Signs of spring peeping through

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THIS month’s A Stroll With Stuart column sees him enjoy signs of the onset of spring as he wanders around Danbydale.

I did this 9 mile walk on the warmest day since early November, and it was refreshing to see the emergence of the first bright green tinges of spring and later up on Danby Rigg, to hear several skylarks twittering away as they haggled over the best nesting sites.

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Start at Danby station turning right along the main road, then up the hill into the village of Ainthorpe. Take the second minor road left, (signposted for the Fox and Hounds and Fryup) and stay on the road uphill past the pub until reaching the tennis courts.

As the road bears left, take a grass path ahead on the far right – five yards to the right of a clearer path in a gully. Go through a gate that is in worse nick than my left knee, and head straight on. The path is fairly distinct, but where it vanishes in a few boggy areas just plod on at the same level and it will soon reappear. Once or twice it veers down to inspect a wall or to get a closer look at a farm, but quickly turns away to resume it’s journey south. If you come to a wall with no clear way through, don’t head off to a distant gate – just take a closer look and you will invariably see a stone stile almost hidden in the structure right in front of you.

The track is obvious until you approach the entrance of North End Farm, then it veers left on a wide track, through a gate, past two old gateposts and right of the old wall ahead of you. Then pick your way through a jumble of rocks amidst a muddy spring and head diagonally right to find a stone stile hidden around the corner of the wall on the far side of the field. Leap over a small stream before going right towards Lumley House.

About 20 yards up from the farm building, a waymarked gate leads into a field guarded by two large bovine bouncers of indeterminate gender, wearing Viking headgear and staring in a distinctly menacing fashion. Well, trust me, it’s all front. They just ignored me as I strode gingerly past and didn’t stir even when I then sped impressively off into the distance.

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A mile further on you reach East Cliff Farm where four horses plodding around in a pond of mud and slurry looked as appalled as I was with underfoot conditions. However, a hundred yards before you reach the farm, (near a fingerpost pointing to another path heading up to the rigg), avoid footrot by declining to climb a stile on your right and go straight on, then right through a gate and immediately left over a stile into the next field.

Carry on ahead to the left of the bakery of Botton Farm, a community for people with learning disabilities. At the next wide track, go left up the hill, through a gate, then diagonally right up to another gate. Ignore the signpost and head left, then very quickly take a path on your right which curls away to the top of the hill through a shallow gully.

As this path suddenly flattens out at the top, take a thin path sharp left along the ridge. The stunning views across and down Danbydale more than justify the exertion. After ten minutes or so, you’ll see the path I mentioned earlier heading up towards you from mud city. Go straight on, but after another 30 yards take the path that strikes out right across the moors towards two stone cairns in the distance.

As quickly as the view of Danbydale recedes behind you, so an equally stunning vista emerges ahead. Great Fryupdale is away in the distance and is so called because an ancient bylaw dictates that if you knock on any door in the dale before 9am, the occupants are legally obliged to cook you a full English. (I’m not sure he’s researched this properly – Ed.)

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For now, as your path begins to drop steeply down, take a path left running across the edge of Danby Rigg. Stay on it for two miles or so – resisting two wide cross paths – until you come to a wall almost at the end of the rigg. Turn sharp right down towards the road in Little Fryupdale, (you only get one egg).

Turn left along the road and you soon come to Danby Castle, once the home of the feisty Catherine Parr. She was the sixth wife of Henry the Eighth (I suspect she didn’t do a risk assessment), outlived him, and was married four times which was pretty unusual in those days. Fittingly though, the ruined castle is now a wedding venue in a spectacular and beautiful setting.

Follow the road round, and 50 yards past the junction, head down a field path towards a newly extended barn, then left to a gate, up through the middle of the next field to a hedge, left to a stile and right down a short tarmacked stretch to the road. Turn left here to go back to Ainthorpe. From here, head right to Danby where hopefully the Duke of Wellington or the Stonehouse Bakery tearoom will be open to meet your inner demands.