The flatlands of the Vale of Mowbray do not have the dense network of paths found in the national parks but nevertheless there are some enjoyable routes which can be devised.
Distance: 8 miles Snape-Bedale buses, (not Sundays), would halve the distance
Time: 4 hours
Conditions: good, firm walking any time of year
Refreshments: Snape, Bedale
OS Explorer Map 302
Originally published: 24 December 2008
This 8 mile walk explores the gently rolling, well wooded farmland to the south of Bedale. We start from Snape Castle at the west end of Snape village , (GR 263844). There was a castle of the Fitz Ranulphs and the Nevilles here from the mid 13th century. Catherine Parr was the chatelaine in the 1530s before she became the sixth wife of Henry VIII. What we see today however is mostly the striking semi-ruined Elizabethan hall built for Thomas Cecil. The chapel, now a chapel of ease and open to the public, is well worth a visit for its Dutch panelling and stained glass.
From the chapel walk into the village which is built on both sides of a long, narrow green. Go down the right side to the far end and continue along Ings Lane past the primary school.
At the end of the houses turn left on to a path along Bogs Lane before skirting a small plantation. Our route then heads along the side of the next field to a line of trees where two gates give access into the parkland of Thorpe Perrow. The right of way goes straight across the park to Holbeck Lodge. As you cross look away to the left where there's a distant view of the handsome Thorpe Perrow Hall of 1800.
We follow the drive beyond the lodge. Some 100 paces after crossing Hol Beck look out for a path through the trees on the left. This leads across one field to the lane running through Firby. If you wish to glimpse the restored exterior of the early 17th century Christ's Hospital, the hamlet's oldest building, then make a diversion some 200 yards down the lane to the left. Otherwise turn right.
The lane crosses Firby Beck. At the road junction in this quiet backwater of stately houses go left and in another 100 yards turn right on a path which soon enters a small wood. When you emerge from the trees head for a large oak after which the right of way is easy to follow across open farmland to a new kissing gate on the edge of a housing estate.
Take a path to the right here across one more field. It then continues as a tarred path through the houses to join South End, (B 6285). Turn left for Bedale's spacious cobbled market place.
There are some good Georgian houses on its gentle curve and, at the top end, the parish church, with its monuments chronicling Bedale's long history, presides over the town. On the other side of the road is the early Georgian Bedale Hall.
To pursue other facets of the town's fascinating history return from the church down the market place to the stepped cross and turn left down narrow Emgate to a road junction by the bridge over Bedale Beck. Cross the road but not the bridge and follow the path along the beckside. On the opposite bank is the Leech House, a little castellated building once used for the storage of leeches by the local apothecary.
In another 150 yards we come to a weir and below it the Harbour, a basin built in 1768 as part of a project to canalise the beck to provide navigation to the Swale and from there to the Ouse, a distance of 20 miles. Although a couple of locks were constructed on the Swale it is doubtful if any boat ever reached the harbour. Had this happened Bedale would have become the northernmost point on the country's extensive and interconnected navigable waterways system.
Our walk continues downstream for another 50 yards before turning right up some concrete steps into Brookside Avenue. Go left up to the main road and turn left again. We follow the B 6285 for less than half a mile and there's a footpath or grass verge for most of the way.
At the first layby turn right on to Lord's Lane, a byway which provides easy walking for over half a mile. Continue beyond the barrier at Lord's Moor Farm on a firm farm track. The landscape today is one of fertile fields punctuated by mature stands of trees. In 1771, however, when Jefferys published his large scale map of Yorkshire, this was mainly undrained land and away to the left stretched the extensive marshy lake known as Snape Mires. In fact Snape itself means boggy pasture and there are still many names on the OS map which attest to the area's watery origins.
Our track soon bears right. After a second barrier follow the track for some 200 yards before going left over a stile with concrete steps in front of a line of conifers.. The path runs beside the trees and then along the edge of a wood called The Reeds. It then enters Rough Plantation where for a short stretch you will pass through a most attractive stand of 8' high feathery reeds, survivors of the swamplands of the past.
Shortly after leaving the wood you come to Ings Lane where turn rightfor an easy stroll back to Snape.