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Bluebells in Gillfield Wood
Bluebells in Gillfield Wood

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Route No. 246 - Sunday 18 May 2008
Leyburn, Leyburn Shawl, Preston-under-Scar, Wensley circuit - 10km
Wensleydale, Yorkshire Dales . . .

Ordnance Survey route map on the Landranger series map base
View the route in Google Earth

Map: OS Explorer OL30 Yorkshire Dales Northern & Central areas


Leyburn at the start of our walk
Leyburn at the start of our walk

From the mini-roundabout at the western end of the main street (map ref. SE111904) we followed the tourist sign post up the street opposite to "The Shawl".

This morning my wife and I decided to make an early start. The weather was bright with shower clouds about and a cool wind, but very pleasant conditions for walking. We managed to leave home at about 8 o'clock and we arrived in the main street in Leyburn at about nine.

Setting out along Leyburn Shawl
Setting out along Leyburn Shawl

Pollen cloud from the Scots Pine flowers
Pollen cloud from the Scots Pine flowers

Legend has it that Mary Queen of Scots, who was imprisoned at Castle Bolton, made an escape attempt along this scar and dropped her shawl on the way - hence the name, but the information board on the site says that the name probably comes from the old words for either 'wood' or 'dwelling'.

There are several different signs on the walls along the way to the edge of the town only about 200m away to the start of the park and the Shawl. The shawl is a rocky limestone scar running along the valley side to Preston-under-Scar.

Ash in flower
Ash in flower

Looking across Wensleydale to Pen Hill from Leyburn Shawl
Looking across Wensleydale to Pen Hill from Leyburn Shawl

Nearing the end of Leyburn Shawl
Nearing the end of Leyburn Shawl

Here we left the wood and followed a path down the hill and across the fields to a track at map ref. SE078912. At this point there was a gate across the track which we walked through and at once took the footpath on our right in to Gillfield Wood.

There are wonderful views of Wensleydale from the Shawl, with the dominant presence of Pen Hill across the valley and, in the distance up the valley there is the distinctive shape of Addlebrough. We walked along the path through the woods on top of the Shawl for about 2.5km to map ref. SE085913.

Path down to the stream in Gillfield Wood
Path down to the stream in Gillfield Wood

 

The stream in Gillfield Wood
The stream in Gillfield Wood

Heading out of the wood towards  Preston-under-Scar
Heading out of the wood towards Preston-under-Scar

Just into the village we turned left off the road to follow a path down the drive of a pair of houses and into the fields below the village.

The path took us across several small streams and after about 250m we came out of the wood into some sheep pasture. We crossed the fields to a road on the edge of Preston-under-Scar.

Preston-under-Scar
Preston-under-Scar

Heading across the fields to the Wensleydale Railway
Heading across the fields to the Wensleydale Railway
Approaching the Wensleydale Railway
Approaching the Wensleydale Railway

An unmanned crossing on the Wensleydale Railway
An unmanned crossing on the Wensleydale Railway

We noted that the driver slowed down and blew the train's horn as he approached the crossing (much less scary than our crossing of the East Coast 125mph main line on St. Cuthbert's Way). We continued across the line to a road at map ref. SE073905. -

The path led us down to an unmanned level crossing on the Wensleydale Railway at map ref. SE073906. A three coach passenger train came along the line when we were only a short distance from the line.

Looking along the Wensleydale Railway from the crossing
Looking along the Wensleydale Railway from the crossing

Looking back to Preston-under-Scar
Looking back to Preston-under-Scar
Stitchwort
Stitchwort
Looking up Wensleydale to Addlebrough
Looking up Wensleydale to Addlebrough
Starting gate for training race horses
Starting gate for training race horses
Wild Garlic
Wild Garlic

Herb Robert - the sap has an awful smell
Herb Robert - the sap has an awful smell

Here we reached the track in front of Bolton Hall at map ref. SE073896.

We crossed the road and followed the track opposite for about 1km, down the valley side.

A pair of pheasants
A pair of pheasants

Bolton Hall
Bolton Hall
A pretty coloured snail in the grass
A pretty coloured snail in the grass

Young rabbits by the path
Young rabbits by the path

At the village of Wensley we turned right and then left along the lane past the church.

At this cross roads in the track we turned left to walk in front of Bolton Hall and follow the track for almost 2km to Wensley village on the A684.

An old sycamore tree
An old sycamore tree

Quoits court in Wensley village
Quoits court in Wensley village
A ewe and her lambs keeping a wary eye on us
A ewe and her lambs keeping a wary eye on us
Cattle taking a siesta
Cattle taking a siesta

An old ash tree
An old ash tree

Just round the bend we took the footpath on the right hand side of the lane at map ref. SE093896.

Just beyond the church we turned left up a narrow lane. We followed the lane for about 200m first round a right hand bend then a left hand bend.

One of many stiles between Wensley and Leyburn
One of many stiles between Wensley and Leyburn

Looking down Wensleydale from the path below Leyburn
Looking down Wensleydale from the path below Leyburn

There we came to an old track running north/south to the edge of Leyburn.

We walked along this path across the fields for about 1.7km to map ref. SE109898.

Old sunken track leading back to Leyburn
Old sunken track leading back to Leyburn

Old sunken track leading back to Leyburn
Old sunken track leading back to Leyburn

It had taken us four and a half hours to walk including our stops along the way - there are lots of great views to admire. We had a very nice coffee and toasted teacake in Leyburn before driving back home.

We turned left on to the track and followed it up the slope to the main road (A684) on the edge of Leyburn. We walked along the main road to our starting point in Leyburn. The whole route had been just over 10km.

Water Aven by the path
Water Aven by the path

Looking back to the Wensleydale Railway from the track back into Leyburn
Looking back to the Wensleydale Railway from the track back into Leyburn
Back in the main street  in Leyburn
Back in the main street in Leyburn

Background Notes:
Today we're doing a circular route of about 10km (6 miles) from Leyburn market square. I like the start of this walk because you go instantly from the town with the market square behind you from the end of the street onto Leyburn Shawl with amazing views up Wensleydale from the edge of the Leyburn Shawl cliffs. Leyburn Shawl is a limestone scar that runs along Wensleydale from Leyburn up to Preston-under-Scar and there are further scars beyond above Redmire almost to Castle Bolton, and that's where local legend says the scar got its name. The story goes that when Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned at Castle Bolton from the middle of 1568 to the start of 1569, she escaped and made her way along the scar, a wild and inhospitable route in those days, to Leyburn. Along the way she dropped her shawl. The search parties found it and traced her escape route leading to her recapture. And so the scar became known as 'The Shawl'. It's a nice legend but in fact it's just as likely that Leyburn Shawl's name derives from an old word for Shieling or shepherd's hut that were on the high hillside next to the summer grazing land. The views across Wensleydale from the Shawl are magnificent. There's the unmistakeable shape of Pen Hill opposite sitting between Wensleydale and the side valleys of Coverdale and Waldendale. Looking further up Wensleydale there's another striking hill called Aldborough which did not used to have an official path over it but now a route up, and the summit, are owned by the National Trust and there's a permissive path over the top. Our route drops down to Preston-under-Scar through some pretty woodland, Gillfield Wood, where at this time of year there should be some bluebells in flower. They seem to be flowering much earlier now. Below Preston-under-Scar we cross the Wensleydale Railway at an unmanned level crossing on a farm track. This community railway runs from Leeming Bar to Redmire through a lovely part of Wensleydale. The walk goes from the railway down to Bolton Hall, and along the driveway from the hall into the village of Wensley. As you leave the driveway between the gate posts on the edge of the village look to the right where there is a quoits court. It consists of several square pits filled with soft clay, each with an iron peg set in the centre. There's a metal cover over each of these pits unless a game is in progress. From a set distance from a pit, iron quoits are thrown with the aim of hooking round the iron pin in the pit. The walk passes through Wensley and as you turn off the lane to follow a path across the fields look out for the concrete gatepost on the left. It has a rough inscription in the mortar on top that indicates that it was made by Italian prisoners of war at the end of the second world war. The path across the fields leads back to Leyburn and on the way it passes through a nature reserve called the 'Old Glebe Field' The site is managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust who aquired the site from the Church Commissioners in 1982. This is an old haymeadow that is carefully preserved using traditional methods so that all the old wild flowers still flourish. All-in-all I think it's a lovely walk with plenty of interesting things along the way.