Trespassing in the Hambledon Hills

28 03 2015

When my mother dropped me off to do this walk, I had no idea I was due an embarrassing encounter with ‘the gentry’ of the area. A tale of a wilful trespass…

(All photos my digi-camera in grim light conditions and taken at a later date)
Many years ago, my mother and I were driving up to visit my brother in Malton (no idea where my Dad was). On passing the Osmotherly area, we decided to stop and have a mooch around. As usual, my mother had maps of various vintages for the whole country in a box in her camping van. I decided the area looked worth a walk and we located the map for Osmotherly and the Hambledon Hills – an edge of the North York Moors.

Unfortunately, only one of us could do the walk I envisaged after a quick peruse of the map as the other would have to drive the van around to pick up at the other end. As I was the one bursting for a walk, it was decided I would go…

I was planning to walk to the village of Hawnby and have to admit I can’t remember whether I set off from Kepwick or just above Osmotherly where there is a large area of parking on the moor. No matter as, to be honest, all this area of hills form a very long ridge with a very long track across the top and there isn’t a lot of variation. Good for striding out and getting a good leg-stretch though.

My planned walk was around eight miles so I told my mother I’d meet her in Hawnby in about three hours. We went our separate ways, her in ‘Rodge-the-Dodge’ our camping van and me striding out up a good track towards the moor top. From Osmotherly, the track starts like this…

Hawnby Walk02

The superb track goes all the way across the top of the moors heading roughly south – it is very popular with mountain bikers nowadays. On my latest visit, I spent more time being interviewed by passers-by about where such and such a path went or suchlike – I told each one I wasn’t local and didn’t have a map with me but that the routes were all beautifully signposted throughout. But, back to my original trek…

It was a lovely day and, after passing a standing stone and reaching the top of the rise, I could see my ridge stretching ahead ad infinitum. I like a good stride out across a long ridge though so I was happy. The standing stone, on closer inspection, turned out to be a boundary stone…

Hawnby Walk Boundary Stone

Boundary Stone towards Rosebery Topping
Looking north (above) and along my route south (below)
Hawnby Walk Boundary Stone1

The miles blazed away beneath my feet on the good track…

Hawnby Walk08

With the odd kink for interest…

Hawnby Walk04

There was the odd nice spur to look back on but on my return photo trip the light was so bad the photos are pretty grim unfortunately…

Hawnby Walk09

Eventually a path turned off left to descend a spur along the edge of Hawnby’s valley, however, I had a yen to drop down the head of the valley and walk back through it on the rights of way through the forest. I continued on briefly until a lesser path also turned left and followed that to the edge of the valley head. The path clambered nicely down towards the forested valley.

My map illustrated two routes through the forest – I went to the higher one on the left to where a gate led into the forest. The sign, however, said ‘Private’. Unperturbed, I went back around the valley head on the track to the other gate into the forest – this said ‘Private’ too 😦
(However, see McEff’s comment below about the first track and gate I tried – still marked as a right of way!)

Oh dear – now I had a problem. My mother was due to pick me up in less than an hour and it looked like, by rights, I ought to go back up onto the ridge and follow the next main track which joined the road to Hawnby. But this was miles out of my way and I didn’t have time. I decided I’d have to continue through the forest, private or not.

After a furtive look around me, I clambered over the locked gate and hastened down the track into the trees. I was happily bounding along the forest track which descended though the trees, listening to birdsong and seeing the pheasant feeders all around me. Obviously the wood was now a shooting estate – a set of people I don’t really have much time for.

The track had several gentle bends and I was nearing one of these when I heard a vehicle some distance behind me. I looked round and couldn’t see anything yet but could tell it wasn’t far away. I set off at a run for the bend trying to get round it before anyone saw me. It wasn’t quite to be however – I noticed as I rushed around the bend that the vehicle’s front was just coming into view – it looked like a huge Range Rover.

I noticed a side track and rushed along that but the vehicle was approaching rapidly. I realised I’d have to hide and rushed into the trees just as the vehicle-of-doom turned onto my side track. The only tree wide enough for me to hide behind was a bent one so I had to bend oddly to match the shape of it as I tried to keep out of sight. By now I was breathing heavily and quite worried – I really hoped I was out of sight but it was obvious they’d seen my flight and knew I was there somewhere.

I must have a bigger bum than I realised though as a posh male voice called to me;

“Are you hiding?”

If I was bright and quick-thinking, of course I should have replied;

“Yes, pretend you can’t see me”

But unfortunately, I’m very slow at humour and only thought of that much later when I got back home. I slunk out from my tree and approached them – I was mortified to find that the vehicle was stuffed full of posh hunter-shooter types 😦

When I reached the vehicle, I started to protest to the amused group that my map had the route as a right-of-way, honest. He asked to look at my map. I handed over my beautiful cloth map (bit of a clue there). He studied it and then looked for the date…

“Hmmm… the 1935 edition – a lovely example”

Oh dear, things had obviously changed since then. I apologised and explained that I was on a deadline as I’d been dropped off over the hill and was being picked up and that I couldn’t retrace my tracks to the head of the valley and go by the longer route or my mother would worry what had happened to me. He smiled and said it was quite alright and that I could continue through their woods. He said that there were estate workers working ahead and that I should tell them that ‘so and so’ said it was alright for me to walk through the woods.

He then wished me a nice walk and drove off. He didn’t check my pockets for pheasants first, just went. To be honest, I’d be more likely to sabotage their shooting paraphernalia rather than poach the pheasants. I suppose I might have smuggled some to safety though if I could have caught some 😉

I eventually passed the ‘big house’ to exit out onto the road.

Arden Hall

Hawnby to Kepwick

Hawnby's Private Woods
The Gentleman’s woods and looking back up my valley

I was probably still red in the face when I met my mother – she thought it was quite amusing really but agreed how embarrassing it must have been. We set off for the drive to my brother’s passing this beautiful hill on the lovely backroad from Hawnby to Osmotherly.

Pretty Hill near Hawnby

A shame no-one can legally follow my walk as it was quite nice really…

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19 responses

27 04 2015
fedup

An amusing account Carol, I wish England would follow Scotland’s lead on rights of access. Even some of the restrictions on CROW land is farcical. Cheers Simon

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27 04 2015
mountaincoward

Yeah – I think everyone thought that was what would happen when the CROW think was being brought in!

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5 04 2015
chrissiedixie

Love it!

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6 04 2015
mountaincoward

I didn’t at the time! 😉

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5 04 2015
bob

The only place I’ve ever been turned back from in England was above Gordale Scar when I tried walking further up the ravine. Two guys with shotguns. I’m usually very polite then just sneak past by a different hidden alternative. Not something that happens in Scotland much though.

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6 04 2015
mountaincoward

I think they had a bit of a cheek the guys you met – they were probably poachers!

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31 03 2015
McEff

It might interest you to know, Carol, that the path on the left through the woods is still marked as a public right of way on modern maps – so the hoorays were trying it on with their “private” sign. I wild-camped in the valley head above the forest while doing the Cleveland Way, many years ago, and I’ve walked the path past Arden Hall – which gets very boggy once in the forest so perhaps you took the best track after all.
I love the “riposte” that never was. The best ones always come long after the event when you’ve had time to mull things over.
Cheers, Alen

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31 03 2015
mountaincoward

Yeah, the best replies always escape me in the heat of the moment – that’s why I always try to argue ‘online’ or suchlike rather than face to face – I can think clearer then!

Very interesting information about the private sign versus the right of way – thanks for that! I think I’ll amend my post and refer to your comment.

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30 03 2015
razzah

This made me smile 🙂
The only encounter I’ve had with the landed gentry was when Prince Charles nearly moved me down in his royal Land Rover up Glen Ey. I’d jumped off the track to avoid him coming at me at speed and as he drove past with a wave (not a royal wave lol) I realised who it was. His ghillie must have been the passenger!

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30 03 2015
mountaincoward

Oh, so he drives like a maniac then? I’d love to see him sometime (so long as I don’t have to talk to him – that would scare me to death) – I’m quite a Royalist. My friend Richard who walks with me can’t stand them though.

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31 03 2015
razzah

I’m by no means a royalist but they don’t bother me. They do a lot for the local community, unlike some absentee landowners!

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31 03 2015
mountaincoward

very true 🙂

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28 03 2015
Paul Shorrock

See what a combination of charm and a 1935 edition map can achieve Carol 🙂

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28 03 2015
mountaincoward

I had another 1935 cloth map with me at the Ledgowan Bunkhouse when I did Fionnbheinn and that got me chatting to a young group there – they just couldn’t believe it!

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28 03 2015
smackedpentax

Sounds like you had a lucky escape – but most people are OK if you are OK with them I have found.

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28 03 2015
mountaincoward

I think the 1935 map really amused him

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28 03 2015
smackedpentax

😉

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28 03 2015
Simon Howlett

A fantastic adventure and encounter with ‘the gentry’, Carol. I had a similar encounter with deer stalkers in Assynt … but they were not so friendly!

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28 03 2015
mountaincoward

I think a lot of people have deer stalker encounters. But I suppose I was wilfully trespassing as I’d seen the private signs and climbed over so he would have had the right to be a bit shirty but, luckily, wasn’t. Perhaps he was trying to impress his clients or something? Although he could equally have tried to impress them by throwing me off his land I suppose.

Really though, what can landowners really do if they don’t like you being on their land? It would have been hard to have prosecuted me as I wouldn’t have told him who I was if he’d asked and I was from well out of the area.

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