Start point: YO30 1DB
Distance: 3 miles circular or 8 miles linear (ending in York)
Terrain: Paths, some overgrown in summer, very muddy in winter
Last week I had the privilege of taking a Sunday Telegraph journalist and photographer for a walk around Beningbrough Hall. It always amazes me how many people in York aren't aware of what a gem we have right on our doorstep.
Beningbrough Hall is a National Trust property. Surrounding the hall is a stunning 3-mile loop walk and as it's outside the grounds of the Hall itself, you don't need to pay to walk it. You can park in Newton-on-Ouse and follow the footpath signs as you head toward the river. Or you can park at the opposite entrance at a small carpark that asks for a donation to the Air Ambulance. Option three is to park outside Home Farm, a lovely farm shop and cafe, as long as you return as a customer after your walk (an excellent idea by the way as it have fabulous cakes.)
Simply follow the path along the river, getting glimpses of the Hall as you go. Roughly half-way along the loop you will find a secret beach and wild swimming spot. On hot sunny days, it is an idyllic setting. You can even catch a ferry on the weekends over to Nun Monkton, where after a short stroll, you will find a pub - The Alice Hawthorn.
You continue the loop, depending where you started from and then follow the track around the back of the estate, through woods for a section before ending up back where you started. You can't really get lost and you can vary the loop direction. There is also a pub - The Dawnay Arms - in Newton-on-Ouse if you started out there and want to have a drink in a beer garden that goes down to the river.
But if you're after a slightly longer walk, you can walk directly from the centre of York to Beningbrough or vice versa. A group of Glamoraks recently did exactly this. We started at Beningbrough (you will need to be dropped off as it's a one-way walk unless you fancy doing 16 miles there and back).
Start at the little carpark outside the entrance (not the Newton on Ouse side) as indicated in the image below:
Follow the footpath that runs alongside the woods, heading towards the river. When you reach a gate, go through it and instead of following the path ahead (the loop walk mentioned above), turn to your left. There will be an indistinct footpath that leads to a raised path alongside the river. Now you simply follow that, keeping the river on your right all the way. You will go past a row of houses at the village of Beningbrough and a few more as you near Overton. Poppleton will start to be seen on the opposite bank. As you go underneath the railway bridge, you will have a bit of an overgrown path to navigate before crossing a small footbridge. Just after the bridge, your path will intercept the cycle path (route 65). Turn right onto the cycle path and follow it.
It will curve away from the river along a row of pretty houses. Just after the houses, turn right still sticking to the cycle path. If you go straight you will hit the A19 (you don't want to do that). Keep following the path underneath the A1237 and keep going. You will pass the York Ings (flood plains) and eventually will start to get into the built up city centre. The path ends at Museum Gardens, where you will be spoilt for choice with places to get a cold drink. The Star Inn the City has a lovely outdoor terrace overlooking the river, for a cold pint of something reviving after a hot summer's walk. There are no places to stop for a drink or food on the way so do take water and snacks with you. I also recommend long trousers in summer as the path can be overgrown with nettles in places.
Alternatively, walk the other way going York to Beningbrough - just as simple. The only place you could go wrong is to miss the path that goes off to the left of the cycle route. You'll spot it as there is a bench on the side of the path at that point When you get to Beningbrough, enjoy a fine lunch or afternoon tea at Home Farm.
This is one my regular walks and it's a great one. Just be careful of the Giant's Hogweed that grows in some parts along the route. You don't want to touch it. It causes dark painful blisters that form within 48 hours, and result in scars that can last anywhere from a few months to six years. Touching giant hogweed can also cause long-term sunlight sensitivity, and blindness if sap gets into a person's eye. It looks like this:
Here's the piece that the Sunday Telegraph did on the walk:
Distance: 9-10 miles
Difficulty: Easy to moderate (it's all flat but if you aren't used to walking 10 miles, may find it tiring!)
Type of terrain: dirt paths, grassy paths, pavement, some mud
Starting point: Stamford Bridge public car park, Viking Road, YO41 1AG
Before I get onto the walk, I want to give you a short history lesson. Stick with me. It really is interesting.
If I said the words: Stamford Bridge to the average English person, they would automatically assume I was referring to the Chelsea Football Club Stadium. But another Stamford Bridge played a far greater role in the future of Britain (and it involves slightly fewer overpaid prima donnas - but only just).
Stamford Bridge is a village five miles to the East of York, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. But this small village was the site of a battle that genuinely changed the entire future of England. Yes really. I'm not a historian but here's my understanding of what happened back in September 1066.
King Harold Godwinson had taken over the throne after Edward the Confessor died but there was a bit of a family argument about whether that was the right choice. His brother Tostig felt he should have got the job. Harold was having none of it, took away Tostig's title of Earl of Northumbria and had him exiled. That annoyed Tostig so he teemed up with the King of Norway, Harald Hardrada, who felt he too had a right to wear the English crown. When Harold (the English, not Harald the Norwegian) heard about this, he marched his army up from the South. 185 miles in just 4 days. Now anyone who has done a multi-day hike knows that is pretty impressive. I did the Coast to Coast which is 192 miles, in two weeks! And my feet hurt doing that!
Anyway, Harold and his foot-sore troops arrived at the place that is now Stamford Bridge. King Harold himself went over to Tostig and Harald and said that he was willing to give Tostig his title back. When he was asked what he'd give to the Norwegian king, Harold suggested "Seven feet of English ground, as he is taller than other men." That didn't go down too well. And so the fighting kicked off. By all accounts a single Norse giant impeded the path of the oncoming English soldiers, waving a scary looking Dane axe around. But then some plucky English chap got in a barrel and drifted under a bridge and poked a spear up into the Norseman (one can only guess where) which ended his axe wielding career and indeed life. The Englishmen went on to win the battle.
Just when Harold thought he could haul out the compeed plasters, and have a nice pork pie and a pint, he heard that some upstart French chap called William was heading over from Normandy. So poor Harold and his jolly tired soldiers had to walk all the way back down to Hastings in East Sussex and face another battle, averaging about 27 miles a day. They probably didn't have fancy walking shoes either. Frankly, despite picking up some reinforcements en route, they had had quite enough walking and fighting - understandably. And they lost that battle. William got the middle name The and last name Conqueror, and he went on to change the future of British history, with the year 1066 forever etched in school children's collective psyches.
So that is how a little village in Yorkshire came to play such a big part in English history. You're welcome.
Today you can enjoy a lovely 10-mile circular walk from Stamford Bridge without fear of being attacked by a viking. The walk starts in the free village car park just over the stone road bridge. There are many different routes you can take but I will describe the walk we did.
Leave the car park and turn right into a housing estate. Turn right again and follow the road through the estate to a T-junction. Turn right again and in about 100m you come to the old railway station on your right hand side. Turn right onto a resurfaced track-bed, passing between the platforms and the old station. This is the old railway line that goes over a viaduct. It is now route 66 of the National Cycle Network.
You walk along the top of the viaduct and then simply follow the cycle path. Besides a few short, noisy stretches that run alongside the busy A166, you soon find yourself walking through woodland and farmland, past a number of idyllic farm houses. This is a smooth and easy path, suitable for buggies (but not all of the walk is.)
When you reach a junction that says turn right to follow the cycle path or go straight, you can do either. If you go straight, you will cut about a mile off your walk. If you want that extra mile, follow the cycle path behind a farm house, through fields off rape until you get to another junction. Where the cycle path veers off to the right, you take the left hand path running alongside Hagg Wood.
When you reach a farm house with a clear farm track that looks like the obvious path to take, don't take it. Instead follow the public footpath sign towards a small copse of trees, skirting the edge of the farm house, before getting back onto a farm road.
You will come to another junction with a track that joins the road you're on from the left. Keep walking straight along your track (that other path is the short cut you could have taken earlier). At the corner of Millfield Wood, turn left and walk through a beautiful sun-dappled forest for a short time, before taking a right hand footpath towards Kexby.
Once you reach the busy A1079 in Kexby, turn left, follow the road until just before the bridge goes over the river. Look for a slightly hidden footpath sign to your left and drop down to the riverbank. Now simply follow the river across many fields all the way back to Stamford Bridge. When you get to the village, there are a couple of pubs, delis and coffee shops to revive yourself.
An alternate route is to cross over the bridge in Kexby until you reach a footpath on the left but on the opposite side of the river. Follow that, then the road to Low Catton, which has a very good pub for lunch (by all accounts). From there you follow a footpath along the river back to Stamford Bridge again.
This is a great circular walk that has free parking, a good array of refreshment stops at the beginning or end (or in Low Catton if you do that walk) and a fabulous hit of history.
If you want to find other women to go walking with, join the Glamoraks community.
Distance: 11.8 miles (although I missed the last 0.8 as a friend picked me up for a coffee...)
Type: Urban to rural
Terrain: Riverside path, fields, some roads and some muddy bits
I am lucky enough to live just outside the York City Walls. The downside about living in the city though, is that I typically have to get in my car to drive to some countryside for my walks. But I recently discovered that the Centenary Way starts right outside the York Minster, a mere five minutes walk from my house.
The Centenary Way was created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the York County Council and was opened in 1989. It runs from York to Filey on the North Yorkshire coast, spanning 83 miles. Besides the Minster and Sheriff Hutton Castle, both of which are in this first part of the walk, it also includes the Howardian Hills and Yorkshire Wolds, letting you see Castle Howard and the abandoned medieval village of Wharram Percy. It links up the Foss Way, Yorkshire Wolds Way and Cleveland Way.
I confess that I was unsure of what to expect. Some of York's residential areas aren't exactly uplifting for the soul. I didn't really fancy an urban walk, but I headed out from the Minster after being pelted by a snow storm. The forecast was strong winds and they weren't wrong. The walk around the Minster is one I know well, starting from the Southern transept, heading down Chapter House Street and the haunted Treasurers House, before going along Ogleforth (so named as Vikings found owls living along a river there - I've been told - ogle meaning owl.) You pass beneath Monk Bar, one of the ancient city gates, cross busy Lord Mayor's Walk and then head down a little lane past a not very attractive car park. This is what I feared.
But that experience was short lived. I quickly found myself walking through the Groves, a residential area with a pretty snickelway running through it. Before long I popped out on Huntingdon road and got to walk along the Foss River.
I am amazed at how quickly you felt as though you weren't in a city anymore. Yes there were houses lining each side of the path, the Foss can be a bit grotty in places and the Nestle Factory is hardly a rural idyll (although the chocolate fragrance wafting overhead was lovely), but it was a peaceful, tree-lined river walk.
All the way from New Earswick to the outer ring road, the river was lined with houses that were lucky enough to have gardens with water frontage. Again, I wasn't aware that all these properties existed. There was so much green space and I was still in the city!
After walking along the river for a good distance, I finally ducked under the outer ring road where it immediately felt more rural despite walking past Earswick, another suburban village. The wild weather kept coming - intense sun one minute, rain, sleet and bitter winds the next. I eventually diverted from the river briefly to head through Haxby and along Towthorpe Road. This was probably the least fun bit as it meant walking on the grass verge alongside the road, with cars rushing by.
But it didn't last long and I headed off across fields once again in the direction of Strensall. I picked up the river again until at last I reached Strensall bridge. This would be a good place to stop if you didn't want too long a walk (about 8 or 9 miles). And there is a pub - The Ship Inn - in Strensall should you need some lunch. And there is a bus that runs back into York right past the pub.
However, I kept on going, following the river for another good long stretch. It's here you can tell that it used to be a canal and according to the guide, also has some Roman remains somewhere along the way. I was too busy dodging the mud to notice, as the path had suddenly turned into a bog.
As I reached an old metal footbridge, I had to veer away from the river, through a wood, across and field and past a farm. By now my feet were starting to hurt. I headed into the pretty village of West Illing and saw that there was just 3/4 of a mile left to Sheriff Hutton. However, I'd arranged for a friend to meet me for a coffee so she scooped me up and we drove that last bit. When a latte and chocolate brownie call, walks end abruptly!
There is a lovely coffee shop in Sheriff Hutton, so it's worth walking there for a spot of lunch or afternoon tea. There is a bus that runs from the village back to York, but it's infrequent so you may need to get a friend to pick you up or call a taxi.
All in all it was a lovely, a very surprising walk that took me from a busy city centre to peaceful, rural countryside, right from my doorstep. If you haven't explored it yet, give it a try.
You can download the entire Centenary Way route for free here
Why not join the Glamoraks community and meet other women to go walking with?