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Country walk at Hackness
ON the site of the hall at Hackness there was once a grand monastery. It was inhabited by a cell of nuns founded in 680 by Hilda from the great abbey at Whitby.
The new monastery, built near the lake, was surrounded by peace and solitude among the hills and valleys of Hackness and would make provision for a nun called Begu who would start a weaving shop there. Begu was a good companion to Hilda having arrived at Whitby with her from Hartlepool and was trusted to help the Hackness cell thrive.
Many years later in the 11th century, a second monastery was built at Hackness, this time for the monks who had left Whitby to escape robbers and pirates who persistently attacked the abbey. The monks probably worked in Forge Valley manufacturing iron.
But it is the first monastery that has a strange tale to tell.
The tale surrounds Begu at the time of Hilda’s death at Whitby Abbey. One night Begu was awakened by the sound of the monastery bell ringing. As Begu opened her eyes, she saw the roof of the monastery open and a bright light filled her room.
Within the light she saw the soul of Hilda ascending into heaven surrounded by angels.
Begu rushed to the abbess to tell her what she had seen and the other nuns were called into prayer.
The next day monks from Whitby arrived to tell of Hilda’s death, where the abbess proudly announced that they already knew as they had been told of the vision by Begu.
When Begu told the monks the time of her vision at Hackness, they said it was exactly the same time as Hilda had passed away at Whitby.
Park on the roadside area near the Silpho junction opposite Hackness School. Walk past the school and church, under the bridge and past the entrance to Hackness Hall.
Ignore the bridle way sign on your left and continue along to a footpath sign across a small stream into open parkland.
Walk diagonally right now heading towards a wood. The path becomes steeper as you approach the entrance to the wood and narrows as you enter at the yellow waymark.
There should be a stile here but when I walked the route there was just a gap in the barbed wire fence.
Head off uphill through a woodland glade.
As you climb higher, the path narrows and soon dives into the gully on the left. Keep climbing on this even narrower path over fallen trees and rocks. Steep sides around you now and an overwhelming amount of prodigally luxuriant mosses and other green, moisture loving plants. At the top, exit up the man-made steps and turn right, then turn right again signed to Suffield. In about 20 paces, go left through a small gate, then right into a field.
Straight ahead now, then follow the path around the edge of the field left past a sunken menage, then follow the hedge as it bends to the right to cross two fields to the road at Suffield. Turn left here, then take the road to the right towards Scalby. In a hundred paces or so, go right over a stile at the footpath sign into a field onto a wide track.
Keep straight ahead now for about 400 paces, then when the wide track veers left, keep straight ahead for a few paces, then go right over a large stile. Keep the hedge on the right, then in the corner of the field go right through a gate into a grassy lane.
Continue along the lane to exit over a stile onto a minor road. Go left here onto the road then in half a mile bear right, then walk past the entrance for Suffield Heights to a stile near a gate.
Not far then go left at a small footpath sign into a woodland glade, if you reach the keep out sign you have gone too far. Walk through this magical glade passing a broken lime kiln on the way.
As you descend this rough and sometimes difficult path it narrows and becomes steeper until you exit through a small gate to cross open land to the road. Left onto the road for about a hundred paces, then left again at the footpath sign which climbs and bears right to eventually reach a field behind Hackness Hall.
Cross the stile and head up to the marker post, then to a gate into the wood. Continue along through the wood to eventually bear right to a gate into a field. Bear left here, then just past the seat go right at the marker down a steep, grassy field to reach a gate in the hedge onto the road. Turn right past Mill Farm with its old, stone pig sties, then right at the road junction. Continue along past the lake on your right to soon reach your parking area near the school.
Distance - Five miles (8km)
Time - Two hours
Grading - Easy
Start/grid ref - Hackness, grid ref 969905
Best map - OS outdoor Leisure 27
Parking - Roadside parking area for a few cars
Refreshments - None
Public toilets - None