So Peeps, the plan is a five-miler around Farndale. The weather has been somewhat inclement of late. We’ve had a wide range from rain, to hail, a little snow and winds, in fact, we’ve had everything but locusts and pestilence. The point I’m making is that if you go walking, you’ve got to do it because where you’re going is beautiful no matter what time of year and the only time when a little caution is required is when there is fog or snow and if you’re a regular walker you’ll understand that even these have their own beauty but can seriously catch you out; I’ll tell you about some fog and snow in a future tale!
We’re treated to blue skies with only the odd island of cirrus cloud, it’s wispy and there’s no threat to the full sun that’s casting the long shadows and warm light that create the ideal conditions for producing photographs.
Our route takes us past Ralph’s Cross or to be more precise Ralphs Crosses. The larger of the two being the one that most people will see and may well think of as the only one. See previous posting regarding history and a few photographs.
Up here it’s bleak indeed. Some of the snow that’s accompanied the rain and hail over the last few days is still clinging to the ground and our eyes are mentally preparing us for the cold.
The road into Farndale down Blakey Bank reveals a beautiful vista of sky and dale with the low sun casting long shadows and illuminating the patchwork of fields with an orange tint. I capture a few photographs and note where the sun is rising for future reference, I like mornings and resolve to come here again through the summer to watch the sun rise and try to capture more of this fantastic scene.
I’m looking down into Farndale and reminded of many hours of watching Postman Pat when the kids were small. The roads are little more than lanes that have had a tarmac coating applied and the dry stone walls act as delimiters rather like a picture drawn by a child where the roads disappear into the hills but not before rising and falling over gentle undulations where a solitary van can be seen roller-coasting its way between trees and farm buildings then over stone humpback bridges that traverse the tiny becks and ditches.
We drive the length of the dale and turn right into Low Mill. The car park is closed because of the previous two days torrential rain and snow. Today, by contrast, is a delight.
We find a couple of parking places and meet Cecilia who has beaten us even though she’s driven from York. A change of boots later and we’re walking down towards the little bridge over the River Dove and then follow it North almost alone at this early hour.
There’s a comment from the rear about a bacon sandwich. I’d said that there was an excellent cafe 20 minutes into the walk so I’d asked the team not to have breakfast (and they hadn’t) so hunger was beginning to gnaw.
There was the promise of daffodils adjacent to the path, not huge numbers but certainly sufficient to maintain the reputation of the dale. It’s the last week of March as I write this and they’ll be another 10 days or so before the full display but that’s no disappointment because this dale is beautiful regardless and I’ll definitely be back at other times when there’ll be no daffodils.
The birds are singing in the trees and we see numerous rabbits playing in the bracken on the other side of the river. I’m guessing that they feel safe with such a physical barrier between them and the two legged twitchers on the other bank.
We stick to the path to avoid damage to the pre-bloom daffodils and arrive at the Daffy Cafe in less than the planned twenty minutes. Bacon butties are calling us and as we line up in excited anticipation George, the owner is already dealing with a customer and it’s only just gone nine.
So here we are, “Daffy” George the owner, “Tracker” George currently the planner, “Cuz” George the walker and “Guv” George the Governor. Oh, we’ve also got “Snapper” Pete the photographer and “Miss” Cecilia the Super Teacher but if you’re stuck for a name use George and there’s a 3 to 1 (6:2) chance you’ll be right!
Daffy George hits us with some bacon in huge buns and some of the nicest filter coffee in the dale. If you add that he’s a really nice person then you got the makings of a cracking cafe and when you combine it with a name like Daffy Cafe you’ve got a winner.
We reluctantly leave the Daffy Cafe and Daffy George turning right and rounding a bend in the lane, there’s a gate to the left which we pass through and cut diagonally across the field and cross the bridge over the Dove to gain access to the west bank. This is the only really testing piece of ‘up’ but we’re all quite fit now and it doesn’t prove an issue to anyone. It does; however, give us the opportunity to appreciate the fabulous vista behind us as we ascend.
At the top we meet Bev and (another) George again two wonderful people from Berkshire adding to the beautiful day. Bev has caring eyes and a smile that would light a room. She skips everywhere whilst George wears an enigmatic expression and a smile that conveys mischief and fun.
We have to take the opportunity to have a picture of four Georges together.
Snapper Pete goes into professional mode and has Bev and George modelling a five bar gate like extras from a Grattan Catalogue. The framing is priceless and the backdrop of the dale illustrates his ability to spot an opportunity for a photograph brilliantly.
We walk with them to the junction and they take the high road whilst we make our way down to Church Houses taking every opportunity to capture the beautiful scenes that present themselves as our angle of view changes with our elevation.
Through this tiny hamlet centred around the Feversham Arms we ascend the short hill to St Mary Church. This is an unimposing building from the outside but if it is open, please take the time to go in. The atmosphere inside is so pleasing that if you have a God then he’ll give you a hug in here.
There’s a park ranger in the porch who contributes to the pleasantness of the day with cheery greetings and sage advice about the dale.
The daffodils that surround the church are much further on than the ones by the Dove and reflect the sunshine as we pick our way around the building.
Turning left out of the church then left at the end of the building takes us to a gate and the footpath up to the road. There’s a group of walker going in the opposite direction who’re discussing saving a lamb that had been stuck in the river. Their damp attire was testament to the event and the excitement in their voices conveyed the drama. Apparently, there were issues with the mother who wasn’t at all sure of their positive intentions but the smile on their faces was indication enough of the eventual success.
They assure us that the damp area that I had encountered during the recce were not at all bad. The field had just been sprayed with some ‘interesting’ manure and the rain over the last couple of days has resulted in a heady smell of farm (actually it smells strongly of shit) but we trudge through the field regardless.
We turn right on the Eastern version of Daleside Road and begin walking south in the general direction of Low Mill. If you take this walk you really must be vigilant looking all around you. The scenery is enchanting from fields to moors to tracks and lanes with dry stone walls. This is picture book country and the sun lifts the spirit and also enhances the views.
At the interestingly named Bitchagreen, we re-enter the fields and join the public footpath that leads us through a couple of well-signed farmyards.
It’s all downhill now and with the exception of Cuz George loosing his soul and a gate that leads to nowhere and guards against nothing the rest of the walk is delightfully easy but constantly beautiful.
There are a few styles but all of them easy to negotiate, even a girly can get over!
This is a five miler mostly on good tracks; however, there are a couple of areas that are boggy after poor weather. Today is 30th March and I would estimate that the daffodils will be at their best in another week or so but regardless of daffs, this is a wonderful dale. Enjoy the photographs…G..x
Enjoy the snaps
Please feel free to share…G..x