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Wednesday Wander Crossley Side 01/05/2024

Thank you to every one who came for a wander last night, the first one of the year when we didn't need to wear head torches or warm kit.

Starting off from the National park visitor centre at Danby we followed the Esk Valley walk path up towards Oakley Side. Once at Oakley Side farm we dropped down onto Lawns road, passing under one of the Esk Valley railway bridges before taking a bridleway towards Crag Farm, situated on the other side of the valley. As we dropped down towards the road Danby castle could be seen , on the hillside half way up Danby Rigg. Its 700 year old walls appearing and disappearing from within the fog, it reminded me of the scene where Merlin calls up the dragons breath to cover Camelot in the film Excalibur, circa 1981. Yep I'm digressing and showing my age...

A couple of fields took us beyond crag wood onto a steep climb up onto Heads, the landform that straddles Little and Great Fryup Dale. The path we took up the bankside was easily followed and looked as if it was well used, though judging by the amount of dead bracken on the banks, it will not be such a smooth climb during high summer. It

forms part of the route used for the Fryup Frazzler fell race, which is one of the Dave Parry Esk Valley series, on Strava it is a segment aptly named Bracken Basher.

After cathching our breaths at the gate at the top of the climb we headed west along a marked path running just below the ridgeline. On a clear day, as it had been earlier on when I checked the route, there are good views down into Little Fryup Dale all the way up to Crossley Side and Ainthorpe Rigg. Both of which were alive with the sounds and sights of the changing seasons. Fields, recently ploughed into soldierly ranks, dark furrows of newly turned earth alive with worms and insects for crows, rooks and gulls to feed on, or perhaps something gold for Mr Magpie and his wife to covet. Lambs, watched by anxious mothers, tails, a visible reminder of their recent births, swishing as they jump, performing caprioles, to rival the best dressage horses. And from across the daleside the unmistakeable syllabic cuck-oo, cuck-oo, call of a male cuckoo, repeating its name over and over, marking his territory, ushering in the month of May.

After about a mile we dropped down into the dale bottom and turned onto Castle Lane. The temperature was now dropping appreciably as the sun slipped, unseen, towards the horizon ,obscured by a heavy curtain of low cloud flowing down off the hills towards ground level.

So it was a good time to start the climb up to Crossley Side and Ainthorpe Rigg, hills are a great way of warming yourself up on any run…

The track we used is of ancient origin, certainly medieval or bronze age, if not mesolithic, which came to an end some 4500 years ago. There are several burial mounds, ancient stones and a cross dyke on the rigg, which have sat above Little Fryup Dale long before it was named or the Abbess Hild founded Whitby Abbey in 657 CE, or the start of the Roman occupation of Britain in 43 CE.

Humans have existed on the land that we know as the North York Moors for thousands of years, so when we run on its tracks and trods we follow the shadows of our ancestors. For them then, as it does for us now, rain fell on their faces ,sun reddened their legs and fell water numbed their toes.

The climb up onto Ainthorpe Rigg, warmed us all up and got heart and lungs working overtime, even our four legged wanderers were panting by the time we got to the top, that said ,they were off again as soon we started trotting again.

Running off the rigg from the triangulation pillar we followed the track down to Tofts Lane which took us into Ainthorpe, where we joined the Esk Valley Walk path once more. This took us back to the visitor centre car park and our start point. On the way we passed the old water bailiff, who stands just the other side of the bridge over the Esk, which literally means fish river. He doesn't say much anymore, sometimes quite contemplation of our surroundings is enough…

So this week our wanderings took us a little over 7 miles in distance, 1100 ft in elevation, and through thousands of years of North York Moors history.

A trail run is never just a run.

Until next week trot on…

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