After the storm ... a nice country walk ahead of seasonal excess
A few days after the storm that caused the escape road to escape from Blue Bank in such a scary manner, the weather settled into a pattern of benign frosty mornings, followed by tranquil days full of wintry sunshine.
The sort of early winter weather we haven’t seen for years, actually.
There was still a bit of mud around, but this seven-mile circular from Lealholm manages to avoid most of it and is an enjoyable walk which will justify the excesses of any planned Christmas binge.
From the station, climb up the road to your left before taking a right at the impressive line of houses at Lealholmside, with fabulous views of the sleepy village emerging behind you.
At the end of the houses, take the left fork of the road, curling further left, then left again on a grassy track ahead of the line of trees.
Curve right alongside a wall towards a green shed, through a gate, then follow the track keeping the fence on your right.
I should add at this point that this is a complicated walk to describe, thoroughly challenging my 800-word count, and most of the stiles and gates are unmarked.
Presumably those responsible for waymarks have taken them in for their annual maintenance.
Soon at a right bend, join a wider track. Turn left into the heather ahead of a metal gate and follow a wall, to eventually enter a grass field via a stile and onwards to arrive at the hamlet of Stonegate. Go downhill along the road and after turning sharp right over a stone bridge at the bottom, you will see a pretty waterfall on your left.
The weir was presumably part of the paraphernalia that powered the Stonegate Corn Mill just 30 yards further up the road.
A stone announces that the mill dates back to 1775 and if your imagination is vivid enough, just contemplate how everything must have looked here in the late 18th Century, at the same time that Captain Cook was still pootling around New Zealand.
Take a marked path via a stile just after the bridge, climbing up to another on the skyline on your right.
Head through a field in the general direction of a stone building in the distance, with some big wooden barns always away to your right.
Drop down to a muddy corner through a waymarked (!) wooden gate leading to a path that emerges onto the access track of Wilks Farm.
This is where Henry Wilks retired after leaving the Woolpack in Emmerdale, unable to cope with all the steamy affairs, rural gangsters and dodgy helicopters.
Pass between the farm buildings (admiring the exciting collection of wire and old tree trunks), through a gate and onto a path which soon splits in two.
Edge left and find another gate in the field Corner (mud city), before going through a third unmarked gate on your right 50 yards later.
Head across the middle of the next field to the far side dropping down a steep slope, over a beck then up and right towards a wall.
Keep that wall on your right, through a gate and a stile on a better track, then with the fence now on your left go through a gate straight from the set of The Crystal Maze, to arrive at Woodhill House.
After collecting 200 Green Shield Stamps (like a Nectar Card but with added glue), turn left downhill along the road.
As you start to climb on the Tarmac after crossing a beck, turn right through a signposted gate.
After two more gates, turn left through a marked gate 150 yards ahead of the next farm. This stretch takes you down through trees – look out for deer – over a footbridge, then straight on over stiles/gates before bearing right through a gate next to a restored barn in the little settlement of Green Houses.
Go left, then curl right up to the road where a signpost leads you to a thin path through the heather on Lealholm Rigg.
I have to confess that, distracted by being cocooned in silk by an army of grass spiders, I lost the path at some point. If you do the same, just head straight on up to the horizon where you will eventually reach the wide stone track that leads off to Danby Beacon.
A number of signed paths lead back into the heather heading towards Leaholm, but if you end up going too far left, you will soon reach the road down to the village past the Lealholmside junction that we left three hours ago.
So I’ll leave the last bit to you and hope that you soon fall into the welcoming arms of The Board Inn for a few hoppy refreshments.