12:34pm Saturday 20th November 2010
By George Wilkinson
George Wilkinson and dog enjoy the pleasures of Dalby Forest.
Dalby the Great Yorkshire Forest’, is proclaimed on the road signs, and it is, with a third of a million visitors a year, more popular than ever.
We paid the off-season £4 for the car for the Forest Drive toll road and cruised the super-smooth Tarmac, past the glass cuboid visitors’ centre, the spinning mountain bikes and sluggish wind turbine, and we drove on past a dozen forested side valleys until we reached the car park at High Staindale, described in 1966 as an “ideal picnic spot”.
It was quiet, just a couple of cars, a couple of cottages, the cold steel blue of a lake and a queue of coal tits at the feeders.
There were three reasons we were here. The forecast of stormy weather, though this had hit the night before, the political storm concerning the government’s plans to sell off, in some part, the forests of the Forestry Commission, and because we were dog-sitting Merlot and Dalby is a dog’s delight.
Immediately we passed an arrow marked “ Escape”, encouragement indeed, and down went the spaniel’s nose, hoovering up the scents of pine and small furry animals as he accelerated into the open access forest.
We rose past an invisible valley, under the grand alien conifers, past a clearing where heather and grasses have taken their chance and where a few trees are left stand-alone for the predatory birds.
A notice reminds of goshawks though they spurn elevated perches being secretive forest hunters, rare and powerful and welcome in a forest fairly free of pheasants.
Three mountain bikes cruised along a wide forest track, three prehistoric mounds decorate a small field, for a step or two there was a glimpse of the moors and then six sleek, fast mountain bikers vanished down a narrow trail.
A viewpoint at Crosscliff has picnic tables and the day’s one big view. You see two contrasting shapes, the very symmetrical bowl shape of the hill named Blakey Topping and the spooky geometry of the Fylingdales Radar Station, both are distant.
The late afternoon light took a slant, softening air to gold between the trees and our route narrowed, we’d moved from asphalt to tracks and now to paths muffled by an orange carpet of larch needles. But we didn’t try the slithery, adverse camber, boarded, track sections; leave these to the World Championship bike riders who race here.
And talking of unsuitable routes, we learnt, to add to the day’s encyclopaedia of info boards, that dogs are not allowed on mountain bike trails, and Merlot had transgressed.
So, sipping tea in the visitors’ centre Tree Tops Restaurant, we decided that we should offer abject apologies to the Forestry Commission, and mention in mitigation that he is not interested in bikes and by the by had probably killed nothing all day. So Merlot, innocent, was spared a hose down at the bike wash.
When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.
1. Left from High Staindale car park at the eastern end of the lake to road, 100 yards, track on right, pass house (info boards), 50 yards, fork right, over stream, uphill for 50 yards. 2. Left at junction (signs), path uphill, cross track at bench to path uphill (signs 86).
3. At top left at fence (sign 87), by fence, 200 yards, right to good track.
4. At Jingleby Thorn, pass house and garden (waymark) and immediately path on left, left to Forest Drive road, 100 yards, track on right through felled area.
5. Left to wide track, fields to right.
6. Right to Forest Drive road, 500 yards. At bend straight on to track (signed Crosscliff). Ignore a track on the right.
7. Fork right at ‘Y’ junction (wheelchair P sign) to parking area at top of hill. Take path (signed Easy Access Trail, waymark, fingerpost Saltergate).
8. Pass viewpoint with picnic tables and info boards. Ignore next angled grassy track on left (white arrow on red) and continue until 1/3 mile past viewpoint.
9. Wide stone track on left (signs, bench and white ‘pipeline’ post), downhill, 300 yards, path on left (post opposite), 200 yards, fork right to good path that angles down side of valley. Pass
house, right at junction to track.
Distance: Four miles.
General location: North York Moors.
Start: High Staindale.
Right of way: Open access.
Dogs: Not on bike routes.
Date walked: November 2010.
Road route: Via Thornton-le-Dale.
Car parking: Free car parks at High Staindale.
Lavatories: Dalby Visitors Centre.
Refreshments: Visitors Centre.
Tourist and public transport information: Visitors Centre 01751 460295.
Map: Drawn from OS Explorer OL27 North York Moors eastern area and Forestry Commission maps.
Terrain: Valleys and tops.
Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.
View a map of the Dalby Forest country walk>>
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