Animals protecting their young in spring and early summer have led to some entertaining diversions in recent years.
I’ve been rammed by rams and goosed by geese, but it is cattle that are most likely to see me running manically towards the nearest fence.
A thuggish gang herded me into a field of thistles near Kettleness, several more cordoned off the quickest route to the pub at Great Ayton and a particularly vicious brute – steam and flames pouring from valves all over its body – induced an Olympic leap over a stile behind some holiday cottages at Chop Gate.
So this gorgeous eight-miler around Glaisdale all but avoids bovine interaction by (for the most part) following some of the quiet country lanes that bless the valleys south of the Esk.
We’ll have a couple of miles off piste first though, so start in Glaisdale village, pass through the gate opposite the village shop and turn right in the little estate then left at the top of the hill.
The lane becomes a rough track after a gate, climbs to a second gate, then strikes out across the moors on Glaisdale Rigg.
A large pond on the left was alive with frogs on my last visit here but this time it was all quiet, though they were possibly staring at me through the reeds waiting for the gloomy weather to fair up.
Ignore another gate on your left and continue on the stony track rising slowly uphill, admiring the song of Skylarks as they flutter up in search of the sun and the rather more urgent yelps of lapwing escorting you from the immediate vicinity of their home. Disregard a crossroads of paths with
standing stones on either side, but look out – a mile or so later – for another footpath signpost and turn left adjacent to a dry stone wall. (If there is no wall, you have picked the wrong turning!)
Glorious views down into the vale begin to unfold as you bear right, close to the wall, descending in a gully that soon reaches a marked gate. Turn sharp left after a gate through an empty/vicious cow-filled* field.
(*delete as appropriate)
The gate at the bottom leads to the daleside road where you should turn right and follow it as it completes a full circle of the upper valley.
The last time I did any appreciable road walking was during the Foot & Mouth outbreak of 2001, when much of the countryside was cordoned off with sticky tape allegedly because a Northumberland farmer thought it was a good idea to feed his pigs on “untreated swill” (Yeah, I’ve been to pubs like that, too).
However, I may soon do the same again up Fryupdale as this was a hugely enjoyable stroll where I saw precisely two cars in several miles of asphalt.
Pass a series of farms, including one modern establishment that had wrapped its straw bales in mauve coloured plastic, before reaching a bench that is a memorial to one David Arthur Bland “who loved this dale”.
Well the fella sure had taste. Pass a road junction (a near vertical climb towards Rosedale that would give your average family saloon a nose bleed), skirt past Yew Tree Farm and begin to head down the opposite side of the valley past a series of pretty stone cottages.
Some of these have elaborate, not to say stunning gardens which you would never see if you used the field paths that cross the dale.
I tried to imagine how this valley will have looked 130 years ago when Glaisdale was one of the main centres of the Cleveland and North Yorkshire Iron rush of the late 19th Century – hundreds (probably thousands) of people worked in these dales.
Beggars belief really, but I prefer the present, with a Goldcrest flashing past distracting me from the rapid blur of a stoat disappearing into a stone wall.
Keep your eyes peeled as you meander on for a mile or two more, as the road eventually heads back across the dale to rejoin itself after climbing sharp left over a cattle grid.
Turn right and in 20 minutes or so you will be back in Glaisdale.
But if it is refreshments you are after take a right just before the village, soon heading downhill to the Arncliffe Arms.
It is much changed since I was last in, but I’m happy to say much improved too.
And if the weather is kind, al fresco supping is available to admire the views.
As long as the traffic is light (and it couldn’t have been much lighter) there is nothing wrong with a stroll on the side of these tiny little lanes.
In fact, it was rather excellent – mud-free and no bull!