Map based on Ordnance Survey mapping by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. © Crown Copyright.
Map: Pathfinder 630
Distance: 5.5 miles (9km)
Walking Time: allow 3 hours, plus time to visit the abbey
Parking: at the Abbey Tea Rooms
This walk encompasses a visit to the lower slopes of Witton Fell, the luxuriant parklands of Wensleydale and the long-forgotten hamlet of Low Thorpe.
Jervaulx Abbey, built by the Cistercian Order in 1156, is synonymous with Wensleydale cheese. It is generally accepted that the original recipe was perfected by the monks in those far-off days when the cheese was known as Cover Bridge cheese. The monks cultivated large flower and herb gardens and also bred horses. The origin of horse racing connections at nearby Middleham was also down to the monks’ influence.
Leave the car park, turn right, and follow the road for a short distance to a junction where you turn right to follow a secondary road known as Newstead Lane (GR 170854). Swing left at the bend to pass Low Newstead Farm, and gradually rise along a section of Stake Bank Road. As the road levels off, turn right at an inconspicuous cross roads (GR165844) making towards Hammer Farm on the unmade Hammer Road (High Newsteads Farm lies in the opposite direction if confirmation of the junction is necessary). As you approach Hammer Farm, Grey Yaud Plantation is to the left. This conceals a redundant stone quarry from where stone used in the construction of Jervaulx Abbey came. Danby Hall, home of the Scropes, can be seen prominently across the valley on the right.
The driveway passes to the left of the farmhouse and buildings (GR155846), and is forsaken on the right, immediately after the fragile looking barn. Alternatively, continue along the driveway for 50m and go over a stile on the right immediately prior to reaching a gate. Whichever route you follow, make for a gateway resting in the far (NW) corner of the facing field.
Pass through a narrow swathe bisecting a larch plantation, then go right, to accompany the boundary towards a small, metal gate. From the gate continue in the same direction, with views of Wensleydale unfurling with every step, until the plantation ends. Turn left across the field towards a solitary tree. From the tree turn right and start a brief descent to a gate. Turn right, as indicated by the waymark arrow, then follow the boundary to your left towards Castle Lodge, which houses one of the moor keepers. The tumbling waters of Deep Gill Beck are usually audible.
Pass through the confines of Castle Lodge, then stroll along the narrow lane, past Waterloo Farm. Here an element of excitement enters the expedition, in the form of the forgotten hamlet of Low Thorpe (GR145858).
Low Thorpe has generally been swallowed up by East Witton, although several dwellings remain within the original boundary. The graveyard is on the left of the lane with many headstones remaining legible despite their age. One of these graves is said to contain the body of an infant with two heads. History books reveal another example of human deformity associated with Low Thorpe. This relates the tale of a child being born in 1825, having a hare’s head. The church at Low Thorpe was dedicated to St. Martin, and formerly belonged to Jervaulx Abbey. It was taken down in 1809 and its stone used in the construction of the ‘new’ church which stands several hundred metres to the north, at the eastern end of East Witton. This new church, dedicated to St. John the Evangelist, was endowed by Thomas, Earl of Ailesbury, to commemorate the 50th year of the reign of King George III. It was restored in 1871.
The route leads into East Witton, a typical Wensleydale village with houses either side of a green, formerly used as common grazing land. Immediately attention is focused upon a large glacial boulder on the village green known as the Boulder Stone, and said to weigh three tonnes. It required 18 horses to drag it here in 1859. The site became a focal point of village life as it housed the village’s water supply (now condemned).
Accompany the green to the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, built in 1882, (GR 142860) to reach a signpost indicating Cover Bridge. Enter the enclosure, seeking a gated stile at the far left corner. Continue across several additional enclosures, treading the same general line while appreciating long distance glimpses of Penhill far away on the left.
At a ruined barn (signposts) turn right, then left to Cover Bridge which is already in sight (GR144870). Emerging from the fields don’t cross the bridge – instead cross the road to a gate. Now follows an enchanting mile and a half, first in the company of the river Cover, then its big brother the Ure. Along the way retrospective views of Witton Fell, East Witton and its church are away to your right. Across the river, there is a closer encounter with Danby Hall.
The riverside saunter ends abruptly at a newly-laid surface. Pass through the gate then follow the track to the main road, where a left turn leads to the tea rooms and refreshments.
A visit to the ruins of Jervaulx Abbey and parkland setting is recommended. The abbey was a Cistercian foundation, dating from 1156.
From Tea Shop Walks in the Yorkshire Dales by Richard Musgrave
The information given in this walk has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a general guide. Whilst all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that details were correct at the time of publication, the author and Country Publications Ltd cannot accept any responsibility for inaccuracies. It is the responsibility of individuals undertaking outdoor activities to approach the activity with caution and, especially if inexperienced, to do so under appropriate supervision. The activity described in this walk is strenuous and individuals should ensure that they are suitably fit before embarking upon it. They should carry the appropriate equipment and maps, be properly clothed and have adequate footwear. They should also take note of weather conditions and forecasts, and leave notice of their intended route and estimated time of return.