Stroll With Stu: raising a glass to Keith at end of 4.5-mile walk around Castleton, near Whitby

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Like a hibernating dormouse, I emerged into the long grass at the end of April, for this 4.5-mile stroll in Lower Danbydale, as I reacquainted myself with cowpats, stunning views, fresh air and upside- down maps.

I locked my bike up at the Downe Arms and set off downhill in the general direction of Danby.

On reaching St Michael and St George Church on your left, turn right along a path behind the last cottage on your right.

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Curl left after an old stone bridge over Danby Beck, passing the war memorial to reach the road, then turn immediately right along a side road with Howe End Farm on your left.

Danby Dale.Danby Dale.
Danby Dale.

Soon, follow a wide track snaking uphill on your right to the top of Danby Low Moor, with your lockdown legs screaming “doesn’t seem very low to me”.

There is more comms equipment at the top than in Downing Streets new media centre (though I doubt it cost £2.3m as it seems to be held together with gaffer tape).

All those missing April showers were having a party at the top of the hill, but the view was still exquisite, with all of Danby Dale tempting to me to the left and Castleton perched on its ridge away to my right.

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Make your way down the other side, to pass a stand of trees on your right, then take the clear path diagonally right onto Wandels lane.

Rainy Castleton.Rainy Castleton.
Rainy Castleton.

Head left along the lane then follow a sign right, immediately after the last farm cottages, soon through a double gate and alongside Danby Beck, admiring the alpacas and more indigenous wildlife getting busy with the kids, as if Covid never existed.

Cross the beck again, through another double gate, and follow the field boundary on your right as you bend slowly left to head up the dale.

Several marked gates point the way, and eventually one will point you diagonally left back to the Beck.

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The grass was wet and the sky still threatening, but what a joy to be back out here sharing fresh air and greenery with Hares, Yellowhammers, and countless other species great and small.

View from the beer garden at the Downe Arms.View from the beer garden at the Downe Arms.
View from the beer garden at the Downe Arms.

At a tiny lane, head sharp right for almost a mile.

Just ahead of Crag House Farm, go right through a marked gate.

Keep the field boundary on your left, over a stile to reach the pretty Holly Lodge Farm.

Now, it’s out through their gate, right up four steps and through two gates into fields, soon to bypass Forest Lodge Farm on a path through woodland to reach a track on the other side.

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The Downe Arms, Castleton.The Downe Arms, Castleton.
The Downe Arms, Castleton.

And then it gets interesting. Just past the next farm (Forest Farm) take a marked gate on your right.

Now, for a little while, waymarks are as rare as the forest, and if you prefer you can ignore that gate and carry on up to the road at the top end of Castleton.

I pressed on.

A sign points down to farm buildings and you need then to walk between two long metal barns.

This is a working cattle farm and you may find yourself ankle deep in slop, or heavily surrounded by beef (perhaps you shouldn’t have gone through that gate…..).

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At the end of those barns, turn right then left to find a track that continues towards Castleton on what bizarrely appears to be Astroturf, before tracking right across a field to a marked gate.

The next two fields were equipped with impromptu fences which required negotiation and a big sloppy bit just past Didder Howe Farm.

Keep the farm and the field boundary close on your left to use a marked gate onto a rising track to the village.

Good luck, folks!

Pubs have had it tough recently, but some have done fabulous community stuff, kept people entertained with online quizzes, takeaways, raffles and the like, and bust a gut to meet ever-changing restrictions.

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The Downe Arms is one such pub and I was happy to sit in their busy beer garden for an hour or two.

The service, food and beer were as good as the fantastic view.

The Downe Arms will very soon be ready to reopen indoors.

If you visit, you will notice KJ’s corner by the dartboard, a tribute to Keith Jeffels who passed away a few months ago.

For years, whenever I went in any pub in Upper Eskdale, Keith seemed to be in there.

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He was always up for a chat, was full of stories, knew everything going on in the area and was friendly, welcoming and above all, really funny.

He was liked and loved by many and I’m not finishing this off on a sombre note, because Keith was the opposite of sombre.

Raise a glass to him – ‘Keith Jeffels –top bloke’ – then enjoy your day.