Stroll With Stu: Strenuous hill climbs dominate scenic walk

Upper Castleton
Upper Castleton

At just over nine miles, this is one of the longest walks I’ve shared with you.

Now I appreciate that is barely half a stroll for some people, but the inclusion of two strenuous climbs meant that it was more than enough for my worn out joints.

Alan Clegg memorial cairn.

Alan Clegg memorial cairn.

In fact I got a bit breathy just drawing my map.

What a lovely day I picked though. Clear blue skies, no wind and a thin sprinkling of snow clinging to the north facing slopes.

We don’t get many days like that, and there was a positive spring in my step as I set off from Battersby Station.

The path is on the other side of a line of trees running parallel to the railway, and can be accessed by sneaking down in front of the station buildings.

Captain Cook monument.

Captain Cook monument.

So with the platform away to your right, head East, going through a gap a few yards to your left at the next field boundary, then along a muddy track through an impressive tunnel under the tracks.

I asked Network Rail if they could build me a miniature replica as an ornamental feature for my garden and they said it would cost £37billion, and they could probably start surveying operations in 25 years time.

Follow the path as it zig-zags to a farm and then head left along the road in Battersby village. As the road soon turns very sharp left, take a track on your right (unsuitable for motor vehicles), accessed by a little footbridge. (If there is no footbridge, you are already lost).

This track climbs steadily for about two miles, including a steeper stretch in woodland, before curling right and peaking on the top of the moorland ridge. Take a break and admire the fabulous views behind you with Captain Cook’s monument to the right and the vast Tees Valley stretching away to the left.

When your heart rate has returned to acceptable levels, go straight on downhill along the road.

This snakes down to Baysdale Abbey after a farm and an old stone bridge.

Don’t expect some impressive Gothic eminence – the building now called Baysdale Abbey is an old farmhouse, used as holiday accommodation.

It is on the site of a Cistercian Priory, inhabited by a dozen nuns in the 12 th Century.

Apparently these nuns were of the naughty “carry-on” variety and Henry VIII (played by Kenneth Williams with the aid of some cushions) destroyed the place in 1536.

He got all prudish about their regular sojourns to meet some accommodating monks at Rievaulx, which is a bit steep coming from him.

Follow the track sharp left, passing farm buildings with Baysdale Beck on your left. Soon at a T-junction of paths, turn right up the hill to Thorntree House.

The path goes through the metal gate at the farm before bending right and steeply up hill (again) in woods.

At the top, turn left on a thin path alongside the trees which soon passes through a gap in a wall before climbing up through the snowy heather.

Head left on a wider track (built to make life a tad more comfortable for people in waxy jackets with nothing else better to do than to pop out and shoot anything that moves), and look out for a little wooden fence at the top of the tree line on your right.

As you get close to it, drop down right and cross an old bridge next to a bench.

Prominent tracks go left and right, but you want a thinner one going straight uphill.

At the top is a cairn and memorial to a young man called Alan Clegg, and your path then continues across the moors for another mile or two.

Go straight on at the road, and quickly repeat the process at asecond road bearing slightly left on a thin sheep track.

The path proper soon reappears and takes you down to flirt with a wall a couple of times as it snakes up and down.

Eventually, after a couple of stands of Scots Pines, follow the signs leading you steeply down to a footbridge.

Turn left (keep high above the gully), and follow the somewhat dodgy path to meet the road at Dibble Bridge.

I have to stop to take photographs, make notes and gasp desperately for oxygen whilst rubbing my knees, so I may make slower progress than most.

By now though, I’d been going for four hours – well into my red zone – and the unnecessarily cruel climb up the road to the right unleashed a coughing fit that disturbed sheep for miles around.

Mercifully, a left turn at the next crossroads took me directly to the Eskdale Inn at Castleton. You may have guessed that I am not doing Dry January!