Walks: Danby Beacon

A few weeks ago in this post I mentioned wanting to go up to Danby Beacon, and since it was the Easter bank holiday last weekend, I took advantage of an unexpectedly sunny bank holiday Monday to do just that. The result was a five-and-a-half-mile circular walk which is absolutely beautiful and well worth doing, so I’m writing it up here for anyone who might like to try.

This is a round walk starting and ending outside the Duke of Wellington pub in Danby, taking you up to the landmark Danby Beacon and across the top of Danby Low Moor. For the sake of argument I’ve assumed you’ll be arriving from the direction of Danby station, but of course you can get there by any means you like. Here’s Google’s map of the route:


Distance: 5.5 miles
Time: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Medium (steep sections with long level stretches)
Terrain: Tarmac road throughout (caution: no pavements)
Take with you: A bottle of water, a warm jumper, and a windproof jacket – even on a warm day, the wind can make the high moors a very cold place!

Coming out of Danby station gate, turn left and head up the road towards the crossroads, alongside the beck. At the crossroads, turn right up the side of the Duke of Wellington onto Briar Hill:

Danby crossroads looking uphill towards the Duke: turn right here.

Danby crossroads looking uphill towards the Duke: turn right here.

Continue as Briar Hill turns into Lodge Lane and follow for about half a mile, when you’ll find yourself at this junction:

Park branching off from Lodge Lane: turn left here.

Park Bank branching off from Lodge Lane: turn left here.

If you follow the road round to the right, you’ll find yourself at the Moors Centre just around the corner (facilities include cafe and toilets) so if you want to pause and fortify yourself, here’s where to do it. Otherwise, bear left onto Park Bank:

Looking up Park Bank.

Looking up Park Bank.

This first, uphill stretch is the most demanding part of the route, so by all means take it slowly and look around you. The fields here are small and separated by some beautiful traditional drystone walling:

wm 06 walls

After a little under half a mile, you’ll reach a cattle grid; cross over this, and take the immediate left turn:

Cattle grid at the top of Park Bank: turn left just past here.

Cattle grid, Park Bank: turn left just past here.

You’re now up on the the flank of Beacon Hill, and will find the terrain around you changing from fields to open heather moor and turf:

wm 08 scenery

Follow the road, carrying straight on past this turnoff:

This right-hand turn actually takes you back the way you came: keep straight on.

This right-hand turn actually takes you back the way you came: keep straight on.

As you come up the moor, you’ll be able to see Danby Beacon itself in the distance:

wm 11 beacon approach

The current Beacon is a modern work of art erected in 2008 (though it is also a functional beacon and has been lit!), but there has been a beacon on this site since the 1600s when one was placed to act as an early warning in case the French invaded England. During the 1930s-1960s this was also the site of the RAF Danby Beacon radar station, though there are no immediately obvious traces of the station remaining. The road takes you to a T-junction just by the Beacon, and at this point, turn left; taking as much time as you like of course to explore the Beacon and its surroundings:

The junction at the foot of the Beacon: turn left here.

The junction at the foot of the Beacon: turn left here.

Worth a look are the white Ordnance Survey marker, part of the UK’s official mapping grid; the standing stone with a directional rose on top of it indicating the distance and directions to various nearby settlements and landmarks; and, of course, the magnificent Beacon itself:

wm 13 survey point

This Ordnance Survey triangulation point marks the summit of Beacon Hill.

wm 16 map disc

This stone has a flat top with an engraved disc showing directions and distances to places of note.

wm 14 beacon

The present-day Danby Beacon.

wm 15 beacon closeup

The Beacon basket against the sky.

Once you’re done with that, rejoin the road heading northwest across Danby Low Moor:

wm 17 moor road

This next stretch of the walk is mostly level going for about a mile and a half, and offers spectacular views in every direction, from Esk Dale on your left to the long view over to the coast on your right – on a clear day you can see the sea from here, though I couldn’t on this particular occasion owing to a mist over the coast. You may also notice a number of low mounds dotting the landscape – these are “howes”, prehistoric burial mounds erected to honour the dead of our distant ancestors and a fascinating reminder of just how old this landscape, and the human presence in it, is.

[] Howe


This road terminates in a T-junction: turn left and head downhill, being careful as this is now a two-lane road that carries considerably more traffic than the single-track roads over the moor top:

The junction back towards Danby: turn left here.

The junction back towards Danby: turn left here.

Follow the road for another mile and a half until you come back into Danby from the top, passing over another cattle grid:

wm 27 cattle grid

You’ll come down to the crossroads from this perspective, and will find the Duke of Wellington on your left to bring you back out where you started:

wm 29 corner view

You can, of course, always nip into the Duke for a drink at this point; but for a non-pub alternative, I’d highly recommend turning left and going round the corner, because just past the Duke on Briar Hill is the Danby Stonehouse Bakery and Cafe, suppliers of traditional baked goods to what seems like every tea room from here to the North Sea and makers of some of the best cakes and buns you’ll ever eat anywhere:


Danby Stonehouse Bakery and Cafe.

Danby Stonehouse Bakery and Cafe.

I cannot recommend this establishment highly enough – particularly since when I went in there myself at the end of this walk on Monday and plaintively asked “Are you still serving?” the lady at the counter took one look at my windswept state and very kindly said “Go on, then…” Bless you, Danby Stonehouse staff, and thank you from the bottom of my heart if you happen to read this.

I can vouch for the quality of the hot chocolate, too:

Easter bun and hot chocolate!

Easter bun and hot chocolate!

Of course, if you wanted to you could always do this walk in the opposite direction, going north out of Danby and coming round to the Beacon from the other side. I’d recommend doing it as I’ve described simply because my version results in you spending more time walking downhill than up once the first steep stretch on Park Bank is cleared, but if you’d prefer the alternative you can of course simply reverse my directions. Either way this is a beautiful route, and a great walk if you just want to stretch your legs and get a good sense of the scenery without getting caught up in any of the Moors’ more challenging terrain. Have fun!


Garden: Unexpected guest

So at around lunchtime today, I was rather surprised to look out of the window and find we’d been visited by a friendly local:


Visiting hen.

Visiting hen.

I don’t even know how she got in past the fence, but she was happy enough to wander back out when I went and opened the gate for her. Not quite what I was expecting when I put some bread out for the birds yesterday, I must admit…

Places: Castleton [pictures!]

One for those of you who like my photos of Castleton and the surrounding area; while browsing the internet recently, I happened across Doc Brown’s Travel Pictures, a site with hundreds of gorgeous scenery and location photos from around the UK and beyond. There are several pages of photos from my neighbourhood, and I just had to share:

Castleton village and surrounding area

Castleton area in the snow – I’ve yet to see it like this as this winter was nothing like so severe as this one, but I’m almost looking forward to it now!

Do browse around the site and have a look at the rest of the photos too. I’m going to be here for quite a few tea breaks to come, myself…

Places: Church of St Michael and St George, Castleton

In any English village, you can usually guarantee the presence of two establishments at minimum: a pub and a church. Castleton is no exception, and indeed boasts two pubs, the Downe Arms in the village centre and the Eskdale Inn out by the railway station. Church-wise, though, it’s surprisingly impoverished. There’s the Wesleyan Chapel, which keeps the neighbourhood supplied with coffee mornings and musical interludes, but there’s only one traditional-style parish church.

That one church, though, is worth a visit. So a few days ago, during a brief break in the foggy weather of the last two weeks, that’s precisely what I did. Welcome to the parish church of St Michael and St George, Castleton:

Church of St Michael and St George, Castleton

Daffodils and silver birch outside the church

To find St Michael and St George’s, you go downhill from Castleton’s centre, following the road signs for Danby; the church is on your left as you head out of the village, set back amid trees, daffodils and a thick carpet of green grass. It was built in the 1920s to honour the fallen of WWI, consecrated on 28 July 1926, and replaced an older “tin tabernacle” – a prefabricated, corrugated-iron church that dated back to 1863. Architecturally it’s plain by comparison with the glory of many older English parish churches, with almost nothing in the way of stained glass or ornamental stonework. The porch is a small, unassuming entrance, given an extra rustic touch by the broken wooden rake that hangs in one corner:

The church porch

Wooden rake

A rake in the rafters.

It does also contain this tiny stained-glass window, the only one in the church, which is partially assembled from fragments of what looks like a much older window:

Stained-glass window

Stained-glass window detail

Detail of the window; below the shield with the three lions of England, fragments of older, broken stained glass can be seen.

I don’t know but I’m guessing these pieces might be all that remains of a previous church, either on the same site or close by. If I ever find out more I’ll let you know!

There are two other significant piece of ornamentation inside, though. First is the beautiful reredos or painted panel behind the altar, featuring the church’s two patron saints with their respective dragons:

Altar and reredos

Second, there are the oak pews, panelling and fittings, made by a renowned craftsman who was himself a native of the Moors: Robert “Mouseman” Thompson, of Kilburn. Thompson’s nickname came from his trademark: a little wooden mouse that he would carve somewhere on the pieces he made. His work was in high demand and can be found all over the North – his workshop is still in business to this day – and I have fond memories of hunting under tables and along wainscoting for Thompson mice in the library of my own alma mater, Bradford Girls’ Grammar School. St Michael and St George purports to have a total of ten mice:

Card listing the church's carved mice

These cute laminated cards are provided in the church to guide would-be mouse hunters.

I didn’t come close to finding them all, but here are a couple that I did:

Mouse on wood panelling

This mouse is on a panel just to the right of the organist’s seat.

Mouse on wooden pew

This one is on one of the pews.

I also took this shot of the lectern base, which shows the beautiful rough-chiselling technique that’s also characteristic of Thompson’s work:

Base of the lectern

The organ and pulpit show the same simple yet graceful style:

View of the organ pipes

The pulpit

I also noticed, hanging in a corner of the narthex (the area at the western end of the nave), this: a Cradle Roll, showing the births and baptisms for the parish. This one covers a range of dates in the first half of the 1940s:

Cradle Roll

And on the way out, if you’re looking carefully, there’s one final mouse:

Church gate and mouse

Squeak squeak…

Garden: Lungwort (Pulmonaria)

Just got a comment here from a reader who asked me about the small pinky-purple flowers visible behind the daffodil in my first photo. Thank you Dawn for giving me an excuse to post about these, because they’re a new favourite of mine: lungwort, a traditional English wildflower that’s made its way into garden cultivation. Lungwort has pretty, white-spotted leaves and clusters of flowers that, magically, are pink when they first open but then slowly fade through purple to blue over the duration of their life. Historically it was used as a medicinal herb for the treatment of coughs and chest conditions, but now it’s grown purely for the beauty of its flowers and leaves:

Lungwort closeup

Close-up of a lungwort flower.

I admit that when I found these coming up in my garden earlier this spring, I didn’t know what they were either but I was charmed by them and knew I had to find out. Fortunately my mother, who is a keener gardener by far than I am, supplied the answer.


Aren’t they lovely?