White Horse – Byland- Sutton – Loop
Carol, in a beautiful dress that follows curves that make an emphatic statement to the effect that she is very definitely a woman is radiating a smile that reaches out of the television and bathes the room in a good-humoured light, is speaking from Wimbledon. She is talking as an illustration of the weather robs us temporarily of her image but make a promise that matches her words, “The morning will be unbroken sunshine, lunchtime will see a build-up of cloud but then it’ll brighten up again as the afternoon progresses”. I am relaying this message to my three friends when George mentions her dress. Peter observes that we’re obsessed with her and Bri resolves to get up early in future to see what all the fuss is about. Suffice to say, it’s good walking weather.
As we turn into the car park at the White Horse near Killburn, North Yorkshire I’m reminded of the end of our Sutton/Gormire walk that involved a climb up these steps just a month ago. All being well, we’ll be descending them in about five hours having completed 10 miles of walking on varying terrain and taking in Bylands Abbey on the way. The car park is free but there are no facilities.
George had spotted the route in an excellent book on walks in North Yorkshire and I’ve plotted it into an app that utilises Ordnance Survey Maps on my phone and at this point I switch on the facility that tracks us to record where we actually go. It is this map that I publish here so, in theory, you can follow it and get into the same scrapes that we do!
We’re all organised now so off we go right out of the car park and immediately begin the descent towards Kilburn which is about a mile away. We’re under a canopy of trees for the first half mile and whilst not unpleasant, there is a decided early morning chill in the air. This is punctuated by occasional glades where the strong July sun identifies itself with brightly lit shafts illustrated by various sizes of midges and flies followed by a warm hug as we walk through the glade and the sun settles on and around our bodies. Initially, there is only bird song but as we approach the bottom of the bank there is significant noise as a verge cutting machine crunches its way towards us and we step aside to allow the hydraulic spinning blades to complete their shaving task without catapulting the residue into our eyes; the driver waves a ‘thank you’ as he passes.
Louise will be proud of us, we haven’t walked a mile yet and need a pee! She’d warned us last week in the heat of the day, “If you’re not peeing, you’re not drinking enough”. Well, we have today and we nip into a field as evidence.
In Kilburn, the track is a lane to the left and, after a cross-reference between book and gps we follow it past some very posh houses and a guy in a Porche who, rather than resenting our presence near his home, raises a cheery hand to encourage us on our way.
We pass through a gate and immediately into some nettles clearly fed with Miracle Grow. Three of us are OK but Bri is wearing shorts; however, there are no complaints and we make good progress towards a farm.
There is a right of way through the farm; however, we opt to take the route that skirts the stackyard and leads us to High Kilburn which includes a gentle ascent through a ‘proper’ meadow reminiscent of my childhood.
From about five years old there’d be questions in Parliament if we spent any time in the house and the expectation of my Mum was that if we weren’t at school or eating then we would be out playing. I was lucky enough to live in a part of town that was essentially in the country. In other words, my playground was the meadows and fields around me. In summer we’d play cowboys and Indians where the cowboy was always in the right and the Indian needed to be tamed. We’d crawl through the meadows with imaginary guns made from what we referred to as a ‘good stick’ i.e. it was straight. We’d return home covered in grass seed and thunder bugs that didn’t seem to bother us then but they really irritate me now. It’s almost beyond comprehension but the bad guy stereotype of the Red Indian was reinforced every Saturday morning via the medium of cinema or on one of the ‘two’ TV channels where Roy Rodgers, The Lone Ranger (the only surviving member of 6 rangers who always wore a mask that nobody seemed to have an issue with as he walked into bars but never took a drink and worked to a strict moral code. He never swore, used slang and only ever shot the baddies to wound and with as little pain possible. In fact, he was so moral it made your teeth hurt. He had an Indian friend called Tonto), also, there was Rawhide (Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates); Wagon Train (Ward Bond as Major Seth Adams) and Gun Smoke (James Arness as Marshall Mat Dillon).
In the Saturday Cinema Club, there would always be a cliff hanger at the end of each episode to ensure you would be back the following week. There was also someone that used to break into an occasional song too but I can’t remember who that was, perhaps it was one of the above?
Sooo, we exit the meadow and with it my reverie and we walk into High Kilburn.
Now here is a beautiful little village with houses and bungalows around a significant green sitting quietly on a hill overlooking the Vales of Mowbray and further south, the Vale of York.
We discuss improvements and conclude that it could only be improved by a night club or festival and use the green for parking and camping. We’re sure the residents would be pleased with these thoughts and we’ll make no charge should they wish to follow them up.
We leave High Kilburn and head toward Oldstead Village and turn right at the Black Swan. It’s quiet at this time of the morning but there are a couple of people leaving and wave a cheery greeting. The natives in this neck of the woods are exceedingly friendly!
A couple of hundred metres down the road we turn right towards Oldstead Grange where we walk a lane that has a crop that we’re struggling to identify but there are poppies and other colourful flowers that spot and punctuate the field, it’s beautiful.
The path is signposted through a stackyard and we pass through without canine encounter and the peacefulness continues as we emerge at the other side and cross another meadow diagonally to a ford that is currently dry. On the other side is a field of barley gently swaying in the very light breeze and emphasises the wonderfully descriptive expression “sea of barley”.
Bylands is being signposted now and it’s only another 15 minutes to us sitting on a bench and overlooking the old ruin that despite its state is still beautiful. After a short break, we turn the corner in the hope of a coffee or tea at the pub opposite.
Alarmingly, it’s not a pub anymore; however, after that shock and pleasant relief that it is still a hostelry of sorts it more than compensates by being a first-rate tea room.
Byland Abbey Tearooms is an excellent place to stop. We’ll be back in the future and will probably use it as our base so that we can overindulge on some of the cakes, ice creams and other homemade products. It has facilities for all kinds of things including weddings. I’ve included a picture of some of the produce and would add that the tea is first-rate and the staff are friendly, helpful and a credit to the organisation. Many thanks.
We remain for about half an hour and fall into conversation with Linda who listens patiently to our antics and tells us about her globe-trotting since becoming a mature ex-teenager. You do meet some interesting people on these walks…
We’ve spent a lot of time descending so the penalty is about to be applied, we have to go back up.
The track leads out of Byland towards Wass Bank but turns left into what looks like a private drive and about 20 metres along this drive is a style that leads across a couple of fields the second of which is boggy and leads to some frantic searching of bags to ensure cameras are at the ready to record any mishap. Whilst there is some damp boots on my part the others make a hasty retreat and take a longer but drier route which is more comfortable for them but less entertaining for me.
There is a bench seat about 200 feet up the hill and we decide on a lunch break from this vantage. The scene includes a newly planted orchard to our left presumably for the monks at Ampleforth to make their cider, Byland Abbey in front of us and to our right is a view of the side of wooded hills towards Oldstead. A beautiful place to take a break and not say much whilst we eat. (and drink Louise!)
The track leads us through the new orchard towards a field and then a bridge over a dyke that is being repaired by an artisan from Wass Village. He’s a very friendly chap with a wonderful accent that is neither local dialect nor posh, just beautifully enunciated English and he responds to our greetings whilst mixing cement, juggling with a wheelbarrow that has a mind of its own and conducting the gate opening (and closing) ceremony on our behalf.
We turn left on to the lane leading out of Wass and towards Elm Hag and we’re almost immediately confronted with a ‘Private Road’ sign. My map is telling me that it’s a public right of way but I’m uneasy. Pete jogs back to our new friend and checks with him. Apparently, we can ignore the sign and the public path is signposted further up the lane. Peter jogs back and relays this news then, as if incredulous, draws attention to the fact that he’s not out of breath. I have to congratulate him as the lane is 1 in 4 (25% in new parlance) and the distance is a couple of hundred metres. Oh, and Peter is coming up 67.
The public footpath emerges from the trees and across a meadow always ascending towards Cam Farm. It’s steady going but quite draining and we stop a few times on the way but this enables us to take in the scenery.
Through Cam Farm, we talk to the sheep who call back to us as we make a few photographs through the trees – us that is, not the sheep. We’re at the second-highest point, I think, and we’ll be going down now – for some time.
The path is slightly overgrown but not challenging and morphs into a forestry track. We’re deep in conversation and after 10 minutes or so I check the GPS only to realise that we’ve missed the fork where we should have turned left into the woods.
It’s not far but when we reach the fork and it’s easy to see how we missed it. There is a sign but it could be showing a left fork and it could be indicating that you carry straight on and when you couple that with the fact that it’s over a ditch and it’s overgrown with nettles I become a little more relaxed that it’s not a big deal. If you choose to follow this route be careful you don’t miss this too.
We make our way through the woods and we become reassured as we spot some way markers that verify the route.
On emerging at the bottom of the wood we turn right on the lane that connects us to the next public footpath and it’s well signposted. At Cockerdale Farm, we’re just about at the lowest point and now, in the words of whoever said it, “The only way is up” – and it is!
First, there is a little bit of training where the ascent is quite gentle into the forest. The tracks are well chewed up due to a mixture of rain last night and the activities of a man in a ‘thingy that cuts down and carries trees’. I’m sure it has a snappier name but with four driving wheels of its own and another four driving wheels on the trailer, it can certainly shift some mud and the next mile or so is a combination of ‘uphill’ and ‘deal with the mud’. Then it’s up towards Scotch Corner, yes you read that right, Scotch Corner is a hill and we’re heading for the summit. It’s ‘up’ some more and when we think we are ‘up’, we turn another corner or reach another hill brow and there’s another ‘up’. Finally, just as we reach the top another ‘up’ begins. I can’t emphasise how this toys with us as there are trees on either side so there is no reference point, just the GPS that informs us that we’re nearly there and then eventually, we are there.
We stop at what appears to be a small chapel dedicated to the sculpture John Bunting with an interesting story written by himself on a fence outside. He’s worth a Google and I encourage you to look him up. Sadly, unlike Lady Chapel, it’s locked.
We emerge from the trees and begin to cross Shaw’s Moor which is currently laid down to barley on our side of the field and sheep on the other. The footpath is not particularly well kept nor well used so there are nettles and thistles to contend with, the barley stretches out before us and creates a magnificent picture which we capitalise on with our cameras.
At the end a lane links us to the road leading to the A170 Helmsley Road where we turn acutely left and come back into the woods only a mile to go to our car at the White Horse car park. As we emerge from the trees we’re treated to the view from which no-one could possibly tire. At about 1000 feet overlooking Vale of Mowbray, Vale of York, Gormire and in the distance, the Yorkshire Dales, or at least the Pennines; it’s just breathtaking.
Another 15 minutes and we’re back at the White Horse where we take our time to admire the view then carefully negotiate the steps back to the car.
We covered eleven and a half miles (18.5km) including a couple of minor cockups but the tracks are good, the ascents are steep but don’t include any scrambling; however, they can go on a bit. Byland Tea Rooms is a real treat and I would urge you go there just for a bite to eat and some of the best tea I’ve ever had served in a proper cup whether you’re on a walk or just fancy a run out.
I’ve added a few photos…enjoy…G..x
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This is life after an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm open repair. Don’t be afraid of the operation, it set me free. Please be encouraged and inspired to walk, it’s liberating…G..x
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