Maps: OS Landranger 101; Explorer 300
Start: Sherburn crossroads (958758)
Finish: Staxton road junction (017790)
Distance: 6.5 miles (plus 0.3 miles to see Beacon)
Going: Moderate; two climbs up the chalk face
Natural England NCA: 27 (Yorkshire Wolds)
Special interest: Staxton Wold Beacon
From Sherburn crossroads, walk SSE along the road and, taking the left forks at (J) and again at (K), climb a short way before leaving the road where the YWW leads off left (L).
At the hedge boundary (M) turn right up the slope, then left at the small gate and on into the trees. The path bends left and soon leaves the wood to continue down the gentle slope to the fingerpost at (N).
Turn right. The wide straight track leads, with just a short right-left wiggle at Potter Brompton, through pig-rearing country to Ganton. Going left on the road (O), there’s a short walk escape directly ahead to the A64 but the full day’s walk stays on the YWW and turns off right to St Nicholas’ Church.
The route follows field boundaries, doing half a dozen 90 degree turns, up the face of the chalk escarpment and on to the B1249 road (P). Cross carefully and continue on the wide track to the RAF Station (Q). The full Coastliner Way walk turns right but today’s section goes left on the byway known as Wold Lane. The track can be slippery as it goes down through the trees on Staxton Brow, so watch your footing. The Coastliner stop is at the bottom of the hill.
Staxton Wold Beacon
RAF Staxton Wold has two claims to international fame: it is the oldest operational radar station in the world and, because it was previously the site of a Roman signalling station, it is also the location of the oldest operational signalling station of any sort in the world.
At the eastern end of Staxton village is a memorial beacon erected to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II and an information board telling the story of this site. The tale goes like this: The original beacon recorded during the Roman occupation was located on a mound near to the beacon pond at the north-east corner of the present RAF Radar Station. The beacon could be lit to warn of invaders and then others would be lit at Winteringham and Cowlam to send the message to the Roman forces at Malton.
Radar was discovered in 1935 by the British scientist Sir Watson Watt. His ideas so impressed the Air Ministry that trials began almost immediately and in 1937 Staxton was chosen as one of the first 16 radar sites which later became part of the Chain Home System. It became operational in April 1939 and remained in operation throughout World War II. Today it is the only one of the 16 sites still working and can therefore claim to be the world’s oldest operational radar site.
By the 1950s, the Chain Home System was obsolete; radar technology had greatly improved and fewer sites were needed, so it was decided that just seven units could provide cover for the whole of the British mainland. Staxton was ideally placed to complete the protection of the East Coast. Accordingly, Type 84 Radar started working in 1964 and numerous improvements have been made since then.
A new air defence system called Improved UK Air Defence Ground Environment (IUKADGE) was installed and this integrated system allowed all fighter control stations to be on a linked network and to use each other’s equipment. This meant that it was not necessary to have controllers at every site and in 1993 Staxton’s last controllers left the base and could now operate from other locations, although still using Staxton’s radar information. The current radar at Staxton Wold is classed as a NATO asset.