Saturday, 31 May 2014

Cleveland Hills Weekend - Day Two: The Lord Stones - May 2014

Sunday morning of our short break in Bilsdale dawned somewhat overcast.  Weather like this is always a mixed blessing for me.  On the one hand, a dry but overcast day can make for pleasant walking, particularly if a route entails a number of ascents.  But then dull days with poor light are not ideal for photography.   Having suffered a little from sunburn the previous day though, I wasn't too disappointed to be walking in much cooler conditions.

After a most enjoyable breakfast (the kind that sets you up for the entire day), we checked out of the Buck Inn and established that it was no problem to leave our car in their car park for the day.  The first part of our walk retraced Saturday's route, heading up onto Cold Moor and along to join the Cleveland Way above Broughton Bank. 

Back on the Cleveland Way
Looking across in the direction of the Wainstones, I was surprised at how much closer Roseberry Topping appeared in this kind of lighting.  In bright sunshine it had looked so much further away, but now that the background wasn't visible to give it perspective, its distinctive shape really stood out.

Roseberry Topping looks much closer

Today's walk was to take us in the opposite direction to our previous walk.  Once we had reached the Cleveland Way, we turned left and descended to meet the path midway between Carlton Bank and Clay Bank, before climbing up again onto Cringle Moor.  The view was hazy and nothing like as clear as it had been the day before, but it was still pretty spectacular and a real joy to be tramping along the ridge of the Cleveland Hills.  Ahead we could see a promontory where a small group of people were gathered around a stone feature.

The edge of Cringle Moor

By the time we reached this point the other people had left and we had the spot to ourselves.  Here we found a stone bench along with a bronze plate inscribed in memory of Alec Falconer 'Rambler' who had died in 1968.  A handy view finder showed us what we should have been able to see, had the weather been a little clearer.  I was a little disappointed at not being able to catch a glimpse of lovely Ingleborough and Whernside but other, nearer features in the landscape were clearly visible.  The 'Rambler' concerned, Alec Falconer, was a founder member of the Middlesbrough Rambling Club  and he had actively campaigned for the opening of the Cleveland Way.  Sadly, he passed away just one year before the National Trail was officially opened and this memorial was erected in his memory by his friends and fellow Rambling Club members. 

Alec Falconer memorial view finder

On the side of the plaque's stone plinth I discovered another plate, this one put there by the Holiday Fellowship, a co-operative society founded in 1913 with the objective of "organising holidaymaking, to promote the healthy enjoyment of leisure, to encourage the love of the outdoors and to promote social and international friendship".    I really liked this poem, as it kind of fits in with my whole "nothing but footprints" ethos. 

Here it is, transcribed in full:

A request from the Holiday Fellowship
Friend, when you stray, or sit and take your ease
On moor, or fell, or under spreading trees
Pray, leave no traces of your wayside meal
No paper bag, no scattered orange peel
Nor daily journal littered on the grass
Others may view these with distaste and pass
Let no one say, and say it to your shame
That all was beauty here until you came

A nice poem by the Holiday Fellowship

We did sit and take our ease here for a short while, but no wayside meal was consumed.  That pleasure was to be reserved for the next point of interest on this walk.  As we headed downhill from Cringle Moor we could see a group of cars and caravans ahead of us, but no sign of our destination, which was obscured by trees.

Down from Cringle Moor

I had read about the Lordstones Cafe on a walking website some time ago.  When I had thought about putting together a walk in the area last year, I discovered that the cafe had closed.  A recent check, however,  had established that it had been refurbished and was open again and I was very keen to check it out.  We weren't disappointed.  The cafe was very nice indeed.  Too nice, in fact, to walk into with our muddy boots, but luckily the weather was fine and there were plenty of tables and chairs outside, where a waiter took our order for hot drinks and sandwiches before we went in search of the actual "Lord Stones".

The Lordstones Cafe

The Lordstones is a country park, owned by the Urra Estate, and it takes its name from a nearby group of standing stones.  The stones were, and still are, a bit of a mystery to me.  Arranged in a circle, they have the appearance of an ancient monument, but so far I've been unable to find anything to indicate that they are indeed of ancient origin.  The only references to them that I've been able to trace refer to three boundary markers and a nearby Bronze Age burial mound.  As I approached the stones themselves, they somehow looked and felt too artificial. 

The Lord Stones

One of the stones is carved with what looks like an ancient, mystical spiral maze.  Again though, this appeared rather contrived to me and I left with the overriding impression that although the area itself may be a site of great antiquity, the stone circle is a more recent  arrangement. 

An ancient carving?

We left the Lordstones Country Park in the direction of Bilsdale West Moor, climbing up onto open moorland again.  Looking back we were rewarded with another fine view across Cringle Moor, the country park and beyond to a still hazy Roseberry Topping.

Looking back from Bilsdale West Moor

The route was now typical of moorland paths, a sandy track stretching off into the distance, with the Bilsdale Transmitter providing a familiar landmark. 

On open moorland again

The day remained overcast but the temperature was very pleasant as we tramped along this beautiful open stretch of moorland.  As we passed another small group of walkers, I found it hard to believe that this was actually a Bank Holiday Sunday.  Had we been in the Lakes or the Dales it would have been a completely different scenario.  I much prefer the solitude!  A couple of miles of steady walking brought us to an area known as Barker's Crags, an outcrop of sandstone that extends along the rim of a peaceful valley.  I paused for a while to soak up the beauty of this place and resolved to plot more walks in this lovely corner of the North York Moors.

Barker's Crags

From Barker's Crags we headed downhill, emerging onto a quiet country road with fields filled with sheep and newborn lambs.   Passing by a gate, I was surprised by a little lamb bleating as if to call me over.   I obliged and was taken aback when it allowed me to stroke its head.  Before I knew what was happening, the lamb was trying to suckle on my finger, a cause of much hilarity.  That is until it realised that no milk was forthcoming and sunk its sharp little teeth into my finger.  I had no idea that lambs could actually bite!   Of course they can, but it's not something I usually associate with such cuteness.  I have to admit, I had never anticipated directing such bad language at an adorable little lamb!

Warning! This lamb bites.

There were several routes we could have taken from this point back to the village of Chop Gate, but instead we elected to follow the quiet country road which, after a mile or so, joined the main road, at the point where we had left it at the little Methodist chapel.

The Buck Inn also has a very nice tea room where we could enjoy a very welcome hot drink before heading home from what had been a superb short break, with some highly enjoyable and interesting walking. 

Directions for this walk:

Leave the main road just after the Buck Inn, signposted to Carlton in Cleveland, turning off onto the public footpath which runs up the site of the little Methodist church.  Follow this path as it climbs upwards along the edge of Cold Moor.  When the path joins the Cleveland Way turn left, following the National Trail (also the route of the Coast to Coast) up over Cringle Moor and down again to the Lordstones Country Park.

From the Country Park cross the road, through a gate and then take the path to the left which climbs up over Bilsdale West Moor.  Follow this path for a couple of miles and shortly after a pond (marked on OS maps as Brian's Pond) take the path which bears left downhill with a view of Barker's Crags to the right, at the head of a pretty valley.

Follow this path gradually downhill until it joins a quiet country lane and follow the lane through Raisdale Mill to join the road. Here we took a right turn and followed this quiet country road all the way back to Chop Gate.  There is, however, an alternative route across fields to join the original track on Cold Moor and this can be followed should you wish to avoid walking on the road.

Total distance - approximately  9 miles.

Coming soon...

I did it!  I completed the Yorkshire Wolds Way.  All 79 miles of it, from Hessle Foreshore to Filey Brigg.  My next blog will describe my journey, experiences and will include plenty of photographs and reviews of accommodation.


Thursday, 15 May 2014

Cleveland Hills Weekend - Day One: The Wainstones - May 2014

An unexpected free weekend is something of a rare treat for me.  It's not very often that I have work commitments which are cancelled at the last minute, and especially not over a holiday weekend.  But that's just what happened a couple of days prior to the May Day Bank Holiday and it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss the chance of an impromptu weekend break.  Where to go though?  The Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, whilst tempting, were out of the question.  Both those National Parks, and in particular the Lakes, are busy all year round but a holiday weekend with a favourable weather forecast meant that finding accommodation would be highly unlikely, if not impossible.  And then there was the unappealing prospect of crowds of people.  My thoughts instantly turned to an interesting pub I'd spotted in the Cleveland Hills, on the western edge of the North York Moors.  To my surprise, one quick phone call later and I had booked accommodation for one night at The Buck Inn, Chop Gate.  How things can change in an instant.  One moment I was facing a weekend at work and the next I found myself contemplating the promise of some great walking, good food and beer.  An altogether much more agreeable prospect, I must say!

The little village of Chop Gate is situated on the B1257 road to Stokesley, 12 miles north of the market town of Helmsley, North Yorkshire.  When I'd made our reservation at the Buck Inn I enquired whether we could park our car early on the day of our  arrival until we checked our bags in later that afternoon and the landlord had readily agreed.  Usually pubs and hotels will let you do this, but it's always advisable (and polite) to check first.  Before heading to Chop Gate though we stopped for a break in Helmsley.  The shops were only just beginning to open and it was much quieter than usual.

Helmsley Market Place

Helmsley is a real honey pot of a town which is often teeming with visitors and very popular with motorcyclists who gather around the memorial to Lord Feversham in the centre of the market square.  Early on a Saturday morning though it's not too difficult to find a parking space and we enjoyed a leg stretch in the warm sunshine before paying a quick visit to Hunter's, a top notch delicatessen, where we put together a packed lunch consisting of some of their delicious sausage rolls and pastries.  A little old fashioned sweet shop provided some extra treats and then we were on the road again for the last, short part of our journey.

Hunters of Helmsley - Home of tasty pies

On first sight the pronunciation of Chop Gate would seem to be obvious.  Not so.  In actual fact it is pronounced "Chop Yat",  which translates to "pedlar's gate", "chop" being from the old English word "ceap" meaning to barter and "yat" meaning, believe it or not, "gate".  So, strictly speaking, pronouncing it as it's spelled would be correct...but not with the locals!  Confused?  I was!  Thankfully, no such confusion existed with our base for the weekend, the Buck Inn, which has a spacious and secure car park where we left our car and headed out onto the moors.

The Buck Inn, Chop Gate

Our walk began along a delightful short section of hollow way which led uphill by the side of a Methodist chapel.   A hollow way is a sunken lane or path which has fallen over time to be significantly lower than the land surrounding it, due to erosion factors such as the flowing of water or usage by traffic, people or animals. 

A delightful hollow way

Eventually the hollow way opened up to a pleasant path which climbed steadily up onto the open moorland.  Looking back we were rewarded with a view of Bilsdale.  The view was hazy, looking into the sun, but the road through the valley was clearly picked out, as was the Bilsdale transmitter.  This 314 metres (1,030 feet) high mast is one of the most powerful telecommunications and broadcasting facilities in the UK.  It was constructed in 1971 to bring colour television to Teesside and covers an area from Harrogate and York to the south, Filey and Whitby to the east, Middlesbrough, Darlington, Hartlepool and Sunderland to the north and Barnard Castle to the west.   It also, as we later discovered, provides a useful landmark to help get your bearings out on the moors!


Our route now took us up onto Cold Moor.  Given the exposed nature of this patch of moorland I'm sure that for a good part of the year its name is entirely appropriate, but as we steadily climbed uphill it was anything but cold.  In fact, it was sweltering.  The sun beat down without the slightest hint of a breeze.  Fleeces were quickly shed and sunglasses and hats brought out of our rucksacks for the first time this year.  And it was at this point we realised that we'd forgotten to bring any sun block lotion.  A basic error for which I paid the price later that day as my arms turned lobster red.  I made a mental note to always have a travel sized sun lotion bottle in my rucksack.

Cold Moor (or, on this occasion perhaps, Hot Moor!)

The path along Cold Moor climbs very gradually and eventually the most glorious views appeared before us as we had our first glimpse of the Tees Valley, looking down the Cleveland plain towards Middlesbrough and across to the iconic landmark of Roseberry Topping, beyond which we caught a glittering hint of the sea.

The track along Cold Moor with a view of the Tees Valley

At 1,049 feet (320 metres) high, Roseberry Topping is a distinctive feature in the landscape, its unusual shape having been caused by a combination of a geological fault and a mining collapse in 1912.  Whilst Roseberry Topping is almost 1,000 feet short of being a mountain, many people still describe it as such and, because of its shape, it has even been nicknamed "Yorkshire's Matterhorn".

First glimpse of Roseberry Topping and the Wainstones

Also from our elevated position we could see the focal point for this walk - the Wainstones.  In his "Coast to Coast Walk" Alfred Wainwright wrote "you will like the Wainstones" and, even from a distance, I could see that I would agree.  This large rocky outcrop is believed to have been named from the Saxon word "wanian" meaning "to lament" and this may refer to a Danish chieftain who, according to legend, was slain here.

Looking across to the Wainstones from Cold Moor

Before we could begin our ascent of the western edge of Hasty Bank to reach the Wainstones we first had to take a path downhill from Cold Moor, allowing me to stop from time to time as increasingly better photo opportunities arose.

Approaching the Wainstones

Once at the stones we rested for a while among the rocks and enjoyed our lunch whilst watching climbers on the rock face.  The many different faces of the Wainstones provide climbers with a variety of ascents and the sheltered position makes it a popular place to climb all year round.

Climbers on the Wainstones

As we munched on our tasty sausage rolls from Helmsley I realised that "rock face" was quite an apt description.  One of the rocks in particular seemed to resemble one of the famous Easter Island moai.  Nature can be a great sculptor sometimes!

The rock face

After lunch we enjoyed a little scramble up a short section of the Wainstones followed by a short climb to the top of Hasty Bank.  As we admired the sweeping views I realised that we were now standing on the route of two of the country's finest and most popular long distance paths - the Coast to Coast and the Cleveland Way, which converge as they follow the line of the Cleveland Hills from Osmotherley in the west to Bloworth Crossing in the east.

View from the top of the Wainstones

Resuming our walk, we continued along Hasty Bank.  The route here is not only very clearly defined, it's also nicely paved and, judging by the number of people we passed along just this short section, the need for a permanent, hard-wearing surface was all too apparent.

A well paved section of the Cleveland Way/Coast to Coast on Hasty Bank

The Hasty Bank section of our walk ended with a fine view of Clay Bank and Greenhow Plantation, beyond which we could see the high ground of Urra Moor and the path leading to the next section of our walk.

Clay Bank, Greenhow Plantation and Urra Moor

At the foot of Hasty Bank we crossed over the B1257 road which was busy with motorcycles speeding noisily into Bilsdale.  I have to say, although I don't have anything against them, the noise was quite intrusive as the bikers accelerated uphill.  Clay Bank is a popular place for dramatic views and many people park here to enjoy a walk or a picnic.  After a short but fairly steep climb, we stopped to take a look back at Hasty Bank and the route we had taken so far before climbing up further onto the edge of Urra Moor.

Looking back to Hasty Bank

Turning off the Cleveland Way, we headed across the moorland, back in the direction of Chop Gate.  After a short distance a standing stone caught my attention and, as always, I had to go and investigate. This one was clearly a boundary stone, marking a boundary of the estate belonging to Lord Feversham of Duncombe Park, Helmsley, delineated in the year 1848.

Feversham Estate boundary stone

Our route followed the edge of Urra Moor, providing us with a view of the full length of Hasty Bank.  By now the heat was beginning to take its toll and we quickened our pace along the ridge to an outcrop known as Medd Cragg where we descended into the village of Seave Green.   A short walk along the  footpath by the B1257 and we were back in Chop Gate.  The Buck Inn was a welcome sight indeed and a cold glass of beer even more so! 

Hasty Bank from the edge of Urra Moor

This had been a highly enjoyable walk with a satisfying number of ascents and descents.  And we had the prospect of a similar walk to look forward to the very next day, which will be the subject of my next blog.  For now though, I'd just like to give a special mention to the Buck Inn, Chop Gate, which turned out to be a truly super place for a short break.  The accommodation was very comfortable, the food was lovely, the selection of beers (and single malts) excellent and the owners very friendly and helpful.  Whilst filling out a form to select our breakfast options I noticed that the landlord provides transport for Coast to Coast and Cleveland Way walkers to and from the Clay Bank car park, making the Buck Inn an ideal accommodation option for both these long distance routes.  I for one can certainly recommend it!

Directions for this walk:

From the main road in Chop Gate turn left onto Raisdale Road, which is signposted to Carlton-in-Cleveland.  A public footpath sign can be found at the side of the Methodist Church leading up a holloway which climbs uphill and eventually emerges onto Cold Moor.  This path follows a direct line all the way to join the Cleveland Way at Hasty Bank where a right turn takes you to the Wainstones.  From here follow the Cleveland Way down to Clay Bank, taking care when crossing the B1257 and climbing uphill onto Urra Moor.  At the top of the hill follow the public bridleway sign and take the path which leads around the edge of Urra Moor , following it round to Medd Cragg.  From here a footpath leads downhill to the village of Seave Green from where a left turn onto the main road will take you back to Chop Gate.  This walk is approximately 8 miles in length.

Coming soon.... Day 2 of our Cleveland Hills weekend took us up onto Cold Moor once more, but this time we turned left on the Cleveland Way to explore in the opposite direction. 

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Spring in Farndale and Rosedale (North York Moors) - April 2014

Spring had definitely sprung when we headed out once again into the North York Moors National Park for a superb circular walk of 12 miles which was to include daffodils, lambs and blossom in abundance.  Everything you would associate with this, the most wonderful of seasons, including plenty of blue sky and warm sunshine.  And, as if that wasn't enough springtime imagery for one walk, it was also Good Friday and I'd started the day with a breakfast of toasted hot cross buns!

Our walk began in the moorland valley of Farndale which is famous for its daffodils.

The entrance to Farndale Daffodil Reserve

The Farndale Nature Reserve was created in 1955 to safeguard these flowers which, contrary to popular belief, were not planted by monks from nearby Rievaulx Abbey but are actually native wild flowers (Narcissus pseudonarcissus).  Smaller and more delicate than the domestic daffodils we grow in our gardens, their preferred habitat is shaded woodland, grassland or riverbanks and the beautiful valley of Farndale provides all of these conditions perfectly.  Usually the best time to visit is between mid-March and mid-April, depending on the preceding weather conditions.  I had hoped to have visited a little sooner, and there's no doubt that the blooms had passed their best by Easter, but even so there were still plenty of flowers to see. 

Beautiful Farndale

Wild Daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus)

We had been warned that in spring the valley can be very crowded with visitors (up to 40,000 people usually visit during the short flowering season) and parking can be a problem.  So, with that in mind, we left home at the crack of dawn and arrived at the little hamlet of Low Mill just before 8 a.m. to find an empty car park and not another soul in sight.  As we set off to walk along the banks of the River Dove all we could hear was birdsong and the bleating of new-born lambs.  It was glorious.

A Farndale lamb

The first part of our walk followed the course of the River Dove as it meanders through the nature reserve in the direction of Church Houses.  This section of the walk is mostly on the level and very well paved thanks to the efforts of the National Park Authority and local landowners who work very hard to ensure that visitors can stick to defined routes without disturbing the habitat and thus the impact on the environment is kept to a minimum. 

Path through Farndale

As we drew nearer to Church Houses a sign on a gate caught our attention.  "You are only three fields from the Daffy Caffy" it announced and then further taunted us by asking "Can you smell the bacon?"   Although we couldn't yet smell any bacon, it had been a good while since those toasted hot cross buns and the thought of a coffee and bacon sandwich to fuel us for the rest of the walk was very appealing indeed. 

Can you smell the bacon yet?

The next three fields passed by at a little quicker pace and before long we approached High Mill, home of the Daffy Cafe, where we soon realised just why we hadn't been able to smell the bacon.  The cafe was closed.  Or to be correct, it had yet to open.  In our eagerness to get there we had arrived 20 minutes before the 9 a.m. opening time. 
Approaching the Daffy Caffy...still no smell of bacon

There's one aspect of this walk which I have so far failed to mention.  And that is the fact that, apart from walking through Farndale's daffodil reserve, I really had no idea how long our walk was going to be or in what direction we would be heading next.  I had decided, for the first time ever, to make it up as we went along.  So, although I wasn't sure which way to go next as we disappointedly peered at the closed doors of the Daffy Cafe, I certainly didn't feel like hanging around for 20 minutes for a bacon sandwich.  That said, the thought of a hot drink and a bite to eat at some point along the walk was still appealing and it was this thought which determined the direction in which we headed next.  Almost a year ago we had discovered Dale Head Farm in Rosedale, where teas, coffees and delicious sandwiches and cakes are served in the garden of a typical moorland farmhouse.  I had wanted to go back and sample some more of their tasty treats and a quick look at my map revealed that this would entail a walk of only a couple of miles or so from our current position.  The next stage of our walk was fixed and we set off in an easterly direction, heading out of the hamlet of Church Houses and following the quiet country road in the direction of Blakey Ridge.  This entailed a steep and steady climb up Blakey Bank, a 1 in 5 gradient (20%) with increasingly stunning views of Farndale and High Blakey Moor.

Looking down into Farndale from Blakey Bank

At the top of Blakey Ridge we crossed the main road and paused for a while to look down upon Rosedale.  Here we crossed the line of the former Rosedale Railway where an information panel informed us this point was Blakey Junction. 

Blakey Junction information panel

Magnetic ironstone was discovered in Rosedale in 1853 and by 1856 open cast mining in the area was producing ironstone of a very high quality, leading to the commencement of drift mining and eventually full production at the Rosedale West Mine in 1861.  Thereafter a further mine was opened at Rosedale East in 1864.  The Rosedale Railway was a remarkable feat of Victorian engineering which transported ironstone across the moorland to the main line at Battersby Junction from where it could be carried onwards.  Today the abandoned railway track provides an excellent level route for walkers and cyclists as it winds its way around the top of the valley for over ten miles in total.  There are various ruins and reminders of mining activities dotted around the edges of Rosedale and the information panel provided a panoramic key to just a few of these sites of interest.

Rosedale's disused railway track

Looking down and across the valley we could see our next destination of Dale Head Farm and we strode off purposefully down the hill.

Looking down towards Dale Head (the farm in the middle distance)

Once in the valley bottom we followed a quiet country lane where occasional little signs attached to fence posts confirmed we were heading in the right direction.  By this time I was beginning to feel more than a little bit peckish as I recalled the delicious Wensleydale cheese and chutney sandwich I had enjoyed on our last visit, which had been followed by a large chunk of thickly buttered fruit loaf. 

This way to the tea garden

By the time we reached the farmhouse  I was positively famished, even though it was only 10 a.m.  Sadly though, not one of those little advertising signs had mentioned the opening times for  Dale Head Tea Garden which, we now discovered, didn't open until 11 a.m.  After muttering something curmudgeonly and  unrepeatable about the lack of enterprise displayed by the local eateries, I consulted my map again, unsure of what direction we would take next.  All these unfulfilled offers of food meant that refreshment was now a priority and that left us only two choices - a climb back up onto Blakey Ridge to the Lion Inn or a walk along the valley bottom to the village of Rosedale Abbey.  As it presented the best option for a circular route, we chose the latter and retraced our steps for a short distance to a farm called Hollin Bush where we could join a track known as Daleside Road which would take us to the hamlet of Thorgill.

Daleside Road

To begin with Daleside Road is simply a grassy track, occasionally muddy in places, which leads through a series of fields until eventually, as it approaches Thorgill, it becomes a surfaced country lane.  Walking along here in the spring sunshine was an absolute delight as we passed several fields with new-born lambs, hedgerows bursting with hawthorn blossom and patches of wild primroses by the wayside.  For the first three miles of this four mile stretch of the walk to Rosedale we only saw two other walkers.  It was wonderfully tranquil.

Blossom lined lane

Wild primroses in the hedgerow

From Thorgill our route took us over a field which led to a farmyard after which we crossed a river and then followed its course down into the village of Rosedale Abbey.   The name of this charming moorland village is a little confusing as today all that remains of the Cistercian nunnery which gave the village its name is the ruin of a small turret staircase next to the church of St Mary and St Laurence.  The church was built in 1839 from stones remaining from the former abbey.

The Church of St Mary & St Laurence, Rosedale Abbey

It was a relief to find that the Abbey Tea Rooms were open and, surprisingly given that it was now approaching midday, not at all busy.  Strictly speaking it was only just lunchtime, but in spite of this we ordered an afternoon tea of sandwiches and cakes which was very welcome indeed.  And totally delicious too.  Perhaps more so given our two earlier failed attempts to find refreshment. 

Rosedale Abbey Tea Rooms (refreshment at last!)

Over my second cup of coffee and slice of cake I consulted the map and realised that we had now walked eight miles, leaving a further four miles back to our car at the Low Mill car park.  This entailed what appeared to be a steady climb back up to the disused railway track, over the top of Blakey Ridge again and back down into Farndale.  Suitably refreshed we set off back in the direction of Thorgill where we took an uphill footpath over the top.  Pausing for a rest halfway up the ridge we were rewarded with a stunning view of Rosedale.

Looking down into Rosedale from Thorgill Bank

Once back on the old railway line we realised we had wandered slightly off course.  This often happens on the moors I find, where the pathways aren't always very clear and spotting the right line through the heather can be problematic. 

Where's the path?

On my map (OS  1:25 000) I could see the familiar green dashes marking out a path to the main road across Blakey Ridge but finding it proved to be something of a challenge.  Eventually, after much squinting at the map and scratching of heads we struck off in what looked like the right direction and were eventually rewarded with a clearly defined track.  The GPS hadn't been much help and, not for the first time, I promised myself I simply must brush up on my compass and map reading skills. 

The path back to Blakey Ridge

From the main road the route back to Low Mill was obvious and as we headed downhill we could see the car park which appeared to be full to capacity.

Downhill back into Farndale
The views of Farndale were stunning and by now there was hardly a cloud in the sky.

Looking down into Farndale

Once away from the moorland and back in the fertile green valley bottom we once again encountered daffodils growing by gateways and drystone walls.  These, however, weren't the wild variety but the more common, larger flowers usually found in gardens.

More daffodils

The Easter holiday sunshine combined with the approaching end to the flowering season had attracted a great number of visitors and the tiny hamlet of Low Mill was teeming with cars and people.   After the peace and solitude we'd enjoyed during our walk this abrupt return to civilisation was too much of a shock to the system.   Clearly we had made the right decision in starting the walk as early in the day as possible and I can certainly recommend this tactic to anyone wishing to follow in our footsteps.  The daffodils will all have gone by now but even without the sight of their pretty little yellow heads bobbing in the breeze, Farndale is still a truly beautiful place. 

Directions for this walk:

Leaving from the car park at Low Mill follow the well defined path through the Nature Reserve which follows the course of the River Dove to High Mill and then along the lane to the small village of Church Houses.  After passing the Feversham Arms public house turn left onto Long Lane and follow this quiet country road steeply up Blakey Bank to the main road at the top. 

After crossing the main road look for the information panel for Blakey Junction behind which a path leads downhill into Rosedale.  Here you can either take a short detour to visit Dale Head (provided it's open of course!) or turn onto Daleside Road which is down the lane just after a group of farm buildings. 

Follow Daleside Road all the way to Thorgill and shortly after entering the hamlet a path on the left leads over a field, across a bridge and passes a farmyard to your right.  After passing the farm there's a stile to cross after which turn right and follow the path down into Rosedale Abbey.  The path into the village passes through a caravan site until a sign directs you to turn left to emerge in the village opposite the little church.

After visiting the village retrace your steps back into the caravan site opposite the church but this time keep straight on until you reach the river.  At the riverbank turn right and carry on until you reach a footbridge, then cross a field and turn right, following the road to Thorgill until a footpath on the left takes you across fields to the hamlet where a path to the left heads up Thorgill Bank.  At the top of the bank you need to find a path over the moor and back to the main road.  The easiest one to find is just before an abandoned mining shaft which is visible on the horizon if you follow the old railway track.  This will then necessitate turning left on the main road until you can find the footpath back down into Farndale.  There are a couple of these and the easiest route is to find the one which leads directly to Farndale (as shown on the map).  From here it's just a straightforward downhill back to the car park.

Coming soon...
Two wonderful walks in the Cleveland Hills and Bilsdale.  Be sure to follow me on Facebook for regular updates.