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Dales Trails

The view from Toisland Farm/Photo by Arnold Underwood

Old railway viaduct/from a photo by Arnold Underwood

NORTH YORKSHIRE - Birdsall from North Grimston

High Brows - the northern fringe of the Yorkshire Wolds

Explore the northern fringe of the Yorkshire Wolds taking in the quiet estate village of Birdsall, home of Lord Middleton, and the medieval village site of Wharram Percy. For much of the route you will be following part of the Centenary Way.

Fact File

Distance 13km (8 miles)
Time 4 hours
Map OS Explorer 300 (Howardian Hills & Malton)
Start/Parking Middleton Arms, North Grimston (please ask the landlord for permission)
Terrain Field paths, bridle-ways, and minor roads. Steady climb onto Birdsall Brow.
nearest Town Malton
Refreshments Middleton Arms at North Grimston
Public Transport Infrequent: North GrImston is served by Postbus from Malton (Mon - Sat) and bus 136 (Driffield - Malton, Mon & Fri only).
Suitable for for everyone.
Stiles 2

  1. (Start) Walk away from the Middleton Arms towards Malton, crossing to the left-hand side of the road to arrive at a Centenary Way sign by a stream. Cross the stream by means of a footbridge and follow the Centenary Way through a gate, keeping by the beck underneath trees where it can become overgrown and wet underfoot. At the next gate you leave woodland to pass, surprisingly, under a substantial viaduct. This is on the route of the long-closed Driffield to Malton railway line. The structure owes its continued existence to the fact that it is now owned by Birdsall Estate for use as an access road. Walk parallel to the beck up pasture, dotted with trees so that it has a park like feel to it. Go into the next field and keep round the L-H side to a minor road.

  2. (1km, ¾ mile) Cross this road to continue on the Centenary way as it follows the shallow valley formed by the stream. The fields form lush pastures for grazing cattle, and you can expect to encounter a bull with the herds at certain times of the year. The cattle appear to have the 'right to roam' and you could find that field gates are left open. Please leave gates as you find them - be that open or closed. At a closed gate, on your left by a cattle pen, the path swaps its allegiance to continue in a westerly direction with stream and hedgerow now to your right. Keeping to the bottom edge of some big fields, which rise up the slope of Grimston Brow, you eventually reach a minor road at a bridge over the beck, shown as Mill Beck on the map.

  3. (3km, 1¾ miles) Turn left along this road and follow it for about a mile to Birdsall village. After passing a few estate houses the road swings left, but you should keep straight on up towards the church. So overhung by trees, it is as if this lane passes through a tunnel. You emerge on the green with the church to your left. The lane continues straight across the green becoming the private access to Birdsall House, so you must go left to leave the green at a gate/cattle-grid opposite Home Farm. Take the lane opposite the Estate office, down the side of the farm passing one or two more houses and then bearing right. This narrow lane is still the route of the Centenary Way. Soon, the tarmac road turns 90° left, but your way is straight on, on a stony farm track heading for the northern slopes of the Wolds - Birdsall Brow.

  4. (5km, 3 miles) At the foot of the escarpment you come to a gate. Pass through and note the lone footpath sign indicating your route up the left-hand track. It is a steady pull up the hillside, which is pockmarked with the evidence of old quarry workings and spoil tips. The view back over Ryedale improves as you gain height. Eventually the gradient easies and you come to a gate below Toisland Farm. From here, on a clear day, the view extends from the Kilburn White Horse to the NW, Castle Howard, Birdsall House, Malton and across Ryedale and the Vale of Pickering to the North York Moors. As you turn and walk up the lane past the farm, notice the name spelled out in horseshoes on the end of the barn. At the T-junction turn left to walk due east along the top of Toisland Wold, to be soon joined by the Wolds Ways which has come up from Thixendale.

  5. (7km, 4½ miles) Continue in easterly direction in the shelter of North Plantation. Across the dale sits Wharram Percy Farm, sheltered, like many Wolds farms, by woodland on three sides. As the valley deepens you come across a footpath sign - bear left as indicated to follow the Wolds Way above Deep Dale towards Wharram Percy. Another sign points the way diagonally down to a gate into the grounds of the deserted village site. Spend some time here to explore the ruined church and the earthworks of this site, the most famous of the Wolds 'lost' villages.

  6. (8.5km, 5½ miles) Leave by the gravel path, which leads down to a gate to the disused railway. The main path (Wolds Way) continues across the track-bed and up to a car park. However for this walk do not cross the railway but turn due north along it (Centenary Way) passing a disused quarry to arrive at some cottages at the site of Wharram station. Join a minor road and walk down and round to where the railway once bridged the road. It is from here that the old track becomes the private access for Birdsall Estate. With that route not accessible without permission you must continue up the lane and follow it for about 2 miles almost all the way back to North Grimston.

  7. (10km/6½miles) This is no hardship as the lane only serves a couple of farms so you are unlikely to encounter much traffic. Bear right at the top of the hill, then in a further ½ mile bear left. The lane, called Luddith Road on the OS map, runs along the top of Grimston Brow with far-reaching views to the north. It then turns and descends steeply towards North Grimston, bringing you to the point where the Centenary Way crossed near the start of the walk. Turn right to follow this path back down the fields, under the viaduct, into North Grimston.

    Along the Way

    Birdsall is a typically English estate village, which has hardly changed at all over years. Tucked away in a rural backwater, time has passed it by. It is home for Lord Middleton (hence the 'Middleton Arms' inn at North Grimston) whose house is visible from the top of Birdsall Brow. For more details and a photograph of Wharram Percy see the walk for March 2003.

    Arnold Underwood (July 2003)

This page was created by
Arnold Underwood

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