Walk: Scenic North Yorkshire villages round the river

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The route follows, as closely as possible, the River Ure as it flows towards York, across the flood plains as far as Aldwark bridge. It then crosses the river via a footbridge to Aldwark to return on the north side.

It lets you encounter, amongst other things, a further two rivers (and a canal), the sites of two ancient battles, a rare toll bridge and a quirky church.

Enjoy passing through several of North Yorkshire’s prettiest villages and walking in the footsteps of the Romans and the Brontes. You’ll have the chance to observe all kinds of wildlife along the river and through the countryside.

Walk information

The full walk is 17.5 miles but can easily be broken into sections: Boroughbridge to Great Ouseburn (eight miles) and Great Ouseburn to Boroughbridge (9.5 miles).

The walk is not waymarked although you may come across waymarkers for other routes, so be sure to follow the directions below carefully. Although this is a level walk, it is not recommended if you have walking difficulties.

OS Explorer map 299 covers the area.

Buses connect with the route at Boroughbridge, Great Ouseburn, Aldwark and Myton-on-Swale. A bus route will take you from Great Ouseburn back to Boroughbridge/Langthorpe (visit www.northyorkstravel.info for more details).

The route

The walk begins in the picnic area car park in Langthorpe (the village next to Boroughbridge). Walk onto the bridge over the River Ure – the scene of The Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322, between the supporters of Edward II and rebellious barons – and continue to the town.

Turn left at The Crown Inn along Fishergate to a bridge over the River Tutt, built by the remarkable Blind Jack. Follow the road to the right up the High Street into St James Square with its fountain built in 1875.

Take the York road out of the Square and turn left (1) towards Aldborough. Use the footpath on the left which leads to the flood banks (levees) of the River Ure. Turn right 1 along the bank.

You’ll look across to Milby Lock (2) , one of six authorised by Parliament in 1776 to make the river navigable as far as Ripon. Opposite the lock there was once a ford – another strategic point in the Battle of Boroughbridge – whichformed a northern route away from the Roman town of Isuriam Brigantium (now called Aldborough).

On the right are the Aldborough ings (an old Yorkshire word for water meadows) which form part of the flood plain. Along the river there is a dramatic bend called Hall Arm, once the site of a Roman jetty, and occasionally, the staithes (timber supports) can still be seen.

Where Hall Arm Lane meets the river, continue straight on, dropping down to the bank alongside the water. Walk along the bank for just over a mile and look across to see the River Swale joining the Ure.

Continue on to an arable field and along the river bank. The wooden cross you’ll eventually come across (3) marks where former village resident Eddie Cook passed away, enjoying the view across to the White Horse of Kilburn some 12 miles away.

Follow the flood bank as it turns inland, alongside Beck Closes Drain (4) . Cross the footbridge and turn right, then walk straight ahead along a slightly raised track to an ancient hedge line where, turning right, you pass through a gate to join Scarers Lane (5).

After about 200 metres a finger post shows where our path turns left then goes straight ahead across an arable field. Follow the trodden path to the hedge on the far side and turn right, following the hedge and heading into a small copse (6) .

The path turns right alongside a large ditch and crosses a footbridge after which it bears right across the field, crossing a culvert and heading through another small copse and over the stile ahead.

Continue on the path diagonally across the fields to the village of Upper Dunsforth. In the village, turn left along the road and, at the T-junction, go straight ahead following the path across the fields to Great Ouseburn.

Follow Main Street, heading for St Mary’s Church, then go left down a snickelway (7) past the churchyard, which contains a railed obelisk in memory of Dr John Crosby, a good friend of Branwell Bronte.

Follow Church Lane and turn right into Cross Lane. The third field on the right was where a RAF De Havilland Flamingo R2764 of 24 Squadron crashed on April 30, 1942. This aeroplane was carrying two Air Ministry staff and four high-ranking Russians and the accident is thought to be the largest single loss of Russian lives on English soil.

Continue along Cross Lane and turn left along Boat Lane, then bear left alongside Aldwark Toll Bridge onto the Free Landing (8). An information panel describes how for centuries the area was a vital transport hub for road and river traffic; commercial boats moored to land their cargoes, their arrivals announced by the local church bells.

There has been a river crossing at this point for hundreds of years – the area was once called Rudford Wath, wath meaning a fordable stream – and a ferry ran between the banks.

However, the ferry was dangerous and unreliable in winter weather, and in 1772 an Act of Parliament was granted to John Thompson of nearby Kirby Hall to build a bridge. Thompson agreed on condition that the bridge remained in private hands – and today Aldwark Bridge remains one of only eight privately-owned toll-crossings in the country.

The sturdy iron crossing seen today opened on April 6, 1877, over two years after the previous bridge, designed by Harewood House architect John Carr, collapsed into the water.

Serene as the scene is today, this was the site of a tragedy when, in 1810, young men stood on the bridge to watch ice floes speeding beneath on flood water. In their excitement, they raced from one side of the bridge to the other – and, tragically, the railing gave way and 12 fell into the water. Only one body was ever found.

From the Free Landing follow the river bank, alongside the golf course (beware golf in play), and cross the river by the footbridge (9) into Aldwark village.

The church (10) is of a quirky design by the Victorian architect Edward Lamb and opposite is the entrance to Aldwark Manor (11), built in the 1860s for the Frankland family.

With the village pub on your left, walk along Rice Lane. After a mile you have a choice of routes (12) . Either to continue on the footpath straight ahead (if the weather has been dry), or follow the bridleway round to the right called Haddocks Lane (if the weather has been wet).

Both paths come out onto Moor Lane where you turn left and walk into the village of Myton-on-Swale.

Look out for the monogram ‘HMS’ throughout the village, indicating buildings erected by the Stapylton Family who lived at Myton Hall (13). Continue through the village, past the church and then the old pump house.

At the bottom of the village turn right (14) and cross the Swale via the bridge (15), an impressive 1868 construction (recently renovated) which was modelled on Westminster Bridge.

It carries information panels giving details of the bridge itself and the bloody Battle of Myton, fought here in 1319 between the English and the Scots.

Turn left and follow the edge of the field.

The path runs alongside the Swale down to its confluence with the Ure (16) . It then turns right and winds back towards Boroughbridge, passing the landings at Hall Arm and the front of Ellenthorpe Hall, built in the Victorian era and replacing a medieval ruin sketched by Turner.

Continue along the bank to Milby Cut where you’ll meet the Ripon Canal. Cross Milby Lock onto ‘the island’ and head right.

The footpath emerges onto the road next to the Ure bridge close by where your adventure began – and your walk is complete.

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