In his Fair North Riding of 1952 AJ Brown describes Farndale as "an unforgettable sight" where "the little River Dove seems to dance down the dale, its banks bordered by pleasant farms, green pastures and fair woods".
Distance: 8, 6.5 or 3.5 miles
Time: allow 4 hours for the full walk
Conditions: well signed paths, quiet lanes, one short steep climb
Refreshments: Church Houses, High Mill
OS Explorer Map OL26
Originally published: 23 March 2012
Farndale has changed little in 60 years and is worth exploring on foot whatever the season.
This walk of 8 miles, with two short cuts of 6.5 and 3.5 miles, starts from Low Mill (GR 873952), a tiny hamlet grouped around a former 19th century corn mill.
Take the path from the car park down to the river. On the other side go straight ahead on a green path which climbs gently to High Wold House. For much of the way a stone causeway or trod is much in evidence, proof of the past importance of the mill in the dale's economy.
Turn left in the farmyard and follow a green lane for some 250 yards. The path then bears right up across two fields where there are further traces of the trod. Head for a ladder stile 100 yards to the left of Cote Hill Farm. From here the path continues past Bitchagreen to a stile. It then bears right across the next field to join the access track to Bragg Farm. Go left along it past the farm and over one field to a ladder stile. Turn right across the next field to a tarred lane.
All along this stretch there are excellent views into upper Farndale with its neat stone walled fields, two lines of unobtrusive farms set about a third of a mile apart, the whole encircled by the craggy edges of the moorland.
We now turn left along the lane. You could halve the walk if you followed it down into Church Houses, the valley's main settlement. Just past the Feversham Arms at the centre of the hamlet, bear left on a lane which leads to High Mill where it rejoins the main walk.
The main route follows the tarred lane for some 200 yards. Just beyond the old school turn right on a path across one field and over a little dell to St. Mary's church, surrounded by trees. Originally a medieval chapel in the large parish of Lastingham, it has had several restorations, the latest a century ago by the architect Temple Moore. Much of what you see today is his work, There's a welcome seat in the porch, too, if the weather is bad.
Now take a path through a gate at the north east corner of the churchyard. This leads up across two fields, bearing to the right of Hollins Lodge to another tarred lane. Turn left to a junction in a few yards.
We are now heading for the right hand end of tree crowned Round Hill, seen ahead. Go through a gate at the junction. The path leads across one field to North Gill House and passes behind the buildings to a walled lane. Turn left and then immediately right over a tricky wall stile and across a marshy field to a footbridge over Blakey Beck
Few walkers seem to use this delightful path which now climbs steeply to the right of the trees and up on to Round Hill which turns out to be a plateau. Bear left at the top and pass to the left of Head House Farm to join the access track. At this elevation of course there are sweeping views of Farndale in both directions.
In a few yards bear right through a gate and cross the first field to a deep gully. Beyond it the path stays high above the valley before descending to Hall Farm and Daleside Road, east. Turn right. In a few yards on the right is Hall Wood, one of 3 woods in the dale owned by the National Trust, and purchased in memory of Francis Ritchie, a campaigner for the creation of the national park.
Being a cul de sac the lane is virtually traffic free and passes Hollins Farm before our next short cut. This is the bridleway on the left just before Oak House Camping Barn. It's easy to follow down to the river and up across two fields to Broom House on Daleside Road, west.
Our longer walk continues up the valley past the former Wesleyan chapel of 1886 to the handsomely restored farm of Long Causeway. From it you can get a good idea of the pattern of settlement in the dale which remains virtually unchanged since the middle ages. Farms were built at fairly regular intervals on both sides of the valley. Manure was carted downhill to arable land below each farm whilst the valley bottoms were cleared as meadowland. The hillside also allowed the farms to avoid the cold air flows along the valley floor. Later, when more land was needed for grazing, large sections of moor, called intakes, were enclosed above the farms.
This pattern of farming which had survived for centuries was threatened by a scheme to build a reservoir with a dam across the upper dale above Church Houses, engulfing the east side road and all below it. Planned before the Second World War the project was abandoned only in the 1970s after sustained public pressure.
Just beyond Long Causeway go left on a path which descends to the river before climbing to a prominent house on the west side road. Along to the right from the house, and creating a narrow gap in the road, is a huge boulder known as the Duffin Stone.
The walk now returns down the valley on the quiet lane, passing Monket House in one and a half miles. Soon after ignore a lane signed to Church Houses and in 200 yards, by a welcome seat, go left on a path which drops steeply to a footbridge over the Dove.
Bear right to High Mill and the Daffy Cafe. The last mile and a half, by the river, the daffodil walk, needs no description. In late March and early April it becomes one of the county's finest natural sights and, whilst crowded with visitors, makes a fitting end to our walk.