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Kirkham Bridge & River Derwent/photo by Arnold Underwood,March 18th 2007

A glimpse of Howsham Hall / from a photo by Arnold Underwood, March 2007

NORTH YORKSHIRE - Kirkham Priory & Howsham - 13km (8miles)

'Ancient & Modern'

From the ruins of Kirkham Priory the walks heads down river by the Derwent to Howsham where the old water-mill is undergoing extensive restoration. The return from Howsham village is through woodland which will be carpeted with bluebells in the spring

Fact File

Distance 13km/8miles
Terrain Riverbank, field paths, and minor roads
Time 4 hours (allow more if visiting Howsham Mill)
Stiles 6
Grading ** Easy/Moderate
Suitable for all – but care needed in places on riverbank
Start/Parking Roadside near Kirkham Priory SE735658
English Heritage have imposed a £4 parking charge (free for EH members) by the Priory
Nearest Town Malton
Refreshments Stone Trough Inn, Kirkham and the Blacksmith’s Inn, Westow
Toilets none on the route
Public Transport none (nearest regular buses on A64 at Whitwell-on-the-Hill, ¾mile west)
Map OS Explorer 300 Howardian Hills & Malton

Route created using TrackLogs Digital Mapping

Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

  1. (Start) From the Priory walk down the road and across Kirkham Bridge spanning the Derwent. Immediately go left into the riverside meadow. Now it is simply a matter of following the river downstream for 2km to Howsham Bridge. After the meadow comes a wooded stretch of riverbank where it is advisable to opt for the higher path where there is a choice. Other low-lying areas are prone to flooded and can be boggy, so deviate away from the river if possible. Board walks are provided over some wet sections, but to the south of Oakcliffe Farm a section has been undermined and is impassable so deviate along the edge of the adjacent field

  2. (2.8km/1¾miles): For much of the way the opposite bank is cloaked by Howsham Wood. A little further and Howsham Hall comes into view, to be followed by Howsham weir (possible heard before seen) and the site of Howsham Mill, now in the throes of a massive restoration scheme. The path cuts right, to bridge over a stream, then climbs a bank at a sharp bend in the river overlooking the mill before dropping down into a small wood. This is a pleasant sheltered spot for a break.

  3. (4.9km/3miles): From the wood keep by the river to a gate by Howsham Bridge. Turn left and cross the bridge. If you wish to visit the Mill a footpath right takes you round under the bridge back to the Mill (a visit to the Mill adds about 1km in distance, but considerably more in time). Walk up the road for ½km and turn left into Howsham village. This is an attractive single street of cottages, with a delightful little church. About 50m below the church take a footpath right through several gates crossing small paddocks then along a field side to an awkward stile in the corner (which can be avoided by using adjacent gates). Turn left as indicated by a signpost (the last marker of any kind for some miles!) and walk down the side of a field to ford a shallow, but slippery, spill-way between two ponds. Go straight up to a small gate at the corner of Howsham Wood.

  4. (7.1km/4½miles): Turn right and follow a clear track, which climbs steadily up through the woods. The track swings left to be joined by another and continues to climb. This mixed woodland provides another ideal spot for a break, so look out for some convenient logs and tree-stumps for seats. Now hereabouts on the OS map, the right-of-way is shown to take a sharp right then left leaving the wood and turning up the hillside towards Westow. There is no sign to indicate this, although the path is there with a fallen tree blocking the way just before a stile into a field - far better to stay on the forest track. The woodland is managed by the Forestry Commission (Forest Enterprise) so there is right of access, although again there are no signs to show this. Continue north and now look out for path-side wood carvings representing trees and plants to be seen. In late spring this next stretch of the wood is carpeted with bluebells.

  5. (9.4km/5¾miles): The track leaves the wood at Badger Bank. Here the property is very eco-friendly with solar panels and a wind turbine providing ‘free’ energy. Turn right up the road towards Westow, passing the cricket pitch. If you must visit the pub continue to the T-junction and turn right, otherwise just before the junction go sharp left onto a track (unsuitable for motor vehicles). Follow this over the hill (with the unusual spire of Whitwell church on the skyline left) and down to a road.

  6. (10.8km/6¾miles) Cross over and walk down the lane into Firby. Just round the corner a footpath sign (Centenary Way – Kirkham) directs you into the grounds of Firby Hall. The footpath keeps up the grass by the hedge on the right and through a couple of paddocks into a large field. Cross to a stile. Now walk along the side of the field ahead until opposite a sign and gate. Turn left and follow tractor tracks through the crops to the gate to the Kirkham road. Turn right and walk back down the road to Kirkham. At the T-junction, the Stone Trough Inn is just to the left and the Priory is down the hill to the right. Take care walking round the bends in the road. (12.8km, 8miles)

    Along the Way

    Kirkham Priory
    These fragmented ruins of an Augustinian Priory by the River Derwent include a magnificent carved gatehouse, declaring to the world the Priory's association with the rich and powerful. However, the site also has more modern associations including a secret visit by the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill during the Second World War.

    Howsham Mill
    This Georgian watermill was described by Royal Commissioner for Historic Monuments James Williams as 'a very rare example of the gothic Revival style as applied to a functional building'. It was built by the Cholmeley family of Howsham Hall, and is probably the work of the then popular architect John Carr of York. The mill was still in use at around the time of World War Two, but after the sale of the Howsham estate the property was divided up and the mill fell into neglect. Restoration will result in the mill being opened as an educational resource centre promoting renewable energy. It could be made to pay its way by icorporating turbines to generate saleable electricity.

    Arnold Underwood with Leven Walking Club (March 2007)

This page was created by
Arnold Underwood

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