A very enjoyable circuit through attractive countryside on the southern fringes of Harrogate, made more amenable by the excellent waymarking associated with the Harrogate Ringway, a 20-mile long-distance footpath encircling the popular spa town.
This little adventure makes use of the Ringway path for half its journey and very satisfying it is, too.
Pannal, our starting point, formed part of the ancient manor of Rossett, now a suburb of Harrogate, in the Domesday Book survey of 1086. Before William of Normandy carved his new kingdom into feudal estates and dispersed them among his favourites, Rossett was jointly held by the Saxon lords Gamelbar and Ulf.
They were displaced after 1066, half the manor going to the Conqueror’s Standard Bearer, Gilbert Tyson, and half remaining with the king himself. When, on the Conqueror’s death, Tyson joined the failed rebellion against the new king, William Rufus, his lands reverted to the Crown.
At this time, Pannal was a place of no substance, no more than a farmstead or two; it was certainly not known by its present-day name. The new Norman overlords brought prosperity to the area, building two corn mills by the Crimple Beck at the communities we now know as Pannal and Burn Bridge.
It is probable the corn mills were operating before the estate was gifted by Henry III to the warrior Hugh Pagnell in the mid-13th century in recognition of his services against the Scots. This is the period when Pannal acquired its name, derived from the surname of its new lord. The Pagnells (or Paganels) were influential Normans who were rewarded soon after the Conquest with numerous estates in Yorkshire. They were generous benefactors of the great religious houses and helped to found Kirkstall Abbey in the mid-12th century.
The Pagnells’ link with Pannal spanned one generation; after Hugh’s death, Henry III gave the manor to his brother, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, who was Lord of the Honour of Knaresborough, based at Knaresborough Castle.
Richard turned Pannal into the most important village in the area by granting it a market and fair. In 1287, he gave the avowdson of Pannal church - the right to appoint the rectors - to the tiny Trinitarian friary of St Robert’s at Knaresborough in exchange for the disputed title to the manor of Roecliffe, near Boroughbridge, and followed this up with a large grant of land in the village.
The friars named their church at Pannal after St Robert and it is the only Anglican establishment in England to be dedicated to the Knaresborough hermit-saint.
After the Dissolution of the monasteries in 1538, part of the friary’s land at Pannal reverted once again to the Crown and part went to another important Yorkshire family, the Tancreds, who built a Tudor hall at Pannal which survived until 1800 when it was pulled down by the new Lords of the Manor, the Bentleys, who replaced it with the present Pannal Hall.
pannal and harrogate ringway
6 miles: Allow 2½ – 3½ hours.
Map: O/S Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale
Park in the centre of Pannal in a street called Crimple Meadows which is just off Main Street opposite the church (St Robert’s). Set out along Crimple Meadows – away from Main Street – crossing to lefthand side of street.
After about 250 yards, the street sweeps right to a half-hidden ginnel on your left (at lamp-post) – take this path between houses to emerge in a street in Burn Bridge. Go straight ahead for about 80 yards to a four-sided fingerpost on your right and, here, turn LEFT, over the Crimple Beck, past stone houses, and then turn right, past a row of garages, to a three-sided fingerpost and go straight on to emerge in road on edge of Burn Bridge.
Take the path opposite (fingerpost: Great Almscliff). On emerging in road, turn right, facing the traffic, for about 500 yards, past Woodside Farm on your left, to a fingerpost on your right just before the drive to Maw Hill Farm.
Turn right (Ringway) and go down left edge of field, enter trees, go over footbridge spanning the Crimple Beck, through kissing gate and turn left up slope. Go through a small metal walkers’ gate and straight ahead with wall on your left and then a wooden fence, passing arrow on gatepost, to arrive in road (Hill Top Lane).
Turn right for 30 yards and then turn left at fingerpost (Ringway), enter field and go up its left edge and then, when fence turns left, go slightly right up the field (arrow), passing to left of a gnarled tree, to a metal walkers’ gate at top of field.
Continue by hedge on your left, go through gate in field corner, and a quarter right over next field to gate in field corner with the houses of Rossett Green, on the edge of Harrogate, ahead. Go slightly right across next field, aiming for a metal gate – just before reaching gate, a metal walkers’ gate appears to your front left in hedge corner.
1: Go straight across next field – Police Training College to your left – to pass through the hedge line at a gap in hedge (arrow).
Go down right edge of field to a two-sided fingerpost – road to your right – and turn LEFT across the field (Ringway) with beck to your right. Do NOT follow the side of the beck, but stay about 30-40 yards to its left, keeping in line of fingerpost.
You will then clip the edge of the wooded beck as it kinks left to meet you – now go straight across the huge field (no path) as the beck bears away right. You will soon pass a huge barn/warehouse with a light-coloured corrugated roof to your right. A metal walkers’ gate then materialises ahead at field end.
Go through and continue with hedge on your right, through next gate, and straight on, through next gate and immediately turn left (arrow), along fence/hedge, to emerge in Hill Top Lane. Turn right, past the end of Whinney Lane – Squinting Cat pub just to your right if you are in need of sustenance - to a fingerpost on your left after about 70 yards. Take this path.
A well-worn path goes half right to a piece of yellow machinery with stile to its left. Continue in same line (arrow) with Blue Coat Farm on your right to a stile hidden in trees in far field corner. An enclosed path leads to two stiles giving access to a field – go straight across field, over a stile, and onward to a two -sided Ringway fingerpost. Turn left over stile and then right along enclosed path to emerge in road at the scattered community of Beckwith. Turn right.
After about 400 yards, on arriving at crossroads at Beckwith Head, turn right along Lady Lane, facing traffic (grass verge for safety). After 300 yards, turn left at fingerpost just before property at Lund House. An enclosed path leads to a white house – enter vehicle track and turn left. The vehicle track becomes an enclosed path leading to a kissing gate and field.
Go up right edge of field, over stile, and up left edge of next field. Go through gate at top of field, turn right over stone stile and follow enclosed path into Whinney Lane. Turn left, past Castle Hill Drive, and cross to righthand side of road. On arriving at roundabout, go straight ahead, over Yew Tree Lane, and turn right along Green Lane with Ashville College on your right.
2: Go past Rossett School (on your left) and continue with Ashville on your right to spot a fingerpost on lefthand side of road at road-narrowing arrows. Take this path alongside school playing fields.
On arriving in street with wooden posts acting as a vehicle barrier, turn right (Rossett Drive) and go straight ahead, past Rossett Garth, pass through more wooden posts and then a horse/motorcycle barrier, and straight on with houses on your right (this is Parson’s Intake).
Continue down the street, past Hutton Gate, to T-junction with Leadhall Lane and turn right along pavement for about 100 yards to spot Throstle Nest Drive on lefthand side of road with half-hidden fingerpost. Go down Throstle Nest Drive and continue along a path enclosed between fences.
Follow this path to its end, cross a stone stile into the unmade Stone Rings Lane and turn right, descending to cross bridge over the Stone Rings Beck. Take the steps up the far banking, sweeping right (ignore path with fingerpost to your left). At top of slope, press on – the busy A61 away to your left – along an enclosed path to cottages at All Saints.
Enter a tarred drive and go straight ahead into road and turn left (pavement) and follow this all the way into Pannal. Go down Main Street to the church and turn right into Crimple Meadows and the finish.