I had a deep craving for a piece of Maggie Barraclough’s lemon drizzle cake at the exceptional Dale Head Farm Tea Garden in Upper Rosedale.
Accordingly, courtesy of Moorsbus (sadly finished now for the season, but back next spring), I alighted on the road high above the East side of the valley a couple of miles south of Ralphs Cross.
A mile or so beyond the tiny road heading off to Fryupdale, there is a crossroads of footpaths. Take the one on the right, leading into the heather in the general direction of Rosedale.
It meanders for a mile or so before dropping down a gulley to the old ironstone railway trackbed that hugs every side of this gorgeous dale.
A sign for the tea garden beckons you straight on downhill alongside woodland, past the farm buildings and onto the daleside road.
Right in front of you is Dale Head Farm Tea Garden.
A haven for walkers, Maggie opened the Tea Garden a few years ago and quickly gained a reputation for quality and value that led, just a few weeks ago, to becoming a finalist in the prestigious Food and Drink Awards ceremony organised by Yorkshire Life.
Highly commended, I have no doubt that Maggie will win it sooner rather than later.
There are improvements every year, with an indoor shelter to enjoy through the winter and recently added accommodation in the form of a quaint but exquisite Shepherd’s Hut. Checkout the website or Facebook page for more details and opening times. Licking citrusy crumbs from my chin, I climbed back up to the old railway line and turned right down
the dale. I soon came across two mapless and rather hesitant Japanese ladies who asked me how much further the path went.
Some language problems ensued (even English people struggle to understand a word I say), but we soon established that they had two alternatives to get back to Rosedale Abbey.
The first would be to stick to the railway around the head of the dale, and the second would involve sticky cakes at the cafe, followed by a walk down the bottom of the valley.
So either sharp left, or straight on. However, perhaps instinctively doubtful about my navigational skills, I looked back to see them turn right and vanish into the heather. Please look out for them if you are in the area.
The route forward soon takes you past the old ironstone kilns, a relic of when this place was a hive of industry not much more than 100 years ago. Now, having taken you this way a few years ago, I suggest a small detour from the main path.
A little way ahead of those kilns, take a diversion left on what was a branch line or tramway leading from the main route.
Climbing gradually (with a short scramble to negotiate a gulley), it is an easy and reasonably well trodden path. Presently, after plodding through last year’s thistles – and it sure was a fabulous crop – you will see a lot more of the derelict infrastructure of these ironworks.
A ventilation chimney, workshops, a mine entrance or two, a keystone bridge and perhaps even an office where the supervisors would fill in their expenses forms and read the papers.
In the late 19th Century though, I doubt if there was a hut for the Health &Safety Manager with a cabinet full of Risk Assessments, but there probably should be one now.
You are strongly recommended not to go climbing on the old brickwork – the spikes from the thistles are hazardous enough.
At the end of the ruins, a path runs alongside a fence and eventually back down to the main route which you should follow past a farm, through a gate, then down a track to the little hamlet of Hill Cottages on the roadside.
Go straight on and curl left and right behind the cottages, past a stable and downhill across the valley on clearly marked paths.
After crossing a footbridge on a new double stile, resist the last drop straight down to the valley floor, turning left instead through the field.
This too will drop down to follow a track with the river on your right.
Curl uphill for a short distance to take a path through a metal gate across a field or two and occasionally in woods.
As you approach Rosedale Abbey, peer through the bushes on your right and you will see a large campsite (though to be honest, you’ll probably hear it first).
The path soon drops through a gate into the site and after the playground you can emerge by whatever route you choose into the attractive village.
Pubs and cafes await, and if you hang around till next June, you can catch the Moorsbus home.