Fuelled on cake, my day dodging the shoot

Clitherbeck Valley
Clitherbeck Valley

An interesting paradox in the pages of the Whitby Gazette, is the occasional vitriolic demand for a seagull cull after Tracy has lost her cheese pasty on the swing bridge, versus the recurring applause for the Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary, battling to save the lives of the exact same animals.

Should we encourage improved animal welfare, or should we stand up for the right to leave a polystyrene box half full of chips next to an overflowing bin?

Beck View tearoom, Lealholmside

Beck View tearoom, Lealholmside

Do we bust a gut to help wild animals, or do we bust our own guts by helping with the peaceful consumption of fatty snacks?

A similar divergence of opinion struck me at the start of a lovely seven-mile autumn walk above Lealholm, but not until after I’d tucked into a glistening slice of lemon cake and a pot of tea at the superb sun-trap that is the Beck View Tearooms in the centre of the village. It’s a gorgeous place to refuel, and if the sun is shining you’ll struggle to drag yourself away.

I lumbered up the steep road heading North, crossing the railway bridge and edging along a stone trod adjacent to the Tarmac as it soared skywards to Lealholmside.

At the first road turnoff left (signed Oakley Walls) I took a footpath at the corner of the junction, bearing slightly left over the moors towards a prominent gate.

Scaling, seen from Danby Beacon

Scaling, seen from Danby Beacon

Enter, stage left, a man with two dogs and a flag, clad exclusively in shades of green from the Dulux drab collection. “Yurp” he bellowed, as he marched towards me through the heather. “You’re walking straight into a shoot”.

“But I’m on a public footpath”

“And you can carry on, but you could get peppered with buckshot.”

Now, I’ll quickly add that he was a very nice bloke and as I was not yet ready to be gunned down by a gang of fat businessmen, I took his advice and diverted back down the Oakley Walls road. It soon elbowed sharply left, where I diverted to a broad stony track straight on and gently uphill.

Last of this year's heather

Last of this year's heather

As this reached the wider stonier track heading west for two miles to Danby Beacon, I came across the men who had commandeered this part of the moors for reasons of destructive fun.

It was like a Range-Rover showroom up there - a long line of them signalled the closest point to their appointed shooting booths. They had to walk about 60 yards, bless ‘em, for their day out in the fresh air. But is it right that I was shunted off a public footpath so they could have their “sport”?

And there is the absurdity. In what way is that sport?

Where is the competition, the effort, the skill? It’s not even close to sport, just a bit of elitist networking on a Friday afternoon whilst Tracy, having bought a second cheese pasty, looks after the office and tells the customers that he’s in a meeting. Phew.

So, switching tense and pronouns, leave the dull thuds and terminal squawking behind you and head left to Danby Beacon where you can admire fabulous views to Scaling and the coast on one side, and Eskdale and High Blakey on the other.

Go straight on along the road after the Beacon, (in the general direction of the windfarm at Redcar) until reaching a little lay-by. To your right is the remains of the World War II radar station, but you should head left just after the lay-by on a wide double track, curling left and downhill.

It snakes a muddy mile down past several shooting booths (gawd!), to reach a sandy crosstrack.

Turn right and after half a mile or so (after some low mounds on either side), look out for a stone wall away to your left. You may have to venture 20 yards or so into the heather to see it, but as soon as you do, drop downhill to meet it. Follow an adjacent path left which (after the wall drops away to the right) takes you slowly down into the lovely valley of Clitherbeck. In the trees at the bottom, negotiate a ladder stile, then a footbridge over the beck and soon a couple of gates on either side of an open field, to take you up a grassy slope.

The path curls more steeply up after a gate to meet a wall, where you should go through a marked gate for one last cruel climb to meet a wide track leading down and left into the village of Danby.

Here, I heartily recommend the Stonehouse Bakery Cafe, the Danby Health Shop and the Duke of Wellington Inn, all wonderful places within their own niche and all staffed by the loveliest people this side of a Range Rover.