A day of pretty villages, sun-dappled holloways, yellow fields of oil-seed rape, garlic-scented woodland, bridges, bilberries and a bear.
A shorter route today gives me some time in Hutton le Hole, a picture-postcard village set around a hilly green with Hutton Beck tumbling through it. I sit in a café with a cappuccino and a tea-cake waiting for the museum to open at 10:00.
Ryedale Folk Museum has reconstructed buildings from prehistory to the 1950’s. I am a little apprehensive at first because visiting a museum can be a busman’s holiday for me but I find myself enjoying this open air site in the warm morning sunshine.
The buildings are well laid out and there are some photogenic displays inside. I take lots of photos and sit on a mounting block to sketch.
Out of the museum and down through the village in the warm sunshine, the path soon leaves the road and I follow a steep holloway with the sunlight streaming through the trees, the banks covered in wood anemones, ramsons and bluebells. The path climbs, up and up, before emerging into open fields with glorious views and I feel on top of the world.
Half and hour or so and something is not right. I check the GPS and realise I have taken a wrong turn; probably just out of the village. I am walking along the wrong footpath. I retrace my steps and find my error, the entrance to another holloway, just behind the one I took, the finger-post pointing mischievously between the two. I am back on my route but have probably added a mile or so to my hike, but the views were worth it!
The tracks lead along field edges, often taking ninety-degree turns at field corners: Oxclose Lane, Bottomfields Lane, Lingmoor Lane, Ings Balk, South Ings Lane and Cockpit Farm. I cross meadowland edged with ancient avenues of beech trees; walk straight through the middle of vast fields of bright yellow oil-seed rape, heady with pollen and arrive at the village of Appleton le Moors by lunchtime where I get a tall cold orange juice and some nuts from the Moors Inn and sit in their sunny garden to eat my oat biscuits and cheese. Lunch on a day hike is a triple pleasure: a rest for the feet, simple food and a lighter backpack for the afternoon.
I look around the church but it is a wholly 19th Century building; nice enough but not my favourite style. It does, however, offer a table of refreshments for visitors which is a kind thought, but I have had mine now.
Out of Appleton le Moors, the route follows a metalled lane past the mounds of Bone Hill; plunges steeply down into a wooded dale and takes some zig-zag turns to find its way across a footbridge over the river Seven (not Severn with an ‘R’!) at Appleton Mill. Then very steeply up Cropton Banks, a motte to my left, and I take a short diversion into Cropton hoping for an ice-cream; but there is only the micro-brewery and that’s some way out. Most of the villages have lost their post offices and shops it seems.
Into deep mixed woodland through a small five-bar gate. Ramsen banks, sunlit grassy glades, bilberry clumps and another holloway.
Out into the full afternoon sunshine and a long, tiresome, foot-damaging, straight road section with no footpath and fast traffic. A sharp left turn drops below the site of the ‘Roman Practice Camp’ high up on the hill. I don’t want to learn to be a Roman so I don’t visit it and I have had quite enough of their road-building practices by now. There is the tell-tale tingling in my foot of an impending blister.
Down Cawthorne Banks and back into woodland again. A footbridge and a ford at the bottom of another holloway and then rising gently up to High Cawthorn. Out into a ploughed field and behind an iron barn I come face to face with a large bear.
A bear, a sheep, and an ark of other animals carved from huge baulks of timber, in different stages of being released from the living wood, surrounded by a deep-pile carpet of chippings and sawdust. The sculptor is disappointingly absent, I would have liked to have met them.
Near Seavy Slack the path turns into pine woodland twisting and turning along peaty, sometimes muddy, sometimes roughly paved tracks crossed by tree roots and heather, up and down banks and ditches worn smooth by mountain bikers. I am very tired but as often happens, my pace quickens now that my destination seems close. As often happens too it seems, the last leg home is up punishingly steep paths or veers away exasperatingly off course for an extra mile or more before turning back towards its terminus.
At last I arrive at the steep holloway up Newton Banks with the low evening sun casting long shadows and I emerge at the top end of Newton on Rawcliffe ready for my bath. It’s curry night in the White Swan, the best meal of the week and I am getting rather partial to Landlord Ale – but just one pint; two would be naughty wouldn’t it?
13 miles (21km) About 5 hours walking