A deluge of sleety rain two days before my walk reduced the fields to the consistency of cold porridge, so I took to scouring the map for more of those quiet country lanes I’ve previously shared with you in the Gazette.
And then the sun came out! So, this is a hybrid – part Tarmac, part earth – taking up seven miles of lower Westerdale, before climbing up Castleton Rigg to see how the seated man has fared over the winter.
The fields around Castleton Station were essentially a building site as engineers prepared to replace the railway bridge, knocked askew by a refuse lorry driver who decided to create some rubbish of his own. (I hope the contractors have the grace to put all the off cuts in the correct bin).
Walk up the road to turn right, continuing to climb until the road veers left along the Rigg.
At that sharp left turn, go straight on along a tiny road that peaks beyond a car park, with fabulous views on offer across the Esk Valley.
I was hatless (on Westerdale Moor baht ‘at) and despite being mid-March, the sun was already working to take a layer or two off my baldy bonce.
Twittering skylarks, the first of many that day, added to the springtime gorgeousness despite a temporary blast from four RAF jets looking out for renegade bin lorries.
Where the road bends left at a lonely post box, go straight on downhill on a very quiet lane that wends its way for a mile into Westerdale Village.
Turn left at the junction, passing pretty well all of
the 25 or so houses (several of which were sporting ‘for sale’ signs, suggesting that solitude is not all it’s cracked up to be), and soon turn left again as the buildings give way to fields.
Carry straight on at a junction and follow this tiny little lane for over a mile, crossing a bridge adjacent to a ford through Tower Beck.
Who needs those claggy footpaths when there’s long stretches of grass flecked Tarmac like this?
Traffic free, dry and cutting through gorgeous countryside – just lovely.
At the far side of the valley, turn right and slowly climb up for half a mile, before reaching Brown Hill Farm on your right.
The road now bears left, climbing more steeply, but after 200 yards or so it is time to go off piste.
Look out for a line of grouse butts on your left, linked by a grassy path going straight uphill.
At butt number four, with views of Danby dale now revealing themselves ahead, turn left on a distinct path up to the top of Brown Hill.
You can’t miss the seated man (unless you drive bin lorrys), and he is still a seriously impressive sight.
Many say that he looks like Jeremy Corbyn, so I’m surprised there isn’t a petition to have him replaced with a statue of Yvette Cooper.
He still attracts thousands of visitors a year and has even had 71 reviews on TripAdvisor, ranging from “Wonderful” to “Shame on all concerned for not providing disabled access”.
More Skylarks soared above the Rigg as the sun continued to beat down.
I saw early butterflies, a lizard and a buzzard or two in this scrumptious part of the world that only a small percentage of the population knows about, reminding me what a good idea it was to retire when I was 52.
The most obvious route back to Castleton is along a thin path down the centre of the Rigg, but you will be accompanied by lots of other people and by the noise of a multitude of cars on the main road just 50 yards to your right.
A better option is to walk down the Rigg for half a mile, then after passing a quarry on your left take a grassy path sharp left dropping back down to that quiet lane along Westerdaleside.
Follow it right, back to the lonely post box then retrace your steps to Castleton.
Now, as you know, I like to fall into a country pub after my walks, especially when there is smoke coming off my head. The character of any pub is inextricably linked to the character of the proprietor, and it can change overnight with new management.
(I once slagged off in print, a gruesome Inn near Berwick-Upon-Tweed, not knowing that the day after my visit, someone bought it and spent half a million quid on the place).
I mention this because when I was last in these parts, I pointedly avoided the Downe Arms which I’d now heard was under new management.
I’m happy to report the return of a warm welcome in this lovely old inn on the main road.
This pub – like the weather – is on the up.