This walk is a Christmas treat in a favourite corner of the Yorkshire Dales

Oh, you lucky people!

Saturday, 22nd December 2018, 06:00 am
Across the fields between Burnsall and Thorpe.

What a cracker this is for walking off all that excess food and booze of a slothful Christmas. Walks don’t come much more enjoyable than this. Here we are, right in honeypot land, one of the most mouth-watering sections of Wharfedale - how could you resist it for a family festive treat?

The going is mouth-wateringly gorgeous with outstanding views at every turn and with easy-to-follow paths, good waymarking and barely a hill in sight.

Hebden, a lovely oasis of peace and quiet – and with a cracking tea room - has been around for more than a thousand years since its founding by the Saxons who named their settlement after the wild rosehips which grew here in abundance. The name Hebden derives from the Old English heope (the wild rose) and the Old English denu (a dene or valley) – the valley of the wild roses or rose hips.

Domesday Book of 1086 informs us that Hebden’s pre-conquest holder, a Saxon called Dringel, was usurped after 1066 in favour of a powerful Norman baron, Osbern d’Arcis, lord of numerous manors in the Tadcaster area, including Thorpe Arch.

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Later, the great de Mowbray clan took possession of the estate and they sub-feud it in the mid-12th century to a local family of freemen who adopted the name of the village as their surname. The de Hebdens stayed for 400 years, residing in a fine manor house which survived until the early 1800s when it was pulled down.

Records of Fountains Abbey from the 13th century show that Simon de Hebden gave the monks “a grant of free passage” over his lands when they journeyed to the annual sheep shearing at their grange at Kilnsey, the abbey’s major holding in Wharfedale.


5 ½ miles: Allow 2 ½ – 3 ½ hours. Map: O/S OL 2 Yorkshire Dales Southern and Western areas.

Park by the roadside in the centre of Hebden just off the main B6265 in the minor road signposted Burnsall. Walk along the road away from the B6265, past the Old School Tea Room – can you resist? - and immediately turn left (fingerpost: Suspension Bridge etc). Go down the cobbled path, ignore footbridge on left at bottom of slope, and press on, over a stone stile, and onward to a trout farm.

You will now arrive in a vehicle track at a fork with a 4-sided fingerpost ahead. Take the left fork running above the fingerpost (the fingerpost is for Hartlington Raikes). Near top of slope – 50 yards before a gate – spot the stone-step stile in wall to your left.

Go half left up the grass to gain the stile, cross it, turn right through gap in wall (stile and fingerpost to left of gap) and then go half left across field (as per fingerpost) to Ranelands Farm with Burnsall Fell on right skyline.

Go through a waymarked gate into farmyard and bear right along the farm access road. Now stay alert! Go past a stone barn with fallen-in roof on your left to where the wall on your left ends and a wooden fence begins and cross the stile over the wooden fence.

Put your back against the stile and go half right across the field corner. There are two trees ahead - aim to the left of the lefthand tree. Descend a short grass banking to spot fingerpost in wall ahead.

Enter road (Burnsall Lane) and turn left.

Note: Although very quiet, care is needed on this single-track road because of vehicles approaching from behind, so keep an eye over your shoulder. Also, pay special attention to cyclists – we refer to them as “silent death” - who come up soundlessly from behind and rarely, if ever, ring their bells.

As you walk along this pleasant byway, Burnsall appears in the valley to your right. Follow the road for three-quarters of a mile – Burnsall Lane becomes Skuff Road – to arrive at T-junction and turn right, walking single file and facing traffic.

1: On arriving in the Burnsall-Appletreewick road, turn left through the tiny settlement of Hartlington. Go over road bridge spanning the Barben Beck and onward for about 200 yards to turn right (fingerpost: Dales Way) along the entry track to Woodhouse Farm.

Just before farm, turn right at fingerpost for Dales Way and Burnsall. No description is needed on this next section, one of the most popular paths in the whole of the Dales. It leads out to the road just before Burnsall Bridge. Cross the bridge into Burnsall (cafes, toilets at car park).

Burnsall is linked to the “Dick Whittington of the Dales”, Sir William Craven, who was born into a poor family at nearby Appletreewick in 1548 and who was packed off to London on the back of a cart at the age of 14 to start his apprenticeship with a London cloth merchant.

Craven rose to become Lord Mayor of London in 1610. Despite his lofty status, he never forgot his roots - he founded the grammar school at Burnsall in 1602 (it is sited just below St Wilfrid’s Church) and paid for the restoration of Burnsall Bridge in 1612. His son climbed higher up the aristocratic ladder when he was created Earl of Craven by Charles 1, a reward for marrying the king’s widowed sister, the Queen of Bohemia.

Go straight ahead, passing the Red Lion (on your right) on the Grassington road (B6160).

Turn right with the road and, after 20 yards, turn left at fingerpost for Thorpe along side of house. Enter field, cross it and the next one, go over a walled vehicle track and press on in a straight line over the fields, soon passing a huge barn complex on your right and following telegraph wires.

There is a fingerpost at the last stone-step stile – now follow wire fence on your left, under telegraph wires, to pass a small tree and continue by wall for 40 yards and turn left over stile. Go straight ahead, over brow of field, and then descend to a gated stile and a walled track (the unmade Badger Lane).

Take the path opposite and continue by wall and then follow the stout grassy track away from the wall and across the field. Notice the strip-lynchet ploughing patterns of the medieval farmers in the field to your front right.

2: Pass to right of a large tree and bear slightly left over the meadow – all obvious. Go through gated stile and continue over fields, soon descending to cross a plank bridge. Now follow wall on your right, past a fingerpost, when the wall becomes a fence. It leads to a walkers’ gate.

Go straight on to a fingerpost within a few yards and then climb up to a gate and fingerpost. Turn left along a walled track and follow it to its end to emerge in minor road leading to Thorpe. Turn RIGHT.

Wander down the road to the B6160 and take path opposite. Follow wall on your right, through gate, and onward down the fields with Simon’s Seat to your front right.

Stay by the wall to a gate and then go straight down the field, passing to left of a telegraph pole and aiming for the suspension bridge in the valley bottom. Go through a gate, past the Anniversary Stone, and descend to the River Wharfe. Turn left and right over the suspension bridge (built 1885).

On crossing bridge, go straight ahead, past a shed, through a gate and out to a road (Mill Lane). Turn right for 80 yards and then turn left for Hebden to pass between properties and then continue on an enclosed path. This leads to the 4-sided fingerpost of the outward leg – go straight ahead for Hebden and then go up the left side of the trout farm, over footbridge at waterfall and retrace your steps to the finish.