North Yorkshire Walk - Hovingham
PUBLISHED: 11:19 10 January 2012 | UPDATED: 21:00 14 March 2018
Discover a walk of shy valleys and neat villages, plump farms and hanging woodlands. Terry Fletcher is your guide
Although the Howardian Hills have been officially designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for a quarter of a century they have somehow managed to remain one of Yorkshire’s best kept walking secrets.
They lie both literally and metaphorically in the shadow of the North York Moors National Park which means that paths in this area of shy valleys, neat villages, plump farms and hanging woodlands can be joyously deserted even when the neighbouring moors are teeming with visitors. On a glorious sunny Sunday afternoon I met only one other group of ramblers on this delightful gentle circuit, which makes an ideal choice for a short winter’s day.
The walk begins at Hovingham, where the Worsley family built their first home in 1563 and still live today. The present Palladian Hall was built in the 18th century and continues to dominate this charming village of mellow stone cottages and tiny fenced greens.
The hall, which is only open to the public during the summer months, is perhaps most famous to cricket fans for the pitch in front of the house which has played host to many of the greats of past Yorkshire teams such as Len Hutton, Fred Trueman and Geoffrey Boycott as well as once staging a game between the village XI and England. Perhaps not surprisingly, and despite their home advantage, the locals were on the losing side.
Start from the free car park by the village hall and turn left up the main street, passing the eye-catching village school. At the bend at the top of the village take a path which cuts up the right hand side of the sloping green. At the top turn right up the road for 50 yards or so before taking a broad track on the left signed Ebor Way.
This crosses fields and eventually turns leftwards to enter a wood. Go over a crossroads of paths and at a junction a few yards further on carry on straight ahead along the main Ebor Way. Ignore paths to right and left until at a 90 degree right hand bend a path marked by a blue arrow heads downhill beside a mature plantation.
At the bottom of the hill go through the gate and head half right across a boggy area to a wooden bridge. Go through a gate ahead and follow the edge of the field leftwards until the path dives into the wood. Follow it as it weaves through the trees and then beside a beck, becoming enclosed, until it emerges at a T-junction with a three-way sign. Here we quit the Ebor Way and turn right up the narrow enclosed track heading towards Aireyholme Farm. After the buildings the farm access road is followed away rightwards, traversing several large fields and passing another farm before it reaches a road.
Turn right for a little over 100 yards until, just before the woods, a bridleway on the left leads downhill along the field edge to a gate at the bottom of the hill. Go through this and climb the field edge until the path emerges onto another narrow lane. Turn right downhill towards the farm buildings in the dip. Continue over the next rise and then straight ahead following signs for Hovingham. At the bottom of the hill take a gate on the right and head away along the field edge. Cross two fields in the same line and then a bridge, quickly followed by a stile. The path is now enclosed by trees but continues easily to a country lane.
Turn right and continue over a slight rise until an elaborately grandiose bridge appears in a field on the left. This structure, reached by a sign-posted gate, was once clearly intended for rather more important traffic than the few cows and occasional ramblers who use it today.
Cross it and climb to a gate. Follow the fence along the right hand side of the field to a stile in the corner. Cross this and follow the path along a line of trees to the village to emerge by a row of cottages and a café by the village ford.
Start/Finish: Village hall car park Hovingham
Distance: 5 1/2miles/9km
Time: 3 hours
Terrain: Farm paths, woodland tracks and country lanes
Refreshments: Café and pubs in Hovingham
Map: OS Explorer 300 Howardian Hills and Malton