Okay, you’ve had your summer – now we’re entering the long months of wet ground, muddy paths, leather boots and gaiters (sorry for sounding so cheerful!).
Despite the autumnal feel about the conditions, this is a lovely pastoral saunter through delightfully-green countryside on the northern fringe of Harrogate.
The starting point, Hampsthwaite, is one of the most attractive commuter villages in the area, lying snug as a bug in the lower Nidd valley and with a tree-shaded village green setting everything off to perfection. The waymarking is a special feature of this circuit, guiding the walker safely to journey’s end with little chance of putting a foot wrong.
Just north of Hampsthwaite’s village green, in an idyllic location, lies the Church of St Thomas a’Becket, founded in 1175 by William de Stuteville, Lord of Knaresborough, five years after Becket’s murder at Canterbury Cathedral. It is thought de Stuteville was making atonement for Becket’s brutal slaying, carried out by four knights, one of whom was Hugh de Moreville, de Stuteville’s brother-in-law.
Throughout the medieval period, Hampsthwaite played an important role in the affairs of the Forest of Knaresborough, being one of the administrative centres for the vast hunting chase, which was established by the early Plantagenet kings so they could enjoy the hunt while visiting their Royal castle at Knaresborough.
The village has links to several famous families, including that of Amy Woodforde-Finden (1860–1919) famed as the composer of Kashmiri Song from The Four Indian Love Lyrics, poems by Laurence Hope published in 1902. Her family lived in Hampsthwaite and Amy is buried at the local church with her marble memorial inside the building.
The family of the writer William Makepeace Thackeray also lived at Hampsthwaite. In the churchyard are to be found the last resting places of Leeds brewer Joshua Tetley and his wife Hannah.
HAMPSTHWAITE AND KILLINGHALL
6 ½ miles: Allow: 3 – 4 hours. Map: O/S Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale or Explorer 298 Nidderdale
Park by the roadside in the vicinity of the village green at the northern end of Hampsthwaite. From the village green, take the signposted path up the lefthand side of the primary school, beginning along a short tarred access lane and soon passing the pavilion for Hampsthwaite Cricket Club.
Go straight ahead, past the cricket field and onward along a strong path with beck on your right. Now stay alert! After about 400 yards, you will arrive at a fork in the path with a path coming in from your left across the fields – don’t miss this vital turn.
Here, take the RIGHT fork to cross an immediate footbridge and then bear left. Follow wall on your left into next field (gate leaning against wall) and press on by hedge to the field end and a square stone water trough (do not take the vehicle tracks going into field to your front right).
Go past the water trough, between gate posts, and into the trees ahead, over a stone bridge and straight ahead up right edge of field. At top of this huge field, go through kissing gate to right of metal gate and then go straight ahead – as per arrow on top of gatepost – crossing over a strong vehicle track and keep going over the grass ahead (no path) towards a large tree at a wall corner. Do NOT take the vehicle track going right up to the farm.
Pass between wall and tree and bear left, round the wall corner, to a metal gate ahead. Go past the attractive cottages at Myer’s Green and turn right along access road (ignore fingerpost on your left) for about 100 yards to the next path on your left at a gate with a tall hand post and footpath sign and with a stile built into the left side of the gate (most unusual!)
Go up middle of field (no path), aiming just right of obvious trees in mid field. On passing to right of the trees, go slightly right up the field, past a concrete cover and then a metal grate cover, to a gate with arrow and stone stile on its right.
Cross it and go up left edge of paddock and follow edge of paddocks rightwards, behind a trampoline (on our visit), to enter tarred house drive. Follow the drive and the continuing vehicle track to arrive at next properties and turn right and then left with the access track, past an open shed/barn on your right and stone cottage on your left, and follow this access track until just past the last property on your right (Croft House) and spot a fingerpost and stile on your left – don’t overshoot!
Cross the stile and go straight across field to a gate to right of power pole with new housing development to your right. Go through gate and straight on with wall on your left. Near end of field, follow its left edge into the cleared vegetation ahead (hawthorn hedge on your left) to gain a gap stile at old barn.
Pass through and turn right alongside the barn to a stile, cross it, turn left for 20 yards to a waymarked stile at end of barn, cross it and turn left, round barn corner, to gain the access drive at Springfield Farm. Turn right.
1: On emerging in road, turn right to enter Otley Road in Killinghall. Cross the road (primary school to your right) and turn right along pavement. Go past the end of Moor Close to end of the housing development on your right and turn left along a road (Grainbeck Lane).
Follow the lane to its end to the busy A61 Harrogate-Ripon road, cross with extreme caution and turn right along pavement and then first left along Knox Mill Lane to arrive in the ancient community of Knox at a 3-sided fingerpost with a stone house with arch to your left.
On your right is the 17th-century Spruisty Bridge spanning the Oak Beck. It was built to carry packhorse traffic on the route from Knaresborough to Ripley. It is claimed that Charles 1 crossed the bridge in 1646 when, as a prisoner, he was escorted from Ripon to London.
At the 3-sided fingerpost, turn left up a tarred access lane for 30 paces and then go up steps on your right. At top of steps, turn left along bottom edge of lawn to re-enter the tarred drive (The Gables nameplate to your right) and go straight across the drive into driveway of a property and, after a few yards, go up an enclosed path to your front right to the left of tall brown gates (arrow).
At end of this enclosed path, enter field and go up it slightly left (no path), over the brow with bungalows to your left. Continue to top lefthand corner of field with metal gate. On approaching gate in field corner, another gate appears on your right at a box-top footpath sign.
Turn right, past the box-top sign, and go straight up middle of field to a gate with Spruisty Hill Farm to your front right. Go through the gate, over gravel vehicle track, and straight ahead by fence to a walkers’ gate. Pass through, turn left for 15 paces and turn right through a walkers’ gate and go up wall on your right.
Cross a stile and turn left along farm access drive (arrow). At end of this lane, cross over another access lane to kissing gate opposite and go up left edge of field by hedge. Cross a stile at a telegraph pole and continue by hedge, over access drive (cattle grid) and through kissing gate ahead.
Now go down field by hedge on your right to arrive in access drive at properties – turn left to enter a street (Crofters Green) and go straight ahead to gain the A61. Cross with care and turn right along pavement for a couple of hundred yards to The Three Horseshoes and turn left along Otley Road, immediately crossing to righthand side of road at Cautley Drive.
2: Just past Cautley Drive, turn right at fingerpost down side of a property and then continue with cricket field on your left. On arriving in street with new houses to your left, go straight on along an enclosed path, pass through kissing gate and then continue on tarred path along edge of new homes, turning left.
You will arrive at a fork in the tarred path with temporary fencing blocking the lefthand path (on our visit) – take the RIGHT branch to a kissing gate, descend steps into Crag Lane and turn right.
After about 200 yards, turn left at fingerpost and go straight ahead by wall on your right. When wall finishes, keep straight on to link up with hedge on your right and, within a few yards, look out keenly for an arrow on fence on your right just before a large tree. Don’t miss this turn!
Cross the stile at arrow and go half left across the field (as arrow) to pass to left of a telegraph pole and continue in same line to gain the right end of a hedge surrounding a house where you will find a low wooden fence leading into a road.
Turn left through the tiny settlement of Crag Hill. About 400 yards beyond Crag Hill, with the access road sweeping left, spot a fingerpost on your right and a concrete track leading down to sewage works.
Go down the field in a line slightly right of fingerpost arm to gain corner of a tall hedge and then walk down the side of hedge/fence with sewage works on your right and then bear right into trees with the River Nidd below.
Turn left over stile and follow an enclosed path and stick with it as it eventually turns right into a wood to cross a footbridge. Turn left and follow this fine path back to Hampsthwaite, joining the outward leg in the latter stages. Go past the cricket pavilion to gain the village green.