August is definitely the best time of year to explore the North Yorkshire Moors – the purple heather is in bloom and the colours, combined with various shades of green, spread magnificently across the wide landscapes; and when the sun shines you feel it’s really good to be out and about.
The intriguingly-named Hob Hole turned out to be down in a narrow valley where the road crossed a stream, and where a slightly larger group of participants than usual gathered at the appointed time. On this occasion we were joined by some from East Yorkshire as well as several regulars from all over the north east, and we were also pleased to welcome a few newcomers. After introductions we set off, and a short climb out of the narrow valley soon led us to a level path away from the road and across the moors, with the stream still visible below.
After a mile or so we paused by an old stone barn, and dropped back down to the stream where the path became more pastoral in nature. We reached Baysdale Abbey, which we were told was originally a Cistercian nunnery founded in the twelfth century. A working farm now occupied the site but a medieval bridge survived and as we climbed again away from the farm we enjoyed increasingly wider views of the remote valley, with the sheep keeping a watchful eye on our progress.
The path continued steeply though a section of forestry and we were soon back on the open moor, and below we could see an extensive area where the trees had recently been felled and the land was empty. Closer to us the heather remained, and we found occasional bilberries alongside the path, a bit like the blueberries you might find in shops but smaller and with a more intense flavour. It would take a whole day to pick enough of them to make it worthwhile to take home.
We stopped for our packed lunches at a place which on the map was called Armouth Wath, back down by the stream and where there were plenty of grassy banks on which to sit and relax for a while. It was a bit puzzling that there should have been paths here at all in this remote region; most likely they would be the remains of ancient routes used for herding livestock from one pasture to the next, or as part of the process of extraction of stones or other minerals from local quarries whose remains were dotted across the landscape.
Our path after lunch climbed again to the opposite side of the valley, and generally in the direction back towards our starting point. We were now crossing Baysdale Moor, and Great Hograh Moor, where the views increasingly opened up to encompass Westerdale and Commondale villages, and miles beyond towards the coast. We passed several small landmarks, which took the form of standing stones, or piles of stones, or memorial stones, which hinted at others who had passed this way previously. At one point we descended briefly into a small valley and a stream crossed by a tiny stone arch next to another memorial stone, another chance for a short stop.
Eventually we reached the road which led us steeply down back to Hob Hole, our starting point and the end of the walk. The day wasn’t over however, as our event facilitator had phoned ahead to a local teashop in nearby Kildale village, and after changing boots we proceeded on to enjoy welcome tea and cake in the teashop garden before finally dispersing.
Thanks are once again due to Peter W our event coordinator for preparing our splendid walk and day out, and again to Ivor for some of the illustrations to this article.