A recent MoT at my local hospital advised me to get rid of both of my knees, the football boots somewhere in the depths of my garage, and anything in my wardrobe marked “slimfit”.
So, before letting the NHS loose with a budget toolkit, I gave all my old bits one last chance to haul themselves up and down dale on this fairly strenuous 10-miler from Danby to the Lion Inn.
There is compensation for the hard work, as the route takes in the entire length of Fryupdale, the head of which (in my opinion) offers the best views in all of Yorkshire.
Twelve of us (all male, the wrong side of 50 and largely clapped out) set off from base camp in Danby, having stayed overnight in the Duke of Wellington, Ainthorpe Farm Cottage and the Fox and Hounds.
I am here to recommend them all to you if you fancy a peaceful weekend away in the unrivalled countryside of the Upper Esk Valley.
It was Last of the Summer Wine gone large, except with humour, post watershed language on the hilly bits, and an unbroadcastable incident with some sheep as we set off along a path on the left, 100 yards short of the Fox and Hounds on Brook Lane.
The twisty track takes you to the local cricket pitch which you pass on your left as you head through a field to its far corner, then uphill across concrete slabs towards Castle Houses farm.
Turn right here, past an old barn and then left along the road to Danby Castle.
From here, we elected to stay on the quiet road as it is more elevated, offering nice views across Little Fryupdale on your left, or the heathery Danby Rigg rising to your right. There is a path
alternative (see the map) via Foresters Lodge if you want to escape the Tarmac.
The road swings left after a mile to meet the end of the alternative path, before rising to Fairy Cross Plain and to the Yorkshire Cycling Hub a little further on.
I am reliably informed by one of my gluttonous pals that the café in the Cycling hub offers the best full English he’s ever had. And trust me, he’s had a few.
Turn right at the bottom of a steep hill and stay on this thin strip of asphalt for another mile or two and, shortly after crossing Slidney Beck, take a grassy track ahead of Wood End Farm.
This gorgeous path takes you directly to the wild and beautiful headwall of Fryupdale where I heard the hoot of a Tawny Owl, and you may be lucky enough to see Hares, Buzzards and Curlew going about their daily chores.
The path crosses a beck and climbs skywards at a lungbusting rate, but there are plenty of opportunities to rest on a handy boulder to take in the awesome view back down this most beautiful of valleys.
Turn right at the top on a wide track, but quickly left over a new footbridge to access a path through the heather, soon turning into a stone trod.
The weather forecast all week had been for long spells of warm sunshine, so it was no surprise when the heavens opened and we got a good drenching as we headed west.
By now, 12 had become 10.
One was a non-starter, electing to use his pensioners bus pass and another had sped off into the distance in the general direction of Ralph’s Cross – a mere two miles off course.
After the longest mile in all England, cross the Rosedale Road onto a path that begins an increasingly steep descent to the old ironstone railway going right over a wide gully in the process. A quick right and a left turn to drop down beside trees will ultimately take you to the Dale Head Farm tearooms.
I’ve taken you here before and I make no apologies for coming back, as it is just a lovely place to spend half an hour over a big pot of tea and slice of carrot and walnut cake. And that is where you’d want it to end, but unless you have access to a helicopter the final push must begin.
Twenty yards down the road, go right on a path through a field to a footbridge then up to Hollin Bush Farm. Stay right and then left of a second farm to a track heading up the dale.
Follow this as it hairpins three times, then as it bends left again take a path right which climbs relentlessly – across the old railway again – to eventually reach the comfort and joy which is the Lion Inn.
And on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays those nice people at Moorsbus have arranged transport for your return to Danby for a long hot soak in the bath.