The rolling countryside of Coxwoldshire, a name used in medieval times for the villages lying between the Hambleton and Howardian Hills, is ideal for easy walking. The gentle slopes of its low lying landscape present little of a challenge but offer exceptional views of the limestone hills to the north and over the Vale of York to the west and south.
Distance: 7.5 miles
Time: 4 hours
Conditions: quiet lanes, well signed field paths and bridleways, few stiles
Refreshments: Carlton Husthwaite, Coxwold, Husthwaite
OS Explorer Map 299
Originally published: 31 October 2009
This 7 and a half mile circular route takes in the lower slopes of Snape Hill before passing Wildon Grange and entering Coxwold. It then climbs to the trig point on Beacon Banks before returning through Husthwaite and across the low lying Ings to Carlton.
We start from the tiny church of amber coloured limestone in the village street of Carlton Husthwaite (GR 499767). It's worth a visit for its full range of 17th century furnishings including box pews and a two decker pulpit.
From the church go right along the street past a striking thatched, black and white timber framed house, one of the very few in this part of the county. In some 250 yards turn right down Croft Lane and in half a mile go right on Mill Dike Lane. In another 500 yards turn left on the drive to Skew Green farm.
I have also mapped an alternative, slightly shorter, route on a path which is signed to the right 100 yards along Croft Lane. It is little used (but needs to be) and progress will be slower, for there are 5 stiles in the first 200 yards parallel to the village street before you turn left over arable fields where the farmer has blazed a useful trail for walkers across summer crops. The path joins the longer route close to the drive to Skew Green.
At the farm bear to the right of the buildings on a bridleway which climbs on to the edge of Snape Hill where there are views to the left over to the White Horse of Kilburn and Roulston Scar. It's from here too that you can appreciate the terrain of rounded hills of boulder clay which in the last Ice Age were deposited by the glacier which blocked run off from the ice free Hambleton Hills. The waters instead turned eastwards via the Coxwold-Gilling Gap into the vast Lake Pickering. The waters of the lake in turn were then forced south as the River Derwent, creating the Kirkham Gorge.
From the top the bridleway continues to Wildon, once a grange of Byland Abbey. Follow the access lane beyond and turn right when you reach the Kilburn to Coxwold road in some 350 yards, The road then climbs Whinney Bank where there are also good views. At a road junction a corner can be saved by going ahead through a kissing gate and then bearing right, aiming for the right hand end of a clump of trees where there is access on to the village street on the edge of Coxwold.
Turn left past Shandy Hall where Laurence Sterne wrote "Tristram Shandy". The author is buried close to the south porch of the nearby church. Inside are monuments to the Bellasis family, Viscounts Fauconberg and the owners of Newburgh Priory.
From the church descend the street of limestone cottages, the most venerable being the 17th century Fauconberg Hospital on the left. At the crossroads at the foot you have a choice (both mapped). The slightly longer route is ahead, entirely on roads but passing the lake and then the grounds of Newburgh Priory. Though the house is invisible from the road there is much to admire, from the handsome stables with clock tower, screened by outstanding wrought iron gates, to the brick built lodges and the cushion pillars of the perimeter wall. Some 300 yards past the gates turn right on a quiet lane and climb to join the shorter route at High Leys farm.
The shorter walk follows the Husthwaite road out of Coxwold and soon crosses the former line of the Great North of England branch line from Pilmoor Junction to Helmsley, opened in 1871 and closed in the 1960s. The crossing keeper's hut has survived and, away to to the right, the old track has been converted to a footpath.
100 yards past the crossing turn left on to a path signed High Leys. The right of way is easy to follow as it climbs Beacon Banks. Half way up and after a large metal gate, head for a stile in the middle of the next hedge. The path then continues across one field, joining the longer walk some 100 yards to the right of High Leys farm. Turn right.
Follow the lane for another 150 yards before striking off right on a bridleway which crosses one field to reach the trig point at the top of Beacon Banks where there are panoramic views across the Vale of York to the Pennines and, closer, to Hood Hill and the wooded slopes of the southern Hambletons. Three miles away to the right are the prominent ruins of Byland Abbey. From the 16th to the 19th centuries a beacon stood here as part of a nation wide network, to be used in times of national crises.
Beyond the trig point the right of way descends gently past Lists House and into Husthwaite. Turn left when you reach the first lane and in a few paces go right on a path which drops more steeply into the village. Then go right to the little green surrounded by mostly 19th century brick houses, one half timbered. There are also 17th century box pews in the Norman church as well as more recent furnishings from the workshop of Thompson of nearby Kilburn. Their tiny mouse trademark is to be discovered on the lectern and above the hymn boards.
From the green go left down the village street past the Plum and Pheasant. Where the lane swings to the left at the foot of the hill go right along the drive to Baxby Manor, a Georgian house built around a 13th and 14th century predecessor.
The lane bends sharp left past the house and then right to cross Ings Beck. In 100 yards it crosses the old railway. At a fork bear right on a stony track which heads directly across the flat land of the Ings to the extensive new Manor Farm and our starting point.