Today we learn that a well-balanced walk is 8km (5 miles) out and 5km (3 miles) back and on that note, our aim is to be with the lovely Ginny at High Paradise Farm Cafe by midday.
The weather is perfect for a walk, Carol has promised some minor cloud and topping out at 21C with little wind, more than happy with that. Our meeting place is a grassy area overlooking Gower Dale and the wonderfully named Sunny Bank Wood.
I’m here well before the others and take the opportunity to wander along the edge of the road taking in the beauty of the dale momentarily bathed in a number of sunshine-spotlights but the star of the show now being lit by the Super Trooper of them all is the outbuildings and house of Sunnybank Farm. It’s quite surreal and catches me ‘in the moment’. These times are few and it’s only when my mind returns to normal consciousness that I appreciate the pleasure of the scene. You can’t plan to be absorbed like this, it just happens. I’m set up for the day now and as my friends drive onto our adopted, grassy car park they’re greeted by a man with a huge smile.
The route takes us past Murton Grange Farm and along a well-drained lane that shows little evidence of the rain that we’ve had of late so our going is brisk and we reach the first valley and through Yowlass Wood before a stretching ‘up’ the other side to a point where Old Byland is visible to our left and wheat fields to our right. The corn is looking decidedly like it needs to be harvested but my lack of experience could well be wrong as the balance between rain-soaked grain and inevitable drying may make the gamble of a few extra days in some hazy sunshine a better business proposition, only time will tell.
We reach the tarmac road which eventually takes us to a tunnel of trees and bushes that will deliver us to Garbett Ridge which is where we join the Cleveland Way. There is no breeze in this wooded tube and the moist smell of leaves and vegetation is strong, so strong that my mind wanders.
I am reminded of my days as a youngster in the fields around Castle Hills where we were allowed, or perhaps more likely, tolerated by the local farmers. We’d play in the meadows but never thought to go into productive corn fields, they were taboo. They were also seriously uncomfortable, especially after the harvest with unbending straws sticking rigidly out of the ground like inverted scrubbing brushes ready to stab your legs, backside or face depending on which hit them first.
We occasionally had some fun climbing the haystacks which would appear randomly through the warm summer months. They were much softer and, if we managed to manoeuvre a bale out of the centre portion without causing a collapse then the rest of the bales tended to retain the structure and we had a den. It was always a gamble of course and the patience of the farmer never stretched to allow us to play in or around these wonderful structures and if we were seen there’d be much shouting and arm waving but I don’t remember any swearing or violence, we knew we were in the wrong and would run. In order to avoid the stress and embarrassment of the above encounter our little dens would be well camouflaged with a few sheaves of corn tied together with billy-band and propped across the entrance.
Provided we remembered to close our corn-sheaf door then we’d be left unnoticed and it would become a dry haven even on the odd showery summer day. I can feel the tickling strands of the grass as we peered out of our tiny, temporary home and the smell was so strong it’s still in my head now. The fact that we could have been dead within a heartbeat if the structure that we had so carefully and innocently weakened by removing the bale had collapsed then we would have been a few lines in the Darlington and Stockton Times and our families distraught but we didn’t know that.
It was in those tiny potential coffins that I learned to tolerate most insects. In adult life, I’ve also managed to overcome that tolerance, especially with tiny beasties that bite. Sadly, my ignorance of what is potentially a biting thing and what is not has made me, let’s call it careful. If there is a small beastie sliding down the slippery side of the bath as I bend to turn on the hot tap I’m compelled to get some toilet paper to grab it and wave it on its way from the bathroom window. The concept of flushing it down the plug hole or scalding it to death are both alien to me but I still wobble a bit when a spider drops out of the foliage as this one has now and I’m swiping it away like an Ozzy in the Outback.
We’re out of the tree canopy and I’m still swiping away at the tiny invader but in fairness, I think it’s a figment of my imagination now and whilst it did drift passed my cheek on its web-spinning-abseil to the ground and is hopefully, not now resident on me…
…I know it’s gone… but it’s still tickling my cheek!
We’re back on Garbutts Ridge and walking towards High Paradise, there’s only a mile or so of duplication and the views are astonishing.
High Paradise Farm Cafe is well worth a visit. Always cheerful and always busy as people break their walk whether it’s a circular like ours or one of the longer linear ones like the Cleveland Way. The meals are high quality and served with a smile. I’d always recommend a stop here.
After an hour we’re ready to go and the delight is that the return is only 5km (about 3 miles) across open countryside but the closing stage is an absolute delight. We wend our way through Gowerdale Wood and disturb hundreds of grouse who’re drawn to us because there are humans that leave food for them but they’re afraid of us in equal measure, presumably someone has told them that it’s gone past the 12th.
Glorious or not, there’s a lot of them and the moors will be full of punters paying considerable sums to take them out of the sky over the next few months – they’re certainly going to need to be less friendly than this!
The final stage is all up but it’s mitigated with more of the beautiful dale being lit up by the sunshine-spotlights and believe it or not, the Supper Trouper is still on the farmhouse – perhaps that’s where the treasure is.
Enjoy the snaps.
Love G x
Please consider sharing for folks that can no longer enjoy these walks but can do a bit of armchair rambling instead.
In response to a direct message:
** A ‘super trouper’ is the main, very powerful spotlight that usually follows the main character on the stage.