Walking: We love the Wolds – and here’s why

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Here is another cracking circuit in the Yorkshire Wolds, made all the more enjoyable by the friendliness of the terrain, the excellent waymarking, the lack of obstructions and impediments of any kind and the sheer joy of being in this very special part of our great county. Yep – we love the Wolds!

An added bonus on this route is that 50 per cent of it is spent on traffic-free country lanes, thus avoiding the unpleasant mud of a wet winter. It means, also, that you can crack on at a decent pace with the mile-long descent down Londesborough Hill to the finish being taken at near-breakneck speed.

Londesborough’s past runs deep. It stands on the line of the Roman road linking Malton with Lincoln. Sections of the road were first uncovered in 1740 and again in 1865 when the Earl of Londesborough cleaned out the lakes on his estate.

Londesborough was owned by the Archbishops of York both before and after the Conquest of 1066. It then passed through the hands of some of the north’s greatest dynasties. The Cliffords, Earls of Cumberland, of Skipton Castle, held the estate from 1469 to 1643 when it passed to the Boyles, Earls of Cork and Burlington, who owned Londesborough from 1643 to 1753. Richard Boyle, 2nd Earl of Cork and 1st Earl of Burlington, gained Londesborough by marrying the Clifford heiress.

In the middle of the 18th century, the Londesborough estate passed from the Burlington earls in the female line to the Dukes of Devonshire. The 6th duke demolished the Cliffords’ decaying medieval hall in 1819 and replaced it in 1839 with a grand shooting lodge. He sold the estate in 1845 to George Hudson, the Railway King, for the astronomical sum at that time of £470,000.

Hudson was then building the York - Market Weighton railway and he needed to buy up as much land as possible to drive the line through, including Londesborough’s 12,000 acres. Hudson was at the height of his powers at this time, but the bubble was about to burst. He was ruined in 1849 in a scandal over the fraudulent operation of one of his railway companies.

The estate was then bought by Albert Denison, MP and diplomat, who created the present Londesborough Hall by enlarging and improving the Devonshires’ hunting lodge in the style of an Elizabethan country house. Denison, who was ennobled as Baron Londesborough in 1850, had an interesting background.

He was born Albert Conyngham, son of the Marchioness of Conyngham, mistress of George 1V. The marchioness’s father, a Leeds banker, owned numerous estates around Scarborough and these were inherited by the marchioness’s brother, William Denison, who left his wealth, estimated at £2m, to his nephew, Albert Conyngham, on condition that he change his name to Denison.

Lord Londesborough’s eldest son, William, MP for Beverley and Scarborough, was created 1st Earl of Londesborough in 1887. The title became extinct on the death of the 4th earl in 1937. Before that, however, in 1923, the Londesborough estate had been sold out of the family. It was inherited in 1935 by the Ashwin family who are still in residence.

THE WALK

LONDESBOROUGH and NUNBURNHOLME

7 miles: Allow 2½ – 3½ hours.

Map: O/SExplorer 294 Market Weighton

APPROACH and PARKING:

Take the A1079 from York to Shiptonthorpe, just before Market Weighton, and turn left at road sign for Londesborough. At village, turn right down the hill to Low Street and turn left to park – with consideration - near church.

THE WALK

Start out along Low Street in the direction from which you entered the village and, when level with the Low Street nameplate on your left, sweep right with the road (Wolds Way fingerpost) and go up the hill to crossroads and go straight ahead for Burnby (Wolds Way fingerpost).

Go past a bench and viewpoint with its pointer board showing destinations some 40-50 miles away across the Vale of York. Continue in fine style along the traffic-free byeway for just short of a mile to a T-junction and turn right for Warter.

After 100 yards, turn left (Wolds Way) to Partridge Hall. Enter the farmyard and turn left at the giant yellow arrow, between buildings, and then turn right at next big yellow arrow with Partridge Hall – a typical Wolds farmhouse - to your left.

* The farmer at Partridge Hall told me how a simple farmhouse, built about 1700, acquired its grand name. Many years ago, the owner of the estate, at the end of a successful day’s shooting, counted up the bag of partridges and declared it to be a local record. He promptly renamed the farm Partridge Hall.

Exit farm and press on along vehicle tracks with hedge on your right. Go through kissing gate and straight across field on tractor tracks aiming for right edge of a wood (Thorns Wood). Go through a kissing gate just before the wood and continue along left edge of field with wood on your left.

1: At end of this huge field, go through kissing gate and straight on, through bushes, and then continue with wire fence on your right and Nunburnholme appearing in the valley to your left.

On arriving at a fingerpost, turn left (Wolds Way) down the fields to Nunburnholme, crossing a footbridge over the Nunburnholme Beck.

Now go a quarter left (arrow) to an arrow on a fence post (hay barn to your right) to exit via access track into road and turn right through Nunburnholme, soon ignoring the Pocklington road coming in from your left - continue for Warter and Londesborough along Town Street.

l Nunburnholme owes its unwieldy name to a Benedictine priory of nuns established beyond the north-east corner of the community in about 1150. Until that time, the village was known simply as Brunham (Burnham) - the settlement by the stream. In the Domesday book survey of 1086 it was referred to as Brunham when Forne FitzSigulf held it from the king.

The old nunnery, St Mary’s Priory, was founded by the Merlay family, the 12th-century Lords of the Manor. Other illustrious families to own Nunburnholme include the Dacres, the Greystokes and the Howards, who sold the property to the 5th Duke of Devonshire in the mid-18th century.

In 1845, the 6th duke sold the manor – as he did Londesborough - to George Hudson, the Railway King. On Hudson’s fall from grace, Nunburnholme was purchased in 1850 by the 1st Baron Londesborough and, in 1875, it was sold yet again, this time to the Hull shipping magnate Charles Wilson, Liberal MP for that city.

Wilson was ennobled as the 1st Baron Nunburnholme in 1906, but died the following year and the estate management was taken over by his widow, Lady Nunburnholme, a niece of the Duke of Wellington and a formidable character who is said to have been responsible for closing the village hostelry, The Devonshire Arms.

The estate was purchased by the Vestey family in 1929 and then the Guinness Foundation in the 1950s. In the 1990s, it was bought by the Healey family of Hygena kitchens fame.

At end of village - at “No Through Road” sign - sweep right over a brick road bridge, passing village green with information board. Continue up the road, ignoring two vehicle tracks/access roads on your left at a white house. After another 50/60 yards, turn left along the road for Warter and North Dalton.

2: Follow this rural lane for three-quarters of a mile, eventually passing the brick-built Garforth Farm (but no nameplate!) on your left, to arrive, within another 200 yards, at a broken fingerpost and a riders’ gate with blue arrow on your right.

Take this broad vehicle track on to Nunburnholme Wold. At top of slope, when almost level with a wood to your left, the vehicle track sweeps left – sweep left with it (do not go straight ahead into Deep Dale).

Climb up to the wood (Merebalk Plantation) and pass up its left edge. At end of wood, turn right, still on vehicle track, through the trees. The vehicle track leads all the way through the wood. At end of wood, just past a marker post with blue arrows and yellow plates, turn right to an immediate fork and take the LEFT branch with hedge on your left.

After about 200 yards, turn left through a bridle gate and follow vehicle tracks up to a radio mast. Go past the mast to enter a road at Nunburnholme Wold Farm and turn right, over the summit of Nunburnholme Wold, to crossroads and turn left.

Now hare down the road – Londesborough Hill – for a mile. The views over the Vale of York are extensive and magnificent. On arriving at crossroads on edge of Londesborough, turn left into the village and retrace your steps to the church and finish.

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