Felixkirk is described by Edmund Bogg in his 'Vale of Mowbray' of 1910 as "a rare gem in a delightful setting, lying mainly in a sort of diminutive dell among the outer spurs of the brooding hill range, with the green pastures of the woodland of Mount St John rising from its doors".
Distance: 7 or 4 miles
Time: 4 or 3 hours
Conditions: well signed paths and bridleways, can be muddy in places
Refreshments: Carpenter's Arms, Felixkirk (open every day)
OS Explorer Map OL26
Originally published: 29 December 2017
Our 7 mile walk explores the rolling landscape he describes. We head first past Mount St John to the medieval settlement of Ravensthorpe Mill and the hill village of Boltby. The walk continues along the lower slopes of the Hambletons to Kirby Knowle before returning on field paths. I have also mapped a 4 mile alternative which heads directly to Boltby.
We start from the road junction in the village, close to the Carpenter's Arms and next to the prominent motte of an unrecorded early medieval castle (GR 467847). We then pass St. Felix parish church, once the mother church for the 8 little villages now included in the Hillside Parishes. It has a Norman chancel arch and two fine 13th century effigies thought to be those of Eva de Boltby and her son Sir John Walkyngham of Ravensthorpe manor house.
100 yards past the church go right on the Boltby road. This soon climbs past the Victorian lodge of Mount St. John. It is named for a former medieval Preceptory of the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem. In another 200 yards turn right through a gate on to a traffic free lane from which there are outstanding views of the Hambleton scarp and Whitestone Cliff and the tree topped Hood Hill away to the right. The lane descends past Cinque Cliff Wood to a junction.
Go ahead here and straight on in 100 yards along the lane to Greendale Farm. Gurtof Beck is crossed close to the 18th century Ravensthorpe Mill. In another 100 yards we pass Tang Hall, opposite which is the moated site of Ravensthorpe manor house. Continue for a further 300 yards to Greendale farm sheltering under Little Moor at the foot of the Hambleton escarpment.
Just before the farm buildings go left through two gates, following a bridleway for a short steep climb through trees. Continue ahead at a junction down a hollow way, a sign that this is an ancient right of way. Once you leave the wood there is an outstanding view of the valley of the Lunshaw Beck and Boltby with its medieval ridge and furrow fields, testimony to the Norse who settled here more than a thousand years ago and gave the village its name. The bridleway soon becomes a hedged lane and fords the beck (footbridge) to reach the village.
Turn left down the village street and past the Victorian church. At the end of the houses, by Gurtof House, the main walk turns right on a bridleway. If you wish to reduce the walk by some 2 miles, then continue along the lane and field path to Felixkirk, described (in reverse) at the end of the article.
The main walk from Gurtof House follows the bridleway, turning left after about 150 yards. Keeping a high bank on the right for about 300 yards it then goes right to the stables of the 18th century Ravensthorpe Manor. A few yards to the right of the buildings the bridleway bears right, through a gate before climbing up one field to enter Westow Plantation. There's a welcome seat here, good for picnicking and for admiring the stunning views along the Hambletons and out on to the Vale of York.
From here the way is well marked through shady woods and, beyond a right hand turn, affords more glorious vistas, this time westwards across the Vale of Mowbray to the Pennines. This is followed by a descent across a bracken covered hillside, with the dome of Knowle Hill away on the left. There are then two fields to cross before Kirby Knowle. The church, built in 1873, is worth a visit with the remains of a medieval cross in front of the porch.
A choice of three routes back to Felixkirk follows. The first is on the quiet lane, left, some 100 yards beyond the church. This should be used after heavy rain as there are two unbridged streams on the other two.
The second is to continue past the church on the lane to Upsall. In some 300 yards, and after crossing Beechpath Beck, go left over a stile. The path keeps close to the beck but at present has one obstacle - a 5 bar, 4ft high fence recently [NB, written in 2017] inserted across the right of way about 300 yards from the lane. I climbed over it with difficulty. Only those agile walkers determined not to allow public rights of way to be blocked in this manner should attempt it.
The third return route to Felixkirk is to continue along the lane to Upsall past the drive to the three storey, dramatically sited New Building, a misnomer as it was built on earlier foundations by James Danby in the mid 17th century. In another 150 yards go left on a path which crosses three fields to join the more direct path just before the unbridged crossing of Beechpath Beck. On the other side are the scant ruins of Turton Beckstead.
The well signed path now follows the high bank and deep ditch of the Paled Dike. This marks the boundary of the medieval hunting park of Upsall Castle, the bank once being surmounted by paling to prevent the deer from escaping. The park itself stretched away to the right for almost a mile down to the present day Park House Lodge and Farm.
Along this stretch the bridgeless Eller Beck must be crossed, an easy stride in normal conditions. Felixkirk is another quarter mile beyond the next, nameless, but bridged beck.
The shorter, 4 mile walk from Felixkirk:
This shorter walk omits Cinque Cliff, Tang Hall and Boltby and is a good introduction to the exquisite landscape of this little explored part of the national park.
Leave Felixkirk by the Boltby road (as above) and in about 250 yards, where the road bends right, go half left via a stile and head across two fields, staying some 150 yards below the trees which run along the hill top on the right. The target is another stile, 300 yards in the distance, high up in front of trees and giving access back on to the Boltby road.
Turn left and follow the road. Some 200 yards past West Acre Lodge and just before Boltby's houses, turn left on a path which climbs through trees and leads to the stable at Ravensthorpe Manor to join the longer route (see above).