A Stroll With Stu: A walk through the woods - and the laughing cows are benign

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Take a stunning ride from Danby down the Northern flank of Rosedale in the Moorsbus, and alight at Pickering for this six-miler to Dalby Forest.

I did just that, a week after that tropical weekend in mid-June almost melted the soles of my boots in the Cheviots and I was grateful for a cool westerly breeze and some gentler slopes.

Head down Market Place – the main shopping street – and climb up steps at the end to skirt 15 yards right around the impressive church of St Peter and St Paul, down onto Hall Garth, left up to the Old Rectory, right down the A169 and finally left along Ruffa Lane.

This is quintessential Middle England suburbia, with neatly trimmed shrubbery, cheery waves, children’s laughter, and purring lawn mowers masking the indignant grunts from kitchen windows, as the occasional ruddy-faced pensioner tops up his bile reserves with the aid of the Sunday Express.

The lane becomes a track, then after a metal gate it thins into a little path in woods and fields for half a mile. Fifty yards ahead of a wooden gate, look out for an unmarked path on your left leading into woodland.

This soon becomes a double track rising slowly uphill at the bottom of Howldale – one of many dry valleys in these parts, formed (educated guess alert) by meltwater from the receding ice pack on the moors when the sun came out 12,000 years ago.

My friends think I’m not interested in music. But I do have an i-pod, full of stuff conceived, written and performed prior to 1976.

Stuart Bell

After 15 minutes, where the track bends right and climbs sharply uphill, take a grassier option to your left along the valley floor with trees on either side - those on the left eventually being replaced by fields.

Side tracks may tempt you as you admire the assorted butterflies flitting alongside, but stay on the same level until your only option is to follow the route uphill into the woods, soon reaching a wide junction.

Turn left, then quickly left again along a signed path soon heading right in a grassy field.

A large herd of cows blocked my way, five of them in particular taking great pleasure in sitting directly in front of the exit gate, laughing at my efforts to escape over an electric fence.

After defibrillating myself several times, I had no choice but to man up and tackle them head on.

Mercifully, they were agreeably benign as I scuttled with some pace through the gate leading into the yards of Low Kingthorpe Farm.

A quick right and left through the farm buildings takes you into an overgrown field, at the far top end of which a small gate leads into a 20 yard stretch of jungle where, if the nettles, brambles and miscellaneous bugs don’t get you, the giant hogweed will. (Don’t worry, I exaggerate for dramatic effect).

Emerge into open countryside and skirt the boundary until a sign points you straight through a field of wheat, where you can dance rebelliously around pretending you are the Prime Minister.

Commendably, the farmer has left the path unplanted (some don’t) and the route is clear across to a gate, a drop into a dale and a further gate where you should turn right in front of trees.

Cross the busy road, then a quick left-right shuffle takes you onto a path through scattered young woodland, ultimately into denser stuff on the edge of Dalby Forest.

Follow the signs to the road and drop steeply down to Low Dalby, where another Moorsbus will conveniently be waiting to whisk you off to the country pub of your choice. (The rather excellent New Inn at Cropton, in my case).

Low Dalby has bike hire, a café and in my opinion – considering the place is all about natural beauty –a rather incongruous, not to say ugly building, by way of a visitor centre.

Didn’t seem to bother the hundreds of visitors though, some of whom may have overnighted after the “Forest Live” musical concerts over the weekend, where Rick Astley and Elbow had spent several hours frightening the owls and squirrels in nearby woods.

My friends think I’m not interested in music. But I do have an i-pod, full of stuff conceived, written and performed prior to 1976.

Anything from the 1980s onward is essentially lost to me – indeed you may say I don’t know my A-Ha’s from my Elbow.

I blame it on an unlikely combination of Pete Waterman and Sid Vicious, who downgraded the ability to write, perform and play musical instruments, eventually spawning talentless rap artists and techno-dross.

I used to wait a year for favourite bands to compose and record much anticipated new albums, but now they just press the “recycle with new title” button on the computer.

Phew. I’m turning into my Dad. AND I’m told Elbow were brilliant!

So hey, more power to them.

I’ll get my coat.