Yorkshire weekend walk: Step back in time on this tranquil rural journey

Lunch break at the perfectly-sited bench at the Gribthorpe Road.
Lunch break at the perfectly-sited bench at the Gribthorpe Road.
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We happened upon this circuit on a lovely summer’s day in August and it added a touch of magic to the proceedings.

Golden fields of wheat contrasted perfectly with green meadows and leafy woodland to provide a very satisfying day out indeed. Hope you strike it lucky, too.

The walk is a rich mix of old rail beds, field paths and secret rural back roads where the only traffic encountered is the odd tractor and cyclists escaping the rat race. The going, though interesting and varied, is as flat as a pancake, requiring little energy, and so the eight-plus miles feel more like seven.

Bubwith takes its name from the Scandinavian warrior who put down roots here more than 1,000 years ago - this is Bubba’s wood. After the Conquest of 1066, the manor was bestowed by William of Normandy upon two of his favourites, Gilbert Tison, described as the Great Standard Bearer of England, and Ralph de Mortimer, Lord of Wigmore Castle, who guarded the Welsh marches for the Crown. Ralph was rewarded with land spread through 13 counties of England.

Bubwith’s mellow church of All Saints dates from the earliest days of the Norman occupation. It was enlarged in the 13th century and the tower was added in 1424 with money bequeathed by Nicholas of Bubwith, Bishop of Bath and Wells, who never forgot his home village.

Inside are to be found a funeral helm, sword and shield used in former times at burials of the Vavasours, a powerful Yorkshire family, and lords of the nearby manors of Spaldington and Willitoft. The Vavasours’ main seat was Hazlewood Castle, near Tadcaster, and they also had extensive holdings around Weston, near Otley.

Bubwith once had a wharf on the River Derwent, which clips the western edge of the village, and this brought prosperity from river traffic transporting corn and potatoes. The village had a thriving weekly corn market in the mid 19th century.

Bubwith also had two breweries and one of them has become a private residence, the Old Brewery House in Staithe Street, with a date stone of 1747. Half a mile south of the village is Breighton Airfield, a former Second World War bomber base which is still used by a local flying club.

PARKING: On crossing road bridge over River Derwent on edge of Bubwith on the A163 from direction of Selby, immediately turn right into the Toll Bridge picnic area (free). If car park is full, continue to The White Swan, turn right into Staithe Street and park there.

BUBWITH AND WILLITOFT

8 ¼ miles: Allow 3 – 4 hours. Map: O/S Explorer 291 Goole and Gilberdyke.

Exit the Bubwith side of the picnic area, past picnic tables, to cross footbridge over the Dyon Drain to emerge in the A163. Cross it and turn right along pavement into Bubwith, soon crossing over Dyon Way. At The White Swan, turn right across the road and go down Staithe Street.

At bottom of street, turn left into churchyard at All Saints. When level with end of church, the flagstone path splits – take the right branch to strike another flagstone path within 20 yards and turn right to exit churchyard.

Go through kissing gate to gain a three-sided fingerpost within 40 yards and turn LEFT. On emerging in minor road, cross it half right to a fingerpost and turn left for Highfield.

At end of field, go straight ahead through trees to gain the bed of the old Selby-Bubwith-Market Weighton railway and turn left, ignoring fingerpost on your right after a few yards. On arriving in a cross track at a four-sided fingerpost, go straight on along the Market Weighton-Bubwith Rail Trail.

After a short half mile, the track splits with a gate visible ahead along the left fork. Take this left fork, noticing the old brick platform on your right of Highfield Station (the right fork leads to a parking area and recycling site which was once the location of the old station coal bunkers).

The Selby-Bubwith-Market Weighton railway opened in 1848. Forty years later, the line was continued to Driffield. Highfield Station, known as Bubwith Highfield until 1873, closed in 1954 due to lack of passengers. The line itself struggled on until closure in 1965.

Enter the B1228 Bubwith-Howden road and turn right, single file, and walk inside the white line for safety. After about 400 yards, as the road sweeps right, go off left along a minor road (Willitoft Road).

Follow Willitoft Road for a good half mile to pass under a line of pylons, then immediately turn left. After about 80 yards – don’t overshoot! - turn right over a metal gate and follow vehicle track to a 3-sided fingerpost at field end and turn LEFT.

1: Go past a yellow arrow and along left side of hedge. At field end, plough through the vegetation ahead for a few yards to regain Willitoft Road at the tiny settlement of Willitoft and turn right, past Well Cottage, sweeping right.

This unknown, lost-world settlement was of such size and scope at the time of the Domesday Book survey of 1086 that no fewer than four shared owners of the estate are recorded – the king (William of Normandy), his half-brother, the Count of Mortain (who sub-let his portion of the property to his follower Nigel Fossard), Ralph de Mortimer and Gilbert Tison, who were also the joint Lords of the Manor of Bubwith.

Willitoft – the homestead by the willow trees – came into the possession of the Vavasours, who had a hall there in the reign of Charles I. The Vavasours’ main seat was Hazlewood Castle, near Tadcaster. The present hall, now a farm, was erected in 1825. The hamlet, in centuries past, had a chapel which stood in a field known as Chapel Garth.

After about 80 yards, go past Willitoft Hall and Prospect House and continue on the road to Elder Farm and sweep left with the road to leave Willitoft.

After almost half a mile, at crossroads (pair of brick semis), turn left for Foggathorpe and Gribthorpe. Follow this very quiet back road for half a mile to a giant wind turbine and turn left with the road.

After about 500 yards, go past the end of the road to Gribthorpe (perfectly-sited picnic bench) and immediately turn left at fingerpost (also an arrow for the Howden 20 long-distance walk). Follow left edge of field by a ditch. At field end, turn right. When hedge on your left finishes, keep straight on up the field with ditch to your left.

2: At end of field, turn left (arrow) and, at the end of this field, go through tree line ahead and press on along right edge of field. Nearing the end of this field, spot the marker post on your right with twin arrows – turn right.

Go up left edge of field. At end of this very long field (arrows), go over a concrete bridge, pass to the right of a pylon and then go straight across middle of field (no path) aiming for twin power poles visible on far side of field. These power poles have yellow signs attached to them.

On gaining power poles, rejoin the rail trail and turn left (fingerpost). After a mile, you will emerge in the B1228 - spot another of the old Highfield Station brick platforms on your right just before road. This is the link-up with the outward leg.

Go straight across and continue on the old rail bed. After a short half mile, at 4-sided fingerpost, turn RIGHT to emerge in the A163 at eastern edge of Bubwith.

Turn left and walk the entire length of Main Street, passing an inviting cafe on your left, then shops, to gain The White Swan. Continue on right side of Main Street, past Dyon Way, to the car park and the finish.