Maps: OS Landranger 100; Explorer 300
Start: A64 at Onhams Lane (724656)
Finish: Coastliner bus station (787714)
Distance: 8.8 miles
Going: Moderate undulations
Natural England NCA: 29 (Howardian Hills)
Special interest: Castle Howard Estate, Musley Bank Stables
Travelling from the west, alight from the bus at Whitwell-on-the-Hill; walk on along the pavement towards the east coast and turn left on the second of the two signed footpaths (there’s only 40m between them) leading up to Whitwell Church. (If coming from the east, alight at Onhams Lane and walk back on the pavement towards the coast to a spot where there is good visibility and it is safer to cross the busy A64).
At the church (A) turn right along the road called Tout Hill to the gateposts at the end of Whitwell Road (B). Turn left on this wide track, a little churned in places, that leads gently up to another pair of once impressive old gateposts at the edge of Bank Wood (C). From here, there are good views ahead of some of the Castle Howard estate buildings.
Continue down the slope past Welburn Church, cross the road and carry on along the track up into the wood on East Moor Banks. The track climbs steeply through the trees before meeting the Centenary Way (D). Keep going on ahead, across the tarred drive, to the New River Bridge with its fine opportunities for photographs. Now continue straight ahead on the p.r.o.w. avoiding the tempting path going up left to the Temple. Once over the low rise, aim for the left corner of the scrubby enclosure at (E). From there, continue across the old ridge and furrow grassland, now aiming towards Bog Hall.
After crossing Mill Hills Beck and the field corner, go through the small copse on the left and then bear left for 20 metres to the fingerpost (F). Follow the direction for Easthorpe. Navigation now becomes much easier.
Stay on the wide track, bending right at Spring Wood and later taking the diverted path around The Alamo Trekking Centre to the junction at (G). There’s a possible escape route back to the A64 if you turn right at this point.
Otherwise, turn left up the slope, passing the Holy Well on the left. Shortly before reaching the Coneysthorpe road, the track bends back right on itself (H) and now follows a delightful mile or so on a wide track through Hildenley Wood. The woodland is a mixture of conifers and deciduous trees and includes some fine tall yews as well as some magnificent redwoods; test for a redwood by thumping the trunk. If there’s no pain from the spongy bark, you can be sure it is a redwood.
Be careful to turn right at (I), then sharp left at the end of the farm buildings (J) and soon the woodland reappears. At (K) it’s important not to miss the left turn off the main track. Make sure to go up the slope on the left.
Leaving the wood, the path gets narrower and then runs above Musley Bank Racing Stables to the bridleway at (L). Here turn left up the tarmac, cross the gallops and go over the grass to Braygate Street. Turn right and continue on the wide grass verge along the Castle Howard Road, over the A64, and into Malton. The road curves right and at the junction with the B1248 (M) turn left into the town. Continuing along Yorkersgate, go right at Railway Street to the Coastliner depot.
Castle Howard Estate
Castle Howard is one of the country’s most treasured stately homes. When the Castle of Henderskelfe was seriously damaged by fire, Charles Howard decided to replace it with one designed by Sir John Vanburgh with assistance from Nicholas Hawksmoor. Vanburgh was a playwright and it is astonishing that Castle Howard was the first building that he had ever planned.
The route taken on this walk allows us to view of a number of the buildings on the estate from the New River Bridge. The Pyramid contains a bust of Lord William Howard from whom the Castle Howard branch of the family originates. He married Elizabeth Dacre (thereby acquiring plenty of land and a couple of castles). He was 14 and Bessie was 8 at the time of their ‘marriage’. In the Mausoleum, the Earls of Carlisle and their families are buried in the crypt beneath the chapel. Inside the domed Temple of the Four Winds, the walls are interesting because they are decorated with a type of artificial marble called ‘scagliola’ and Castle Howard is believed to have been the first place in England where this had been used.
People visit Castle Howard for a variety of reasons. However, for the visitor interested in curiosities it is the enclosing ramparts which extend around the estate that are of particular interest. Described by two writers as ‘Britain’s largest folly’, their great length, of some 600 metres, and eleven towers, also make it the first sham fortification built for display and not defence. Atlas holding a globe decorated with signs of the zodiac was bought by the Howard family at the 1889 Paris Great Exhibition.
Musley Bank Stables
The Malton-Norton district is well-known for its horse racing traditions and Richard Fahey’s ambition was to make Musley Bank one of the best training centres in the country. His website states: ‘Last season (2016) we sent out 198 winners and won over £3,000,000 in prize money. In 2015 we equalled the record of 235 winners in a calendar year.’
Remarkably, in just over 20 years, Richard has gone from being yet another enthusiastic recruit, starting out with just a handful of horses, to becoming one of the country’s major players with some 200 horses on his books and a career tally of domestic winners which exceeded the 2,000 figure in 2016.
Before becoming a racehorse trainer, he had been a successful jockey and chalked-up over 100 winners during ten years in the saddle. But then he decided: ‘I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t enjoying it and couldn’t see a future in it, so I gave it up before it gave me up’. His change of focus seems to have been a sound move. (www.racehorse-trainer.com)