North York Moors - above Danby

Dec 01, 2023

My first site visit for my North York Moors National Park (NYMNP) project took place this month and I was so pleased to get on site and explore. It's always a challenge to know what to focus your work on when you are not familiar with a particular landscape. So when I asked Sally, the curator for NYMNP and someone who lives up on the moors, where a good place to start would be she recommended straight away a walk up to Danby Beacon.

My first site visit coincided with a workshop up in Newcastle at the Biscuit Factory so as soon as I was finished I headed down to the Danby National Park Centre and picked up a few more guide books to add to my increasing large collection. There was a really useful one published by the North York Moors National Park which had a handful of small walks that start out from the National Park Centre at Danby.


Walks from the North York Moors National Park Centre at Danby


The book had some really useful commentary and I noticed that most of the walks crossed over from each other so I plotted a route on my new OS online map (this is such a game changer!) which traced some of these walks to create a 9 mile circular route around Danby:

  • Danby village to Danby Rigg
  • Down into Little Fryup Dale
  • Along Little Fryup Dale and up to Danby Beacon
  • Back down to Danby Centre and then up round the back of Danby village

As this was my first site visit for net year's exhibition it was important that I got some really good inspiration to feed into new work. So I set off armed with plenty of snacks, drinks and dressed head to toe in my waterproof gear... it is Yorkshire after all!

When I left Danby I headed towards and up through Ainthorpe and towards Danby Rigg. This was a really nice gentle climb up and it wasn't long before I was looking down onto Danby and getting some really great views.


Looking down to Danby from Danby Rigg by Paula Dunn Artist


The weather was changeable which for my work is absolutely perfect for finding inspiration for future paintings. I was armed with my sketchbook but that didn't see the light of day as the rain came down hard and the paths turned into streams running off the moorland. I was really surprised by how much water was running off the moors and finding the easiest routes down which was basically the paths I was walking on. 


Path or stream by Paula Dunn Artist


It truly is beautiful up on Danby Rigg. Very stark. Greys contrasting with bronzes. There wasn't another soul to be seen. Only the grouse hiding in the heather with their clack clacking to keep me company. But it was a joy to be up there and just taking in the views and seeing the weather come and go. Especially seeing the sun shining on the wet roads above Danby turning them into rivers.


Standing stones on Danby Rigg by Paula Dunn Artist


As I was coming over the tops of Danby Rigg and heading to Little Fryup dale - yes that name is for real! - the sun broke through the clouds and gave me my first idea for a painting or two. The light was just perfect, very atmospheric and captured both the farmed valley area as well as the managed moorland with the roads cutting through, almost looking like rivers.


Little Fryup Dale from Danby Rigg by Paula Dunn Artist


What was also interesting were the small circular areas towards the valley where the vegetation changes. Is this as a result of burn-back? They seemed too circular to be natural but this is something I will ask of the NYMNP team when I get to meet them next year.

So watch this space as there will no doubt be another post about how I've developed my ideas based on Little Fryup Dale.  And if you want to read more about Fryup (as in the dales and hamlet as opposed to the English breakfast) then there is a really amusing and insightful blog from the English Breakfast Society.


Paula Dunn Artist walking along Little Fryup Dale


So a drop down into Little Fryup Dale and the water is just pouring off the moors and down the roads and I find that my route along the valley is also very popular with the sheep which has resulted in mud city!


Mud city at Little Fryup Dale by Paula Dunn Artist


But lots of colour still around with these gorgeous hawthorne and holly berries, rosehips and gorse starting to come out.

Colour on my Danby circular walk


Down along the valley and on up to Danby Beacon following the Esk Valley walk. initially a bit of a steep pull up on a rocky path between two fields but as soon as you hit the road you are rewarded with beautiful views and a nice gentle, road further up to Danby Beacon.


Looking back to Little Fryup by Paula Dunn Artist


I wanted to get my sketchbook out and just draw the lines of the roads reflecting in the sunlight but with the weather, tiredness and also still not being in the habit of sketchbook work I was reluctant to get all my gear out. Something to work on in the future and when back at the studio I soon got out my sketchbook and started working into them some of my ideas for my first work for this exhibition.


Sketchbook work by Paula Dunn Artist


I saw a couple of farmers working in the fields and a cyclist bombing down the road but that is all I saw, in terms of people, on this walk until I got to the Beacon. At which point walkers and drivers started coming in from all angles. 

 Danby beacon view by Paula Dunn Artist


The Beacon provides a fantastic 360 degree view from Teeside, Whitby, Glasidale, Danby and despite the clouds now rolling in you could still see a good distance. Although a bit windy and cold at this point the Beacon was a good place to park and have a bite to eat and take in the views before heading back down to the National Park Centre. There was quite a bit of evidence of moorland burning here whether it was managed burn back or from wildfires I wasn't quite sure but the charred remains of the heather added to the sense of desolation.


Burn back at Danby Beacon by Paula Dunn Artist


Walking back down with the clouds over the valley and the contrasting moorland against the patchwork of farmland, the colours and the light were beautiful.


View from Danby Beacon by Paula Dunn Artist


Down to the Centre to pick up a coffee and have a chat with the gallery staff before heading up behind the centre and up through fields running parallel to Lodge Lane where the paths are littered with all sort of different types of mushrooms at this time of year.


Shrooms near Danby by Paula Dunn Artist

Then landing back in Danby village in time for a cake at the bakery. All in all a good day's research, lots of inspiration and a walk I have decided to repeat in January and March 2024 to see how the views change in winter and spring.

If you are interested in doing this walk here is a screenshot of my route taken from the OS map. Clicking on the image will give you a link to the OS maps site. It is approx 9 miles long and is a fairly easy although this can change depending on the weather. It was very wet and cold so some parts of the route did take a little longer but generally give yourself 5 hours to allow for lunch, coffee and view breaks etc. Wear proper walking shoes and be prepared with waterproofs... it's Yorkshire!


Danby circular walk by Paula Dunn Artist 


This walk is the start of my research for an exhibition at the Inspired by... gallery at Danby Lodge starting on 18 May 2024 called This Diverse Landscape. This will kick-off my larger project looking at Boundaries on the North York Moors which I will be working on over the next two years and will culminate in a solo exhibition in September 2025 and a book publication. 

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