Walking: Quick march for a military encounter

Passing one of the watch towers at Eden Camp, Malton.
Passing one of the watch towers at Eden Camp, Malton.
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Once the environs of Old Malton and the outskirts of adjoining Malton have been left behind – the distance is a mile, so have patience!

This route enters the green agricultural heritage of Ryedale where a network of rustic country lanes and stout bridleways leads unerringly back to base with no chance of putting a foot wrong. Easy as pie!

The centrepiece of Old Malton – and well worth a few minutes of your time at journey’s end – is the startlingly-white-stoned St Mary’s Priory Church which rests on the site of a Gilbertine priory founded about 1150 by Eustace FitzJohn, a celebrated warrior, and lord of several manors in the area.

The impressive church you see today took shape from the remnants of the original priory church which was partially destroyed – with the rest of the priory - at the Dissolution in 1538. The original priory church was two-thirds bigger than the present building.

The priory, in its heyday, stretched some 100 yards to the south and to the east to the banks of the River Derwent and the trained eye can still make out the lines of some of the monastic buildings. The only other priory building to survive, Abbey House, lies behind the church between it and the Derwent.

The Gilbertines were unusual in that they were the only monastic order to originate in this country, spreading from their base in Lincolnshire where Gilbert, the parish priest of Sempringham, started a small convent in the first half of the 12th century.

The churchyard adjoining St Mary’s is the last resting place of Malton lawyer Charles Smithson, described as Charles Dickens’s best friend. Dickens often visited the Malton area to stay with Smithson at Easthorpe Hall, three miles west of the town on the edge of the Castle Howard estate. Easthorpe Hall was said to be the place the author “loved more than any spot in England”.

In 1843, Smithson moved into Abbey House at the priory at Old Malton but, tragically, died the following year aged just 39. Dickens did not forget his friend - Smithson lives on as Mr Spenlow of Spenlow and Dorkins in David Copperfield.

This circuit, in its final stages, encounters Eden Camp, a popular military museum dedicated to World War ll and sited in a former prisoner-of-war camp built in 1942. The museum provides a fascinating insight into those dark days between 1939 and 1945 – pop in for a couple of hours before finishing the walk if you wish, but you would be far better devoting most of a day to it.

THE WALK

OLD MALTON and EDEN CAMP

6 ½ miles. Allow 2 ½ – 3 ½ hours. Map: OS Explorer 300 Howardian Hills

Park in the main street (B1257) in Old Malton in the vicinity of the Wentworth Arms or park in Westgate, the road running up the side of the pub (signpost: Rainbow Equine Hospital).

Start out along Westgate and follow it out of the village when it becomes a single-track road, Westgate Lane. On arriving at a horse paddock and old stables on your right at a line of pylons – equine unit ahead – go off left along hedge on a green path, re-enter the road and turn left past the Rainbow Equine Hospital.

Soon, sweep left with the road and follow it all the way to enter a housing estate on the edge of Malton and go straight ahead (Rainbow Lane), passing playground on your left and allotments on your right.

On arriving at crossroads (Peasey Hills Road), turn right along Pasture Lane. Press on, soon passing a new housing development on your right. About 50 yards beyond the new development, turn right (substation) along an unmade lane (Outgang Road) to – at last! - leave town life behind. This lane is tarred in places. Follow Outgang Road over the A64 Malton bypass.

1: Continue along the lane to pass a house on your right to gain an immediate fork (three old box-top signs) and go straight on along vehicle track to the next fork and turn right along a vehicle track (Ryton Style Road).

Follow it to its end to a T-junction of vehicle tracks and turn left along the unmade Borough Mere Lane. Continue for about 400 yards to arrive at a stubby footpath sign on your left and, here, turn right along a tarred country lane (Great Sike Road). Go past Windmill Farm and onward.

At end of lane, turn left along a minor road (Edenhouse Road) – or use the wide grass verge. Go past Eden House and Eden Farm and continue to a wood on either side of the road and, here, turn right at bridleway fingerpost into the wood (Markham Belt).

Walk through the wood to its end and go straight on between hedgerows, then turn right for a few paces and then turn left and right again to continue between hedgerows.

2: Follow the fine track to its end to arrive in the A169 Malton-Pickering road and turn right along the grass verge. Do not walk in this busy road.

After 300 yards of purgatory, turn right along the road for Ryton and Eden Camp, soon turning left into the entry road for the Eden Camp museum (if you are ahead of schedule, you could break off here for an enjoyable couple of hours; cafe, toilets).

Twenty yards after turning into the camp entry road – at a green sign reading: No parking; free parking inside etc – turn right along a minor lane along the edge of the camp, passing watch towers and car park.

Follow this vehicle track (Freehold Lane) to its end to a T-junction of tracks and turn left – part of the outward leg – and keep going straight ahead, eventually sweeping right to cross the A64 to re-enter Westgate Lane of the outward leg.

Follow Westgate Lane straight ahead to Old Malton and the finish.

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