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This was our first non-local walk out since the lockdown began early last November. In the intervening time, we’ve walked our local footpaths to death; not that we don’t enjoy them, but I think it’s fair to say we were ready for a change of scenery.

Healey is a small village on the outskirts of Masham (home to the Theakston and Black Sheep breweries) in North Yokshire, in the postal district of Harrogate. Parking was in a small layby directly opposite the church.

The sky was blue, the sun was shining and there was no wind to speak of – perfect walking conditions, in fact. We started out with a spring in our step, but had only crossed our first field when we came across a difficult stile.

I say ‘difficult’, actually it was more like ‘non-existent’. To be fair, it looked like the stile had been disassembled and was waiting in bits, ready to be re-built (possibly), but the high wire fencing topped-off with barbed wire didn’t make it easy to climb over, and there didn’t appear to be any alternative ways through to the footpath beyond.

Much grunting and careful balancing ensued. I’d still like to think the stile is awaiting repair and hasn’t just been wantonly neglected, but with numbers of walkers likely to increase over the next few weeks, such an obstacle on a legal right-of-way simply isn’t good enough.

The good news is; this was the only obstacle we came across throughout the walk, the only downside being that the first stage of the walk would have to be retraced at the end, meaning that we would have to repeat our acrobatics on the way back – but at least we would know what to expect.

The trek across the following few fields were a little boggy, but we were still just happy to be out, and we were entertained by the sight of this fine beastie…

Eventually, we joined the road for a short distance, at Swinton Saw Mill, before navigating our way up the track to Stonefold Farm, and over the fields to Sole Beck Gill, a tributary of the River Burn in Nearby Nidderdale.

I was particularly attracted to this barn, which is my kind of building, and one that will almost certainly feature in a future painting or two…

… it doesn’t appear to have a name, but I think it belongs to Sykes Farm nearby.

Our walk continued on past Sole Beck Plantation, and then up the hill to High Knowle Farm, which is part of Swinton Bivouac. Here, there’s a cafe and glamping opportunities in the form of Yurts, and car parking for Druid’s Temple – our next destination a short walk away.

Druid’s Temple is in a wooded area, which is part of the extensive Swinton Estate. The woods feature lots of interconnecting footpaths and cycle tracks and there are even wooden lodges for hire if you prefer your wild experiences to come with a bit of luxury.

We paused to eat our lunch on the outer perimeter of the site, overlooking the surrounding moors before heading back into the woods. A bird hide provided another stopping off point, with good views across towards Leighton Reservoir

Druid’s temple itself, located right in the heart of the wood is a curiosity of which there doesn’t appear to be any definitive, solid information. It is a folly, believed to have been built by William Danby of the Swinton Estate in the late 1700’s. Other than the rumour that a hermit lived there for many years, and a tenuous belief in some mystical connections (which were probably just a manifestation of interest in Druidism during that period), it looks like a historical monument for kids to climb over (and there was a lot of that going on when we were there).

After we’d spent a bit of time meandering around Druid’s Temple, we exited the site and continued on our main route, which, in part, follows the Ripon Rowel Walk, a 50-mile long-distance walk that starts and ends in the ancient city of Ripon, and includes Fountains Abbey.

The final section of our hike skirted Broadmires Wood and followed a farm track through Broadmires Farm, back to Swinton Saw Mill and a return slog through soggy fields and across the non-existent stile to our starting point.

Anyone know what this is? There was a whole field full of it at Broadmires Farm….

The whole route came in at around 6 miles if you include the meandering around the Druid’s Temple site. Not a massively long walk, then, by any means, but we took our time and enjoyed every minute of it… just happy to be out and about…

Download the gpx file here

Peter Woolley

1 Response

  1. Hi Peter
    Re the broken stile, this is the Landowners responsibility but just to hurry things along a bit you could report this to NYCC, just Google “To whom do I report a broken stile” and you will get a link to Rights of way maintenance, North Yorkshire County Council. If NYCC don’t know about a problem they obviously cannot do anything about it.

    I look forward to receiving your monthly missive and have enjoyable memories of attending a workshop in Haws (I think it was) many years ago.

    best regards from Elaine Smith

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