Tadcaster to the North
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This is a long walk, 16 miles, but it is almost flat. The route traverses some very quiet countryside. The route passes through Healaugh, Bilton, Tockwith, Wilstrop, Moor Monkton, and ends at Nether Poppleton. Most of the route follows farm tracks but there are one or two places that can be muddy and the river bank path alongside the Nidd is rough. Here is the route on Google Maps and on OS Getamap * , or use the York 1:25,000 OS printed map. ( * Unfortunately Get-a-Map does not work on Linux systems.)
The route starts at Tadcaster bus station, cross the road and turn past Sainsbury's -- your last chance to stock up with any food and drink -- and up Rosemary Row. Turn left at Wighill Lane and go along to the "Old Coach Road". Follow this to Healaugh, going past Healaugh Priory.
Unfortunately the farmer keeps the hedges very high, so in summer there is often not much to see, though from time to time there are some nice views of Healaugh Church.
Healaugh Priory has a long history and in recent years the surrounding land and farm have been tidied up to make pleasant views to the south east.
In Healaugh turn west along the road and follow the bridleway over the hill to Bilton past Nova Scotia Wood. I wonder how it came about that name ?. In 1772 to 1775 about 1000 persons, mostly tenant farmers, emigrated from Yorkshire to Nova Scotia. Several came from this area around York and some, after a while, returned to Yorkshire. There is another place called Nova Scotia a few miles further east, near Bolton Percy. I wonder if this 18th Century migration provided the source of this place name. More details of the migration, personal accounts and name lists for the vessels crossing the Atlantic.
As you enter Bilton the route takes you past "The Chequers", a pleasant pub. Follow the road on through Bilton to St Helen's church. This church has many examples of Romanesque sculpture.
The church also has many interesting corbels. In particular, inside the church, there are two examples of a "Sheela naa Gig". A Sheela na Gig is a quasi-erotic stone carving of a female figure. Not what you might expect on a church building. Examples are rare in the North of England.
Cross the York-Wetherby road and continue along the bridleway towards Tockwith. If the visibity if good, then directly ahead you should be able to see the White Horse at Kilburn. This is almost 20 miles away. Kilburn White Horse is a fine example of Victorian leucippotomy, being the largest and most northerly horse in England.
The route does not go through Tockwith, so if you are in need of refreshment, a short diversion into the village gives you a choice of two pubs. Further along the main street there is also a shop.
From Tockwith continue north towards New Farm and the River Nidd. To the east is the battlefield of Marston Moor. A very rough footpath follows the south bank of the river towards Wilstrop. I am always struck how devoid of wild life our rivers seem to be. (The same observation applies to the River Ouse later on.)
Passing Wilstrop Hall I saw three Sika deer running in the fields to the north. There were scared off by the slightest movement on my part, even though I must have been 100 metres away. I seem to see more and more deer these days. If you are having trouble identifying deer, have a look at this.
Wilstrop is a deserted village and the marks are visible between the hall and the railway crossing. There is a considerable evidence of medieval ridge and furrow in this area.
At Wilstrop Siding there is a manned, gated crossing of the railway line, complete with semaphore signals. If you chance to catch a vehicle crossing the line, you will see what a complicated process of lowering and raising signals and opening and closing gates this entails. Something of a complete time-warp in these days of high-speed trains.
The York-Harrogate Road is the only noisy nuisance on this route and should be crossed with care. Continue through the farm and across the fields towards Moor Monkton past Finkle Holme. Near to Finkle Holme you may notice signs for permissive footpaths allowing you to explore the ings to the north of the path. This is well worth the diversion if you have time. The route enters Moor Monkton along an old track, but before you reach the road, a footpath sign points across a field to the village. If you follow this path you will end up in someone's garden, but as far as I can see this is the footpath !.
It would have to been nice to find a pub in Moor Monkton, but unfortunately there has not been one for a long time.
From Moor Monkton follow the track alongside the river to the location of a former ferry across "Nidd Mouth", the confluence of the Nidd and the Ouse. What a shame there is no longer a ferry at this point as it would open up a route to Nun Monkton and provide a whole new terrain to explore. However, whilst regretting this, stop and consider the view across to Beningborough Hall. A good spot for a rest before the final leg of the journey.
The track to Poppleton follows the bank of the River Ouse, a pleasant path. Soon the Red House water extraction point looms into view. I don't know what this says for the quality of water in the River Ouse, but the holding reservoirs seem to contain many more birds than the river. A little further on we pass Red House, the ancient home of the Slingby family, then a school and now an equestrian and holiday centre. Here there is an interesting barge moored on the river: this barge is not a native of the River Ouse.
Continuing along the bank of the Ouse for a couple of miles brings you into Nether Poppleton. You can wait for the bus outside the Lord Nelson, or if you prefer, inside it. Alternatively, a little further along Church Lane, the church of St Everilda's is worth a visit.
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