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Route No 70 - 25 March 2003
Kirkbymoorside, Gillamoor,
Fadmoor, Kirk Dale - 14km
North York Moors . . .

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

Route map from Ordnance Survey Open Space service.

Looking up Sleightholme daleFour of us met up this morning and drove to Kirk Dale. We parked at the turning for St. Gregory's Minster, map ref SE 676856, where you can squeeze a couple of cars onto a piece of land at the corner. We set off along the road towards Kirkbymoorside down to the ford across Hodge Beck. The river bed was dry today. Unless there has been recent heavy rain the river runs underground. On the left hand side as we climbed up from the river there is a little cliff in a wooded area and a small cave in the cliff where geologists have discovered bones of mammoths, lions, hippopotamuses, elephants, bison, reindeer, tigers and hyenas. It's marked as Kirkdale Cave on the map and there are often groups of children there from a local outdoor centre. Woodland path above Hodge BeckWe continued along the road for about 400m from the ford to a cross roads where we took the footpath opposite across the fields to Kirkbymoorside. In the town we made our way through the streets to the mini-roundabout at the top of the village street at turned up Castlegate. We walked to the end of the street to map ref. SE 695870 where there is a path heading generally north across the fields. We followed this path for about 3km into Gillamoor. It's a pretty village and if you want to detour to the north eastern end of the village there are lovely views up Farndale and over towards Hutton-le-Hole. We turned along the road to Fadmoor, about 1km away. From the village green in Fadmoor (where there is a good farm shop sellingA pleasant break in the sunshine in Kirk Dale organic vegetables) we made our way along the road to map ref. SE 674891 where we took the footpath over the fields for about 800m to a narrow lane. Here we turned right (north) and followed the lane for 500m to doubleback on ourselves on a path through the woods which follows Kirk Dale above Hodge Beck for almost 3km to a watermill at map ref. SE 669869. From there we took the bridleway on the east side of Hodge Beck for 1.5km back to our start. Just before we reached the car we passed St Gregory's Minster. This is a Saxon church with a rare Saxon sundial and 8th century Celtic crosses. The whole route was about 14km and took us about 4 hours including a couple of very pleasant stops in the warm sunshine.

Weir on Hodge beck by the water mill
Weir on Hodge beck by the water mill

Hodge Beck downstream of the water mill where the river runs underground
Hodge Beck downstream of the water mill
where the river runs underground

St. Gregory's Minster - Saxon church
St. Gregory's Minster - Saxon church

Primrose and violets beside the path
Primrose and violets beside the path

Background Notes:
This walk is 14km, that's almost 9 miles, from Kirkbymoorside. This ancient market town is noted in the Doomsday Book of 1086 and there are two old coaching inns in the town, the Black Swan and the George & Dragon. Kirkbymoorside fairly obviously just means the village with a church on the side of the moor. We follow a path across the fields to the north of the town to the village of Gillamoor. Our path comes out on to the road through the village next to the village church of St Aidan. This church was reputedly re-built in 1802 by a single mason, called James Smith from Farndale and next to the church is the surprise view looking out over the lower end of Farndale at Lowna. We follow the road through the village passing a very unusual sundial built by public subscription in 1800 by a sculptor called John Russell. It consists of a large stone plinth with a short circular stone column topped by the sundial faces and a stone globe. We follow the road a short distance to the next village of Fadmoor and from there we cross the fields and drop down through the woods into Kirkdale. This is actually the valley of Hodge Beck which start out as Bransdale at Cockayne, then it changes its name to Sleightholmedale and then becomes Kirkdale. It's a pretty valley with a mixture of woodland and pasture beside the beck and the path. We follow Hodge Beck down Kirkdale to an old water mill called Hold Cauldron that has been here since at least the beginning of the 1700's. There's a weir just upstream where the mill race would have taken water to power the mill wheel. The old mill building is now a private house. Downstream of the mill the Hodge Beck disappears underground through fissures in the limestone and from this point it only flows above ground after heavy rain. A little further down the valley we come to a fine old Saxon church called St. Gregory's Minster. Over the door is an ancient sundial with inscriptions in Old English on either side that say the ruined church was bought by Orm Gamelson who re-built the church a few years before the Norman conquest. The minster is dedicated to Pope Gregory who was pope from 590 to 604AD. We follow a lane out from the minster to a ford over Hodge Beck. As we saw earlier it's usually dry but can be very deep after heavy rain, so there is a footbridge alongside the ford. From the ford the road climbs up from the beck and in the wood on the left hand side of the road is a small quarry. When the workers were excavating stone in the 1820's they found the entrance to a cave that had been undiscovered since prehistoric times. It turned out to have been the lair of a kind of hyena from about 70,000 years ago. These hyenas were much bigger than modern ones and their lair was full of the bones of the hyena's prey including hippo, bison, elephant, and rhino, all from a time when the climate here was sub-tropical. Many of these bones are now part of the collection of the Yorkshire Museum in York. We continue along the road a short distance to a junction and then take a path across the fields back into Kirkbymoorside and the end of the walk.