A countryside escape around Thornton-le-Dale

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by Maureen Robinson

Thornton-le-Dale, nestled in a valley on the southern edge of the North York Moors, is the perfect place for a day out. Situated on the A170 Scarborough to Pickering road it still retains a charm, despite the volume of traffic experienced in summer time.

Fabulous walks and strolls may be enjoyed from this village, with bridle paths and public footpaths leading to beautiful scenic views. Take a few minutes to stroll around the village centre, or take a map and binoculars to follow this suggested route taking two to three hours according to interests.

The village’s name has changed from Thornton to Thornton-le-Dale in the late 1800s to distinguish it from other Thorntons when railways were created. Then in the early 20th century, the ‘le’ was added to give it a more elevated profile!

However you choose to spend your time in Thornton-le-Dale, I suggest you allow two or three hours to escape into the remote countryside to the north of the village. We found evidence of farming by neolithic man on the elevated ground to the north, eg two tumuli and flints etc. We understand Roman pottery has also been found during local excavations. During springtime discover bluebells, cowslips and orchids, and listen to the drumming of woodpeckers in silverbirch woodland.

Start. From Thornton-le-Dale crossroads near the traffic lights turn immediately right by the Buck Inn. From the Buck Inn, follow the A169 in a north-easterly direction towards Whitby, for about a mile. Ascend to the brow of the hill, and then pass a sign indicating a road junction ahead. Just past a tree turn off left along a rough track, and swing right to park opposite a group of trees.

Walk. Leaving your transport, turn left along a signed public footpath near a metal gate and walk past the electricity pylon close by. The rutted track keeps alongside stone walling and hedging to the right. A wheatfield is to the left. We found many pheasants’ eggs along the track! Listen to skylarks high above, and seek goldfinches in this area.

At cross paths where hedging appears to end, swing right to follow the continuation of the hedge round an open field and dip down to silver birch woodland.

The wood lies to your left, sprinkled with bluebells in May, and frequented by great spotted woodpeckers. A short, steep descent leads to the valley. Turn immediately left, but only for 100 metres or so. Seek a pine wood off right and a low sign indicating your public footpath. Here turn right between moss-covered stone walling, and post and wire fencing. This short path quickly reaches a stile. Cross the stile and turn immediately right. The footpath leads pleasantly along the lower edge of the field with boundary fencing to the right.

Reaching the far corner of the field you meet a hand-gate into Orchard Plantation, and what used to be a map showing ‘You are here’. Don’t enter this gate, but take the public bridleway which continues northwards to Low Kingthorpe. Keep the field’s boundary and plantation to your right to the far end of the field.

Cross fencing into the next field and aim roughly across the middle. Leave by a gate. Continue through a farm gate. Turn right alongside farm buildings and between the farm and an outhouse to leave by an arrowed farm gate.

Cross a field of sheep and lambs, keeping a farmhouse to your left. Leaving by a gate, you’ll find a finger-post indicating two directions. Here, fork right up the bank which is a public bridleway. Remain on this bridleway heading north east for about half a mile. Then go due east alongside Common Plantation to meet the road at Kingthorpe Common. Enter the double field gates opening onto the A169 and turn left to briefly head north.

After about quarter of a mile where once stood the old property of East Kingthorpe, turn left off the road to take up your public bridleway beyond a handgate. Go straight across the field and drop into the dale. A bridleway arrow directs you over the track and up a field with trees to the left.

Crossing a cornfield to an electricity post you’ll see High Kingthorpe Farm directly ahead. Reaching a cross-track (with mature trees) you’ll spot a footpath sign nearby. From here, descend steeply and turn left over a stile along a public footpath.

High Kingthorpe Farm is to your right as you cross a meadow to the far end and enter a gate. Proceed along a cornfield in line with electricity wires. At the far end of the field veer left through scrubland. Your path emerges near Low Kingthorpe Farm – a lovely view!

You meet a finger post. Recognise it? This time, ignore the bridleway up the bank and enter the blue-covered gate.

Cross a field (maybe with sheep and lambs) and leave by the farm gate. Turn right and then left round farm buildings to enter the next farm gate. Keep straight ahead, cross a field and head for the exit in the top left corner.

In the next field, follow the left boundary all the way to find once more the corner handgate: ‘You are here’ – or were!

This time, enter the gate into Orchan Dale. Just follow the path between a plantation of trees to a bridleway sign.

Continue right, along the main, rough track heading up the hillside out of the valley.

Climb to the top, and when a cross-track is reached, veer right. This leads due south and returns you quickly to your original starting point.

Distance: A good 4 miles’ walk.

Driving distance: 30 miles approximately from Scarborough return.

Refreshment: Take a picnic, as there’s nothing en route. Thornton-le-Dale is the best option.

l Do take an Ordnance Survey map OL27 for North York Moors eastern area. Scale: 2½ inches to 1 mile. It will help clarify this route, which can prove tricky in places!

l Binoculars help locate gates, signs and bullocks!

With acknowledgements to Michael – the man behind the driving wheel!