What a stunning circuit through the North York Moors! Just the job as the new walking season gets under way with the arrival of spring.
And, as a bonus, the finish meanders along Farndale’s famed daffodil trail with the opportunity of a coffee stop at the popular Daffy Caffy.
Over the next few weeks – the best time being mid-April – Farndale, the renowned Daffodil Valley, will turn into a carpet of yellow as the daffodil bulbs burst into life along the banks of the tiny River Dove which gently flows through the heart of the dale.
The daffodils - of the dwarf variety - present an unusual outlook; they do not appear in any regular pattern or formal display, but grow naturally by the banks of the Dove, dotted about the meadows and half hidden amid the many small copses.
The romantic view is that the daffodils were planted in the Middle Ages by the monks of nearby Rievaulx Abbey who had two farms in the valley. However, modern-day horticulturists suggest that the daffodils are a natural phenomenon, the result of the rich mineral properties of the region.
The blooms survived and multiplied for centuries until the first Victorian tourists plucked them almost to extinction. Volunteers patrols - and the threat of fines - were introduced to save the daffs for posterity.
Farndale was settled by the Vikings who named it the “valley of the ferns” from the Old Norse “fearn” and “dael”. It is a picture of delight along its entire eight-mile length, a dramatic, steep-sided valley of hardy farmsteads and rustic settlements squeezed deep between the soaring crests of Rudland Rigg to the west and Blakey Ridge to the east.
The idyllic outlook of today is vastly different to that of the near-distant past. Farndale suffered the ravages of typical Victorian industries. Ironstone, jet, coal and stone were all mined or quarried in Farndale through the 18th and 19th centuries and the spoil heaps of those workings can still be made out.
Note: Please keep dogs on a lead at all times as it is the lambing season and the route crosses a grouse moor on the climb to Blakey Ridge.
PARKING: On entering Low Mill in Farndale from the direction of Kirkbymoorside, turn right at the red post box into the signposted car park (toilets). Please make a donation.
FARNDALE and BLAKEY RIDGE
7 miles: Allow 3 ½ – 4 ½ hours. Map: OL 26 North York Moors Western area.
Exit car park into road, turn left past red phone box and turn left along road for Hutton-le-Hole, soon crossing road bridge over the River Dove. Go up the hill to strike the Hutton-le-Hole to Castleton road and take the farm track opposite, over cattle grid, up towards Cragg Cottage.
The track, eventually, becomes tarred. At end of tarmac, at fork, sweep right up vehicle track to enter premises at Cragg Cottage (arrow). Go straight ahead to next waymarked gate (to left of a garage) and then follow vehicle track to bypass property. After a few yards, as vehicle track swings right, go straight ahead by the wall, soon over a stone stile.
To your front left is the high spine of Rudland Rigg, thought to have been used by the Neolithic people of the late Stone Age as a dry north-to-south route through these inhospitable uplands. What is known for certain is that Bronze Age tribes took up residence on this high ground above the swamp-ridden valleys and relics of their occupation – burial mounds, earthworks and cairns - are all around. The route along the crest of the ridge has been used by successive cultures ever since, right down to the packmen of recent centuries, providing a vital trade link between Kirkbymoorside and Stokesley.
Follow the wall all the way to a stile at a fingerpost, avoiding sections of bog with diversions up to the right. Continue by the wall on your left until it finishes, cross a ladder stile and the next stile and go across middle of field to a ladder stile. Cross it and go half left (arrow) to cross a beck.
On crossing beck go slightly left over the field, past marker post, and then go slightly right over next field to a ladder stile which is not too obvious (yellow tape). Now go slightly right across the next field to spot a vehicle bridge to the right of the tiny ravine with beck and then go half left to ladder stile to the left of a house (Oak Cragg).
Enter the Castleton road (Daleside Road) and turn right, past Oak Cragg, and stride out along this quiet road into the heart of Farndale. After a pleasant half mile, there are two fingerpost on your right at the entrance to High Bragg Cottage just before a split in the road. Ignore first fingerpost. Take the second path, through a gate, and go up field in line of fingerpost to begin the climb on to Blakey Ridge.
1: Follow vague vehicle tracks, bearing left, to a wall and gate (gate open, on our visit). Pass through and follow wall on your left straight ahead. Go through a gate with arrow and go slightly right across the field, staying within a few yards of the wall on your left, to gain arrows at a fence corner and, here, turn right up the field and then go up the lefthand “ridge” of a shallow runnel. A gate pops into view to your front left – gain it (steep!).
Pass through – noticing direction of arrow on gate - to enter Crow Act Access Land where you have freedom to roam (please keep dogs on a lead as this is a grouse moor). Go forward, as per arrow, for 20 paces and then go off left on a narrow path through reeds, gradually climbing. When the path falters, plough on in the same line to pick it up again - have faith!
The path then levels out to follow a definite sheep trod leftwards through the heather – spot the two prominent trees side by side in the field down to your left, a good marker.
Soon, the track, which never fails, begins to climb gradually up the slope on your right. It improves, soon passing through boulders and passing a cairn. Follow the path like glue, past another cairn, to the next cairn within a few yards. Keep on up the trod to a pile of rocks on your left and, here, turn left along a ridge past a bird-feeding tray. This is the bed of an old quarry railway.
Press on with the rim of Blakey Ridge up to your right to pass through a man-made stone cutting and continue along the bed of the old quarry railway with traffic on the road along Blakey Ridge to your right. Now spot a parking area ahead, with road signs, at the road junction where a road comes up from your left to join Blakey Ridge.
Before arriving at the road junction on Blakey Ridge, go off half left to enter the minor road coming up on your left from Church Houses. Turn left and race down the road or, better, down the wide grass verge for three-quarters of a mile to a road junction and turn left for Farndale East Side.
2: Go past Hollin Lodge to a box-top footpath sign and turn right, through bridle gate, and drop down the field by fence on your right. At bottom of field, turn right through a gate and immediately turn left (as per arrow) and then turn left again past a marker post within a few paces.
On arriving at gate in field corner – don’t go through it! - turn right along hedge and ditch (arrow). Go through gate at end of field and onwards for 30 yards only and then turn left into the church yard at St Mary’s, Farndale. Go straight ahead past left end of church and then turn right down side of church and exit church yard along gravel path.
Go through church car park and down to road and turn right into Church Houses, sweeping left through the hamlet to the Feversham Arms and turn left along the road signposted Farndale West Side. There is an immediate fork – take the left branch (pub car park on your left), soon passing a sign for the Daffy Caffy.
Follow road to its end and continue on vehicle track to the tiny settlement of High Mill and the Daffy Caffy and sweep left round corner of cafe, between properties, to a gate ahead to enter the daffodil trail with the winding River Dove to your right.
Stride out over the flagstones and continue along the man-made path and follow it all the way to Low Mill – no description needed – admiring the scattered displays of daffodils. The path finishes by turning right over a footbridge and climbing to the car park.