Nearing the end of our walk in Cottam Well Dale in the Yorkshire Wolds
Nearing the end of our walk in Cottam Well Dale in the Yorkshire Wolds

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Route No. 311 - Wednesday 9 September 2009
Cottam, Cottam Grange, Philip's Slack,
Cottam Well Dale circuit - 10km
Yorkshire Wolds . . .

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

Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer 300 Howardian Hills & Malton at 1:25000


Starting out along the lane
Starting out along the lane where we had parked

This is where it crosses one of the typical Wolds dry valleys called Cottam Well Dale. At the gate where the footpath along this valley joins the lane there is a grass verge wide enough to park off the road without obstructing the gate. We met two other friends here and the four of us began walking a few minutes before 10.00am.

After weeks of unsettled weather the forecast for today proclaimed that a high pressure area had arrived giving us settled warm sunny weather for the next five days at least. My neighbour, Jim, and I drove through Sledmere on the Yorkshire Wolds, to map ref. SE972634 on a narrow lane.

Beginning to climb up towards Cottam
Beginning to climb up towards Cottam

Following the path towards Cottam
Following the path towards Cottam

To begin with the path crosses the head of a small valley where there are some trees and pasture land but after that the path is between the huge arable fields so typical of the Yorkshire Wolds.

We walked along the lane for about 600m to map ref. SE974628. Here we turned left off the lane to follow a path climbing steadily up the hillside to gain around 100m in height over the next 2.5km.

Crossing the head of Lambert Dale
Crossing the head of Lambert Dale

Looking back towards Sledmere
Looking back towards Sledmere

Autumn ploughing in progress
Autumn ploughing in progress

Looking back along the path, it is in direct line to Sir Tatton Sykes's Monument which is at map ref. SE957618.

Here after the harvest ploughing was already underway ready to sow the next crop, probably winter sown cereals.

Looking back to Sir Tatton Sykes's Monument
Looking back to Sir Tatton Sykes's Monument

Concrete runway and access roads at Cottam ww2 airfield
Concrete runway and access roads at Cottam ww2 airfield

As an airfield it was a dismal failure because the wind here at an altitude of 150m was gusty, unpredictable and very turbulent and the airfield, built at the start of the war, was never put into operational use. Instead the site was used as a bomb and munitions store.

We continued along our path to map ref. SE997639 where we turned left to follow a track to Cottam. This track took us across the concrete runway of Cottam airfield, a relic of world war 2.

Concrete runway and access roads at Cottam ww2 airfield
Concrete runway and access roads at Cottam WW2 airfield

The ruined brick Holy Trinity Church of at Cottam
The ruined brick Holy Trinity Church of at Cottam

Path to the ruined church at Cottam
Path to the ruined church at Cottam

There is some information about the church and the airfield on the Yorkshire Wolds Guide We stopped on the grassy bank by the church for a break with a pleasant view across the fields.

From the runway we followed the path around Cottam House and the site of the abandoned medieval village of Cottam (just a series of mounds in a field now), to a brick church at map ref. SE993649. This is Holy Trinity Church built in 1890, and used until the 1930's, but is now in ruins.

Path to the ruined church at Cottam
Path to the ruined church at Cottam

Looking towards Cottam Well Dale from the ruined church at Cottam
Looking towards Cottam Well Dale from the ruined church at Cottam

What is this WW2 relic?
The remains of a Stanton air raid shelter
commonly used around military sites in WW2

Here at map ref. SE984662 we turned left off the farm access road to follow a path down the edge of the field to the top of Philip's Slack.

After our break we followed a track through the fields past Cottam Grange for about 600m beyond Cottam Grange.

Heading towards Cottam Grange
Heading towards Cottam Grange

Heading between the fields towards Cottam Grange
Heading between the fields towards Cottam Grange
Guinea fowl feeding amongst the horses at Cottam Grange
Guinea fowl feeding amongst the horses at Cottam Grange

Stile at the top of Philip's Slack
Stile at the top of Philip's Slack

Heading along the bottom of Philip's Slack
Heading along the bottom of Philip's Slack

It descends around 70m in a distance of no more than 100m - so quite steep then. We crossed the stile in the bottom of the valley and turned left to walk along the valley bottom.

At the end of the field there is a fence along the top of a very steep sided little valley known as Philip's Slack. We climbed the stile and carefully descended the path straight down the valley side.

The descent into Philip's Slack
The descent into Philip's Slack

The path led us into Cottam Well Dale
The path led us into Cottam Well Dale

The path along Cottam Well Dale
The path along Cottam Well Dale
Beef cattle grazing in Cottam Well Dale
Beef cattle grazing in Cottam Well Dale

Anchor blocks in Cottam Well Dale
Anchor blocks in Cottam Well Dale

Anchor blocks in Cottam Well Dale
Anchor blocks in Cottam Well Dale

Each block had a steel column with many bolt holes cast into it. We speculated about their function and on the basis of no information whatever we had the idea that the blocks were some kind of anchorage possibly for barrage balloon defences to the bomb store/munitions dump on Cottam airfield. This idea satisfied us and we completed the last couple of hundred metres back to the cars on the lane. The whole walk had been about 10km and it had taken us a little over three house to walk including our stop at the ruined church at Cottam. On the way home Jim and I stopped in Malton market square for a coffee and bacon roll to round off a very pleasant day out.

After about 1.5km we came to a junction with a valley called Cottam Well Dale which comes down directly from Cottam. We turned to follow Cottam Well Dale and at once saw a group of four large concrete blocks cast into the ground with a steel column embedded in the centre (map ref. SE978645). The concrete was clearly of WW2 vintage but there was no indication of their purpose in this remote valley bottom. We continued along the valley for over a kilometer and couple of hundred meters before we reached the car at the lane we came across more of the large concrete blocks. There were four on one side of the valley (map ref. SE972637) and two blocks on the on the opposite side of the valley (map ref. SE973635).

Anchor blocks in Cottam Well Dale
Anchor blocks in Cottam Well Dale

Returning to the cars at the end of our walk
Returning to the cars at the end of our walk

Background Notes:
This is a circular walk of 10km, about 6 miles around Cottam, 7km northwest of Driffield. The walk starts on a lane through a valley called Garton Bottom southeast of Sledmere village. Just after the start of the walk the route reaches a crossroads where to the right about 2km away is a very tall monument. This is a memorial to Sir Taton Sykes of Sledmere House. At this crossroads we turn left to follow a long straight track between the fields. This track is along the route of a Roman road that went from Bridlington to York via Garrowby Hill. The countryside here is rich chalky arable land divided into huge fields worked with ever larger machinery that you may see in the fields along the way. After about 2km we turn left towards Cottam and come to the runway of a ww2 airfield. This airfield has an odd history. It was one of the airfields constructed very quickly in the run up to ww2 and it was completed in 1939 as a base for a bomber squadron. After it was completed it was discovered that it was subject to very local air turbulence and it proved far too dangerous for aircraft to use. They risked being flipped over or blown off the runway at take-off and landing. Later the airfield was used as a munitions store instead. It was well suited to this being isolated with lots of hard standing on the disused runways. From the old airfield we skirt round Cottam House and come to the site of Cottam village. All that remains of the village today is a red brick church and the earthworks of the medieval village. In the 1370's about half of the 50 residents of the village were killed by a plague of the black death. The village never recovered economically from this and the survivors gradually moved away and the village was abandoned. The red brick church was built much later, in the 1890's for the use as a chapel of ease (no vicar) by the Cottam House estate. Services were held there up to the 1930's but since then it has fallen into disuse and decayed. From Cottam village the route passes Cottam Grange and turns down towards a dry valley called Philips Slack, down a very steep path near the head of the dale. After a little over a kilometer Philips Slack joins Cottam Well Dale. This dale is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It's an example of dry valley chalk grassland with a great variety of wild flowers and grasses best seen in the Spring. There are said to be 16 species of butterfly to be found in this little valley. As you follow the path along the bottom of the valley there are groups of large concrete blocks set in the valley sides. In one place there's a group of two blocks and in another place there are two groups of four blocks. the blocks themselves are about 1.2m square and the tops of each group of blocks are all at the same level. Each block has a substantial steel column set in it with a series of bolt holes drilled in the column. When I did this walk with some friends we puzzled over the purpose of the blocks. The concrete has the appearance of ww2 material and on the map the position of the blocks lines up either side of the approach to the Cottam Airfield runway. Our own speculation, backed up by no real information whatsoever, is that these blocks are barrage balloon anchorages set up as part of the defences to the airfield. If anyone has some hard information about them I'd be very interested to hear it. My email address is on the web site. From the concrete blocks it was only a few hundred metres to the road and the end of our walk.

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