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Country walk at Hackfall near Ripon
George Wilkinson takes a magical walk through the woods at Hackfall.
When we were last here in November 2002, our experience and our route was somewhat random, but since then a million pounds of Lottery money has worked wonders. So here is the longer leaflet walk, for “the full Hackfall experience”.
With a glance to a distant Masham Church, we took a long and sunlit pasture, down by fruity hedges to the gate to the woods, the oak, ash and hazel leaves pale or red or yellowing.
A fly agaric pushed through the earth, the woods, to quote the Woodland Trust, were “magical” all through. Soon we got a lovely slice of a view from a hillock, followed by a hairpin descent to a wide and glittering River Ure where nestles a little sandy beach with room for a bus full, if packed tight.
Turner painted hereabouts.
A bevy of walkers burst into song, hearts-tongue ferns lolled in filtered, dappled light and we moved into the most romantic part, I felt, of a very romantic wood.
A grotto has been lovingly restored to “a sound but ruinous state”. Forty Foot Fall fell thin, a little temple offered cool from the heat, a pond reflects ruins and squirts a surprise fountain and male hawker dragonflies patrolled, two clashing with a loud click. These woods and all have been “lost for nearly a century”. Now everybody is welcome and 30, mostly ladies, of the Harrogate Rambling Club snaked by.
The next folly is Fisher's Hall, high over the river and pretty, and, as with the rest, roofless.
This is a gorge and the climb out makes this more than a woodland stroll, there's drama rising above tier and tier of oak, a grand ascent to the grandest folly, Mowbray Castle, which, again for a hot day, was catching and tumbling the tree top breeze like a cool drier.
We reached the Top Pond, just along the road is Grewelthorpe and the Crown where you can park, their beermats show today's route plus a link to and from the pub. The last folly, except for Lovers Leap, a different sort of folly and fenced, is The Ruin. Alone, it is part roofed, part inhabitable.
The views are fantastic.
When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.
1. From car park, snickelgate and left to track/path downhill, snickelgate/fieldgate (Hackfall Longer Walk), down left side of pasture.
2. Snickelgate/fieldgate (signs) into wood, 100 yards, right hand bend, ignore a narrow path on left and go downhill near wall (knee-high viewpoint sign), 50 yards.
3. Path on right uphill (viewpoint sign on post). From bench and viewpoint, steep path twists downhill to junction near pointed stone pillars and river.
4. Through pointed pillars, you can take 12 steps down to sandy beach here. Path downriver, pass bench at remains of Sandbed Hut.
5. Fork right (garden features sign) and uphill.
6. Path on right (Fountain Pond/car park sign), uphill to grotto with waterfall view and then pond with fountain by the Rustic Temple.
7. From pond retrace steps to previous junction, ten yards then over stream and immediately left to path (unsigned) downhill, 50 yards, ignore right.
8. From Fisher’s Hall, downhill on path with steps or take parallel path 50 yards back without steps.
9. Right to path, stepping-stones across stream, path, step-stream, footbridge.
10. Steps on right (Mowbray Castle sign) and long climb, slab bridge, some steep drops.
11. Steps on left up to Mowbray Castle. Otherwise continue, ignore path (Kent’s Seat) downhill on right, continue (Grewelthorpe Village).
12. At pond (info boards), footbridge, steps on left up to see pond. Path downhill in wood with stream on your right, ignore double arrows about 15 yards above the path. (Entrance to Hackfall Woods for walkers starting in the village is opposite Hackfall House on the Masham road and is well signed).
13. Fork left (ruin/carpark sign). At the ruin, now a holiday cottage, (signs) either along house terrace or stile to path skirting to left, after the house, stile back into wood. Pass steps at Lovers’ Leap, viewpoint benches. Path at edge of woods.
14. Snickelgate on left, field, uphill back to car park.
Distance: Four-and-a-half miles.
General location: Near Ripon.
Right of way: Public and permissive.
Date walked: September 2011.
Road route: Various.
Car parking: Car park just north of Grewelthorpe or the Crown in Grewelthorpe.
Lavatories: The Crown.
Refreshments: The Crown 01765 658210.
Map: Courtesy of the Woodland Trust and others.
Tourist & Public Transport Information: Masham TIC 01765 680200.
Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.