Despite considerable time spent planning my itinerary I somehow managed to book my accommodation such that I was forced to travel on a bank holiday Monday. What was I thinking? My next destination was Ripon, a 52-mile journey by car but a six hour odyssey by bus. The two hour drive to York took over three hours due to gridlock after Malton. Had it not been a bank holiday I could have caught a bus from York to Ripon but today the only option was to go via Leeds. It was a long day but I eventually made it to my b&b in Ripon and went for a short walk around the city to stretch my legs.
I’d never been to Ripon before and so I was keen to explore the area and walk part of the Ripon Rowell. The weather forecast was for deteriorating conditions and so I chose to walk the next day. My plan was to walk a 16 to 18 mile section of the 45-mile circular route in a clockwise direction heading south.
I left the b&b at 9:30am under ominous skies. The clouds were dark and being driven by a strong northerly wind. The forecast indicated it would stay dry but the skies looked like they could open up at any minute. Getting on the Ripon Rowell was easy as it passed within a couple hundred yards of my accommodation. I followed the River Ure south and along the eastern edge of Ripon. After skirting the fields the trail cut back toward the city at which point I crossed a tributary via stepping stones. It was a short walk along lanes and across one busy road to join the Ripon canal.
The walk along the canal towpath was lovely despite the cool weather. There were very few walkers about but an abundance of bird life. I passed the Ripon racecourse, a popular venue for thoroughbred horse racing. I spent a good hour walking along the canal but shortly after Ox Close House the Ripon Rowell veered southwest and away from the canal. The easy navigation was over and from this point on I would be continually checking my maps to ensure I remained on track. The signage along the route was inconsistent and so day-dreaming was not an option.
I emerged from a small wood at the edge of a village called Bishop Monkton. The Ripon Rowell enters the village at it’s opposite end and follows a roundabout route that takes a good half hour. It was pleasant enough as it weaved its way through open fields, through hedgerows and along a long track. The wind continued to howl and as I passed a farmyard windmill it sounded like it was going to take off. I do however enjoy watching the wind as it sweeps across the crops in waves producing an almost hypnotic effect.
Bishop Monkton is a pretty village with a stream running through it’s centre. I stopped off at it’s church, St. John Baptist, and took some photos of its small war memorial. I continued on and through a campsite which included a small and friendly dog that seemed intent on following me on my walk. A long stretch of fields and tracks followed before I arrived at Burton Leonard, another pretty village where I enjoyed half a pint of Dalesmen Bitter at The Royal Oak. Finding the route out of the village was hampered by poor signage but a local lad on a bike confirmed that I was headed toward Limekiln Lane and so on I went. I passed a nature reserve and a number of farms before emerging on a road where I met two lady walkers from Harrogate. They had parked at South Stainley and were part way through a circular walk. We walked together for about 20 minutes, chatting all the way, until they headed off in a different direction.
South Stainley was smaller than the other villages and within a few minutes I had left it for a path cutting through a farmers field and towards the busy Ripon Road. I crossed it at what appeared to be the only opening in the hedgerow on the opposite side, an unsigned track leading into more fields. Although I couldn’t be sure this was the right track it was going in the right direction and so on I went. After about a mile my confidence began to ebb as I had yet to see a sign of any kind. I was looking for a sign when I spotted a single red poppy bobbing in an immense field of green. I took this to be a good omen and carried on. Ten minutes later I passed a Ripon Rowell footpath sign.
The next village I encountered was Markington which included an enticing looking pub however I resisted the temptation and carried on through the cricket ground and onto a track that led to Waterloo Farm where I had a brief chat with a gentleman working on a fence.
A short section of thick brush and forest followed before a zig zagging road led to a large open field and Markenfield Hall in the distance. The Ripon Rowell passes directly beside this impressive and gothic-looking mansion. More fields followed before I joined a track next to Bland Close Farm. It was shortly after this that I left the Ripon Rowell as it veered off towards Fountains Abbey. I’d been walking for nearly six hours with very few breaks and so I chose a more direct route back to Ripon. Shortly after I arrived at my b&b the rain began to fall and was forecast to continue to do so next day.
Update: I have just returned from a 6-day visit to Ypres where I walked and cycled through Flanders Fields. I’ve posted three articles on my Doing Our Bit blog which you might find interesting. When I return home I will write up my experiences exploring Ripon, Harrogate and Knaresborough and the north Norfolk coast.