Aberford Loop

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An interesting route, about 24 kms, taking a couple of hours or longer if you want to stop at places of interest (Aberford, Lotherton Hall, Lead Church), or for refreshment (9 pubs on the route). A considerable amount of off-road farm track and quiet back roads, but a short unavoidable distance on the A64.

This route encompasses a considerable amount of history !. We start in the central car park at Tadcaster, which is a Roman town called Calcaria, but nothing of that remains. Leaving the town via Westgate, up Station Road, and at the top carrying straight on down Garnet Lane, we are following the course of Roman Ridge, the main Roman Road south from York.

Garnet Lane climbs, turns sharp right and crosses the main road. You pass behind the grammer school, founded in the 16th Century. Turn left, and then left again past the Tadcaster Stone Quarry towards Headley Hall. Tadcaster Stone is the name given to the creamy, Jurassic limestone used as building stone in this area.

Just beyond Headley Hall, on the left, towards the A64. there is an area of flat fields. This area was a First World war airfield, protecting Leeds. The unusually buttressed barn is the last remaining relic, a hanger.

The route now passes near the site of the battle of Bramham Moor. This was an early encounter in the War of the Roses in 1408, where the Earl of Northumberland met his fate fighting the forces of the Lancastrian King Henry IV.

We now cross the A1 and the A64 at the roundabout and then briefly follow the A64 towards Leeds. At the sign marking the bridleway to Becca and Aberford turn left. It is a bit rough and narrow to begin with, but eventually you come on to farm tracks that pass Becca Hall Farm, and continue on the track from Becca Hall down to Aberford. Watch the speed bumps !. The route enters Aberford opposite the "Arabian Horse", a pub that deserves closer investigation.

Aberford is an old town situated astride the Great North Road. There are many interesting buildings, include the coaching inns. The church at Aberford has the unusual name of St Richardus The only church with name in England, and probably of Norman origin.

Follow the road south through Aberford. You need to take the turning left to Lotherton Hall, but before you do that you may wish to go on a little further to see the extravagently styled Almshouses built in the 19th century.

Follow the road up the hill to Lotherton Hall, which is a 19th century building. This is a country house now owned and run by Leeds City Council. The Hall and Museum, the Gardens, the Bird Gardens and the Chapel, are all worth exploring for a few hours. Refreshments may be found at the cafe and a shop.

Leaving Lotherton you turn left and immediately right to follow the road towards Towton.

Stop at the brow of the hill where there is a good view north. From here you may be able to see across the vale of York to the Yorkshire Wolds. A mile or two in front of you can also see the killing fields of the Battle of Towton. This bloody battle from the War of the Roses. was fought on Palm Sunday in 1461. In this case, the Lancastrians were thoroughly beaten. Over 24,000 men are thought to have been killed, making it the bloodiest battle in Britain.

At this point, you are standing on The Rein, an earth bank of probably Iron Age origin that forms part of a extensive set of earthworks around Aberford.

Back on the bike, there is now a nice, fast drop down to the "Crooked Billet". Apparently this pub serves the best and biggest yorkshire puddings, anywhere.

For a diversion, a visit to Saxton church is worthwhile, including the tomb of Lord Dacre, killed at the Battle of Towton.

Opposite the Crooked Billet, pass over the bridge and go right into the field. In the middle of the field you can see Lead Chapel. The surrounding village and hall have long gone, but their foundations can be seen as low mounds in the surrounding fields. Lead is a small, ancient church that today still retains it's 17th century furniture and scriptures. It is worth spending time sitting and reflecting on the world.

The route goes to the top corner of the field and through a small gate. From then on we follow sometimes muddy and rough farm tracks north towards Hazelwood Castle and then Stutton. The castle is hidden in the trees. Recently a monastery, it is now a luxury hotel.

Before reaching the castle, at a large sycamore tree, turn right and travel along Chantry Lane towards Stutton. See if you can spot the site of the medieval cross as you approach Stutton.

To the left, but not easily visible, is Jackdaw Crag quarry. This quarry, started in Roman times, supplied stone for buildings in York including the cathedral.

At the top of the hill you can take a diversion down the track to the right going down into Stutton village. Go through the village and then alongside the old Tadcaster railway line to Stutton Road. Alternatively do straight on down the hill and back along Stutton Road into the centre of Tadcaster, finally passing the splendid 19th century ediface of John Smiths brewery.

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