A Stroll With Stu - Ainthorpe walk offers good reaons to burn off calories

Woods near Commondale.
Woods near Commondale.

There are several reasons why you may need a couple of hours out in the fresh air after Christmas.

1. You are without a telly, having chucked it through the window at the start of Mrs Brown’s Boys’ Christmas special.

Dark skies up Westerdale.

Dark skies up Westerdale.

2. You’ve put six pounds on and fear you may seize up.

3. Your seven-year-old grand-daughter is setting up your new iPad and has told you to stop asking stupid questions.

4. Consumed with greed, you know that my walks always end up in a pub.

This five-mile leg-stretcher can be done by train from Teesside or Whitby by catching the morning train and returning at tea-time.

Upper Eskdale.

Upper Eskdale.

Alight at Commondale and climb up from the little platform through a gate or two, turning right along the wide track at the top.

Autumn was in full bronze when I did this and the upper reaches of the valley were magically pretty as I followed the wide track eastwards, high above the railway. If you are blessed with a bit of snow when this article appears in the Gazette, it will be even prettier.

A group of Twitchers were perched beside a wall away up the valley, armed with cameras that would put the paparazzi to shame. Word had got around that a White-tailed Eagle was in the area dodging gamekeepers and the shutters would be clicking merrily away until dark.

You soon pass through a small area of woodland managed (I think!) by “Beyond Boundaries”, a local community organisation that offers training and group activities, based at Fowl Green Farm near

Commondale. More power to them I say – anything getting kids out in the countryside can only be a good thing.

After a mile and a bit, 100 yards after dropping down past Box Hall Farm, look out for a gate on your right.

The giveaway is the prominent crossing sign over the railway, accessed by a gate with a Crystal Maze style fastener.

If you successfully gain a crystal, carry on across a footbridge over Commondale Beck then head uphill with a wall/fence on your right.

At the top, go left ahead of a wall behind an earth mound, soon turning right through a gate to quickly head left again on a wide hard-core drive.

This leads you down to the manicured holiday cottages at Scale Foot Farm.

Fabulous views develop up Westerdale, where on my visit some angry looking clouds were gathering, geeing me up and rousing me from some lamentable dithering.

Take a straight route through the cottages onto a grassy section where a gate will lead you downhill, ultimately to a gate at the bottom.

Head left to access a footbridge over the infant River Esk, a couple of stiles and as the river curves away left, stay right and uphill to another stile into bracken.

Bear left alongside a fence, across a road and diagonally uphill to head down the main street in Castleton.

Just before the pub, treat your feet to a rest, your tummy to a scrumptious cake and coffee combo and your eyes to the gorgeous views up Danbydale, all offered by the Old Chapel Tearoom and Bakery.

Another lovely café – one of many in the Esk Valley.

With a stretch and a creak, drag yourself further down the road, past the junction and beyond Robin Hood Close to turn right down Ashfield Close.

This morphs into Wandels lane as it bends left and right over Danby Beck, but soon after that right turn, take a flagged path skirting around the slopes of Danby Low Moor.

I’m gonna whip through the next bit.

It’s diagonally up to the corner of a wall, keeping it on your left, then left again 300 yards later alongside another wall, following it up and down to reach Howe Farm.

Cross the courtyard through two gates, then alongside the wall on your right to heave yourself over a huge ladder stile after 100 yards.

Go left in that field, curving right at the end over a hidden stone stile that was not designed for elegance and away left over another one onto the road.

We’re nearly at the pub, honest.

Fifty yards left on the road, go through the gate into Parsonage Farm.

The waymarked route ahead showcases several gates, mud, cows and rabbits before dropping on to the back lane in Ainthorpe.

Head right, then quickly take a grass track right that climbs directly to the lovely stone built pub that is the Fox and Hounds.

I was entertained by a businessman who had just arrived with his secretary for a very tactile pre-nuptial lager on the table next to me, but they soon smooched off leaving me to enjoy the real ale, real fire and real people in this most lovely of country inns.