildale
Seasonal heather burning across Kildale

Approaching the edge of Westworth Wood
Approaching the edge of Westworth Wood

We emerged from the woodland across a small stream and up a steep muddy bank on to a path across high moor with a lovely view to the sea over to our left. We continued across the moor for about 2km to map ref. NZ 659130 where our path joined an old paved pannier way or pack horse trail called the Quakers' Causeway. We followed the Quakers' Causeway towards a series of tumuli and we noticed a pair of small birds fyling ahead of us along the path. Each time we approached they flew a few metres farther on. I had a good look through the binoculars and was sure they were buntings of some kind, but there are lots a similar looking buntings. These two were unusual with a lot of white on their sides, wings and head and the only one I could think of was a snow bunting. This seemed unlikely, I had never heard of them on the North York Moors before. We turned off the path to sit on top of a tumulus for a break with a great view all round us. A mountain biker came along the path and stopped in front of us to ask excitedly "Did you see the snow buntings?". Well that confirmed it! It turned our that he lived locally and had been riding up here most days for the last week and had seen the snow buntings several times. (I did look them up in by big glossy bird book when I got home and I'm sure we were not mistaken).

The Quakers' Causeway- an old paved pannier way or pack horse route
The Quakers' Causeway - an old paved pannier way or pack horse route

Swaledale Tupp on the edge of Commondale
Swaledale Tupp on the edge of Commondale

From the tumulus we followed the path to a bend in the road at map ref. NZ 670117. From the bend we took the path down the hill to map ref. NZ 667107 and from there we walked down the road back to our start. On the way home we stopped at a very nice family tea shop in Kildale for our usual drink and toasted teacake just to round off a very pleasant day out.

Background Notes:
This walk starts in the village of Commondale in the Esk valley in the northern part of the North York Moors. Now-a-days it's a quiet moors village but there used to be a thriving brickworks here owned by the Commondale Brick & Pipe Company Ltd and the red brick houses here, unusual in a moorland village, were built with locally produced bricks. They also made terracotta pottery and there is an example of a decorative terracotta vase in the British Museum that was made here in Commondale. There's a railway station here too on the Middlesbrough to Whitby line so you can travel here by train to do this walk if you wish. It's a longer route than usual at 15km, that's a bit over 9 miles and the main feature of the walk is the scenery of the high wild open heather moors. I just love this kind of country. We follow the road west out of the village up hill and near the top of the hill we turn off the road to follow a path across the moors heading northwest. After about a mile along this path there is a stone memorial commemorating two local young men who enjoyed walking these moors. They were both killed in the first couple of years of the first world war. Just two of the young men out of about one and a quarter million British war dead in that appalling conflict. We continue across the moor to the edge of Guisborough Forest. Here there are the remains of an unusual wall along the edge of the forest. This is much more than a normal dry stone wall field boundary. It's built of squared dressed stone with a vertical not sloping face and it's the boundary of the Guisborough Priory farm land. This type of wall would have been up to 2m tall with a top stone making an overhang of about 200mm on the outside. This was a device to prevent wolves scrambling over the wall to attack livestock. I think that it makes an intreguing link to real people in the distant past to think that this wall was built when the farmers had to protect their livestock from the packs of wolves that roamed these uplands. We make our way into the forest and follow the route of the Cleveland Way towards the eastern end of the forest. There we turn off the Cleveland Way to follow a path heading south east across the moor. After about 2 miles we join an old paved trackway called the Quaker Way, or the Quakers' Causeway. It got it's name from the fact that the route was much used by the followers of George Fox, who later became known as The Quakers, going to and from the Quaker meeting house in Guisborough, but I don't think it was built by them. It was a pack horse route in use well before the Quaker movement began. There are a series of six Bronze Age burial mounds, or tumuli, by the path as we approach a minor road. These six tumuli are known as the Black Howes. There are around 3000 bronze age burial mounds like these across the North York Moors, built over a period of around 1000 years by the Beaker People who occupied this area and indeed the whole of Britain and much of Europe from 5000 to 4000 years ago. There's an odd footnote here. Apparently archeologists called them "The Beaker People" because of the distinctive bell-shaped pottery drinking mugs or beakers that they used. At the road we turn onto a moorland path that drops steeply down the hillside back into Commondale village and the end of our walk for this week.

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