North Yorkshire walk - Scackleton
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 February 2016
Copyright Terry Fletcher
There’s no need for a wooden horse if you want to take in Troy while on this walk in the hills near Scackleton, writes Terry Fletcher
If your idea of a maze is a bewildering labyrinth of impenetrable hedges constantly blocking your view and thwarting your progress at every turn, then at first glance the City of Troy may seem child’s play. For a start it’s only ankle height and the way through it is blindingly clear. But this is a turf maze and the puzzle is not how to get through it, but rather what on earth it was for.
Even the name is a mystery. What has the ancient city that inspired Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey got to do with a patch of ground beside a quiet lane tucked away in the Howardian Hills? It’s all a far cry from the story of the seduced queen, Helen of Troy, heroic Achilles and wily Odysseus. Some suggest the name comes from the complicated defensive walls of ancient Troy which for a decade defied the Greeks who only succeeded in taking the city by the ruse of hiding warriors in a wooden horse.
The maze, which measures just 26ft across, is one of only eight surviving in England, though copies of the design have been found on Greek and Roman pottery and they are more common in Scandinavia. One theory is that they were brought to Britain by Viking settlers but their purpose has been lost. Another is that they may have had some kind of religious ritual purpose, perhaps in communicating with the dead.
Whatever the explanation, it is an intriguing place to visit and a focal point of this walk through the hills.
Walk to the north end of Scackleton and just before the road forks turn left between two cottages up a lane with views across a classic English landscape of rolling valleys and hills with irregular fields bordered by hedgerows and dotted with woods and copses. After three quarters of a mile the lane arrives at Scackleton Grange. Take the signed path on the right to Swathgill, which leads past a duck pond on the left hand side of the farm buildings and out into fields.
Stay on the main track as it drops round a left hand bend and across the hillside to a gate. Go through this and on to another gate where the track resumes its descent. It crosses a stream and then passes to the left of a line of trees before contouring leftwards round the hillside to another gate and then heads half right up the slope aiming for a wood on the skyline.
When you reach the brow, a pair of wooden gates appear in the valley bottom, go down the slope and through these to climb the opposite bank towards the buildings of Swathgill. Just before reaching them at a T-junction turn left and climb the slope and through a waymarked kissing gate. From here carry on across the hillside passing a patch of large gorse bushes.
Where the field begins to taper to a point, look out for a waymarked gate at the bottom of the slope leading into a wood. Go through the narrow wood to emerge on the brow at Potter Hill Farm. Take the waymarked gate opposite and pass between the buildings to leave by its access track. After a couple of hundred yards on a left hand bend, carry on straight ahead up a grassy green lane and follow it to a gate and stile on the edge of a wood. Go over this and immediately turn left on a broad forestry road.
When it reaches a tarmac lane, jink rightwards to cross a tiny bridge and then turn immediately left up a path which initially follows the stream before climbing away. It weaves its way through woods, fields and hedgerows to arrive at a broad cart track by a three armed sign. This is actually the continuation of Grange Lane which we took at the start of the walk and offers a quick return to Scackleton. However to take it would mean missing the maze.
So instead turn right towards Bonnygate Lane and when the track emerges on the tarmac turn left to reach the small enclosure containing the maze.
From the maze, carry on down the lane to a junction and turn right. It is possible to cut this corner on a path through the wood but the way in narrow and overgrown.
Drop down the hill to enter Skewsby and at the phone box take a path on the left signed to Dalby. The track goes through a gate and follows field boundaries past some play equipment to reach a gate. Go through this, passing isolated allotments to a kissing gate. The right of the way goes along the bottom of the field before climbing it but the evidence on the ground suggests it is more usual to climb to the top corner before traversing rightwards along the upper edge to leave by a gate in the far corner close to Dalby’s St Peter’s Church, a curious building that seems to be half chapel and half castle and is well worth a visit.
Follow the road round to a T-junction and turn left for 50yards to reach a signed footpath on the right to Scackleton via Dalby Bush Farm. Follow this down fields to a gate where the path climbs to the farm. It passes in front of the buildings, from where a steadily-improving track heads away rightwards and leads eventually to Scackleton.
Start/finish: Scackleton, nr Hovingham
Time: 3-4 hours
Terrain: Field and woodland paths.
Parking: Roadside in Scackleton
Refreshment: Tea shops and pubs in Hovingham
Map: OS Explorer 300 Howardian Hills & Malton