In his 'Fair North Riding' AJ Brown describes Kirby Knowle as "a lovely little village nestling under the hills and surrounded by superb scenery". It remains so today to the bewilderment of the visitors who, as I was starting out on this walk, asked me directions to the nearest shops and seemed most put out when told they were some 8 miles distant.
Distance: 9 miles
Time: 5 hours
Grade: easy with two short climbs
Conditions: well signed bridleways and field paths
Refreshments: High Paradise, Boltby village hall
OS Explorer Map: OL26
Originally published: 3 July 2015
This 9 mile route climbs on to the wooded slopes of the Hambletons to reach the old Drove Road. It then follows this prehistoric track south before turning past the two Paradise farms down into the valley of the Lunshaw Beck. The return is made through Boltby.
We start from Kirby Knowle's parish church (GR 468872) built in 1873. Walk up the road to the junction in the centre of the village and turn left, following the quiet Ingdale Lane towards Cowesby. It's well wooded rolling country and there are glimpses across the fields down on to the Vale of Mowbray.
After less than a mile Brickshed Cottage is evidence of the good quality bricks once made here from a pocket of glacial clay. Turn right just beyond the cottage on a bridleway which was once used as a link between Thirsk and the drove road at Steeple Cross. The surface has recently been improved for cyclists and gives easy access for walkers through the extensive Boltby Forest on to the aptly named Windygill Ridge where there are good views back across the vale to the Pennines.
The steep climb ends at Seta Pike. We then follow the forest boundary fence over Haggitt Hill. The unusual name refers to the oaks which once grew here. Today you would be hard pressed to find them amongst the conifers. However look out for the Bronze Age tumulus lying just over the fence in the heather of Cowesby Moor. In some 200 yards the stony path leaves the boundary fence. Ignore a path to the left to a gate in the fence and instead bear to the right, following the bridleway signs for another half mile to the drove road at Steeple Cross.
Only a short stump remains of the cross, on a little mound to the left. We turn right here, down the old trackway. From prehistoric times down to its present use as part of the Cleveland Way Hambleton Street or Road has been a major north-south ridge route. Its heyday was in the 18th and early 19th centuries when thousands of cattle and sheep were driven annually from Scotland and the borders to southern markets.
Attracted by the lack of tolls and the level surface of turf the drovers averaged between 10 and 14 miles each day. Only the coming of the railways and the invention of refrigeration in the 19th century brough an end to the road's commercial usefulness. Today it is increasingly popular with walkers, cyclists and and horse riders.
Heading south Hambleton Street continues for a short distance along the edge of Boltby Forest but then emerges across Dale Town Common which was protected from the cattle by a sturdy limestone wall. In another 300 yards we leave it on a track on the right to High Paradise Farm with its outstanding views south along the Hambleton escarpment. Farming here at over 1,000ft does have disadvantages though, for the growing season is at least a fortnight behind the farms below. High Paradise has a welcome tearoom once more, open every day in the season except Wednesdays.
The walk continues down the Cleveland Way along the farm's access track. In 200 yards leave the Way by turning right down the tarred track which then curves left past two cottages before making a final right turn to Low Paradise Farm overlooking the valley of the Lunshaw Beck and the distant Vale of York.
The right of way crosses the farm's front garden and then drops steeply to a stone slab bridge over the beck. Turn left along the beckside for some 300 yards before bearing right to a prominent gate giving access to a small plantation. After crossing a forest track it then climbs gently to the edge of the trees.
The path then bears right following a line of mature hawthorns close to the edge of the field whilst keeping Lunshaw House Farm in sight away to the right. Beyond a stile keep to the high ground and beware of rabbit holes as you follow a narrow path which heads for a distant stile in the fence on the right at the end of what is a long hillside field. Here you join the track from Lunshaw House and follow it down for 100 yards to the lane from Hawnby to Boltby, 300 yards to the right.
Boltby "clings to the very fringe of the Hambletons". Most of its houses are built of well dressed local sandstone, one of the earliest being Merry Hall of 1679 close to the pretty hump bridge which spans Gurtof Beck. The village hall provides a welcome 'self service' refreshment stop and a display of local history.
The walk now follows the edge of an outlier ridge of the Hambletons, a delightful 2 mile section over pastureland and through ancient woodland. Some 100 steps beyond the tiny church of 1859 turn right on a bridleway keeping West Gurtof Farm on the left. In another 200 yards turn left. The well used right of way (now part of the Paradise cycle route) climbs parallel to an earth bank rabbit warren before following the left side of the next field around towards the barns of the modern Ravensthorpe Manor. It then climbs across a field to the right of the buildings to enter dense woodland where there's a welcome seat with panoramic views to the south.
From here the path contours around Birk Bank before descending into pastureland. The steep slopes of Knowle Hill on the left signal the end of the walk.