What a lovely day out this is. A pleasant meander through a quintessential English landscape, easy on the eye and easy under foot.
The countryside on the northern fringe of the Lower Wharfe Valley, betwixt Harewood in the south and Harrogate in the north, is a picture of delight in the summer sun, just the setting for a Sunday stroll with all the family.
Kirkby Overblow, now a smart commuter village, was recorded in the Domesday Book survey of 1086 as Chirchebi - the village with a church - when it formed part of the extensive Yorkshire estates of the Percy family, later Dukes of Northumberland.
The second part of the village name, “Overblow”, is more unusual and relates to the ore blowers who worked their forges here in the early Middle Ages when large ironstone deposits were found in the area.
A major iron-smelting operation was established upon Kirkby Overblow. Records show that the village was first referred to as Kyrkby Orblauers in 1302. However, the industry had ceased by the 1390s.
The proud and stately All Saints’ Church is early-medieval, but retains a link with the Saxon church which occupied the site before the Norman conquest - a blocked-up doorway in the north wall.
The will of Henry Percy, who died in 1362, provides for a chantry priest at Kirkby Overblow to say daily masses for “the repose of the souls” of Henry and his wife who were interred at the family seat, Alnwick Castle, Northumberland.
Inside the church, just right of the door, is a tomb slab from the 15th century commemorating William Plumpton, a member of an important local family, at one time bailiffs to the Percys of Spofforth Castle, who became Lords of the Manor of Plumpton, near Wetherby.
His coat of arms bears the bar sinister, indicating he was illegitimate.
The church also contains a memorial to Sir William Codrington, a remarkable soldier who, with no previous military experience, led a brigade to success in the Crimean war. Much of the woodwork bears the mouse trademark of Robert Thompson of Kilburn.
Kirkby Overblow and Follifoot Ridge
6½ miles: Allow 2 ½-3 ½ hours
Map: EitherO/S Explorer 297 Lower Wharfedale or O/S Explorer 289 Leeds
Park in Kirkby Overblow’s Main Street – with consideration, please! - in the vicinity of the Shoulder of Mutton. Start out along Main Street in a northerly direction, soon passing Walton Head Lane on your left. Keep on along the footway to edge of village and then use the grass verge for 50 yards to pass a farm on your left and a row of stone cottages on your right.
Immediately, spot the stile on your right, cross it and go straight across the narrow field by side of cottage and then turn left along field edge. At top of field, cross a stile and continue by hedge on your right, over an access road, and onward along an enclosed path. Follow this path with no route-finding problems to emerge in a field through a gap with gate on its right and a redundant stile to its left.
Go down the wide, cut strip with hedgerow on your left. At bottom of field, go over a concrete slab and continue along left edge of next field and then keep on in same line over next field with hedge now on your right (new buildings ahead).
Go through metal gates and onward to the new buildings at Oakwood Farm. Pass to right of all buildings and continue straight ahead on vehicle track. This leads to a huge log pile (on our visit) where the track swings left to gain the Harrogate by-pass (A658).
Cross with care and take the concrete drive opposite, using a walkers’ gate to left of the five-barred gate. Immediately, turn right (fingerpost) to emerge in field through a gate (fingerpost). Turn left up edge of field. At top of field, pass a redundant bridle gate and continue through trees with Pannal golf course to your left.
1 On arriving in Follifoot Road, cross it and turn right along pavement, towards the top of Follifoot Ridge. In the fields to your left is Alexander’s Hill, a prehistoric mound.
Go over the brow of Follifoot Ridge and descend for a couple of hundred yards to a road sign for Spofforth and turn right along Haggs Road to regain the A658.
Cross it half right – again, take care! - and take the road for Spofforth (still Haggs Road). Use the grass verge, soon passing houses on your left. At end of houses, turn left (old box-top bridleway sign) through a gate and go down a fine track between hedgerows.
At bottom of track, turn right along the bed of the old Harrogate-Spofforth-Wetherby railway on a footpath created courtesy of the Rudding Park Estate. After a half a mile, at a concrete block in the middle of the track, ignore a path going off left – keep on along the rail bed for another 120 yards and then, just before a gate across the track, take a narrow, diagonal path on your right, soon climbing steps to cross a stile.
Go straight ahead along left edge of field with wood on your left. Follow left edge of field to emerge, once again, in Haggs Road which, at this point, is a dangerous race track on a bad bend. Cross the road with extreme caution and turn left along the road, using the grass verge, past Eden Park.
After about 400 yards, turn right (fingerpost) along the entry drive to Lodge Farm. Follow the entry drive for a few hundred yards to arrive at a fingerpost for Kirkby Overblow (Lodge Farm track goes left here) and sweep right with the vehicle track for Parks Farm and Sunrise Lakes.
After about 400 yards, at a fork, take the right branch for Sunrise Lakes (arrow). After another 500 yards or so, at a green sign for Sunrise Lakes, turn right (arrows) along vehicle track towards a huge barn. Follow this track all the way, eventually passing green hay bags, to arrive at a gate with a footpath diversion notice.
Note: A new footpath was created round Sunrise Farm in May of this year, but new waymarking has not yet been carried out. To complicate matters, the old waymark arrows remain. We have followed the line of the new footpath on the diversion notice and, in doing so, have ignored the old arrows.
2 So, continue up the track to Sunrise Farm and, when track bears right, go straight ahead for a few yards over the grass to a gate with black-and-white “footpath” signs.
Ignore them - do NOT pass through the gate (this is the old route), but turn left along a vehicle track with fence on your right. Go through a gate across the track and continue by wire fence to end of fence and then turn right along a vehicle track.
This soon runs into the farm access drive – go straight ahead along the access drive which passes through a hedge line within 100 yards. After another 100 yards – stay alert! - there is wooden fencing on either side of the track. STOP!
Here, turn left, past a huge tree, and go down edge of field with hedge on your right to a stile at bottom of field (end of diversion). Cross the stile and go straight ahead – you will have to make a detour round the red metal gate – and continue with hedge on your left.
At bottom of field, cross the stile ahead and go straight on by wire fence on your left. When this turns left, go half left down the slope to a yellow arrow, cross the bridge over a ditch and go up the field slightly right to a gate and arrow to the right of red-brick buildings.
Go through the gate and straight ahead, passing to right of all buildings, to a stone stile to left of a gate. Now go up right edge of field (horse paddock on your right), over a stile, and onward by a wall to emerge in Kirkby Overblow. Turn left to regain your vehicle.