North York Moors walk - Commondale
- Credit: Archant
Good paths and tracks link centuries-old crosses on this fine moorland walk
For centuries travellers crossing the North York Moors were glad of the many crosses which marked their way much like modern motorway signposts. Along with the monks from the abbeys were the jaggers or packhorse men leading their trains of ponies along the causeways carrying goods to and from the coast. Some of the crosses, notably the tall monument of Old Ralph which provides the national park emblem, are still impressive. Most, like those found on this walk take a little more finding today.
The walk starts from Commondale, a small village sitting in a bowl among the encircling moors of the northern fringe of the national park. From the war memorial opposite the village pub, the Cleveland Inn, take the bridleway which climbs the slope and passes the old school house. The track already displays occasional flagstones, marking it out as an old packhorse way. The path climbs through a field onto the open moor. At a faint fork branch left along the clearer path to reach a road. Following this rightwards to a T-junction provides a short cut if time is pressing but it is more enjoyable to cross over and take a path heading across the quiet heather towards the horizon of Three Howes Rigg.
When it reaches the road on the brow of the moor turn right taking care to stick to the verge as cars on this stretch travel faster than most walkers, not to mention the owners of the sheep that graze here, might like. The T-junction mentioned earlier, where the road from Commondale comes up, has been marked for centuries by White Cross but these days attention is more likely to be grabbed by the Shaun the Sheep bus shelter, which is the work of Middlesbrough artist Karl Striker. The diminutive stump of White Cross itself is on the opposite side of the Commondale road.
Take the broad made road – the right hand of two - opposite the shelter heading away across the moor with the distant North Sea adding interest to the views. After about 500yards, keep an eye out to the left for the easily-missed remains of another old monument, Job Cross, and then carry on along the track, ignoring a gated track to the right, to drop into a dip and up the other side. About a mile and half from White Cross a track marked by a cairn joins from the left and 100 yards further on a cairn on the right and a scorched wooden post with a melted plastic sign mark the beginning of a bridleway, the rather grandly-named Siss Cross Road, which in reality is little more than a faint path. Turn right along this and follow it through the heather to reach Siss Cross itself, a waist-high stone on the lip of Danby Low Moor, which provides a fine 360 degree viewpoint, from the ships at anchor off Teesport, round past the distant pyramid of Fylingdales early warning station, into Danby Dale, Castleton and the sweep of the eastern moors and ridges.
Carry on southwards along the track as it begins to drop towards the Danby to Whitby road, identifiable by its passing cars. A few hundred yards short of the tarmac the track crosses the Pannierman’s Causeway, a junction marked by ancient flagstones sunk into the ground. Turn right along this, traversing the hillside above Danby village. At the next junction step right and then immediately left to plunge through the bracken to pass to the right of farm buildings. Go down the field to a gate and bridleway sign in the bottom right hand corner.Go through this and follow the path through the woods, over a bridge and a ford and then broadly following the line of a fence and finally a wall on the moor’s edge as it contours round the valley before entering a green lane enclosed by walls. It passes through a series of gates before regaining the open moor and beginning a long traversing descent through heather and bracken to join the broader track of the Esk Valley Walk. Turn right along this.
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This is easy walking though mixed deciduous woodland with the houses of Castleton perched on the opposite side of the valley. When the track reaches a road turn right uphill for 100 yards and at the bend carry on straight ahead along a broad track signed Commondale 2. This leads past houses and farms to arrive back in Commondale by the village green.
Start/finish: Village war memorial, Commondale
Distance: 8.5 miles/13km
Time: 3-4 hours
Terrain: Good paths and tracks, early climb out of the valley. Open moorland not suitable in bad visibility
Parking: Park in the village centre or more parking near church up the hill
Refreshments: Pub in Commondale, pubs and cafés in Stokesley and Guisborough
Map: OS OL26 North York Moors Western area