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Byland Abbey
Byland Abbey

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Route No. 129 - Tuesday 22 February 2005
Byland Abbey, Wass,
Mt Snever Observatory, Oldstead - 8km.
Hambleton Hills . . .

Map: OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors Western area at 1:25000
Route Map on 'Landranger' map base from OS Open Space service
Open this route in Google Earth


Byland Abbey
Byland Abbey
This morning we drove just a few miles from home to Byland Abbey and parked in the lay-by at map ref. SE547786. The car parks next to the abbey are reserved for visitors to the abbey and patrons of the pub, the Abbey Inn. It was a bright crisp winter's day with a few short heavy snow showers. We walked along the road to the abbey and took the path across the fields to Wass from map ref. SE 550790. At the road in Wass we turned left to follow the track up through the woods for about 1.5km to the edge of the woodland at map ref. SE 540805. Near the top of the climb we came across a ewe hopelessly entangled in a briar patch. We managed to free it and it ran off still trailing several lengths of briar from its fleece. About 200m farther on there were two more ewes entangled in a some hawthorn scrub but their panic as we approached along the path freed them without any intervention by us. From the edge of the woodland, the path continues to Cam Farm, but we turned left to follow the wall around the edge of the woodland to map ref. SE 539805. The snow had drifted behind the wall to a general depth of about half a metre, so it was quite hard going. In the deep snow it was quite hard to spot the track we wanted off to our left through the snowy woods to Mount Snever Observatory at map ref. SE 537805.
We sat on the bank in front of the observatory for our lunch. There was a lovely view out through the snow covered trees to the snowy fields beyond. After our break we set again down a steep path directly in front of the observatory which emerged onto a forest road and brought us to a public footpath at map ref. SE 534807. Part way along the forest road a Roe deer bounded across the road just a few metres in front of us. At the footpath we turned left to follow the forest road out to the public road in Oldstead. After another 100m we turned left again on to a path that took us across the fields, along the edge of a wood to the road at map ref. SE 533798. At the road we turned right to walk up the road for about 150m to turn off on to the path to Oldstead Grange. We followed this path across the fields back to the road near our starting point. The whole route was about 8km and took us nearly 3 hours including our break at the observatory.
Mount Snever Observatory
Mount Snever Observatory
Looking back to Byland from Wass
Looking back to Byland from Wass
Ewes tangled in a Hawthorn bush
Ewes tangled in a Hawthorn bush
A lovely day for a walk in the snow
A lovely day for a walk in the snow
A lovely day for a walk in the snow
A lovely day for a walk in the snow
Snowy woodland near the observatory
Snowy woodland near the observatory
Snowy woodland near the observatory
Snowy woodland near the observatory
Byland Abbey
Byland Abbey
Byland Abbey
Byland Abbey

Starting the climb out of Wass
Starting the climb out of Wass

Crossing the fields from Oldstead
Crossing the fields from Oldstead

Inscription on Mount Snever Observatory
Inscription on Mount Snever Observatory

View from Mount Snever Observatory
View from Mount Snever Observatory

Background Notes:
This is a walk of 8km, about 5 miles starting near Byland Abbey. Parking at Byland Abbey itself is a bit awkward so the walk starts at a large lay-by off the road to Coxwold about a quarter of a mile from the abbey. The abbey was first occupied in 1177, by monks of the Cistercian Order, but work on the buildings started about 15 years earlier. The abbey ruins include the remains of a rose window in the west front and some red, cream and black tiled floors laid out in geometric patterns. When it was occupied the abbey was surrounded by large ponds used to rear fish, an important food source then just as now. From the abbey the walk crosses the fields to the village of Wass where there is usually an open gardens day and scarecrow display early in June. From Wass we follow a path up through the woods to the Mount Snever Observatory, built in 1838, Just a year after Queen Victoria came to the throne. The observatory is a square stone tower with a flat roof used as an observation point for local astronomers. It was built for a local man, John Wormald of Oldstead. The tower is about 35 feet high and stands on the hilltop on a craggy edge (not quite a mountain) at almost 1200ft, 400m above sea level. There's a very fulsome inscription about Queen Victoria's accession to the throne, it's quite long but here's just a flavour of it:- Here hills and waving groves a scene display And part admit and part exclude the day See rich industry smiling on the plains And peace and plenty tell VICTORIA reigns! . . . . and so it goes on in a similar vein. From the tower we descend a steep path through the woods to the village of Oldstead and return across the fields past Oldstead Grange originally a grange to the abbey and sited next to one of the large fish rearing ponds, which extended to the abbey. The walk finishes across the fields back to the abbey. After the walk there are plenty of local pubs for lunch and then there are a couple of local places of interest that you may like to visit. There's the visitor centre of the "Mouse Man", Robert Thompson, wood carvers in Kilburn about 3 miles away by road, and in Coxwold there is Shandy Hall, the home of Laurence Sterne, who was the vicar of Coxwold, when he wrote the novel "Tristram Shandy".
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