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Sleightholme Dale cycle ride
George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, was described as a licentious, unscrupulous rake and spent most of his time as a courtier womanising, drinking and generally having a jolly good time doing nothing useful.
He was said to be generous, of good humour and a leader of fashion. He was a great friend and companion, especially to the ladies.
His favourite sport was hunting and he was immortalised in verse in some Yorkshire hunting songs. He was credited with forming the first foxhunt in England, the Bilsdale Hunt, and later the Sinnington Hunt.
He led what many thought to be an idyllic life but he realised shortly before his death that it had been an aimless, incomplete, useless life of no importance.
He owned an estate at Helmsley to which he retired when his extravagant court lifestyle caught up with him, leaving him in poor health.
During his life spent as a courtier, Villiers reputedly had an income of £50,000, a fortune in the 17th century. Although his fortune was now depleted, he was still able to entertain at Helmsley Castle.
His end came while doing something he loved, what more a fitting end could a man have? He was out hunting when he was struck by an illness while digging for a fox. He was taken to the nearest town which was Kirkbymoorside, now known as Buckingham House. There he said with his last breath that he felt despised by his country and forsaken by God.
Lord Arran who was with him at the time, had the embalmed corpse sent to Helmsley Castle then on to Westminster Abbey for burial. Who paid for the funeral, I cannot say but it is recorded that he was almost penniless at the time.
So let us take a cycle ride from Kirkbymoorside and try to imagine what life must have been like in the 17th century.
Leave Kirkbymoorside by cycling from the Market Place to the roundabout on the A170. Go right here signed towards Helmsley.
Cycle along out of the speed limit, then in a couple of hundred yards, turn right along an unsigned road. At the crossroads, turn right signed to Fadmoor and Bransdale.
Continue straight on without deviation for about two-and-a-half miles, then turn left signed Sleightholme Dale Only.
Cycle between an avenue of trees, then follow the road right at a severe bend and the start of a descent to Sleightholme Dale.
The road through the wood follows the edge of the valley to almost reach the floor of the dale before ascending again.
Soon you reach a cattle grid and not far from here is a wide grass verge. Look for a bridleway sign on the right at a field gate. Go through the gate and cycle along parallel with the fence on your right.
Follow the bridleway as it follows the trees, then through double bends. Keep right at the fork to eventually ascend to a narrow road. Go right here, then at the T-junction, go right again to ascend the hill in front of you, only part-way, though, as you need to turn left through a gate at the bridleway sign.
Cycle down the side of the field, then go right. Follow the obvious bridleway all the way without deviation through the farmyard, then along the farm driveway to the road. Turn left onto the road, pass over Sarkless Kitty’s bridge, then start a steep ascent onto the moor.
Eventually you reach the main road. Go right now into Hutton-le-Hole. Plenty of refreshment here, then continue along climbing out of the village to descend towards Kirkbymoorside.
At the bottom of the hill just past the sawmill, turn right at the sign for Keldholme Only. At the T-junction go right to return to Kirkbymoorside.
Distance – 14miles/22km
Terrain – Best for mountain bikes, but a strong road bike with a little walking would suffice
Best map – OS Outdoor Leisure 26
Start/grid ref – Kirkbymoorside, grid ref: 695865
Refreshments – Pubs and café in Kirkbymoorside and Hutton-le-Hole
Public toilets – Kirkbymoorside and Hutton-le-Hole