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Dales Trails

Kirkham Bridge over the River Derwent/photo by Arnold Underwood, July 2009

Howsham Church/from a photo by Arnold Underwood, July 2009


'Westow, Kirkham Priory & the River Derwent' - 15.2km (9½ miles)

History & Natural History

This walk may take you a little off the beaten track through the rolling Yorkshire countryside that borders the River Derwent. The route passes three distinctively different churches and the ruins of Kirkham Priory. You also get a glimpse of the historic water-mill at Howsham, currently undergoing restoration, after being voted the Regional Winner of the 2006 Restoration Village TV series

Fact File

Distance 15.2km (9½ miles)
Time 4½ hours
Map OS Explorer 300 (Howardian Hills & Malton)
Start/Parking Westow (Main Street, near The Blacksmiths Inn) Grid Ref: SE 753652
Terrain This is a moderate walk through rolling countryside using field & woodland paths and tracks, riverbank, and country lanes. There is a fairly steep climb up from Kirkham through the woods to Crambe, and again later up into Howsham Woods. The section through Jeffry Bog Nature Reserve can, believe it not, be boggy! After excessive rain it may have to be avoided altogether by returning to the road as far as Firby
Grading ***
nearest Town Malton
Refreshments Pubs in Westow (The Blacksmiths) and Kirkham (The Stone Trough)
Toilets None
Public Transport Bus 184/5 from Malton to Westow (1 each way Tues-Sat). Yorkshire Coastliner bus services operate frequently along A64 (Whitwell-on-the-hill, 1km off route)
Stiles 10

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

  1. (Start) In Westow, walk due south past the Inn, turning left at the road junction. About 50m on, a concealed footpath sign directs you left between cottages. The path then goes to the right of another cottage and emerges onto Chapel Lane. Turn left along the lane to pick up another path on the right that heads down across an overgrown field to meet Church Lane opposite a children’s playground. Turn left along the lane which in a further 800m brings you to the remote parish church.

  2. (1.5km/1mile) Walk through the churchyard past the church to find gates in the corner into farmland. Walk across the field, in which there may be horses, to reach another lane. Walk down the lane past Church Farm to a minor road. Cross over to follow a footpath down the side of the field to the river. On the left is Jeffry Bog Nature Reserve with an information board. Spend a few minutes reading the information before going through the gate into the bog. Beware it can be very boggy! After heavy rain if the river level is high, the path could be impassable – it may be possible to pick your way round the wet areas by keeping up away from the river but if not, the only solution is to backtrack and walk along the road to Firby. Assuming you safely clear the bog, the path picks its way through the undergrowth and emerges up a bank through the trees. Walk up the field alongside a belt of woodland. Turn right along a farm track which leads into the hamlet of Firby.

  3. (4.5km/2¾miles) Turn right then left into Firby Hall. The footpath keeps to the right-hand side of the garden and through a couple of footpath gates. Cross a stile into a field, which may be occupied by frisky cattle, and head straight across to another stile. Walk along the right of the next field until opposite a stile on the far left-hand side of the field. Turn and head straight across to this stile. Emerge over the stile onto the road and turn right towards Kirkham. You must now walk along the road for about 500m down to a T-junction (near the Stone Trough Inn) and turn right downhill to Kirkham Priory and the River Derwent.

  4. (6.0km/3¾miles) Cross Kirkham Bridge over the river. Ignore the riverside path and continue up the road over the railway crossing. At a bend in the road a footpath goes left and climbs steeply up through the trees. At the top you meet a road and here turn left and walk down the road. Turn right into the little village of Crambe.

  5. (7.2km/4½miles) Take a few minutes in Crambe to visit the historic church then head right, through the village. Take a footpath left down the side of overgrown paddocks into trees and over a stream. Join a farm track and continue uphill. Over the brow, you start the gradual descent back towards the Derwent. On this easy stroll take care not to miss a footpath off to the left. This path leads past Hillside Farm down fields to cross the railway, turning left past Crambe Grange, to reach a minor road. Go right then left through one more field to the river. Turn right to follow the riverside path towards Howsham passing the weir and Howsham Mill on the opposite bank, to arrive at Howsham Bridge.

  6. (10.8km/6¾miles) Walk about 400m up the hill and turn left into picturesque Howsham village. Go down the single street passing the church to find a footpath to the right. This goes alongside fields below the church. Howsham Hall down to the left is now a private school. At a field corner, go through the gate on the left, not ahead, and walk down the side of the field. Join a track that crosses a stream out-flowing from a pond and head up towards a gate into Howsham Woods.

  7. (12.8km/8miles) A steady climb takes you up through the trees to join another track. This loops round the top of the hill and you can in fact go either way. Last time I went left. There may be tree-felling in progress so take note of any warning signs. The alternative loops merge round the hill and continue as a single track out of the woods to meet a minor road at a corner. Turn right up the road to enter Westow past the cricket pitch

    Along the Way

    Kirkham Priory – The fragmented ruins of the Priory by the River Derwent include a magnificent carved gatehouse. The Priory was a house of Augustinian canons, communities of priests who observed the Rule of St Augustine and who took responsibility for parish churches early in their history. Kirkham Priory is now in the care of English Heritage, and is open to the public from Easter until the end of October.

    Howsham Mill/from a photo by Arnold Underwood/July 2009

    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. The mill was still in use at around the time of World War Two, but after the sale of Howsham estate the mill fell into neglect. As a result of being the Regional Winner in the 2006 RESTORATION Village series, the mill will be re-opened as an educational resource centre promoting renewable energy. It is intended to pay its way by using turbines to generate saleable electricity.

    Arnold Underwood and friends (July 2009)

This page was created by
Arnold Underwood

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