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Markenfield Hall with its moat
Markenfield Hall with its moat

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Saturday 3 March 2007
Studley Deer Park, R. Skell, Monks' Fish Pond,
Markenfield Hall circuit - 14km
Ripon, North Yorkshire

Map: OS Explorer 298 Nidderdale at 1:25000
Route Map on 'Landranger' base from OS Open Space service
Open this route in Google Earth


Setting off through Studley Deer Park heading for the gate near the Obilisk
Setting off through Studley Deer Park heading for the gate near the Obelisk

Looking toward Fountains Abbey down the River Skell valley
Looking toward Fountains Abbey down the River Skell valley

We started walking just after 10.30am up the hill to the gate neat the obelisk at map ref. SE 273692. Through the gate we turned left to follow the path past the visitor centre and on to the road at map ref. SE 268683.

This morning we met a group of friends at Studley Deer Park near Ripon and parked in the National Trust car park by the lake at map ref. SE 278691.

Track beside the River Skell
Track beside the River Skell

River Skell in Skell Bank Wood
River Skell in Skell Bank Wood
Path through Skell Bank wood
Path through Skell Bank Wood

Stone arch footbridge over the river Skell
Stone arch footbridge over the river Skell

After about 600m we turned left over a little stone arch footbridge over the River Skell and followed the path up the hill to a road at map ref. SE 260681.

We walked down the hill to a sharp left hand bend in the road and turned right on the crown of the bend on to a path following the River Skell upstream.

Stile on to the road above the river Skell
Stile on to the road above the river Skell

Fountains Abbey fish pond
Fountains Abbey fish pond

Causeway across Fountains Abbey fish pond
Causeway across Fountains Abbey fish pond

We continued along the bridleway through the woods and on to an earth bank causeway and little footbridge across a large fish pond built by the monks of Fountains Abbey. There was a fallen tree by the pond edge where we sat for our lunch break watching the swans feeding in the shallow water at the edge of the pond.

At the road we turned left and walked along the road to a T-junction. Here we turned right and continued along the road for about 700m to map ref. SE 259671. We turned left off the road through a muddy gateway on to a bridleway across some very wet fields to the edge of a wood at map ref. SE 262669.

Swans feeding on Fountains Abbey fish pond
Swans feeding on Fountains Abbey fish pond

A very impressive oak tree at Foal Cote Farm
A very impressive oak tree at Foal Cote Farm
Heading across the fields from Foal Cote farm
Heading across the fields from Foal Cote farm

Field roller parked by the edge of the field
Field roller parked by the edge of the field

Some of the many snowdrops we saw on this walk
Some of the many snowdrops we saw on this walk

After our lunch we climbed the bank to Foal Cote Farm and continued along the bridleway and then a footpath across the fields to the road at map ref. SE 275660. We crossed the road and followed a path round two sides of a field to a road at map ref. SE 279660. At the road we turned right to walk along the road for about 500m to map ref. SE 282656.

"The Tower" a feature of the Fountains Abbey "Monk Wall"
"The Tower" a feature of the Fountains Abbey "Monk Wall"

Here we turned left off the road on to a driveway for about 1.5km that took us past Ingerthorpe Hall to the road at map ref. SE 293662. At the road we immediately turned left again and followed the route of the Ripon Rowel Walk across the fields to Markenfield Hall. For almost all of the walk we have been able to see "The Tower" to our left about 1km to 1.5km away. This is a feature of the outer wall of Fountains Abbey called "Monk Wall"

The courtyard of Markenfield Hall
The courtyard of Markenfield Hall
Markenfield Hall with its moat
Markenfield Hall with its moat

A retired farm implement - hay turner?
A retired farm implement - hay turner?

Path through the woods heading back to the deer park
Path through the woods heading back to the deer park

Markenfield Hall was built in the 14th century and is open to the public in the summer. It's an amazing place with a complete moat and all the buildings in tact and in use.

Handy picnic table for our afternoon break
Handy picnic table for our afternoon break

From the hall we continued northwards along the Ripon Rowel walk across the fields and onto a lane. After about 1,5km from the hall we turned left just before Whitcliffe Farm still following the Ripon Rowel walk across a field and into the woods above the river Skell.

Fairly ugly footbridge over the river Skell
Fairly ugly footbridge over the river Skell

Returning up the seven bridges valley
Returning up the seven bridges valley

Returning up the seven bridges valley
Returning up the seven bridges valley

We walked down through the woods to cross the river on a concrete footbridge. Over the footbridge we turned left to walk up the seven bridges valley back into Studley Deer Park. We left our boots and bags at the cars and went to the coffee shop at the end of the lake for our traditional end of walk drink.

Large beech tree growing from fissures in the rock
Large beech tree growing from fissures in the rock

The whole route had been about 14km and had taken us just under five hours to walk including our breaks. The weather had stayed fine and sunny all day. I just can't believe our luck after all the rain we've had in the last few weeks.

Looking across the lake from the coffee shop in Studley Deer Park at the end of our walk
Looking across the lake from the coffee shop in Studley Deer Park at the end of our walk

Background Notes:
This is a circular walk of 14km, about 8.5 miles, starting from the National Trust car park by the lake in Studley Royal Deer Park near Ripon. There has been a deer park in this area for many hundreds of years. In the early 1700's the park surrounded Studley Royal House but the house burnt down and was then rebuilt only to burn down again 200 years later in 1946 and it was then demolished. Only the stable block remains and that's now a private house. There are herds of Red Deer, Fallow Deer and now Sika Deer introduced into the park in the 1970's. All in all a total of around 500 to 600 deer. Now is the rutting season but people are still allowed to visit the park, you just have to be sensible and stick to the main drives and don't try to approach the deer. There are some magnificent old trees in the park and many of them have been recorded by the Ancient Tree Hunt. That's a national census of ancient trees being carried out by a consortium of UK tree charities and you can add your own reports on their web site. Our walk leaves the park by the obelisk and St Mary's Church. The church was built in the late 1870's to the Gothic designs of architect William Burges. We follow the footpath past the visitor entrance to Fountains Abbey and down the hill to the River Skell. We follow the River Skell upstream through some pleasant woodland and after about 2km along the riverside and along minor roads we reach the Monks' fishpond near Sawley Hall. The pond is about 500m by 250m with a causeway across it near one end. It's quite an impressive sight, hidden away in a fold in the land and surrounded by woodland. It was used to breed fish as a important food source for Fountains Abbey. The route follows a path across the fields from the fish pond and to the north on a small hill there is a ruined tower. This was part of the so called "Monk Wall" which was an outer boundary to the grounds of Fountains Abbey. Near the village of Markington our walk joins the Ripon Rowel Route. We follow this route north to Markenfield Hall. This is an absolute gem of a place! It's a medieval manor house built in the early 1300's and it is completely intact including a wide moat surrounding the whole building complex. The buildings are set around a central courtyard which is reached via a bridge over the moat. It's open to the public for a few weeks each year in the summer and organised groups can visit by arrangement at other times. From Markenfield Hall our walk continues along the Ripon Rowel Route to re-enter the Studley Royal Deer Park along the Seven Bridges Walk. In the 1700's the Fountains Abbey & Studley water gardens were laid out and the Seven Bridges Walk is an extension to them. The bridges over the River Skell were originally timber in the style of a Chinese pagoda and beside each bridge there is a cobbled ford to allow carriages to use the route. The river here feeds into swallow holes and goes underground so that parts of the river bed are often dry. In order to keep the river flowing on the surface and so maintain the appearance of the valley, a stone conduit was built to by-pass the swallow holes and you can see the entrance to it in the river bank by one of the bridges, but it's blocked up now. The timber bridges have all been replaces by stone footbridges which our walk crosses to reach the outlet to the lake and return to the car park at the end of the route.

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