Now a most attractive village in the valley of the Hartforth Beck, Gilling West was in Saxon times a place of great importance, being the centre for the administration of justice in the huge wapontake of the same name.
King Oswin , king of Deira, was murdered here by his rival Oswy in 651 and there are Saxon carved stones inside the parish church of St. Agatha. There you will also find a fine 16th century grave slab with the effigies of Sir William Boynton and his wife. One of our greatest seamen, Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock, rests here too; his exploits, chronicled in stone in great detail, from the Sudan and China to Mexico and Chile, where he lost his life at the Battle of Cape Coronel, make fascinating reading if you have the time.
Distance: 8 miles
Time: 5 hours
Conditions: clearly signed paths, muddy after rain
Refreshments: Gilling West
OS Explorer Map 304
Originally published: 22 January 2010
Our 8 mile woodland and hill walk starts here, (GR 183052). Take the tarred path through the churchyard and then turn half left across two fields to Waters Lane. Turn right along the lane past Mill and Acres Farms to the 17th century Crabtree House. Beyond the farm the path crosses one field to Jagger Lane where go left.
Thomas Jeffreys' map of Yorkshire of 1771 marks this as a major route and it was to remain so well into the 19th century. It was once busy with packhorses led by their jaggers, carrying lead from the mines in Swaledale. The lane can be traced northwards across country to ports on the Tees from which return journeys were made with coal and salt.
Today it is a green track, little used, but rewarding to explore on foot. After a gate it climbs as a hollow way which cuts across a green slope to enter Gilling Wood where it becomes steeper before emerging on the road from Richmond to Ravensworth.
Go straight over. Now the lane runs parallel to Black Plantation where, if you are lucky, you may observe cadets being trained in the most strenuous of arboreal acrobatics. After passing through two gates there are hints of original cobbling and even paving laid down to overcome the boggy conditions.
A mile from the road, at a crossing of routes, turn left off Jagger Lane and drop down to Coalsgarth Gate, an ideal picnic spot at the head of the remote valley of Coalsgarth. There are kilns on the left which once produced lime for treating the local fields.
Just beyond a ford over Aske Beck go left through a wall stile on to a green lane which threads the valley. There are more kilns to look out for away on the right. In some 300 yards do not go left down to the tree-girt High Coalsgarth Farm, but instead pass through a gate on the right and continue over the fields ahead on the still recognisable green lane.
In another 400 yards, and after another gate, the path leaves the valley by climbing a bank. It then follows the field side to enter what Jefferys mapped as a Horse Course. Racing lasted here from the 17th century until 1891 when the steep curves became too dangerous for the new breeds of swifter horses. Today it makes a wonderful outdoor arena for Richmond with spectacular views across the vale of Mowbray to the Hambleton Hills.
Head to the right of the sorry ruins of the grandstand built in 1775 by the eminent York Architect, John Carr. A sad notice of 1991 indicates that restoration is being considered when funds allow. Go beyond to the tiny Judge's Box, dated 1814, "WS Goodburn Esq,, Mayor", which is in better condition. From here bear left down the length of the racecourse, savouring the views with every step.
At the far end either go through a white gate and then left for 200 yards along the road towards Ravensworth, or bear left at the end of the racetrack to a stile giving access through a wall on to the same road. On the other side of the road take the path which runs past Pippin Barn and then across Richmond Golf Course. The path is well signed and will bring you to the club house.
Head to within a few yards of a large building at the end of the car park and turn sharp left down to a tiny pool. Caution is then needed as the path crosses the 13th green to a cast iron kissing gate,
From here the going is straightforward, across two fields and then through Low Wood to recross Aske Beck. It emerges from the trees into the park of Aske Hall, ancestral home of the Marquess of Zetland. The park was created by 'Capability Brown' and has a man-made lake with an elegant little temple.
Our well marked path joins the drive to the hall and bears to the right of the handsome gate piers at the entrance to the inner garden. It then passes in front of the house with its striking 15th century pele tower. The wings were added some 300 years later.
Beyond the house is the impressive stable block by John Carr, recently sensitively converted into a business centre. If you look back from here you should spot what every 18th century estate had to have - a folly. This one, an eye catcher called Olliver Ducket, appears as a ruined tower on the far skyline.
Just beyond the stables the right of way takes to the fields over a stile on the left, converging gradually with the Richmond to Gilling road, the B 6274. The road is joined some 200 yards from the village.