Walking in Yorkshire: You might just keep your feet dry on this circuit

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This little adventure has a big advantage over many undertaken by this column through a wet and dreary winter – it follows quiet country back roads and farm access tracks for great distances, thus avoiding mud, flood, bog and whatever else an English winter can throw at you.

In its latter stages, it makes good use of permissive paths through the Ripley Castle Estate, a fine gesture by the estate, opening up acres of countryside otherwise out of bounds to ramblers.

The Ripley Estate has flourished in the care of one family for nearly 700 years. The Ingilbys - who claim descent from Robert de Engelby who fought in the army of the Conqueror at Hastings in 1066 - took up the reins at Ripley in 1320 when Thomas Ingilby married Edeline Thweng, who had inherited the estate from her father.

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Thomas, regarded as the founder of the Ingilby fortunes, had spent his childhood on the family’s estates around Stokesley in North Yorkshire. The family is remembered in those parts by such villages as Ingleby Greenhow and Ingleby Arncliffe.

Thomas’s stroke of good fortune came in 1355 while hunting in Haverah Park in the Forest of Knaresborough with his king, Edward lll. When the king was threatened by a wounded and enraged wild boar, Thomas saved the day and was knighted on the spot. Shortly afterwards, in 1357, further favours came his way when he was granted a Royal charter for a weekly market and for an annual fair, thus ensuring prosperity for Ripley.

Ripley Castle, now well known as a setting for weddings and other functions, was built by the Ingilbys as a replacement for the Thwengs’ medieval manor house. The oldest part of the castle, the gatehouse, dates from 1450 and the tower and battlements from 1555.

Ripley itself was rebuilt in the 1820s by Sir William Amcotts Ingilby on the lines of a village he had seen while travelling through Alsace-Lorraine. On returning from his Continental travels, Sir William knocked down Ripley’s dilapidated thatched cottages and rebuilt in stone.

RIPLEY AND NIDD

4 ¾ miles: Allow 2 ½ – 3 hours. Map: O/S Explorer 299 Ripon and Boroughbridge

Use the free car park (toilets) on your left on entering Ripley from the direction of Harrogate. Exit the village end of car park into road and walk straight through middle of Ripley, passing the Boar’s Head on your left and the crenellated Hotel de Ville on your right.

The Hotel de Ville was built in 1854 as part of the remodelling of Ripley by Sir William Amcotts Ingilby who based it upon a building he had seen in Alsace-Lorraine on his mid-19th-century Continental tour.

Just past the Hotel de Ville, go off left along a minor access road, through a gate (open) and out to the B6165 Ripley-Pateley bridge road, turn right along footway until within 50 yards of roundabout on the A61 Ripon road and turn left across the B6165.

Now turn right along grass verge to roundabout and sweep left, soon picking up a footway by side of A61. Follow the footway to its end opposite the minor road to Nidd (Nidd Lane). Cross the A61 with care and go down Nidd Lane, a traffic-free saunter which marks the start of one-and-a-half miles of pleasant country-road walking, devoid of mud and other hassles.

After half a mile, at T-junction on edge of Nidd, turn left along road signposted Brearton and Knaresborough – although, first, you may wish to turn right for 150 yards to visit the lovely Victorian church (built on the site of a much older church which was demolished in 1865) and to take a look at the hamlet and the hall (which can be seen behind the churchyard).

Nidd is one of only two or three places in the Harrogate area to bear a Celtic name - Nidd derives from nith, the British word for brilliant or shining and is thought to refer to the River Nidd, the shining river. Nidd was an important centre of Christianity in the days of the 7th-century Bishop of Ripon, St Wilfrid, whose seat was less than five miles away.

The Venerable Bede wrote about a great church council, attended by Wilfrid, which took place at Nidd in about 705AD. Between Wilfrid’s death in 709 and the Conquest in 1066, Nidd became part of the domains of the Archbishops of York and it remained so in the carve-up of England by the new Norman king, William.

The manor passed through many hands until Tudor times when it was acquired by the Trappes who stayed for 300 years. The Trappes built an Elizabethan hall on the site of the original medieval manor house and thrived until the Civil War when they supported the king and, as a consequence, lost their estates. On the restoration of the monarchy, their lands were returned.

In 1825, crippled by debt, the Trappes sold the Nidd estate to a wealthy Bradford wool merchant, Benjamin Rawson, who promptly pulled down their house and built the present Nidd Hall. On Rawson’s death in 1844, the estate passed to his two unmarried daughters, Mary and Elizabeth.

Mary died in 1863 but Elizabeth continued to live at Nidd Hall and became a great local benefactor; she rebuilt Nidd church in 1866 at a cost of £2,626. On her death in 1890, aged 95, the hall and estate passed to her great-nephew, the 14th Viscount Mountgarret.

In 1966, the 17th viscount inherited, but had to dispose of the hall – but not the estate – due to a crippling tax bill on his father’s death. He moved to nearby Stainley House. Nidd Hall is now a well-known hotel.

So, turn left along the Brearton road, soon passing Vicarage House, the former vicarage which gives some indication of how members of the clergy lived up until fairly recent times. After about 700 yards, turn left along a minor road (Green Lane, but no nameplate), which is signposted Ripon.

1: Follow this for a short half mile to emerge in the A61, cross with great care to the road signs opposite, go up the short banking and turn left along a grass path. After 150 yards, turn right (fingerpost) along a vehicle track.

The track passes a small copse on your right after about 400 yards. Continue on the deep vehicle tracks for about 150 yards and then turn left, with the hedge, to continue on tractor tracks which soon become a vehicle track for a short distance.

Pass under power cables at a line of pylons and follow left edge of field – stay alert! – for a few yards only until level with pylon to your right and, here, turn LEFT through a metal gate (open, on our visit) past a fallen gate post.

Continue by hedge on your left. At field end, go through bridle gate into tarred access drive at Cayton Grange – a former monastic farm of Fountains Abbey – and turn left, past the properties, and continue along the tarred access lane, ignoring a track on your right with a permissive footpath sign reading: Towards Cayton Gill Farm.

2: Go past a sign “pheasants crossing” and stride out through this delightful corner of the Ripley Estate to spot a house (Newton Hall) up to your left. You will arrive at cattle grid across the road – STOP!

Cross the stile to right of cattle grid on to a permissive path and go forward 10 paces, over next stile with an orange (permissive) arrow and go slightly right across the field (no path), gradually descending, to gain the left end of the wood on your right.

On gaining corner of wood, go half right to find a footbridge over the Newton Beck. Cross it with care – it is like a bar of soap in the wet! – and then ignore arrow pointing straight up the field. Instead, turn left along the beck for 40 yards and then go half right across the huge field (no path), over the brow, to gain the far field corner where there is a stile (yellow tape).

Cross the stile and go slightly left over the final field (no path) to gain the B6165 at a large green road sign, a walkers’ gate and fingerpost. Cross the B6165, turn right for 50 yards and then turn left into Ripley and walk through