−−− BY LINZI DAVIES −−−
May is the national month of walking, and right here in Yorkshire we are truly spoilt for choice. From Dales to windswept moors, craggy cliffs to urban parkland, there are sights to behold all around us as we stride out in the fresh air, boosting both our physical and mental health. Travelling alone, with family or as part of an organised walk, it truly is good for the soul.
In this month’s feature, we take a look at some wonderful walks which offer the best of Yorkshire. Mark, an avid walker and true Yorkshireman who has recently returned to his home county after living abroad, shares with us some walks he has enjoyed with local walking groups as a way to reconnect with his homeland and make new friends. For those who prefer a shorter walk or need a more accessible route for wheelchairs and pushchairs, have a look at our parks and riverside walk suggestions!
MARK’S TOP PICKS
ROBIN HOOD’S BAY – CIRCULAR
8-MILE WALK – MODERATE
This was the first walk I joined, organised by the Northern Hiking Friends group. It was led by experienced walkers Julie and George and was a breath of sea air.
We parked at the long stay car park £6.00 for the day at the top of the hill in Robin Hood’s Bay which is a town steeped in history of fishing and intriguing smugglers alleyways.
The walk was timed for when the tide was out which you need to keep in mind, as it begins along the beach, a mixture of sand and rock pools which are always fun. There is some erosion taking place so stay away from the cliffs. There are a couple of water falls along the way if you fancy a shower!
As you approach Ravenscar Head, there are seals with young pups, which was lovely to see. Seal watch volunteers helped you past them and guide you to the path up to the Ravenscar Hotel which is a long steep climb with a mix of steps and walkways. The hotel provides lunches and refreshments if you prefer this to a pack up, along with toilets that by now are needed by most. The views from here are stunning in all directions.
Setting back, a well signposted route takes you along the cliffs – part of the section of the Cleveland Way with the view of the town in the distance. The path winds its way along the cliffs until you descend to Bogle Hole YHA and then back up to the cliffs as the tide was in now, before completing the walk. A refreshing well-earned drink back in the town was enjoyed by all before the hike back up the hill to the car park. The end of a most enjoyable walk and day out!
FARNDALE DAFFODIL WALK – 5-MILE CIRCULAR ROUTE – EASY
The drive from Selby through Hutton Le Hole and down into Farndale was fantastic itself! For this walk, parking is £1.50 via an honesty box. There is also an information trailer hosted by the North Yorkshire Moors National Park which is very helpful with lots of free brochures.
This walk was also arranged through Northern Hiking Friends, led by George. The walk starts on a well-travelled gravel path alongside a meandering stream with thousands of golden daffodils lining the banks. Of course, the daffodils gave the walk its name, and they are a temporary feature, appearing annually to brighten up the landscape, but the scenery is more than pleasant without them. There were also sheep and their lambs looking on as we passed by.
Part way along is a little cafe for refreshment. Having resisted the temptation, we continued on a country road to the Faversham Arms. Food and drinks including tea and coffee was served. After lunch we continued along the road and up the hill before turning onto a country path across fields that had stiles to cross. The scenery was beautiful with hills on both sides of the valley.
The path then crosses through a farm before circling back down to the start point. A lovely little walk lasting about 3 hours at a leisurely pace before a nice drive back past Castle Howard.
COLNE VALLEY – 10-MILE CIRCULAR WALK – MODERATE
This walk was organised by The Leeds Walking Meetup Group and sets off from the National Trust car park in Marsden before heading through the town and an old disused mill to Butterley reservoir. Here the ascent starts up more steps than the famous ones at Whitby! The path continues up before levelling off with stunning views across the valley. It heads east before descending into Slaithwaite for lunch.
Now the walk takes you back up the other side of the valley and around Hilltop reservoir. You traverse along a woodland trail, farm tracks, a road, and cobblestones before reaching Slaithwaite Moor. Again, there is a major contrast as you walk across heather moors with fantastic views back across the valley to Butterley reservoir with Marsden town below. The descent back into Marsden takes you down a rocky and sometimes boggy track back into town for much needed refreshments. On this walk sheep, cows, alpacas, poultry, ducks, dogs, ponies, and horses can all be seen, so definitely a hit with animal lovers!
HARLOW CARR – 6-MILE ROUTE – EASY
I joined Leisurely Walks Around Yorkshire for this easy stroll one weekend. Meeting in the RHS car park, we set off to Beckwithshaw and on to Shaw Green. Then Hill Top Lane, Harrogate Ringway, Beckwith Head and back to Harlow Carr.
The walk takes you along roadways before making a turn across some pleasant green fields that bring you out behind some sports fields and a church opposite the Smiths Arms.
The route then takes you down more country lanes and farm tracks. The path then takes you over several stiles which can be quite muddy in places. A very gentle hill takes you up to where there are stunning views across to Almscliffe Crag.
The well signposted path takes you down some wooded snicketts, across open fields and country lanes before returning to the starting point, where you can spend several hours looking around the Royal Horticultural Society gardens or simply round the day off with a cup of tea. This walk is ideal for those who are just beginning distance walking, as it is really enjoyable without being too taxing.
PARKS AND GARDENS
YORKSHIRE MUSEUM GARDENS – YORK – ACCESSIBLE
The ten-acre botanical Museum Gardens, around the Yorkshire Museum, stretch from the River Ouse up to the back of York Art Gallery, and from Marygate on one side to Museum Street on the other. The gardens are a popular picnic spot.
They were planted in the 1830s, when the Yorkshire Philosophical Society opened the museum.
The gardens are a listed Botanical Garden and contain many varieties of trees, deciduous and evergreen, native and exotic and were laid out to show off the buildings and plant specimens as they were introduced.
There is also plenty of historical buildings to see in the park, including the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, St Leonard’s Hospital, and a Roman Fortress, as well as York Observatories – the oldest working observatory in Yorkshire!
There is easy access with mostly level paths for you to amble around. The gardens are open daily, but times vary throughout the year, so please check York City Council website before visiting.
VALLEY GARDENS – HARROGATE – ACCESSIBLE
The Valley Gardens, Harrogate, is a 17-acre English Heritage Grade II Listed Garden in regal Low Harrogate, next to the Pinewoods woodlands.
It includes beautiful historic buildings, including the Magnesia Well Pump Rooms, the Sun Pavilion, and the Sun Colonnade, which sit alongside a wide variety of shrub, flower, and herbaceous beds.
Take a leisurely stroll around the paths to see the beautiful borders, many of which have been re-designed by award winning gardener Paul Hervey-Brookes to improve biodiversity and natural habitats for wildlife. To keep the kids entertained, there is also a children’s playground, skatepark and a seasonal paddling pool.
OTLEY CHEVIN FOREST PARK – LEEDS – PARTIALLY ACCESSIBLE
The forest park overlooks the market town of Otley and is a designated nature reserve
The park’s north-facing cliff, or escarpment, rises steeply to a height of 280m above sea level and offers magnificent views of the Wharfe Valley. In recognition of its wealth of wildlife, including the Green Hairstreak Butterfly and the Woodcock, the whole park was designated as a Local Nature Reserve in 1989.
A walk around Otley Chevin Forest Park will take you through woodland, heathland, and meadowland, with rocky outcrops and amazing views, and wildlife in abundance. Orienteering routes are available via www.chevinforest.co.uk
There are several car parks available, and for disabled access, park at Surprise View which is wheelchair accessible and offers stunning views across miles of Yorkshire! There is also the White House Café for refreshments which has an accessible toilet and changing place.
SELBY PARK – ACCESSIBLE
Selby Park is situated in the centre of Selby and is open year-round. Covering five acres, a stroll around the park takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre shops to enjoy the wide variety of decorative planting, with the stunning Selby Abbey as a backdrop! There is a bowls green, a play area for children and a picnic area, meaning you can enjoy the park at a leisurely rate. The paths are paved and level making it easily accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
TEMPLE NEWSAM – LEEDS – ACCESSIBLE
A visit to the Temple Newsam estate set around the Tudor-Jacobean house with grounds landscaped by Capability Brown, offers 1500 acres of land to walk around including three beautiful lakes, a walled garden, woodland and farmland. A mixture of paved and gravel paths, with gentle slopes or steeper inclines combined with less travelled woodland trails mean you can choose a peaceful stroll or a more challenging expedition.
In the middle to the end of this month the vast amount of rhododendrons in bloom produce a stunning array of colours that are truly wonderful to see. There is also a working farm housing rare breeds, children’s playground, Go Ape and courtyard cafe.
RIVERS AND CANALS
Riverside and canal towpaths also offer some of the best walks in our county. Traditionally a way to get from A-B, they are now the perfect place to stroll along and see nature at its best, including water life from ducks to vole and even river otters if you are lucky! River and canal walks often provide a natural haven in the middle of urban living. Try The Five Rise Locks in Bingley – a 2.1 mile easygoing route which takes in the incredible engineering of five locks, The Aire and Calder Navigation between Leeds and Wakefield – up to 10 miles for the circular walk starting at Thwaite Mills which heads past St Aiden’s RSPB reserve, York riverside walk stretching from Ouse Bridge to Lendal Bridge which offers an alternative way to view the city architecture, and plenty of pubs to enjoy en-route, or Boroughbridge Canal Walk – an easy 6 mile walk along the River Ure and Ripon Canal which passes by Newby Hall.
As Mark has discovered, there are plenty of walking groups to join who regularly organise walks around Yorkshire, long and short, challenging and easy. These groups are very welcoming, and you can book on any walk which suits you. They are a great way to socialise and meet new people, and often offer a wealth of knowledge on the area in which you are exploring. Many of these are to be found on the website www.meetup.com which is a platform to expand your social life by joining groups which align with your leisure interests from walking to crafting, cinema, meals out and much more.
Whether you walk with a group, your family and friends or alone, get out into the great outdoors, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy some of the most stunning scenery and landscapes in the world. What a lucky bunch we are to live in such a beautiful and diverse county – there is certainly nowhere like Yorkshire!