Carpet of wood anemones in Hackfall Wood by the river Ure
Carpet of wood anemones in Hackfall Wood by the river Ure

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Route No. 290 -
Thursday 23 April 2009
Nutwith Common, Grewelthorpe,
Hackfall Wood, River Ure - 12km
Lower Wensleydale. . .
(St. George's Day)

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

Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer 298 Nidderdale at 1:25000


Open land where we parked on the edge of Nutwith Common near Masham
Open land where we parked on the edge of Nutwith Common near Masham

Stacks of timber at the top of Nutwith Common wood
Stacks of timber at the top of Nutwith Common wood

We turned into the wood to follow the track climbing up the hillside, around the northern edge of the wood for about 1.5km to the top of the wood by the road at map ref. SE210778. Just before the road there were two large stacks of felled trees and opposite the stack nearest the road we turned left onto a footpath following the southern edge of the wood.

This morning my friend Jim and I drove out to an area of unfenced land next to Nutwith Common, 2km south from Masham. We parked off the road at a little parking area at map ref. SE225787 just before 10.00 am. We walked about 500m along the grassy path by the road to the entrance to the Nutwith Common wood at map ref. SE223782.

Public footpath along the southern edge of Nutwith Common wood
Public footpath on the southern edge of Nutwith Common wood

Footpath through Nutwith Common wood
Footpath through Nutwith Common wood

Footpath leaving the southern edge of Nutwith Common wood
Footpath leaving the southern edge of Nutwith Common wood

We followed the well walked path to join a track at map ref. SE221777 and then after about 100m we followed a good path on the ground off the right of the track. After another 200m we turned right to take a path down a slope to the edge of the wood at map ref. SE225775. I've made it all sound much more difficult than it is. We just followed the well worn paths on the ground.

It's mainly a beech wood and the woodland floor is covered with a carpet of crisp brown beech leaves which I like (nostalgia for a similar wood I played in as a boy) but there are very few woodland flowers in this type of wood. Navigation of the next part of the route is a bit awkward because the path on the ground does not follow the legal right of way shown on the map.

Heading for Grewelthorpe across the fields
Heading for Grewelthorpe across the fields

Trig point south of Nutwith Common wood
Trig point south of Nutwith Common wood

Bluebells by the road near Grewelthorpe
Bluebells by the road near Grewelthorpe

The village of Grewelthorpe
The village of Grewelthorpe

We took the direction from the map to spot the next stile or gate across the field. We walked along the road into Grewelthorpe. In the village at the top of a slope there was a new bench under a sycamore tree where we stopped in the shade for a drink.

From the edge of the wood we walked along a path across the fields for about 1km to a road at map ref. SE226768. Where the fields had been cultivated the path had not been reinstated.

This chinouk was one of many military helicopters around today
This chinouk was one of many military helicopters around today

The church at Grewelthorpe
The church at Grewelthorpe

Here we turned off the right hand side of the farm road to follow a path across the fields and along a track between hedgerows to map ref. SE234761.

We continued throught the village to the farm access road to Mowbray Hall at the side of the church at map ref. SE230762. We walked along the farm road for about 350m to a bend at map ref. SE233764.

Overgrown stile near Grewelthorpe
Overgrown stile near Grewelthorpe

Pond by the path near Grewelthorpe
Pond by the path near Grewelthorpe

There are overgrown, unusable stiles, rickety gates tied up with baler-twine and cultivated fields where the path has been ploughed out and not reinstated. Fortunately the weather was fine and dry and the cultivated land was dusty. If it had been wet the conditions underfoot would have been quite bad across these fields.

At this 'T'-junction in the track we turned left to follow a track for 200m to its end at map ref. SE236762. From here we followed a path across the fields for just over a kilometer past Bush Farm to the edge of Hackfall wood at map ref. SE247764. The whole path from Grewelthorpe is not maintained.

An overgrown stile near Bush Farm
An overgrown stile near Bush Farm

Start of the path through Hackfall wood
Start of the path through Hackfall wood
A speckled wood butterfly on the path in the woods
A speckled wood butterfly on the path in the woods
A pink wood anemone
A pink wood anemone
Bluebells by the path in Hackfall wood
Bluebells by the path in Hackfall wood
The Ripon Rowel path in Hackfall wood
The Ripon Rowel path in Hackfall wood

We joined the path into the woods and after a few hundred metres we joined the Ripon Rowel route at map ref. SE245767. We continued through the woods on the Ripon Rowel route by the River Ure for over 3km.

Just gazing around in Hackfall wood
Just gazing around in Hackfall wood

Wood anemones in Hackfall wood
Wood anemones in Hackfall wood

The Ripon Rowel path in Hackfall wood
The Ripon Rowel path in Hackfall wood

Small bracket fungi on a log in Hackfall wood
Small bracket fungi (Coriolus Versicolor)on a log in Hackfall wood
Orange fungus on a fallen log
Orange fungus on a fallen log
Wood anemones in Hackfall wood
Wood anemones in Hackfall wood
Wild garlic in great drifts in Hackfall wood
Wild garlic in great drifts in Hackfall wood
The Ripon Rowel path by the River Ure through Hackfall wood
The Ripon Rowel path by the River Ure through Hackfall wood

A deer track on the path in Hackfall wood
A deer track on the path in Hackfall wood

There are huge drifts of wild garlic, wood anemonies, bluebells, wood sorrell, dogs mercury and many other wild flowers. We found a very pleasant spot to sit on a little wooden bridge for our lunch. After our break we continued to the edge of the wood at map ref. SE232786.

Hackfall Wood is owned by the Woodland Trust and there is open public access to the site. There are many paths to explore around the steep valley side with numerous large follies from the nineteenth century. Thia area has been woodland for centuries and all the indicator plants for ancient woodland are there.

Steps up to one of the follies in Hackfall wood
Steps up to one of the follies in Hackfall wood

The Ripon Rowel path by the River Ure through Hackfall wood
The Ripon Rowel path by the River Ure through Hackfall wood
Primroses in Hackfall wood
Primroses in Hackfall wood
Water Aven by the path in Hackfall wood
Water Aven by the path in Hackfall wood
The River Ure in Hackfall wood
The River Ure in Hackfall wood
Common Morel mushroom in Hackfall wood
Common Morel mushroom in Hackfall wood
Violets in Hackfall wood
Violets in Hackfall wood
The River Ure in Hackfall wood
The River Ure in Hackfall wood
A fern growing from a tree stump in Hackfall wood
A fern growing from a tree stump in Hackfall wood
Stitchwort in Hackfall wood
Stitchwort in Hackfall wood
A young elm by the river Ure
A young elm by the river Ure

Path across the fields to Nutwith Cote farm
Path across the fields to Nutwith Cote farm

River Ure below Nutwith Cote farm
River Ure below Nutwith Cote farm

Approaching Nutwith Cote farm
Approaching Nutwith Cote farm

From there we followed a path off the road over the grass back to the car to complete our walk.

We walked across the fields above the river Ure to Nutwith Cote farm. We followed the farm access road out to the road at map ref. SE228790.

Farm buildings at Nutwith Cote
Farm buildings at Nutwith Cote

Farm buildings at Nutwith Cote
Farm buildings at Nutwith Cote

On the way home we stopped in the market square in Masham for our usual coffee and toasted teacake to round off a lovely day.

The whole route had been 12km and it had taken us about four and a half hours to walk including our stops. You do need to leave time to sit and just gaze at everything in Hackfall Wood.

Open land at Nutwith Common at the end of our walk
Open land at Nutwith Common at the end of our walk

Background Notes:
This walk starts near a tumulus or ancient burial mound on some open common land called Roomer Common about 2 miles, 3km south of Masham, next to Nutwith Common. It's a circular route of 12km, about 8 miles by the River Ure and through some of the best woodland you're likely to find anywhere. Our walk follows a path next to the road across Roomer Common southwards to the entrance to a woodland plantation known as Nutwith Common. The route follows a track climbing up to the top edge of the wood and then follows the southern edge of the wood towards the village of Grewelthorpe. This part of the route is a very pleasant walk through this planted commercial woodland. Our route leaves the wood to climb up over Camp Hill where there is a trig point to the right (east) of the path. This hill top was the site of a Roman military camp. We continue through the village of Grewelthorpe which in the 1200's was on the boundary of an estate owned by the Mowbray family based on Kirkby Malzeard, an estate owned by the Earl of Richmond based on Masham and lands owned by Fountains Abbey. In the early 1800's Grewelthorpe was notorious for the staging of illegal boxing matches or prize fights. Our route crosses the fields from the village to drop down to the Ripon Rowel Walk through Hackfall Wood by the River Ure. Hackfall Wood is a revelation. This is ancient semi-natural woodland and what a contrast to the plantation of Nutwith Common! Hackfall has mixed species of native trees at all stages of growth. There are lower shrubs and a complete carpet of wild woodland flowers of every kind. These woods support a great variety of birds and animals, it's just a magical place. In the 1700's the wood was bought by John Aislabie, the owner of Studley Royal House and parkland. It was he who had the woodland landscaped to include walkways up and down the side of this steep gorge of the River Ure. He had a series of follies built to suggest a fashionable arcadian landscape. And, using the water pressure from a stream flowing down the hillside to the river, he had a powerful fountain built that discharges into a pool at the foot of the slope. In 1988 the wood was acquired by the Woodland Trust and with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund thay have restored this woodland pleasure garden including the magnificent fountain.The woodland flowers are best seen in the spring but this kind of woodland is well worth a visit at any time of year and indeed several times during the year to see the different treasures of each seasons, and the River Ure provides a lovely border to this idylic wood. The route map on my web site shows the route following the Ripon Rowel Walk alongside the River Ure for a little over 2km, but it's worth the extra effort of following a path (and steps) up the hillside to explore the follies and view the wood and the river from above. When the path emerges from the woodland we approach a farmstead called Nutwith Cote. Originally this was a grange of Fountains Abbey. The granges around the abbey estates provided temporary accommodation for the monks who were travelling around these vast estates to manage estate buisness. The present farm house and out buildings were built in the 1600's and 1700's and are now grade 2 listed buildings,. We follow the farm access road out to the public road at the northern end of Roomer Common and back to the car park near the tumulus at the end of our walk.

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