Rosedale Loop

Getting There

I’ve missed the last few rambles so today is something of a bonus. We’re heading for Rosedale to do a walk that I’ve fancied for some time. I did a shortened version of this a couple of years ago after a visit to the ‘Seated Man’ and it was quite boggy. Today, the weather is perfect for walking. The skies are a deep blue with some careless brushes of cirrus cloud although there is every possibility that it will change a little later and there are threatening signs of some deeper cloud over the Pennines in the far distance. 

I’m enjoying the ‘now’ though. I’m in Postman Pat country on winding roads that are little more than tarmac enhanced lanes that have been here for centuries. They twist and turn as they follow the edge of fields, woods, rivers and ancient boundaries. 

I’m driving across the tops and can see the road gently but ominously dropping towards a ford and the water is in full flow from the rain overnight; in fact it’s been raining heavily for over a week so there is more than the usual amount of water flowing in the tiny stream that is currently impersonating a river.

This ford is normally dry and the stream ducks under the road through a small culvert. Not today though, there is a strong current running over the road although the marker that’s been established at the side suggests that it is no more than a foot (30cm) deep. There’re no cars in front or behind me so, in a fit of adolescent fun I welly the car and wash the underside quite nicely with the residue of the water flushing the top of the car and removing the gull shit that I acquired in Whitby yesterday quite effectively.

I stop at a small lay-by at the other side to take some photographs and just as I’m about to get back in to the driver’s seat another car appears, it’s the rest of the team, bar one, and they can see the results of my new, low tech, car wash. After some minor interrogation regarding what I’m doing we’re off again heading out of Westerdale into Rosedale passing some well known stones on the way.

I visited some of these with Pete a year or so ago and they’re well worth getting out of the car for if you’re in this neck of the woods. See next section…

Tracks and Ancient Stones

There are tracks across these moors established by drovers, traders and religious people many centuries ago. The evidence is in the form of crosses, monoliths and smaller stones. Some of these were placed where they are for a known reason i.e. way markers or commemoration of an event (usually gory, or at the very least, scary!) and the ones that don’t have folk lore attached, but they all have a story and you’ll find a couple here:

Old and Young Ralph’s Crosses

Actually there are two that are well known along with Fat Betty and various lesser-known but equally fascinating markers and stones.

Young Ralph is the one you’ll pass if you’re on the moor road. Old Ralph is about 320m (350 yds) west i.e. if you stand next to Young Ralph with your back to the road you can just about see Old Ralph on the horizon. Although it’s a relatively short distance, at the time of writing there had been significant rainfall and this has created numerous boggy areas so the actual walk whilst avoiding them is nearly 800m (half a mile) either way.

Young Ralph stands just under three metres (9 feet) and was restored by three local men who deserve a mention here as the work they did was considerable. 

First recorded in the 12c or 13c although the current one is probably from the 18c. It was vandalised in the 1960’s and again in 1980’s when three dedicated men restored it. 

*In 1985 the cross was lovingly restored and re-erected by some local men, Mr Robert Dixon, Mr Tom Rudd and Mr Michael Smith, at the English Heritage Commission’s stone masonry workshop at Mount Grace Priory.  The middle section of the cross was made from new stone from nearby quarries; the top section was not badly damaged, but a section of delta metal was inserted inside the shaft to make a secure link between the sections and the cross-head.  The cross is a listed monument. *Acknowledgements and thanks to ‘The Northern Antiquarian’

I couldn’t find anything to differentiate Old Ralph from Young Ralph in terms of the folk tales so here’s a synopsis that could apply to either or both!

  1. A nun from Farndale and a monk from Rosedale who would meet there for an ecclesiastical chat followed by a romantic liaison! The latter could have been a medieval euphemism and given the steep paths from both directions I have a lot of admiration for them if they went beyond the chat…
  2. A local man called Ralph found a penniless traveller who’d starved to death here and was so moved that he erected a cross to mark the spot and commemorate him. He then had a hollow carved in the top to enable passers by to add small coins to share so that other desperate travellers would be able to buy a simple meal at one of the nearby inns and no-one else should suffer the same fate. Given the fact that the average hight of a tall man in those days wouldn’t be much more than five feet I think the only poor starving travellers that would be able to avail themselves of the bounty would needed to have been carrying a step ladder!
  3. A medieval way marker. They stand at a point where there are at least two contemporary roads and possibly three paths or tracks in years gone by.
  4. …and connected to 3 above, they have a groove in their tops where money could be left for destitute travellers so that they would have some small change for a meal when they reached the next hamlet or farmstead.

Fat Betty

Is a four foot piece of stone that has the impression of a head at the top. The upper part is painted white and the myths and legends that surround it are numerous…

Two nuns and their attendant were lost in the fog and were eventually found dead and the stone is there to commemorate another is that it is named after a nun called Margery and it was originally called ‘Margery Cross’ and another that a local farmers wife didn’t return from a trip to the local hamlet and he found her here dead. The stone is a memorial!

The bottom line is that nobody knows, but they’re good tales and tick all of the boxes of intrigue, mystery, bit of supernatural, suffering and death; what’s not to like?

Back to the Walk


We’re passing all of this to drop down into Rosedale Abbey for the start of the walk. It’s a beautiful little village and there’s plenty fo parking space, there’s also facilities for those of us of an age and five minutes later we’re ready to rock n roll – well walk.

Click any of these galleries to see the photos full size.

Our route follows the stream which is swollen but not at risk of flooding. There are numerous boggy areas that need a little bit of care and I compliment myself for choosing the heavier Gortex boots for this walk, they’ll keep me dry provided I don’t step into anything that’s going to see my foot disappear under more than six inches of mud or water.

We’re through a couple of fields now and rising all the time so the boggy areas are becoming less frequent and the view down Rosedale more spectacular. We stop and look back as we cross Knott Road. The sun has made an appearance and we can see the shadows of the clouds scooting down the dale. They’re moving apace and it would be impossible to keep up with them on foot, inf= fact, it’s only when you see this kind of evidence that you appreciate the strength of the wind that’s driving the culprits across the sky.

Knotside Plantation

We enter Knottside Plantation and walk for twenty minutes in the shade and protection of the wood. The blustery wind can still be heard and the tops of the trees are flexing as it looks for easier routes and leaves us in a quiet corridor that undulates and gently twists with the land, it’s not difficult in here but there are plenty of boulders and stones so care is needed at each step.

As we’re exiting the wood George mentions some evidence of an industrial past and almost on cue we see a small yard of abandoned ‘stuff’ the highlight of which is a very old wagon of indeterminate vintage and make. One of its lights seems to be a slit light that were evident in the last war and it’s a left-hand-drive, beyond that, it’s a mystery…or it was a mystery until Nick James managed to Google the following information, thanks Nick.

“The Simca Unic Marmon Bocquet (SUMB) was basically a French Military copy of the more famous Unimog 4×4.
4.0 Petrol V8, producing a whopping 100bhp.”

As we walk I realise that we’re now on the bed of a disused railway track. It was opened in 1861 as an extension of the ingenious funicular that serviced the needs of the mines above Battersby Junction. The wagons on that section would be pulled up the slope using the weight of the full ones going down and with the help of various braking systems the speed was held at about 20 mph which would be pretty rapid in those days. The 10 mile extension over the moors enabled the iron to be transported initially from the east side of Rosedale but in later years a further extension was added and more iron could be extracted by mines to the west at Blakey.

The views along and down the valley change as we walk and the weather adds a damp threat to the atmosphere bit doesn’t come to anything.

As we round one of the gentle bends some brick structures come into view. They’re like a multi arch bridge but they were built to be part of the processing of the ore and are listed as calcining kilns. They’re semi derelict now but there is work being done to restore them or, to be more precise, make them safe.

It’s fascinating that this little dale was host to such an industrial heritage with miners injecting life and money into the local economy. Wikipedia suggests that it’s now heavily financed by holiday cottages and, whilst this keeps the dale alive it does mean that local workers have difficulty raising the funds to buy even the most modest of properties.

Dale End Farm

Shelter, beautiful home cooked cakes and scones and an honesty box!

After a brief encounter with a mini-Striding-Edge we take a narrow track down towards the valley base at Dale End where the aptly named Dale End Farm promises shelter, coffee, tea, scones and various beautiful cakes all home cooked and all financed by an honesty box and suggested price list. It’s quirky and wonderful with various types of seats that vary between normal tables and chairs to comfortable armchairs and settees many of which have a lovely view that comes as standard. 

Forty minutes later we’re well fed and ready for the return leg which is mostly road bound but still offering lovely views and we get another angle on the Kilns that stand out well in the sun and from this distance not as dilapidated.

As we make our way down the long descent to Rosedale Abbey we pass Bell End Farm and stop to revert to adolescent humour and numerous photographs – to paraphrase – “You can grow old with dignity but you can’t take the boy out of a man!”

This walk is about 13km (~8 miles) and whilst there are some quite testing ‘ups’ it’s easy and fascinating in equal measure.

Thanks to George Renwick, George Preston (Tracker George), Peter Hymer, Dave Rider and Dave Bowman.

Wonderful friends and excellent company. G…x

Feel free to share but commercial use of pictures or stories needs written permission – thanks…G x

1 thought on “Rosedale Loop”

  1. Hello George.
    Many moons ago we were talking about The Artists’ Way, an arts festival using shops on Northallerton High Street. Applications are now open and details can be found on and Facebook @theartistswaynorthallerton


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