Black Hambleton – Far Moor – Sheep Wash Loop

A Busy Week

Well, that was a week and a half all done in only a week. 

Last Sunday, I had my second Covid jab and was delighted; however, by Monday lunchtime I felt like I’d been hit by a bus and by half-seven I gave up and went to bed. On Tuesday, I still felt under-the-weather but more able to do things and the walk on Wednesday, which had looked in jeopardy was back on the agenda. The reason that I’m telling you this is to reassure you that if you have the jab and do have a bit of a reaction to it, there can be a period of unpleasantness but it doesn’t last long and the feeling of security offered by the second dose far outweighs the inconvenience of a day similar to a hangover.

On Wednesday I’m on my way to Osmotherley or Square Corner to be more accurate where I’m meeting the boys for a nine-miler that takes in both moorland, managed forrest and a reservoir. Carol has warned us that the weather, first-thing, would be chilly and she nailed it; it’s chilly and then some! The wind is out of the north and it’s squally. DB arrives in his all-electric-ultra-environmentally-friendly-runabout and glides to halt as we add extra layers to combat the bitterly cold wind that’s gusting across the moor.  He steps out of his sewing-machine and he’s wearing a loose top and shorts! We’re all smiles and make appropriate references to the parts of his anatomy just above and inside the leg of his shorts that are making a getaway from those southern regions to his neck. He now has three Adams Apples but, to his credit, his only compromise is to add an extra layer on top. We’re ready to to go but the final-initial formality is a call to ‘socially distance’ as Peter lines us up for the evidential starter-photo.

The first half mile is along the moor road before making a sharp left and within twenty minutes, we’re on the moor heading towards Miley Pike and the tumulus. There’s no evidence that we could discern of the actual tumulus but the OS map has it marked. Quite often there’s a small pile of stones that travellers add-to in the mistaken belief that it’s a cairn and, on some walks, notably the Cleveland Way, there’s a small sign maintained by the authorities that explains the importance of the stones and to avoid adding to them as it is a religious artefact.

As we walk along the contour of Miley Pike we reach a fork with the hard-right track leading off towards Douglas Ridge and Snilesworth we call it Mac’s Fork following an unfortunate incident when he and his lovely wife were walking these paths in the winter. Mac’s sense of direction was somewhat lacking on the day and he turned left in a snowstorm and by the time they reached the security of the main road there was some degree of apprehension and not a little tension!

We stop at the Shooting Lodge and shelter in its lee. Just being out of the wind and with the now shining sun, we’re like reptiles soaking in the heat. After a banana and a few nuts for sustenance we take a shortcut towards Far Moor followed by Near Moor, ironically in terms of distance, Near Moor is furthest away!

Scugdale is to our right and the views are outstanding. There are tiny farms in the valley, Whorl Hill in the middle distance and the wind-farm off-shore at Redcar. The wind is still cold but the sun has burned through the cloud and the two developments have created an ideal walking environment. We’ve also slowed down a bit and I’m happier with that, it allows me to daydream, take in the scenery and steal a few snaps.

As we traverse Near Moor towards Scarth Nick we find ourselves in the lee of Clain Wood and the wind is completely inhibited so we take a break at a bench seat that’s perfectly placed for a mid-walk snack and a rest… so we do.

The view towards Cod Beck Reservoir is very special here and even better for the protection of the trees enabling a leisurely nibble and observations about the vista. We only stop for a few minutes but it’s enough to reenergise and refocus on what we’ve missed over the last year.

So now we’re off and discussing our fitness levels that, in fairness, haven’t dropped that much considering the enforced absence of these types of longer walk. We’ve kept going through lockdown with walks around town then, as the restrictions were lifted we expanded to five milers around Bullamoor that gave both distance and, more importantly, a bit of cardio with the hill up to Banks Lane. We’ve also started with a couple of easier walks over Black Hambleton followed by this one as a warm up to a ten to twelve miler next week to Lordstones and Back along Scugdale and back via the Cleveland Way but more of that next week.

It’s consistently downhill now although the gradient is slight as we pass Scarth Nick and make a left skirting Pamperdale Moor and descend the heather covered slopes to Sheep Wash.

Sheep Wash is where we would be ‘treated’ to a picnic as kids. There is enough horizontal or near horizontal space to lay out a blanket coupled with some more banks that a small child could run up or down armed with a stick that doubled as a Tommy gun, a bow and arrow, a sword, a lance or even a stick that could be used to ward off the hoards of ‘baddies’ who were at the top of the hill. If you were going up you were clearly a goodie and had to run at the imaginary baddies whilst screaming and bellowing at a level that would require a risk assessment if it were to happen now.

There are several carpark areas now but they have managed to leave a little bit of green ‘play area’ to compliment the swiftly flowing beck where feet and ankles go numb with cold but it never seems to deter the youngsters as the seasons progress and the weather warms.

We had some good times up here in the early 1970’s when a sneaky joint could be had without the smell alerting the authorities. Perhaps it was the herbal assistance that enabled us to appreciate the thin and feeble sound from our tiny transistor radios. I found one in my shed recently when I was performing an enthusiastic throwing out session following the reading of a book by Marie Kondo – she’s got a lot to answer for! I put in a battery and it fired up straight away but the sound from medium wave reminded me of what we endured under the bed covers on a winter’s-night listening to the whistles and wanes of Radio Luxembourg but when that was all you had it was the best. After a while and with a bit of imagination, you could fill in the gaps that occurred in a frustrating cycle when the signal faded to nothing or the whistle became louder than the music but we sang along even when there was no discernible song – such was the life of a youngster in the late ’50s and ‘60s. 

As we walk along the banks of Cod Beck reservoir I find it hard to believe it no longer supplies our domestic water. It was closed in 2006 after the water quality from the moor deteriorated and the presence of cryptosporidium identified. The water for Northallerton and surrounds including Osmotherley is now supplied from Thornton Steward at the Pennine end of the Vale. It’s still maintained by the Yorkshire Water and is used to maintain levels in the downward side of the streams during droughts.

We’re passed it now and turning left to walk up the hill and back on to High Lane (The Drovers Track). The woods in the lower reaches have been harvested and we count the rings on one of the felled trunks, it doesn’t take long and the 40 rings (40 years) is not a surprise. These conifers are swift to mature but the Commission is now implementing a regime of diversity that includes many species of conifer for their swift maturity but also huge numbers of deciduous and hard wood species not only for their valuable wood but also for the many insects and other wild life that depends on them.

At the top we turn right on the Drovers Road and make our way across Osmotherley Moor passed Chequers and on to the final mile which is an enjoyably gentle walk in the sun.

Thank you all for such a wonderful return to walking the moors. Already looking forward to the big one next week!

Enjoy the snaps. G x

1 thought on “Black Hambleton – Far Moor – Sheep Wash Loop”

  1. Fabulous, once again you have brought the walk to life in your writing. I know all of us on the walk had a wonderful time and as you say the fitness levels are still there.


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