by Maureen Robinson
Farndale is famed for its truly wild daffodils. Visitors flock to gaze in awe at the glorious golden display between March and May, but mid-April is usually the peak time for perfection! A glacier carved out this beautiful valley in the moors north of Kirkbymoorside.
William Wordsworth’s famous lines have immortalised the wild daffodil. It has declined since the 16th century, but thankfully is now protected by law. This area was made a nature reserve in 1953, and the picking of blooms, or up-rooting is forbidden.
Farndale today is a community of scattered farms and just three hamlets – Lowna, Low Mills and Church Houses. In the past coal, ironstone, gravel and jet were all worked here!
There have been many changes, even since our previous visit.
To access the start of this springtime walk, take the A170 towards Kirkbymoorside. Just east of Kirkbymoorside is Kirby Mills. Turn off right here as signed to Keldholme and head north to Hutton-le-Hole. Entering the National Park, enjoy superb scenery, and beyond Hutton-le-Hole with its Ryedale Museum, follow the road north-west to park at Low Mill, the start of Farndale’s walk (almost 30 miles from Scarborough).
Start from the car park, paying a parking fee now of £2 per day. There used to be a Moorsbus service, but alas no more! Public conveniences are nearby, and rather surprisingly the North York Moors National Park have a prominent stand there.
Leaving the car park, you’ll see a conspicuous post box. Close by is a sign indicating the pubic footpath to High Mill. You really require no further directions. About 22 years or so ago, the muddy footpath through Farndale was transformed into a firm, clearly demarcated route, with about 18 fine gates requesting you kindly close them after use. Please do so, and leash any dogs, as sheep pasture is traversed.
Enter the handgate and cross the River Dove, and a second handgate guides you on your way. Just relax and enjoy wild flowers and bird song, fields and woodland, rippling waters and a waterfall.
Blakey Ridge rises to the east horizon.
When you’re well on your way, at about the 17th gate, seek a sign on the right gatepost which reads: ‘Only three fields from the Daffy Caffy, Can you smell the bacon? We’ve got the kettle on.’
Cross field one and via an open gateway to field two. Flagstones and a stream feature to field three, terminated by more flagstones to a fieldgate. Just ahead you’ll find the Daffy Caffy Tea Rooms. This is High Mill. There’s a play area outside for children. This cafe is open from 9am-5pm during the daffodil season.
Feeling refreshed, continue ahead to the hamlet of Church Houses, meeting the road near the Feversham Arms Inn, which is another option for a meal. Turn right at the inn and walk along the lane past stone-built cottages. Note this is the lower lane, and not Long Lane which leads to Castleton! Keep to this single-track lane, gradually ascending for half a mile.
Shortly, see to your left, set back from the road, the little Church of St Mary. You may choose to visit it, and admire the wild daffodils.
Just beyond the church features the Old School, and then to your right, a short ascent leads to Mackeridge House. At the end of a brief section of stone-walling, reach a public footpath sign. Here, leave the lane and take the footpath along the edge of a field with stone walling to your immediate left.
About 100 metres ahead is another sign. Turn left to cross the wall using the step ladder. Hedging is to the right of the field as you proceed to Bragg House Farm. Keep the farm on your right and pass through any gates to a broad track.
Seek the next footpath sign to bear right over a grassy field to Bitchagreen Farm. Negotiate steps in the walling before continuing by the farmhouse to your right. Follow the yellow waymarked arrow beyond a gate and over a meadow.
Then take steps and stile into another field to continue beside stone walling with farm buildings beyond. Mount the corner step ladder to negotiate the next field as arrowed. A farm is to your left. At the far end take the farm gate beside a three-finger post. Follow left hedging down the field. Leave the lower walling by an open gate into sheep pasture. Hedging is to the left.
At the end of this field go left by an open, arrowed gate.
Cross sheep pasture with hedged boundary to the right. In the lower corner an arrowed field gate directs you on to a good track. Hedged either side, the track meets a farm, with barns off left. Go straight ahead to a waymarked handgate.
Go straight forward across a broad green belt with walling to the right and water course to your left.
Take the handgate, and a dry leafy path continues as a footbridge over the stream.
Keep directly ahead across a field beset with flagstones and past a mature tree, where a well-worn footpath leads unerringly to a fieldgate. Go forward over a wooden footbridge and up the well-used, familiar footpath to return to the red post box and Low Mill.
NB The 1.5 mile route to the Daffy Caffy is level and easy walking.
If you choose to return by farmland, the route is now way-marked and easy to follow, but there are a few step-stiles and step-ladders etc to negotiate.
Distance of ‘circular’ route: 3.5 miles approx.
Refreshment: The Daffy Caffy in Farndale and Feversham Arms Inn, in Church Houses.