Middlesbrough, the go-to epitome of working class grime and dole queues for pompous London-centric journalists and comedians, is less than 20 minutes away from the start of this month’s A Stroll With Stuart, a glorious six-mile circular walk to one of the wildest little valleys in North Yorkshire.
I got there by Moorsbus (sadly now on its last legs), but you can drive to the car park at the southern end of Chop Gate. A word of caution though – there is a section of the walk which is boggy at the best of times AND requires you to ford a stream (stepping stones having long since been swept away). So, don’t try this in your brand new trainers.
Follow the road a little further south and take a footpath on the left, just after the access road for Esp House. Go diagonally right in the general direction of a stand of conifers, but long before reaching them head left on the wide access track leading up to William Beck Farm, halfway up the hill. Skirt right past the farm then left after a gate, to climb steeply up through more gates to the top of the moors.
As you stop for breath, take a long look behind you at Upper Bilsdale. It is a wonderful view that isn’t greatly spoilt by the ever present TV transmitter, proudly beaming waves of insipid tosh from some elected conman on Sunday politics, snaking invisibly across the valley to literally and deservedly go in one ear and out the other.
Fifty yards after the last gate, turn right on a partially unmapped wide track which is now the best way down to the valley floor. The real footpath straight ahead has been swallowed up by the heather.
Created for fat, bored, businessmen in LandRovers with their guns and hipflasks, the track soon forks left to zig-zag down past grouse butts to a stone bridge over Tripsdale Beck. As it hairpins left 30 yards back uphill, take a thin track going straight into the heather adjacent to a wooden post.
So, this is Tripsdale. Some detailed information on its history is available on www.tripsdale.co.uk where I was disappointed to discover that this isn’t where they invented the circuit breaker.
The secluded valley is now uninhabited, has no roads, and courtesy of the dodgy nature of this footpath, is rarely visited.
Young birch trees signal the regeneration of natural British vegetation and the wildlife has followed with raptors circling overhead, a cuckoo calling across the valley and some indeterminate beast making a sound like a young actress having a baby in a soap opera.
The path climbs slowly uphill for a mile, before merging with a wider route coming down from the left.
It descends to a boggy stretch, beyond which a waymarked post points straight downhill through the gloop to the valley floor.
Head left along the beckside for a while, then you will see a lovely path heading away up the slope on the opposite bank.
You need to get there first, but this is where those stepping stones have vanished, so the crossing point is up to you.
As someone who got lost in the Cairngorms last year and had to wade through a 5ft deep stream, I’m in no position to offer advice.
All I’ll say is that I managed to cross without getting my socks wet – so it is possible! Good luck .....
The path on the other side is excellent as it climbs slowly up and around Nab Ridge, to reacquaint you with the transmitter and several Kawaski 500s squealing down the B1257 closely followed by the Great North Air Ambulance.
A gate takes you towards a new area of mixed woodland, then down to the edge of two older plantations.
At the end of the second one, turn left through a gate and follow the wall down to climb a stile over a wooden fence, which you then need to follow to the right. Two fields later and you will drop onto the tarmac access track leading right to the impressive Cam House.
Well below the house, and after noting that there are more llamas than cattle in the North York Moors these days, bear left and soon follow a waymark pointing diagonally and sloppily right uphill towards a few pine trees.
At a track, head left to soon reach the Ellermire Farms where you should bear right and follow the field boundary for half a mile to once again reach the access track of William Beck Farm, to retrace your route to Chop Gate.
The village pub - The Buck Inn – is making a valiant attempt not to go the same way as the defunct Spout House further down Bilsdale – so do try and spare it half an hour!