Another Walk in Farndale

So… my ‘phone rang and I looked at the screen; ‘number withheld’, now this is not the best way to contact me. Unsolicited calls really have a tendency to make me cautious so my answer was guarded, “Hello…”, long pause, the voice on the other end said, “Mr. Layfield”. Well at least they know who I am. “Yes…”, I said, slowly, still defensive.
“It’s Amy Garcia, BBC Look North, can I talk to you about rambling and the daffodils in Farndale?”
Well she sounded genuine so I said, “Yes.”

That was last week and I knew the flowers were looking at their peak a couple of weeks ago so I voiced my concerns and offered to do a recce at the start of this week. As much as we’d like to be on tele, we really want the viewers to see the flowers in their full splendour. Farndale is beautiful at any time of year and I’ll come to that but Amy is currently interested in the daffodils so that’s the focus. My visit on Monday coupled with a mandatory bacon sandwich from the Daffy Cafe and a discussion with George confirmed my view that what was left would not be photogenic and a few texts later established a communications channel for future televised rambling when the season has progressed.
The team are still intent on a walk-in this beautiful dale though and that’s why we’re here. What’s planned is a five-miler with a couple of ‘ups’ whereas the most popular routes are between one and a half miles and four.
We’re at Low Mill car park and the North Yorkshire Moors National Parks Service are just opening their caravan stand at the start of the walk. There are leaflets and two extremely knowledgeable volunteers one of whom is lassoed to take our ‘full complement’ photograph, it’s rare that you see us all on one snap so I’m very grateful to John from the Parks service for his David Bailey quality snap of the team pre-trail.

Click on any image to page through them full size…

If you park at Low Mill take time to look in to or at least look through the windows of the corrugated shed. This is an international venue and although only holding a hundred people it draws acts from all over the world especially in the Country, Folk and Americana genres, take a look at for more details of future acts. This dale has everything!
The track is well kept and the fields protected by simple fencing, it acts as a guide for older humans and a safety feature for smaller ones. Occasionally, there are sheep with newborn lambs, it brings a wonderful spring feel to the day and if you have kids or grandkids I would urge you to come here and walk for free rather than pay to go into a commercial ‘petting farm’ although I appreciate that they do have their place.
We’re in full flow now in both physical rambling and vocal rambling. Dave has become a hedgehog rescue halfway house and this invites much ribbing about ‘prickly customers’. We continue to our first watering hole.
I’d urge you to call off at the Daffy Cafe where the scones are first rate and the bacon butties sublime. I’d also like to illustrate the thoughtfulness of the owners of this lovely cafe by telling you about a clear plastic box that resides in the unisex toilet. There are ‘ladies’ products and various disposable nappies all in new sealed packets free for anyone with an urgent requirement. It’s a simple and thoughtful offering and free, well done Daffy Cafe.
We leave the Daffy Cafe and turn left into the field on the first corner. There are still a few daffodils but the majority are looking a bit tired; however, for whatever reason, the field over the other side of the Dove Beck is still in full bloom and the yellow glow reflects up into the branches of the trees and shrubs that line the banks.
Our aim is for the footbridge over the beck and then turn right followed by the first ascent. It’s steep enough to raise the heart rate and there’s a style partway up where a rest can be stolen on the pretext of waiting for people in front of you or, if you were first, the people behind. As we become quorate on the other side I note that no-one has made a break to jog up this field preferring to make use of the wait!
We can see the style at the top of this track and there is a sigh of relief when one of us tells the others that our target is the road not the top of the valley. As we approach the style we turn to see the astonishing beauty of this dale with the Dove Beck winding its way along the bottom and the steep fields enclosed in hedges and dry stone walls picked out in a dark relief due to the angle of the sun still making its ascent in the mid-morning. There are cumuli breaking up the blue sky. They cast moving shadows on the fields that catch the eye and with a bit of imagination, I can see huge silhouettes of dinosaurs and even trains tracking across the fields. Although the hedges are taking on their summer colours there’s still some way to go; however, their shadows define the fields in three ‘D’ relief and the whole picture reminds me of sitting with my kids thirty years ago watching Postman Pat. As I gaze at the wonderful vista the theme tune resonates in my head and it is doing so again as I write.
This is a beautiful dale and you don’t have to wait for daffodils to appreciate it.
We turn right along the road for a few hundred yards then right again to walk down to Church Houses. This little hamlet is home to some visitor cottages and the Faversham Arms along with a smattering of local houses. We pass through and turn into the St Mary’s Church which is delightful in itself but also has one of the best displays of daffodils when it is their season. We’ve walked this route more than once and always stop at this little church. You don’t have to believe in God to appreciate the quiet, gentle atmosphere and you can sit with nothing in your head or, like me, just remember loved and loving people that have affected my life.
Twenty minutes later and we’re heading across the cemetery to a footbridge (I’ve made a slight change to the planned route to avoid a particularly boggy area) where aconites and other wood loving plants are beginning to bloom. We cross a field to the main lane where we turn uphill and walk to the public footpath sign that takes us back into the fields on the right.
The track is well signposted and is easy to follow with step ladder type styles over drystone walls. The path is easy to follow due to the telltale sign of wear produced by countless feet making their way around these routes.
We walk through a number of working farms that co-exist with us visitors and all choke as we pass some fermented silage that had been broken open to feed the animals.
The track back down to the Dove takes us adjacent to a field of sheep some of whom are lambing. We pass one newly born that really does look upsettingly weak and its mother is grazing with two lambs that, whilst unsteady, are actually feeding; clearly, what we are looking at is the runt and it is dying. I’m a countryman but still, find suffering an upsetting sight. As we move on I’m a little subdued but brighten up considerably as I learn that Chris has spoken to someone at the next farm who has promised to telephone the farmer and expect that the lamb will be hand-reared. I know that this does happen and I remember my childhood when two of my friends kept pet lambs and reared them until they could eat for themselves. I like a happy result.
Farndale is rightly known for its daffodils but I would urge you to go at any time throughout the year. It’s great for a heavy-duty walk if you take in the steep valley sides and the well-marked tracks from Blakey but it is even better for short walks with the family. These are easily done from Low Mills or Church Houses and there are some nice places to grab a sandwich at the Daffy Cafe or Faversham Arms.
There are public toilets at Low Mills.
The short walks are safe but you are in the country and there is the odd opportunity for small humans to jump in the Dove so keep an eye on them.
Enjoy the snaps…G..x
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