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North East group: moorland villages and trackways, 20th Nov 2016

The weather wasn’t particularly encouraging as I set off for the North Yorkshire Moors: a torrential downpour slowed the journey and I was in no doubt that the autumn was well advanced.  Nevertheless on arrival at the rural village of Danby it was gratifying to see our familiar group of GOCers already gathering, and to be greeted by familiar faces.  The more optimistic assured the rest of us that the rain would relent later in the day, and sunshine was forecast.  We exchanged initial news and gossip, checked boots, waterproofs and food supplies, kept a careful lookout for possible latecomers – we are always aware that not everyone “signs up” for events beforehand – and set off; a creditable total of 11 participants on this occasion.

The first section of the route between the houses of the village turned out to be a little muddy underfoot, but we soon reached a more open section across open farmland and progress became brisker as the views across the upper Esk valley opened out for us.  Ahead we could see the scattering of small moorland villages and farms in the landscape and to the south across the valley sky above the high moors did seem to be clearing a little.  Our walks usually attract around 10 or so participants; the group tends to split into twos or threes as we go along and this seems to be a good number to enable everyone, whether a regular or a newcomer, to chat with everyone else at some point during the course of the walk.

After an hour or so we reached Commondale, which has perhaps the smallest railway station in NE England, at the end of a grassy footpath.  No trains today, but we squeezed into the tiny but convenient waiting room for our lunchtime stop.  Afterwards we continued into the centre of the small village, to be greeted by an enthusiastic gathering of hens (bantams, we were told by one of our more knowledgeable participants) which helpfully assisted with the disposal of some of our uneaten crumbs.

On leaving the village we climbed gently again to higher ground, noting downpours of rain and black cloud in the distance but seemingly and mercifully not moving directly towards us.  Away from the valley now the views became more extensive, and we could see to the North Sea, a lengthy stretch of coast, and parts of industrial Teesside in the far distance.  These moors, we were told by our walk facilitator, were once themselves industrial, and we could see the remains of ancient quarrying and trackways along our path.  After a sharp dip across a slightly slippery wooden bridge over a stream we eventually reached an ancient track known as the Lord’s Turnpike, which led us back to our starting point back in Danby; but not before the sun finally appeared and lit up the landscape with its glinting and sparkling autumn colours.

At the end of the walk an award-winning local teashop beckoned; we all thanked Peter our facilitator for an interesting walk and looked forward to our next gathering in December.  To be kindly hosted by another of our regular participants, this would incorporate a planning meeting to discuss an outline of events and ideas for next year.

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