More than 60 years ago Askrigg was the subject of "Yorkshire Village", written by the historians of the Dales, Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby. The book gives a vivid account of the village and its inhabitants through history. This 7.5 mile walk links many of the places mentioned in the book.
Distance: 7.5 or 2.5 miles
Time: 4 hours for full walk
Conditions: well signed rights of way, many stiles
Refreshments: Askrigg, Bainbridge, Worton
OS Explorer Map OL30
Originally published: 12 January 2018
We start from the market place with its cross of 1830 (GR 948910). The last market was held in 1878, competition with the rapidly expanding Hawes contributing to its demise. The nearby 15th century St. Oswald's church is the largest in the dale and is worth visiting for its many memorials to local families and for the wooden nave roof, one of the finest in the North Riding.
We follow Mill Lane along the north side of the church. Beyond the houses go right across one field to West Mill, a former corn mill, later converted to a sawmill. The path passes under the metal trough which once supplied water to the mill wheel. Bear right up Mill Gill before crossing the beck by a footbridge.
Our path now climbs high above the stream through mature woodland of stately ashes and beeches, a remnant of the ancient woods which once covered much of the dale. In some 250 yards a path leads down to Mill Gill Force where the beck thunders some 40ft over the limestone sill into a deep pool. After returning to the main path continue above the ravine before descending to the beckside close to Slape Wath or slippery ford where limestone blocks create a natural pavement. Before the present valley roads were built the ford was part of the main route along the dale's north side, using one of the natural broad terraces which run the length of the valley.
It's worthwhile continuing upstream for another 200 yards to Whitfield Force, with a drop of 60ft. Both falls are an excellent illustration of the action of water on the strata of the Yoredale series of limestones and shales.
Now return to Slape Wath. Do not cross but go right on the old route, now a green path which, after a short climb, bears left and continues as a stony track down to Helm, a hamlet of Norse origin meaning a barn. Then follow the access lane downhill. As you descend look out on the right for Coleby Hall, one of the finest houses in the dale, built in 1655.
The lane joins the Askrigg-Bainbridge road. To reduce the walk to 2 and a half miles follow the pavement, left, back into Askrigg.
The main walk turns right to Bainbridge, and in a few yards uses a short cut, left, across one field, to avoid a road junction. Then turn left to cross Yoredale Bridge, designed by John Carr in 1793. In the village head across the spacious green to the 16th century bridge over the Bain, England's shortest river which drains Semerwater. It roars over an impressive fall on the upstream side.
Over the bridge are the steep slopes of Brough Hill, crowned by a 1st century Roman fort. In some 200 yards, at the junction with the road to Semerwater, follow a sign, left, to Cubeck, one-and-a-third miles. The path climbs to the limestone Brough Scar where there's a good view of the fort with its protective ditch and bank. As we follow the edge of the scar there are extensive views too across to Askrigg and the moors beyond.
In about half a mile descend from what is now Worton Scar to Worton village on the A 684. Go right and almost immediately left. The first house on the corner of the main road is of 1729 and still has the builder's plaque - "MICHAEL SMITH MECHANICK BUT HE THAT BUILT ALL THINGS IS GOD Heb3".
Beyond the houses we drop down to cross Worton Bridge. There's another chance here to shorten the walk (to 5 miles) by taking the paved path half left across the fields to Askrigg. After half a mile the path crosses the line of the former Wensleydale Railway which opened in 1877 and ran the length of the dale to Garsdale junction on the Settle-Carlisle line.
To continue with the full walk take the first path on the right after the bridge.It runs along the river bank to Nappa Mill, like West Mill, one of the three corn mills in the parish.
At the mill turn left on the farm track and where it goes left, across Newbiggin Beck, go straight ahead (signed Nappa). There are two field gates before joining the lane leading up to Nappa Hall, a fortified manor house of 1459, built by James Metcalfe, whose son became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Judging by the scale and solidity of its construction - two embattled towers connected by a single storey range - the Metcalfes wanted to impress the dale with their importance and authority. Even so Nappa is hardly on the same scale as Bolton Castle, further down Wensleydale, built by the Scropes 80 years earlier.
Climb the track past the hall to the Carperby to Askrigg road which runs along the terrace of Nappa Scar. Turn left and in 100 yards, just past Dolly Farm, go left again, signed Askrigg. The path drops down a cleft in the scar before bearing right to an unbridged crossing of Newbiggin Beck. It then continues across fields to the outskirts of Askrigg.
If the beck is likely to be in spate, then follow the delightful path, parallel to the road on the edge of the scar. From it the views across to Addlebrough are outstanding whilst the beck flows below you in a mini gorge cut through the limestone. After some 400 yards the path rejoins the road where turn left for Askrigg.