Brilliant sun on the high ridges of the North York Moors, a flush of purple heather up the heights of Farndale, and Low Mill’s handful of houses slumbering in a Saturday morning hush.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
The River Dove, shallow and copper-brown, went sparkling in a tunnel of alders through the meadows I followed upstream to High Mill. These fields, cropped close and green by blackface sheep, will be a riot of wild daffodils in spring.
‘You are only 3 fields away from the Daffy Caffy,’ said the notice on a gate. ‘Can you smell the bacon? We have the kettle on.’ A very hard sell; one I couldn’t resist. A tiny curly terrier stood sentinel on the Daffy’s doorstop. He was an interested spectator as I made short work of the world’s best bacon sandwich and a cup of tea. Care to lick my greasy fingers? Well – don’t mind if I do.
I climbed grassy fields full of eyebright, then on up through black hummocks of coal mining spoil. It’s always an astonishment, looking down one of these quiet and seemingly utterly rural dales, to remember what smoky and clangourous hives of industry they once were, their lead, iron and coal prised out and processed by men who lived as a tribe apart.
Up on the moor’s rolling back, distant walkers appeared to be wading shin-deep in a purple sea. ‘Never seen the heather bloom like this,’ said a man in very short shorts. ‘Every year it’s like a miracle, and this one in particular.’
The old moor track called Westside Road rides the spine of the long north-south upland of Rudland Rigg, a broad stony upland way just made for a good step-out. I rattled along, watching slate-grey clouds rolling along the wide horizons, blotting up the colours from the adjacent dales and stretching their shadow west across the Vale of York.
Bright sunshine had cracked out of hiding and bathed the moors in rich gold and purple by the time I’d got down off Rudland Rigg into the fields of Lower Farndale. Black thunderflies reeled above the grass, amorously clasped two by two to claim membership of the Yard-High Club, and the silly sheep stopped and stared like shocked spinsters, as they’ve always done and will do until Farndale is under the sea once more.
Start: Low Mill car park, near Kirkbymoorside, N. Yorks YO62 7UY (OS ref SE 673952)
Getting there: From Kirkbymoorside (on A170 Pickering-Helmsley), follow ‘Gillamoor’ and ‘Farndale’. In Gillamoor, right at T-junction; in 1 mile, left (‘Farndale’) to Low Mill.
WALK (9½ miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL26):
Take footpath next to car park (‘High Mill’). Cross River Dove, left along river (yellow arrows/YAs) to High Mill and Daffy Caffy (668971). Up lane to Church Houses and Feversham Arms PH; or to continue walk, left over stile (YA). Along river for 100 m, left over footbridge, right up 2 fields (‘Low Bank’) to road (664970). Right; ahead at junction (‘Dale End’). Just past Monket House, left through gate (660972; ‘Bransdale’), up track through spoil heaps. Ignore left fork (655971); continue for nearly 1 mile to crossing of wide tracks with motorcycle prohibition notices (641974). Left (south) along Rudland Rigg for 3¼ miles to road (659927).
Ahead across cattle grid; in ¼ mile on right bend, left (662920; ‘footpath’) through wood to gate (665923, YA). Aim ahead to angle of tumbledown walls; right along path, which bends left to cross Harland Beck (667925). Through gateway; bear left along wall parallel to beck. At gate (666927), don’t go through; bear right up wall and through fence gap (YA). Follow wall up through gate, on up through another gate (YA) to stony lane (668930). Left to Harland Farm. By farm gate, right up wall through successive gates (YAs). Left over ladder stile (668933), right beside wall (YA). At wall end, forward through heather (aim for post); continue along clear path, bending left to run parallel with Farndale. In ¾ mile, pass YA on pole (667944); in 150 m pass tall cairn; then fork right downhill. At bottom of slope, right through gate (666946, YA). Down through wood, then gate (667947, YA). Down through next gate to cross road (668948). Down 3 fields (fingerpost) to road; forward to Low Mill.
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LUNCH: Daffy Caffy, High Mill (01751-430363; 9-5, Fri-Sun, May-Sep; daily, March-April); or Feversham Arms PH, Church Houses (01751-433206; www.fevershamarmsinn.co.uk).
ACCOMMODATION: King’s Head, Kirkbymoorside, N. Yorks YO62 6AT (01751-431340; www.kingsheadkirkbymoorside.co.uk) – very friendly and helpful.
MORE INFO: Pickering TIC (01751-473791); www.discovernorthyorkshire.co.uk