Moorsbus is back

Monday 4th July 2021

It’s great to see the brilliant Moorsbus network of summer weekend bus routes across the North York Moors make a much welcome return after its enforced Covid absence last year.

Running every Saturday and Sunday throughout July, August and September the routes numbered M1 to M8 as well as M31 provide a unique opportunity to access parts of this fascinating National Park otherwise off limits to bus users.

Like DalesBus this only comes about through the hard work of dedicated volunteers who design and plan the routes and timetables, raise much needed funds and request donations to subsidise the routes and commission bus companies to operate them.

A not-for-profit Community Interest Company oversees the formal bits while a Friends of Moorsbus engenders public support.

Operators involved this year are Arriva North East, Reliance and York Pullman. Connections are also available with routes operated by East Yorkshire.

East Yorkshire’s route 128 runs hourly between Scarborough, Pickering and Helmsley

The Moorsbus network covers an area bounded by Guisborough in the north, Dalby Forest and Pickering in the east, Malton in the south and Thirsk and Northallerton in the west.

What are described as ‘long haul’ journeys connect major towns (eg Darlington, Middlesbrough, Redcar and York) at the beginning and end of the day with buses providing frequent links during the day within the area to popular destinations (eg Helmsley, Stokesley, Hutton-le-Hole and Rosedale Abbey).

The Arriva operated bus reaches Sutton Bank Visitor Centre.

Buses also serve the main visitor centre at Danby as well as those at Sutton Bank and Dalby Forest.

The York Pullman bus operates three journeys to Dalby Forest on Saturdays.

Here’s a fantastic explanation of what it’s all about taken from the splendid colourful timetable booklet produced by Moorsbus.

This booklet has all the Moorsbus timetables as well as details of East Yorkshire’s route 128 which operates along the A170 between Pickering, Kirkbymoorside and Helmsley on the southern border and route ME1 linking the Moors with Hull.

The coloured line map diagram showing the routes, particularly the three main north-south routes across the Moors, as featured above (from the Moorsbus website) is also included in the booklet.

In previous years I’ve travelled on route M4 serving Rievaulx Abbey and Sutton Bank to the west as well as route M8 via Blakey and Hutton-le-Hole in the centre a couple of times but the most easterly route via Rosedale Abbey had always eluded me, so I decided to put that gap in my travel experience right on Saturday and headed up to York to welcome the 2021 Moorsbus network on its first day in 2021.

The 07:30 LNER train from Kings Cross was due into York at 09:32 giving a comfortable connection with route M8 departing from outside the station at 09:45. Except the usual unforeseen problems on the East Coast Main Line (signalling issues at Stevenage and a train in front hitting a deer requiring that driver to stop and check his train) meant an actual arrival at 09:42 but knowledge of which door of the train to alight from at York for a quick exit and using the less congested subway under the tracks in the station meant the connection worked fine and it was a relief to see the very smart Reliance bus waiting outside all screened up for route M8 as I jumped on board at 09:44.

The Saturday Moorsbus network is not as intensive as the Sunday timetables with only three buses needed. Reliance provide one vehicle as does Arriva and York Pullman. On Sundays there must be at least six or seven buses on the network with many additional journey possibilities as a result.

All buses on the network have a clear identifying green triangle in the front windscreen and around the vehicle as well as clear destination screens.

Moorsbus branded information about Covid precautions was also on display inside…

… and most impressive of all, a basket over brimming with pertinent tourist leaflets and supplies of the Moorsbus timetable booklet was in the luggage rack.

The Reliance bus also comes equipped with a cab door mounted leaflet rack so the Company’s own bus timetables can be displayed and obtained. How excellent is that?

I wish those short sighted lazy bus companies who fail to see the wisdom of producing printed material could see how much the provision of such information is welcomed by passengers. Everyone boarding picked up a Moorsbus timetable and had a look at the other information available.

Moorsbus have a website containing timetables and a map which is great for preplanning journeys but there’s nothing like having a timetable in your hand when travelling as well as a booklet like this one giving ideas of where to travel around the network.

We headed up to Pickering via Malton arriving on time at 10:55 and connecting with the York Pullman operated route M7 heading to Dalby Forest at 10:59. This bus had just arrived from its first journey back from Rosedale Abbey having left York much earlier than us at 08:30.

It was good to see passengers interchanging between the buses and we gained more than we lost leaving Pickering with about a dozen on board.

We then headed west to Kirkbymoorside where a connection is made at 11:15 with the Arriva operated route over to Helmsley and Sutton Bank before continuing via Rievaulx Abbey and Stokesley to Guisborough and the Danby Moors Centre.

Again it was great to see passengers switching between the two buses and taking advantage of the journey opportunities presented by clever timetabling.

I understand the bus being used by Reliance was a former Alexander Dennis Enviro200 demonstrator and it certainly impressed passengers on board with some commenting it’s a brand new bus.

It came equipped with all the latest gizmos and had very comfortable seats and was immaculately clean.

We then headed north through the central road across the moors via Hutton-le-Hole, where we dropped off two walkers (who were obviously loyal Moorsbus regulars), and then on towards Castleton and Danby.

However I left the bus at Blakey Lion Inn at 11:37 which must be one of the remotest bus stops in England.

On Saturdays two journeys on route M6 extend beyond Rosedale Abbey to turn round at Blakey Lion Inn at 12:15 and 14:35 and it just seemed to good an opportunity to miss – to wait for 38 minutes before catching a bus at such a quirky remote terminus high up on the moors.

To my surprise another passenger also alighted there and obviously being in such a remote spot – and the pub being closed, not opening until midday – we got chatting and I found I’d met John who knows the area like the back of his hand, living in Kirbymoorside and having taught in a local school and even better, had a passion for bus and train travel and quirky bus journeys.

As you can imagine we had a good chat about our experiences and the time soon passed before the York Pullman bus arrived to take us back down to Pickering via the eastern road and Rosedale Abbey and Cropton on route M6.

It’s a fantastic journey with scenery changing from the wild moors …

… through woodland and green pastures in the valleys as we descended before reaching the delightful village of Rosedale Abbey.

John was a great guide explaining much of the history of the area as we went along including long abandoned rail lines.

We had to take a few minutes rest in Rosedale Abbey as the bus brakes had over heated and there was quite a bit of smoke emanating from either side of the back axle but as there is no mobile signal in the area our driver diagnosed the problem and deemed it safe to continue cautiously down to Pickering.

John was telling me he recommends circular tours using Moorsbus as well as the Esk Valley railway line (Whitby-Danby-Middlesbrough) to the local Ryedale community and tries to encourage bus use. He’s just the person every local community needs to help raise the profile of buses.

It was only a fleeting visit to the North York Moors on Saturday but I’m pleased to have finally ticked off the M6 route which really is yet another superb scenic bus route to savour and I’ve made a note to return again and allow time to explore the delightful village of Rosedale Abbey.

I also came away inspired and impressed once again with the brilliant work of the Moorsbus volunteers. Like DalesBus, what they achiveve on a voluntary spare time basis puts some well resourced bus companies to shame.

Moors Rover tickets are valid for travel on sections of routes operated by Arriva, East Yorkshire and Reliance as well as the M numbered services offering excellent value for money.

As readers may have spotted from the window poster shown above Moorsbus also encourage donations – they can be paid to the driver in either £2, £5 or £10 for which a ticket receipt is issued – which is particularly pertinent for concessionary passholders as the reimbursement rate for such travel by North Yorkshire County Council is woefully inadequate – even a full bus wouldn’t provide sufficient funds.

I hope passholding passengers will give their support in this way and if so I have no doubt this year’s Moorsbus will be a success. Many congratulations to the team behind it.

Roger French

13 thoughts on “Moorsbus is back

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  1. I enjoyed our chat yesterday very much, Roger. Amazing that you’d travelled up from Sussex all the way to Kirkbymoorside (note the second K nowadays), Blakey Top and Rosedale Abbey and back south – glad you made that tight connection in Pickering.

    I know Moorsbus is ambitious, but didn’t know it ran a bus to deepest Lincolnshire (ha ha, it’s Guisborough, not Gainsborough). That would be some excursion!

    I travelled a different route today (Sunday) on Moorsbus – Kirkbymoorside to Helmsley (service 128) and then M5 through picturesque Ampleforth, past lonely Byland Abbey and views of the Kilburn White Horse to the busy, sunny market town of Thirsk, where there was a food fair to liven the interest. Just 25 minutes there before retracing my steps back to KMS. Another grand day out.

    Give me a shout next time you’re Moorsbusing.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks for the typos spotting John – K’s added and Lincolnshire now abandoned!! Your Sunday trip sounds great. Be good to meet up again and thanks for the response. Happy travelling.


  2. While it’s good that the Moorsbus is back I was just looking at their website and they say that you can connect with the train in Stockton with the 0838 southbound Moorsbus from places such as Hartlepool, Newcastle,etc but as it runs Sunday only you can’t as there are no trains or buses until about 10hr to get you to Stockton.You’d never do it from close by Hartlepool let alone Newcastle although I suppose that that from Newcastle there might be a earlyish train to Darlington and even then you’d have a 10 minutes walk into town as the bus station is now shut down you’d then have to find where the bus went from if you didn’t know Darlington.With Hartlepool set out walking to Stockton at 0530 and you should get to Stockton in time for the 0838!


    1. There is an X10 service which connects with that Moorbus (and because it’s a Sunday that serves all of the X9/X10 stops around Dalton Park and Peterlee). However it’s quite a tight connection, and so you’d be better off changing at Middlesbrough (a 7 minute change in the bus station) than Stockton (a 6 minute connection which would involve jogging down the High Street). And of course, it’s no good if you’re not on the X10’s route.


      1. The X10 stops in Billingham so if I ever did it that’s a bit easier as I live in Seaton Carew and Billingham is about a 2 hour walk away via Graythop,Greatham and Cowpen Bewley.So set out at 0630 Sunday morning and hope the X10 is on time! That’s pretty tight at Middlesbrough bus station.Although I doubt that I’d do it I mainly go to the Moors to combine a hike with some stargazing and summer is not the time of year for stargazing this far north!Commondale is a good place and the streetlight by the station thankfully broken let us hope it remains so .


    2. From Newcastle, you can get a train to Northallerton and then pick up the M5 at 1019.
      From Hartlepool, you can almost do it, on a good day if the GC train is on time and you can hotfoot the 200m from the platforms at Thirsk to the bus stop in 3 minutes then you might just make it.

      This is often a problem with Sunday leisure networks – in order to give people long enough to have a worthwhile day out at their destination, buses have to set off quite early and that can limit the scope for connections from towns and cities further afield. Moorsbus has often suffered from poor connections with non-Moorsbus rail and bus services, even back in the old days, but given the very limited funding and resources available they do a fantastic job of giving people as many options as possible. If you go back 20 years, with the network funded by both the national park and the county council, they had 13 buses running (I think! Looking at an old timetable, I can schedule all bar 2 journeys with 13 buses and I can’t imagine that they would have had a dedicated bus just to run two circular journeys from Thornton-le-Dale to Hutton-le-Hole so it might be that I’ve miscalculated!) and so that gives you a lot more flexibility. But even then, there were only two buses running from Tees Valley (Darlington via Stockton and Middlesbrough) plus another two from Guisborough that you probably wouldn’t have been able to get to from much further afield. There was a through bus from Hartlepool if you go back to 2008 but even under the old regime there was no way to access the network from Hartlepool for the last few years of the service.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When it began there was a Moorsbus from Hartlepool via Billingham to Guisborough and you could connect with some of the rest of the network there it was tendered to Proctors of Leeming Bar and I think that it ran for 2 summers.But now from Hartlepool and Billingham you can’t connect onto it short of getting a taxi to Middlesbrough or a bleak and long walk through an industrial landscape on the early hours of a Sunday morning….Blade Runner for Breakfast!


  3. It’s great that Moorsbus has risen from the dead over the last few years, especially with covid getting in the way lately. Sadly not vaguely as extensive as it used to be, nevertheless this is a marvellous effort from all concerned, in a similar way to the Dales Bus operation further west. Got to say I have never known anything bigger than a midibus serving Rosedale, so the chance of doing it on a full size bus certainly appeals. I guess the East Yorkshire Hull to Danby Moors Explorer service is still separate to the Moorsbus operation ?


    1. Yes, the Moors Explorer ME1 is still run independently of Moorsbus, which is a pity… they have a different operating period and different ticket acceptance.

      Moors Explorer runs on the Sunday and bank holiday at the start of the May half-term, and then Sundays and bank holidays through the school summer holidays (not including the final “back to school” weekend) – so a couple of days when no other Moorsbus routes are running, but then about 7 or 8 weekends in the first half of July and through September when the rest of the Moorsbus network is at full strength but the Explorer isn’t. The two buses that came up from Hull always used to be absolutely integral to the network, so it’s a great shame that it is now limited to a handful of Sundays and no Saturdays.

      Moors Rover tickets are accepted and sold between Norton and Danby, but passengers travelling from Hull or the East Riding will need to buy a more expensive East Yorkshire Go-Anywhere ticket – although I can understand that, because it is a much longer inward journey than on the other routes, and that ticket does cover all Moorbus services as well. Moorsbus does allow ENCTS passes on all services (which is great, but in contrast to Dalesbus, it’s all very strange), but Moors Explorer doesn’t.


  4. I think it’s a big shame that transdev don’t allow the moorsbus tickets to be used on the coastline services, even if it was just on the 840 from Malton to Whitby since this journey cuts right through the heart of the moors

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Is it Transdev or is it the local authority? Reimbursement rates are not good and to accept tickets where there is no revenue at all is madness.


      1. It’s Transdev. The local authority plays no part in it, fare allocation from Moors Rover tickets is dealt with by Moorsbus CIC.
        The reason that Transdev don’t take part is that their fares are higher than the Moors Rover tickets … a day return even just from Malton to Whitby is £12 so they are not going to want to accept £9.50 Moors Rovers. That’s the same reason that East Yorkshire don’t accept Moors Rovers on the full length of the 128 or ME1.

        Liked by 1 person

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