George Wilkinson visits Lowna in Farndale, that most beautiful valley.

LOWNA is best approached via Gillamoor, because then you can stop the car in the village, maybe sample the Royal Oak, but certainly catch the aptly named Surprise View that centres on Lowna, deep in the bottom end of Farndale, where the roads come down from the moors.

My navigator spends a lot of time in Farndale and she suggested this route on paths we had not walked before. So off we set in the evening sunshine – the road tar sticky, convolvulus floating on the hedges – for an easy climb, the only one of the day.

The route switches from the road to a track parallel to it on the edge of the purple heather. We could hear but not see tractors labouring up the hill, taking their loads of bales into, not out of the valley.

The views improved with contours crossed, south to the Wolds. A flock of pigeons careered down the dale, over the broad-leaved and conifer trees.

Then came the descent, in the soft light of the woods. This path is quite steep, and is in danger of being overgrown by bracken. As the North York Moors backs off its footpath maintenance because of reduced funding, and that work is handed back to county councils, there will be more blocked paths, and this one is just a mile or two from the famous daffodil walk.

We reached the River Dove. It ran low and clear, and it was almost a constant for the rest of the walk and when we could not see it we could hear it tinkling.

Farndale, this most beautiful valley, has suffered two major indignities. The riverside here is both Nature Reserve and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, yet so many pheasants, and now French partridges, have been poured onto the land that there has been real damage and a few years ago this cost the perpetrators £310,000 at York Crown Court.

Natural England, which administers SSSIs, describes the area as “unfavourable, declining, due to game management”.

We heard a gamekeeper calling in the birds; the partridge can be shot from September 1 and the pheasants from October 1.

Halfway back along the Dove, things change to riverside pasture, again SSSI, again it should be a delight. In 2002, I reported this area as having a series of “seepages that support lovely flowers”.

That has gone, destroyed by off-road motorcyclists who ride the ‘green lane’; the ruts are thigh deep, a horrid mess a stone’s throw from an old metal sign that reads ‘Farndale Nature Reserve’.


When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed. (wm=waymark, fp=fingerpost).

1. From Lowna car park (info board), right uphill on road, first road right (Farndale).

2. After half a mile, grass track on right (metal sign set back from road), 30 yards, left to paths/tracks in heather, grass and under birch trees.

3. Right to good stone track (fp bridleway), soon downhill.

4. After ¼ mile, second grass track on right that curves left for 100 yards to stile (wm) into woods, path steep downhill. Stile on left and cross grass track (fp, wm), path downhill in wood, briefly near field to your left.

5. At river and bridge, right to path, river to left.

6. Opposite cottage, fork left downhill (wm post), pass bridge, fieldgate to field, fieldgates, ford/footbridge over side stream, track to car park.

Fact file

Distance: Three miles.

Car parking: Free car park.

Right of Way: Public paths and Open Access.

Date walked: August 2014.

Tourist information: Pickering TIC 01751 473791.

Refreshments: Gillamoor, Hutton-le-Hole or Kirkbymoorside.

Map: OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors western area.

Terrain: Moor and valley.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.