This is just about the gentlest, most sedate circuit you could encounter, ideal fare for all the family on a sunny Sunday afternoon. So get everyone togged up and hit the trail for a wonderful breath of fresh air.
Spofforth was one of 86 lordships in Yorkshire awarded to William de Percy for his services to the king, William of Normandy, after the Conquest of 1066. In fact, Spofforth became the first permanent Percy home on these shores and remained the family seat for some 300 years.
William de Percy’s first building on the site was a fortified manor house which gradually became more castle-like down the years, eventually being crenellated in 1307.
However, only two years later, in 1309, Henry Percy bought the manor of Alnwick in Northumberland and, over the years, this began to supersede Spofforth in both size and importance, eventually becoming the favoured family residence, as it remains to this day.
The Percys played a high-profile role in national affairs throughout the Middle Ages and were created Earls of Northumberland in 1377 and, later, Dukes. Perhaps the most famous of the clan was the warrior Harry Percy - Shakespeare’s celebrated Hotspur - who is believed to have been born at Spofforth in 1367; he died in rebellion against his king, Henry lV, in 1413.
Spofforth Castle was last used as a home in 1604. However, it was still habitable some 40 years later when it was occupied by the Royalists during the Civil War. Cromwell laid siege and reduced it to a ruin. The castle is now in the care of English Heritage and could be visited (free) at the end of this walk.
SPOFFORTH and the CRIMPLE BECK
4 ½ miles: Allow 2 - 3 hours. Map: O/S Explorer 289 Leeds
Park in Castle Street in the centre of Spofforth in the vicinity of Spofforth Castle (layby) or at the red-brick Memorial Hall a few yards to the left (nearer Wetherby) when facing the castle.
Start out along Castle Street in a south-easterly direction – towards Wetherby – passing the Memorial Hall on your right and then turning first left along Church Lane to the imposing parish church of All Saints.
The church looks ancient but was, in fact, rebuilt in 1855 in the Norman style to replace the original medieval structure, although the impressive tower survives from the 1400s. Also surviving from the earlier Norman church are the decorated chancel arch and the north and south arcades of the interior.
In a niche in the chancel is the stone effigy of Sir Robert de Plompton of nearby Plompton (or Plumpton) who died in 1323. It is the earliest effigy in Yorkshire to show a bascinet, a close-fitting helmet with chain-mail neck guard. Sir Robert, an old soldier of the Welsh and Scottish wars, was married to Lucy, daughter of Sir William Roos, of Ingmanthorpe, near Wetherby.
The road builder John Metcalfe – the famous Blind Jack of Knaresborough – is buried in the churchyard. His grave is on the north side of the church, recognisable by its long epitaph.
Go past the church to enter the A661 Harrogate-Wetherby road, cross it and turn left along pavement. When pavement finishes, continue for a few yards – with great care! - over the road bridge spanning the Crimple Beck and then immediately cross to lefthand side of road to an old box-top footpath sign and turn left along the Crimple Beck.
Always hug the bank of the beck – do not walk in the field. Press on by the beck side to arrive at a stile which is by-passed to its left to enter a field – now continue as before by the side of the Crimple Beck, soon ignoring a footbridge on your left. Follow the beck on a delightful section of just over a mile with the scattered gritstone outcrops of the Spofforth pinnacles to your right.
1: At end of this long path, just before it enters the Follifoot road with a road bridge visible ahead – STOP! Do NOT enter the road. Instead, turn right, inside the field boundary, and continue along field edge, soon with wall and then Brown Hill Wood on your left.
Follow the field edge all the way to the A661 Harrogate – Wetherby road with the gritstone spires and towers of Plumpton Rocks popping into view ahead. On emerging in A661, turn right through a parking area and then – with care! - cross the road and continue along the wide grass verge. Do NOT step into the busy road.
After 150 yards, turn left along the access road to Plumpton Rocks, past red phone box, and go up the slope to approach two stone gate houses either side of the access road. Just before gate houses, turn right along another access road for 70 yards and then turn right (arrow on your left) along an access track across front of cottages.
At end of cottages, as track turns left, go straight on to a garage with a grey door and another arrow. Pass to right of garage, go over stile and half right down the field on a green path, aiming for left edge of a wood.
On arriving at the A661, cross with care and take the path opposite and go straight ahead down right edge of field. Enter the next field and turn left along hedge with the Spofforth pinnacles to your right. Press on to pass the green barns at Braham Hall and then pass a fence corner with arrow.
Braham takes its name from a Dark Age Saxon settler, Brahha – here is Brahha’s homestead. Braham was held by the Saxon lord, Gamelbar, in 1066, but the Conqueror stripped him of many of his estates and gave Braham – and his other properties at Spofforth and Plumpton – to William de Percy.
2: Follow the wooden fence on your left to a stile and then go straight ahead, as per arrow (no path), passing to right of a telegraph pole ahead. Descend the field straight ahead aiming for a gritstone outcrop and pass to its left to spot a stile ahead. Cross the stile and go slightly right to waymark on telegraph pole in middle of field and continue in line of arrow, passing to right of pond, to gain the fence/hedge. Turn LEFT along it.
Follow the fence/hedge to a metal gate, pass through (arrows) and follow fence on your right, over a stile and onward by fence, over three more stiles, with Crosper Farm up to your left. On entering the field after passing Crosper Farm, look out for a stile in the fence on your right (yellow tape), cross it and a stone-slab bridge and turn left along field edge.
At field end, turn right along field edge to gain the outward path at the Crimple Beck. Turn left over stile and then, after 70/80 yards, turn right over footbridge and then turn left.
On entering a minor road (Mill Lane), go straight ahead to enter Clive Road, turn left for 10 yards and then turn right along Beech Lane to arrive at Castle Street and the finish.