This circuit feels a bit special – there is an ambience about it which just strikes the perfect note.
All you need to make the day complete is wall-to-wall sunshine, so good luck with that one. The journey over the wild, open expanse of Sawdon Heights – right on the southern boundary of the North York Moors National Park - puts a real spring in your step; it certainly sent us home with a buzz.
As a bonus, this outing has probably the best finish of any in the long history of this column – a downhill, daydreaming jaunt of nearly two miles along an ancient track known as Wood Gate Way. If only all walks could end so enjoyably!
Brompton-by-Sawdon lies astride the busy A170 Helmsley-Scarborough road, but once you enter the back streets, away from the bustle of the traffic, all is peace and tranquillity amid a sea of mellow-stone cottages.
The village has two major claims to fame – this was the home of Sir George Caley, the “Father of Aviation” who conducted the first fixed-wing flights in a glider on his Brompton estate in the mid-19th century, and it is also the place where the poet William Wordsworth married local girl Mary Hutchinson at All Saints’ Church in 1802.
The Caleys were a landed family from Norfolk who arrived in Yorkshire in the 1500s and purchased the Brompton Estate in 1634. By 1690, they had acquired practically every property in the village. William Caley was knighted in 1641 and awarded a baronetcy in 1661 for his services to the Royalist cause during the Civil War.
The most famous member of this dynasty was the 6th baronet, Sir George Caley, MP for Scarborough from 1832-1835, an engineer and prolific inventor who developed a passenger-carrying flying machine – a type of fixed-wing glider – which successfully flew over the fields of his estate in 1853 with his coachman at the controls. On surviving the flight, the coachman promptly resigned declaring: “I signed up to drive coaches, not fly.”
In 1953, Sir Kenelm Caley, the 10th baronet, who had seven daughters but no son, sold the Brompton Estate and, in 1957, he sold his home, Brompton Hall, which became a school. Sir Kenelm died in 1967, aged 71, and the title passed to a second cousin. Members of Sir Kenelm’s family still live in the Brompton area.
PARKING: On arriving in the centre of Brompton-by-Sawdon via the A170 from the direction of Pickering, turn right down Caley Lane and park by the roadside or in the vicinity of the Village Hall which is on the left opposite Church Lane.
7 ½ miles: Allow 3 – 4 hours. Map: O/S OL 27 North York Moors Eastern area
Start out along Caley Lane in a southerly direction – away from the A170 – past the Old Butcher’s Shop, soon sweeping left to cross a quaint bridge spanning an old mill race and immediately turn right along the side of the water.
After a couple of hundred yards, at a bench and litter bin, step into the road on your left at a sign for The Butts – an ancient area of common land – and continue along the lefthand road, past a road sign (3T).
Away to your right is All Saints’ Church, dating in its earliest part from the 14th century, where William Wordsworth and his bride, Mary Hutchinson, were married on October 4, 1802. Mary was living with her brother, John, at his farm, Gallows Hill, half a mile east of Brompton along the line of the present-day A170. The bride and groom walked the half mile to church attended by John Hutchinson and other members of the bride’s family. A copy of the marriage certificate is on show at the church.
Press on to leave the village, passing Butts Cottage on your left, and soon sweeping left with 17th-century Low Hall to your right.
Follow this quiet country road – Brompton Carr Lane – for a mile with a ditch to your right and passing North Lodge Farm after half a mile and then Jasmine Park caravan site. Just beyond Jasmine Park, at cross roads, turn right up towards Snainton. On fringe of village, turn left along Green Lane.
Go past Stables Court on your right and Willowgarth on your left and, within a few yards, turn right at box-top sign, through an old wooden gate, and go up left edge of field. After about 300 yards – stay alert! - when level with a wooden barn on your left, spot the old wooden kissing gate just to right of barn.
1: Take this path which emerges in a parking area at a riding centre – go straight ahead to enter a street in the middle of Snainton and turn right to the A170.
The Domesday Book village of Snainton is renowned for its rare Knights Templar Hall, one of only a few surviving in the country, which is situated just south of the community at Foulbridge, on the banks of the River Derwent, where the Templars operated a fee-paying ferry. The Templars had been granted lands around Snainton in the late 12th century.
The village church of St Stephen, looking rather austere, is a rebuild of 1836 following a disastrous fire in 1834. The intricately-carved stone arch from the doorway of the original Norman building was re-erected at the entrance to the new church and can be seen from this walk.
Just north of the village, in a delightful wooded setting, is Wydale Hall, built in the 18th century for the Caleys of Brompton. It was sold to the Illingworth family in the early 1900s, used as a hospital during the First World War and then, in 1952, transferred to the Diocese of York for use as a Christian conference centre.
Cross the A170 with care and turn left along pavement, past the village store and church – note the Norman-carved arch - and, soon, turn right up Cliff Lane at the village pinfold which dates from about 1700 and which was used to impound stray stock.
Cliff Lane comes as a nasty shock after the flat lands encountered so far. Take your time! After a 300-yard flog, the angle relents and there is a bench on which to catch your breath. Press on for a short half mile to emerge in Nettledale Lane at Vale View Farm and turn left, past The Pheasantry, and continue to a large white house (Mile Bush Farm) and turn right (box-top sign half hidden in hedge) up the house gravel drive and go through the gate straight ahead.
Now begins a very satisfactory interlude, full of delights, over Sawdon Heights – enjoy it! A lovely track leads to a metal gate on edge of a wood (blue arrow). Pass through and take the mouth-watering cart track through tiny, unknown Wy Dale, soon passing a notice telling of a great flood in 1910 when the dale was filled with a raging torrent after a cloud burst.
2: Climb the slope, bear right and onward to arrive in a cross path at three box-top signs – take the path straight ahead through an open gateway. Follow this fine path by a wall to a gate at field end and continue on a splendid vehicle track to the next metal gate (feeder).
Plough on to the farm in the distance (Cote Head). Go straight through farm on the main track, passing to left of a huge barn and past hay bags on crest of track. Go past a stone house on your right to exit premises.
Continue for a short half mile to a bungalow protected by a tall hedge on your left at a cross track and turn RIGHT. This is the unmade Wood Gate – also known as Wood Gate Way – and it offers a scintillating downhill finish of nearly two miles. If only all walks finished this way!
At end of Wood Gate, enter the road (Sawdon Lane) and go straight ahead using the grass verge into Brompton and continue to the A170. Turn right along pavement until just before The Caley Arms and turn left, across the road, and go down Caley Lane to regain your vehicle.