STROLL WITH STU: Six-miler from suntrap to pub ... minus the resolute cows!

The River Esk
The River Esk

Some months ago, I was turned away from a path above Lealholm by a small, but boisterously resolute herd of cows.

I figured that in late February, they may still be wintering in a barn (or perhaps starring in an episode of Masterchef) so, after a pleasant cuppa in the suntrap of the Beckside tearooms watching a sparrow exploring an old swallow’s nest, I had another go.

'bookend' sheep

'bookend' sheep

It proved to be a lovely six-miler, ending conveniently in my favourite pub.

Head left along the track behind Lealholm Station, bearing right and uphill along a wide track.

Head right in front of two metal gates, and soon you reach a stile on your left. This is where my cattle confrontation occurred, but this time the field was clear unless they were lurking in the bushes, blacked up and wearing combat gear. There are two paths, so make sure you head diagonally right, through an opening in the next hedge, on to another stile and left to negotiate a collapsed wall.

Skirt round the right of the trees, through a waymarked gate and into an open field.

A derelict farm with Lealholmside in the background

A derelict farm with Lealholmside in the background

In the far corner, a grey squirrel led me through a double gate (the second one redefines the term “rustic”) over Park Head Beck, then it’s a sharp right turn alongside a new fence, then a dogleg through a newer gate, several hundred tree branches, some brambles and finally a spot of minor mountaineering to reach what, at some point in the future, might become a usable stile.

A work in progress perhaps - a phrase that reminded me of a meeting in the latter stages of my railway career.

It was organised by some men in suits who had so successfully grovelled, crawled and generally slithered around in the wake of the Chief Exec, they were now in charge of a huge re-org. Their jobs were safe, but for everyone else asking for a crumb of comfort, the response was the same.

“It’s a work in progress, Stuart”, said one of the grey men as he looked at a clipboard bearing my name with a red line drawn through it.

Monkey puzzle tree

Monkey puzzle tree

Turn left down the elaborate concrete track and follow it to the rentable cottage of Hole-i-th’-Ellers. (And if I may say, what a fabulous view to wake up to every morning). Beyond the cottage, a stile at the next wall takes you onto a track where you turn sharp left, downhill towards a derelict farm.

Musing that an estate agent might claim it to be in need of renovation, turn right through a gate at those ruins to keep the wall on your left.

A stone stile, a gate and a short green alley then lead you into Lawns Farm where a hare shot past me at a speed that made my knees ache.

There are two paths leading straight on, but the one I wanted was lost in piles of straw bales and other rural bric-a-brac, so I went straight down the farm access track, turning right along the road.

After a few hundred yards, opposite the ladder stile you should have reached if you’d found the path at Lawns Farm, another signpost leads you left alongside a hedge to cross the railway and then the river over a footbridge. I always optimistically look for swooping Kingfishers when I cross the Esk, but to this day, the only time I’ve ever seen one, was on a beach in Southern Crete.

Follow the stony track up to a road, and turn right. Paths lead off left and right, but take the one on the left immediately in front of the next river bridge, adjacent to pretty little waterfall hidden in the trees. A second stile takes you away from the river, then after cresting a small rise go right through a gap at the end of the wall in front of you.

Bear slightly right towards a gate in the hedge at the far side of the next field, then head towards Crag farm, through a gap in the hedge, then left to the farm buildings. Go right in the farmyard along the access track which will ultimately take you back over the river and onto the road.

Turn left and as the road goes right towards Danby, walk straight on over the picturesque Duck Bridge.

I always thought this referred to passing Mallards, but it was actually rebuilt in the 18th Century by local stonemason, George Duck.

There are stepping stones here too, so together with the ford, that’s three opportunities to cross the river!

Go straight on along the road and after a dip, a footpath on your right leads directly to the Danby Moors Centre. Alternatively, it’s just a short stroll from the Duke of Wellington Inn at Danby village. I’ve already told you where I went!