Walking with the Dalesman
Stamford Bridge and the River Derwent with Rodger Matthews. First published in The Yorkshire Dalesman, December 2014
Walking route: Stamford Bridge and the River Derwent circular
Getting there: Stamford Bridge is situated along the A166 some 9 miles (14.5 km) east of York Distance: 7 miles (11 km)
Time: 3 hours
Start/Parking: Centre of Stamford Bridge on Viking Road car park, first right over bridge coming from York (GR-71259-55572)
Terrain: Flat walking throughout; a number of stiles and fields containing cattle
Facilities: Toilets, pubs and cafés in Stamford Bridge
Maps: Explorer series No 294 or Landranger 10
There can be few locations that have had such a significant impact on the development of this country and have not in some way sought to benefit from that occurrence. Tourist industries have been forged out of lesser occurrences and yet in this East Yorkshire village an event of major significance goes almost unnoticed.
On 25 September 1066 an English army led by King Harold Godwinson defeated an invading Norse army. In what was a bloody and horrific battle, the leaders of the invading army and most of their men were killed. The battle is referred to as the Battle of Stamford Bridge and has traditionally been presented as symbolising the end of the Viking Age.
Harold’s victory was short-lived. Three days after the battle, on 28 September, the Normans under William landed on the south coast of England. King Harold had to rush his battered, weary army south to meet the new invasion. In less than three weeks after Stamford Bridge, he was defeated and killed at the Battle of Hastings, thus beginning the Norman conquest of England and ending the Anglo-Saxon era.
How differently things might have turned out had Harold and his army not had to endure the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
Apart from Stamford Bridge’s historical interest, its location adjacent to the River Derwent makes it an attractive spot for observing wildlife. The diversity of the flora and fauna and the purity of the water has resulted in the area being designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Whenever you choose to walk you can be sure to see flowers of the season. In spring primroses and violets line the river bank, while near the viaduct look out for cowslips, bluebells and honesty.
In summer ox eye daisies, willow herb and ragged robin mingle with dog rose, foxgloves and honeysuckle.
Flowers along the banks of the River Derwent
Keep your eyes wide open for sight of roe deer, hares and any foxes in the area, and while scanning the river banks look out for that magical flash of blue depicting the presence of a kingfisher. Although rare, otters have been seen on the riverside.
1. Before commencing the riverside walk leave the car park in order to see the historical features that the village has to offer. Walk into the centre of the village to see close-up the impressive eighteenth-century former watermill that sits astride the River Derwent. To the right of the mill stands the memorial stone to the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
2. Return to the car park to begin the river side walk and bear to the right out of the car park, along the footpath signposted Low Catton.
3. Follow the clearly marked paths passing under the railway viaduct (opened in 1847 to carry the York-Beverley railway line. The line closed in 1965, and the viaduct is now used as a cycle route) before veering slightly away from the river along the path which passes beneath overhanging hedges and trees. Continue for some two miles (3.2 km) to enter the village of Low Catton.
4. Continue forward along the main street, admiring this well-kept village. The Three Cups pub on your right might be tempting but the route requires you to continue until a direction sign is reached on your right at the end of the village.
5. Keeping to the left of the hedgerow found along the route, continue along the field edges until the A1079 road is reached.
6. Turn right along the road pavement for a short distance, crossing the Derwent until the sign for the East Riding is located. Turn right from the road by stepping over the low barrier and follow the path (which can be overgrown) along the west bank of the river for three miles (4.8 km) back into Stamford Bridge, passing under the viaduct again.
7. On reaching the road, turn right, cross the ancient road bridge and turn right to re-enter the car park.