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November trees off the lane to Newburgh Priory
November trees off the lane to Newburgh Priory

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Route No. 161 - Wednesday 30 November 2005
Byland Abbey, Newburgh Priory,
Coxwold circuit - 12km
Howardian Hills . . .

Maps: OS Explorer 299 Ripon & Boroughbridge at 1:25000
Route Map on 'Landranger' base from OS Open Space service

Byland Abbey
Byland Abbey

From the lay-by we walked along the road passing the abbey on our right to map ref. SE 550790. Here we turned right on to a footpath across the fields along the side of the abbey site.

The weather was cold, wet and misty this morning. Not very inviting but we drove to Byland Abbey to do our planned walk anyway. We parked in a large lay-by at map ref. SE 546785 only a short drive from home and we were walking by 9.30am.

Byland Abbey
Byland Abbey

Byland Abbey
Byland Abbey

We followed the winding course of the path for about 2km to Wass Grange at map ref. SE 562783, and for another couple of hundred metres to map ref. SE 566782 where we kept to the path round the foot of the hill. Just through the field gate was a flock of sheep and they all moved away up the slope as we approached. Then I noticed one in the edge of the woods well away from the rest of the flock.

Looking towards Oldstead over Low Pasture House
Looking towards Oldstead over Low Pasture House

This was quite unusual behaviour so we went to have a look and found the animal with a thick tangle of briars in its fleece and its head stuck though a square of the wire fence. I took a firm hold to stop it panicking and cut the entangled briars away. As soon as it was free the sheep trotted off and began grazing on the edge of the flock.

Barn & pond in the frosty November gloom near Byland Abbey
Barn & pond in the frosty November gloom near Byland Abbey
Sheep entangled in briars and the wire fence
Sheep entangled in briars and the wire fence

We continued on the path down the valley before realising that we should be following the contour round the edge of the wood. We retraced our steps and found the remains of a stile crossing a double fence, deep ditch and wide hawthorn hedge. It proved to be a very awkward crossing but in the end we scrambled over into a stubble field which we crossed and at the far side turned right to follow the hedge down the hill to map ref. SE 568777. Here we joined a fenced track around another patch of woodland to a farm called Old Pilfit, and down the farm track to a lane at map ref. SE 567769.

Farm machinery by the lane to Newburgh Priory
Farm machinery by the lane to Newburgh Priory

Old oak tree by the lane to Newburgh Priory
Old oak tree by the lane to Newburgh Priory

We turned right on to the lane and followed it for almost 3km to a road next to the pond at Newburgh Priory. We walked up to the pond and sat on the wall for our lunch. Most of the pond was frozen but the corner nearest the road was still free and a pair of swans were sitting there with a pair of Muscovy ducks standing on the bank looking hopeful at the arrival of some prospective picnickers. Out on the ice was a group of ducks. Some of them made a half hearted attempt to waddle towards us on the ice, but soon gave up when we did not seem to be giving away our lunch. When we had finished we threw them the left overs and there was a mad scramble to clear up every last scrap. After our break we headed towards Coxwold and walked up the village street past the pub on the right and the church with its octagonal tower on our left.

Swans on the pond at Newburgh Priory
Swans on the pond at Newburgh Priory
Coxwold Church
Coxwold Church
Coxwold village street
Coxwold village street
Shandy Hall
Shandy Hall

Just beyond the church we passed Shandy Hall on our right, the residence of parson Lawrence Sterne who wrote the novel "Tristram Shandy". A little further on at map ref. SE 530773 we turned right off the road on to a footpath across the fields. The first field had a herd of cows with young calves out in the frost and drizzle, so we gave them a wide berth just to be on the safe side after my close encounter with a protective cow near Markenfield Hall earlier this year.

Brink Hill on the way back to Byland Abbey
Brink Hill on the way back to Byland Abbey

We followed the signs to Cams Head, a farm about 2km away to the north. At Cams Head farm, map ref. SE 536790, we turned right to follow the path across the fields for just over 1km to the road near Byland Abbey, and our starting point. The whole route had been about 12km and had taken us 4 hours including our stops. We were very close to home so we omitted our usual tea shop stop and headed for a cup of tea and a hot bath at home.

Woods on the way to Cams Head
Woods on the way to Cams Head
Stile on the way back to Byland Abbey
Stile on the way back to Byland Abbey
Byland Abbey as we returned to our starting point
Byland Abbey as we returned to our starting point