The lower Wharfe valley is full of delights for the walker and it is so convenient in these short days of winter.
It is just the location, in fact, to pop out for a few hours’ exercise, finishing, perhaps, with a late pub lunch – and there are two good hostelries on hand to fit that particular bill in Kirkby Overblow.
The village is well situated on the northern ridge of Lower Wharfedale looking out across the broad valley to the wooded slopes around Harewood. It is as pretty as a picture, hewn out of weathered stone, and the perfect setting for a country walk.
Kirkby Overblow was recorded in the Domesday Book survey of 1086 as Chirchebi - the village with a church - when it formed part of the extensive Yorkshire estates of the Percy family, now Dukes of Northumberland.
The second part of the village name, Overblow, is more unusual and relates to the ore blowers who worked their forges here in the early Middle Ages when large ironstone deposits were found in the area. A major iron-smelting operation was established upon Kirkby Overblow, but it had ceased by the 1390s
The proud and stately All Saints’ Church is early medieval, but retains a link with the Saxon church which occupied this site before the Norman conquest - a blocked-up doorway in the north wall.
The will of Henry Percy, who died in 1362, provides for a chantry priest at Kirkby Overblow to say daily masses for “the repose of the souls” of Henry and his wife who were interred at the family seat, Alnwick Castle, Northumberland.
Inside the church, just right of the door, is a tomb slab from the 15th century commemorating William Plumpton, a member of an important local family, at one time bailiffs to the Percys of Spofforth Castle, who became Lords of the Manor of Plumpton, near Wetherby. His coat of arms bears the bar sinister, indicating he was illegitimate.
The church also contains a memorial to Sir William Codrington, a remarkable soldier who, with no previous military experience, led a brigade to success in the Crimean war.
KIRKBY OVERBLOW and NETHERBY
5 miles: Allow 2 – 3 hours. Map: O/S Explorer 289 Leeds
Park by the roadside in Kirkby Overblow, the best place being in the road (Swindon Lane) near the church. From wherever you park, make your way to the road junction at The Star and Garter and take the road signposted Sicklinghall and Wetherby (Barrowby Lane).
Follow the road out of the village, keeping an eye on the traffic as the road is narrow. About 500 yards after leaving the village, a vehicle track opens up on your left with, near its start, a blue sign reading: Public bridleway only. Take this track, the unmade Marsh Lane.
After half a mile, with Lund Head Farm on your right, turn right along a vehicle track, past the farm, and follow it and the continuation access road (Lund Head Lane) out to the Kirkby Overblow-Sicklinghall road and turn left. After about 100 yards, turn right down Moor Lane through the tiny settlement of Barrowby.
This picturesque hamlet was important enough 900 years ago to receive a mention in Domesday Book. Like its bigger neighbour, Kirkby Overblow, the manor was held by the Percy barons, Lords of Spofforth, who later moved to their more extensive domains at Alnwick in Northumberland. In the reign of Elizabeth I, when her throne was threatened by Popish plots, the village’s big house, Barrowby Grange, was occupied by a Catholic family and was put under constant surveillance by local Protestants.
1: At bottom of hill, cross the Kearby road and go straight ahead, past Maustin Park caravan site, to where the road turns sharp left at the scattered community of Netherby and, here, turn RIGHT past a vehicle barrier.
After about 400 yards – stay alert! - spot a footbridge on your right with yellow arrow. Cross the footbridge into field and go a quarter left over the field towards a power pole, counting out 40 yards and then look to your left to pick out a farm building and turn left across the huge field (no path) towards the farm building with a line of power cables to your right.
As you approach the buildings at Swindon Farm, a footbridge pops into view in front of the farm. Cross the footbridge and go straight ahead along fence/hedge with farm to your right, go over a stile (gate open, on our visit) and then, when fence turns right, go ever-so-slightly left over field to a waymarked gate and stile.
Go through the gate, turn right into field corner and then turn left along hedge, soon curling right with the hedge to a marker post and turn left (arrow) along a vehicle track. On this section, look left to make out Harewood Castle nestling in the trees on Harewood Bank.
The castle was built in 1366 by Sir William de Aldburgh, a great northern statesman in the reign of Edward lll who was involved in the Scottish wars and the negotiations which followed. Aldburgh had married, in 1364, Elizabeth, heiress daughter of the-then owner of the Harewood Estate, John, Lord Lisle, one of the founders of the Order of the Garter in the reign of Edward III, who had died in 1354. The castle remained in occupation until the early 17th century.
This fine track eventually picks up a hedge on its right. After a couple of hundred yards, the vehicle track goes half left towards a pond which is just visible – STOP! Do not take this path. Instead, turn right over a rickety footbridge – take care! - and stile.
2: Go straight up middle of field on a vague path, passing to left of the telegraph pole ahead and then passing to right of a power pole and drop down to a prominent gateway in the hedge ahead. Pass through the gateway and onward along wire fence, pass to left of arrow at field end and continue up left side of the fence/hedge to enter a road (Spring Lane) at a detached house with Swindon Grange Farm just to your right.
Take the path opposite and go up side of hedge. Cross a stile at field end and press on by wire fence, down slope to a gate (arrow), pass through and go straight up middle of next field (no path; can be very muddy) towards the houses of Kirkby Overblow.
On crossing field, go over stile and straight on towards a wood. Descend to cross the Baffle Beck and continue up the fields with fence/hedge on your left. Pass through a collection of gates (on our visit) and onward by the fence to pass through two gates to enter Swindon Lane on the edge of Kirkby Overblow.
Turn right into the village to regain your vehicle.