Wait until almost mid-April for the wild daffodil, when it blooms in full splendour at Farndale. There’s no village called Farndale, just a community of scattered farms and three hamlets – Lowna, Low Mills and Church Houses. Farndale is along narrow dale in the moors, north of Kirkbymoorside, famed for its truly wild daffodils stretching about five miles along the banks of the River Dove.
The daffy season is a short one, between March and May when visitors throng to gaze in awe at the glorious golden display. Go early morning or evening to avoid the crowds!
The monks of Rievaulx may have planted them during their travels, or it’s believed Nicholas Postgate, the Egton Bridge martyr may have introduced them to Farndale.
This valley has twice been threatened by flooding, as a reservoir for the city of Hull. In 1933 powers were granted to do this but nothing materialised. The scheme was revived in the 1960s but the plan was defeated. The area had been made a nature reserve in 1953 and is protected by law. No picking or removal of plants is allowed. Surprisingly coal, ironstone, gravel and jet have all been worked here! Enjoy the contrasting scene nowadays.
Access from Hutton-le-Hole is by following the road north-west to park at Low Mill.
Start from the car park after paying a parking fee. Public conveniences are nearby, and in season the North York Moors National Park have a prominent stand there.
Leaving the car park you’ll see a sign indicating the public footpath to High Mill. A firm, clearly demarcated route with about 18 gates crosses sheep pasture, so please close them after use and leash any dogs.
Enter the handgate and cross the River Dove, and a second handgate guides you on your way. Just relax and enjoy wild flowers, bird song, fields and woodland, and rippling waters. Blakey Ridge rises to the east horizon.
When you’re well on your way at about the 17th gate you’re nearing the Daffy Caffy. Cross a field and pass via an open gateway to a second field. Flagstones and a stream feature to a third field and more flagstones to a field gate.
Just ahead is the Daffy Caffy tea rooms at High Mill. There’s a play area for children. During the daffodil season this cafe is open from 9am-5pm.
Feeling refreshed, continue ahead to the hamlet of Church Houses, meeting the road near the Feversham Arms Inn. 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. Do visit it and admire the wild daffodils.
Just beyond the church is 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 beside left walling.
About 100 metres ahead turn left to cross the wall, using the step ladder. Hedging is to the right of the field as you proceed to Brigg 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 waymarker beyond a gate and over a meadow.
Next, take steps and stile into a further 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 onto a good track.
Hedged either side, the track meets a farm, with barns off left. Go straight ahead to a waymarked handgate. Keep straight forward across a broad green belt with walling to your right, and water course to your left.
Take the handgate, and a day, leafy path continues as a footbridge over the stream. Keep directly ahead across a field beset with flagstones and past a mature tree. Here, a well-worn footpath leads to a fieldgate. Go forward over a wooden footbridge and up the well-used, familiar footpath to return to Low Mill.
NB. The 1.5 mile route just to the Daffy Caffy is good, level walking. If you choose to return by farmland there are a few step-stiles and step-ladders to negotiate.
Distance of ‘circular’ route: 3.5 miles.
Refreshment: The Daffy Caffy in Farndale, open March to May, 9am-5pm. Feversham Arms Inn, Church Houses.