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West Burton to Newbiggin, Thoralby & Aysgarth

In their book "The Yorkshire Dales" of 1963 Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby describe West Burton as 'one of the show villages of Wensleydale', the central attraction being the 'warm and friendly way' in which the houses encircle the spacious green.

Distance: 6.5 miles

Time: 4 hours

Grade: easy

Conditions: well signed field paths, many gated stiles

Refreshments: West Burton, Street Head, Thoralby, Aysgarth

OS Explorer Map OL30

Originally published: 20 May 2016

The old market cross of 1820 in the middle of the green (GR 017867) makes a suitable starting point for our 6 and a half mile walk  which passes through the villages of Newbiggin and Thoralby before heading for Aysgarth Falls. We then follow the Ure downstream to Hestholme Bridge before taking field paths along lower Bishopdale back to our starting point.

From the cross walk up the green leaving the Fox and Hounds on your right. Ignore the road to Walden and continue to the end of the houses at the top of the green. From here a path leads out on to the eastern slopes of Bishopdale. There are good views up the valley to the grey moors separating Wensleydale and Wharfedale. The path is easy to follow through a series of gated stiles. In half a mile, after passing a barn on the right, the right of way bears right to a distinctive V in the wall ahead, marking the next gate.

The path then descends gently to Ox Pasture Lane, once the old route up Bishopdale. Turn left along it into Newbiggin, a linear village of 17th and 18th century houses. Turn right at the first junction, leaving Newbiggin House, dated 1636 and 1924, on your left. The distinctive 18th century Street Head Inn stands out to the left as the lane drops to the B 6160.

Continue straight over past the former school and down to cross Bishopdale Beck where a dipper was busy when I passed by. Around the next corner is the 19th century Old Corn Mill. Follow the lane past the pinfold to the village street. Thoralby prospered in the 17th and 18th centuries and this is reflected in the many houses of that period which proudly carry their owners' initials. For example the George Inn was built in 1722. Opposite, MS created his house in 1704 whilst, a little further on the right IB built his dwelling in 1653.

We turn right at the green and follow the road to Aysgarth, leaving the large Warnford Court (built for the barrister James Willis in 1807) on the left. In another 100 yards turn right along the traffic free Eastfield Lane. As you stroll through the farmland of lower Bishopdale look out on the left for a series of lynchets. Caused by medieval ploughing methods they appear today as grassy terraces up to 200 yards long, mostly following the contours of the land.

The lane ends at Eshington Bridge over Bishopdale Beck. Here you could halve the walk by crossing the bridge and taking the first path on the right.This runs close to the beck before bearing left across the fields to the B 6160 and West Burton.

The main walk turns left just before the bridge and then immediately left on a path signed to Palmer Flatt. It climbs steeply and has extensive views back across Bishopdale to Penhill. Continue to the A 684 and cross straight over down the lane leading to St. Andrew's, the parish church of Aysgarth. It's well worth a visit for its beautiful carved woodwork, especially the early 15th century rood screen and bench ends, work of the Ripon school of carvers, which were saved from Jervaulx Abbey after the dissolution of the monasteries.

To visit High Force, the most spectacular of Aysgarth's three falls, you  should continue along the lane past the west end of the church and down steps to Yore Bridge, built in the 16th century and widened by John Carr of York in 1788. By the bridge is Yore Mill, now a cafe, built in 1854 both to grind corn and make woollen cloth.

From the falls return up the steps and take the path past the south door of the church. This then leaves the churchyard and, after passing through a little wood, descends across fields. There are good views of the 30ft drop of Middle Force away on the left before the path reaches the riverbank close to Low Force, usually a torrent of peaty foam. A stretch of tranquil waters follows before the path diverges across fields to Hestholme Bridge on the A 684.

Cross the bridge and in some 30 yards turn right on a path which crosses one field to Edgley on the B 6160. Turn right past the houses and in a few yards go left on a path which passes to the left of Sorresykes, a large mainly early 19th century house. Up on the hillside are three little early 20th century follies, in a line, locally called the rocket ship, gateway and pepper pot.

The right of way continues across a farm track leading from the house up on to a terrace. From here the path is easy to follow across fields to Morpeth Gate, a walled lane which, for centuries, was the main packhorse route along the south side of Wensleydale. We join it at a point where it has descended from the limestone terrace below Penhill. It is shown on Jefferys' large scale atlas of Yorkshire of 1771 as continuing up Bishopdale  and into Wharfedale.

We follow it, right, past the Georgian Flanders Hall with its handsome blue painted late 18th century coach house complete with dovecot. In another 100 yards the old road crosses Burton packhorse bridge over Walden Beck. Turn left and follow the beckside lane into West Burton. As you enter the green it is worth a short diversion to the left past the old corn mill to the Cauldron Falls. From 1913 to 1948 the beck generated electricity for the village.


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