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The Iron Valley of Rosedale

Reminders of former industry are all around you on this route near Rosedale Abbey.

Distance 3.5 miles (5.7km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 558ft (170m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Mostly field paths and tracks, 11 stiles

Landscape Quiet valley and hillside farmland, with reminders of the iron industry

Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 26 North York Moors - Western

Start/finish SE 708964

Dog friendliness Dogs should be on leads

Parking Roadside parking, with care, in Thorgill

Public toilets None on route

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1 From your parking place in the hamlet of Thorgill, continue up the lane, pass a public bridleway sign and go through a metal gate. Follow the track, going through a wooden gate and beginning to rise. Almost opposite a farmhouse on the left, go right over a wooden stile beside a gate.

2 Walk down the slope to pass over the stream on a gated footbridge, then turn slightly left to go uphill on the opposite bank beside the trees. Continue through a gate into the field and walk ahead, going over a stile then through a metal gate into the yard of Craven Garth Farm. Go through another gateway and pass between the buildings to reach Daleside Road, a metalled country lane.

3 Turn right; just before reaching the cottage, turn left up a track by the parish notice board. A little way up the track look for a stile beside the gate to Clough House.

4 Go over the stile and follow the track downhill towards the wood, passing around the garden of Clough House and up to a stile, where you turn right and follow the waymarked path through the wood to reach a stile on to a road.

5 Turn right, then go left through a gate at a bridleway sign. Go down the grassy path to meet a level track. Turn left. Just before a gate, go right, following the bridleway sign. Continue downhill to reach a ladder stile, and go straight ahead across the field to reach a gateway on to a road by a bridleway sign.

6 Cross the road and continue ahead. After passing through a gateway, turn right at the footpath sign before the bridge. The track climbs steeply to a road. Turn left along the road to a T-junction.

7 Turn left. Opposite the Bell End Farm sign turn right through a gate, and continue down the field to a stile. The path bends and descends steeply. On reaching a fence, turn sharp right to go over a boardwalk and through a waymarked gate. Follow the path over two stiles. Turn left down the track, which passes though a gateway, and go straight on.

8 Just beyond a gate, go left, following the stream, to cross a footbridge with stiles at each end. Follow the footpath uphill towards the farm buildings. Follow the waymarks through the buildings and up the farm track to reach a lane. Turn right and go back to the car parking place.

Rosedale is a quiet and peaceful valley that pushes north west into the heart of the North York Moors. The village of Rosedale Abbey gets its name from the former Cistercian nunnery of which only the angle of a wall remains. Yet little more than 100 years ago the village had a population ten times its present size. The reason was the discovery of ironstone in the hills in the mid 1850s. From 1856 onwards commercial exploitation began, new rows of cottages were built for the miners and, as one of the villagers wrote in 1869, 'The ground is hollow for many a mile underground? It's like a little city now but is a regular slaughter place. Both men and horses are getting killed and lamed every day.'

The dramatic remains of the Rosedale East Mines, which opened in 1865, can be seen during much of the walk. Now being cared for by the National Park Authority with help from English Heritage, they are a testament to the size of the mining operations. The long range of huge arches is the remains of the calcining kilns, where the ironstone was roasted to eliminate impurities and reduce its weight. They operated until 1879, when the owner, the Rosedale and Ferryhill Mining Company, collapsed, but resumed in 1881. The West Mines across the valley had stopped work by 1890, but the East Mines struggled on, burdened by rising costs, until the General Strike of 1926, which effectively killed them off.

The mined iron ore from Rosedale was taken by rail from the mines and over the moorland to Ingleby, where it was lowered down the northern edge of the moors by tramway on the 1-in-5 gradient Ingleby Incline. The line had reached Rosedale in 1861, and the branch to the East Mines was opened in 1865. As many as 15 loaded wagons at a time were steam hauled round the top of Rosedale. The line closed in September 1928, and the last load was hauled down Ingleby Incline in June the following year. The track bed is now open for walkers to enjoy its engineered gradients.

For more than a century the village of Rosedale Abbey was dominated by an industrial chimney, more than 100ft (30m) tall. One of the steepest public roads in the country went past it to reach the heights of Spaunton Moor. The road is still there, but the chimney was demolished in 1972, a victim of the inability to raise the £6,000 needed to preserve it - and symptomatic of the public attitude to industrial archaeology that prevailed at the time.

What to look for

Looming over Thorgill at the start of the walk, and visible across the valley from most of the walk, is the bulk of Blakey Rigg, one of the most prominent of the Moors' heights, which divides Rosedale and Farndale. The Hutton-le-Hole to Castleton road follows the ridge's top for most of its length, and there are superb views from it. The Lion Inn is one of the most popular pubs in the area - and one of the most isolated. The Rigg is also known as a landmark on the Lyke Wake Walk across the Moors, celebrated in the Lyke Wake Dirge starting 'This aye night', set by Benjamin Britten. The walk follows the route that corpses were taken for burial. Those who believe in the existence of ley lines - those channels of mystical power that criss-cross the country - reckon that Blakey Rigg is the focus for several of them.

While you're there

Take the road north from Rosedale Abbey to Rosedale Head, where you will find Young Ralph Cross, symbol of the North York Moors National Park. A little way to the west is Old Ralph. Young Ralph is 18th century, replacing one on the site from at least 1200. It is said to have been put up by a farmer from Danby called Ralph who found a dead traveller on the spot. Old Ralph, on the highest part of Blakey Ridge, is possibly 11th century, and is said to be named after Auld Ralph of Rosedale, a herdsman employed by Guisborough Priory.

Where to eat and drink

The Milburn Arms Hotel in Rosedale Abbey offers high-class dining in its Priory Restaurant as well as meals in the beamed bar. The Abbey Tea Rooms provides coffee, light lunches and cream teas from Easter to the end of October.

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