Short it may be, but this four-mile circular walk has a great deal to offer. A seventh century pope, hippopotami, Robin Hood, hyenas, Orm Gamalson’s sundial, an Anglo Saxon church and an elephant or two, all within a mile or so of Kirkbymoorside.

We start at the beautiful Anglo Saxon St Gregory’s Minster, built in about 1060, dedicated to a seventh century Pope and home to Orm Gamalson’s sundial with its historically significant inscription.

Do take time to explore the church and its history. Leaving the Minster, the walk enters ancient woodland alongside Hodge Beck, leading ever higher up Kirkdale.


Gazette & Herald:

Kirkdale Minster

Look out for the hairpin bend. If you reach the weir then you have gone 200 metres to 300 metres too far. Once you have negotiated the steep climb up to open fields it is, for the most part, level or downhill walking all the way.

I’ve completed this short walk many times and despite its proximity to Kirkbymoorside I rarely meet anyone en route. However, on this particular day at the top of the climb, I spotted, or more accurately, I heard, a group of eight walkers about 400 metres ahead approaching Hagg Farm. I assumed it was a U3A group, but I was wrong. It was a party of four couples from North Ferriby out for the day, enjoying the countryside and each other’s company.


Gazette & Herald:

The path from Kirkdale

There was no rush or urgency, no targets or deadlines, no pressure, no demands, simply an almost effortless ability to disappear into the present. The only blot on their landscape was the intrusion of an all too curious walking correspondent. However, after some light banter and photographs, (they asked if I was from Hello Magazine), I left them to continue on their way.

There is something haunting about the deep wooded gully that is Robin Hood’s Howl. It is important at this stage, for reasons that will become clear later in this piece, that “howl” in this context refers to a hollow or hole, not the standard dictionary definition, “a long, doleful cry uttered by an animal such as a dog or wolf”.

Even on a cold day early in March the perfume of young shoots of wild garlic, dominates this eerie wood.

The howl is exactly one mile long and once back into daylight you cross one more field to meet crossroads that will signpost the lane back to Kirkdale and St Gregory’s.

There is one more treat in store. Just before the ford, follow the footpath to the right and you will see a hole in the side of the cliff. This is the famous Kirkdale Cave, discovered in 1821 by workmen repairing potholes, so no danger of such a discovery in the present day then.

William Buckland, an Oxford Professor of Geology, discovered an accumulation of bones dating back to the Ice Age. These included elephants, mammoth, hippopotamus, rhinoceros, bison, reindeer, giant deer, wild ox, pig and smaller mammals and birds and most significantly, one other beast of the wild.

Buckland found teeth marks on the bones made by the jaws of hyenas. The cave was most likely used as den or fast food outlet by a pack of these cuddly carnivores.


Gazette & Herald:

The cave in Kirkdale

The find, and Buckland’s subsequent study, caused huge controversy in the Church and in academic circles. It proved to be a watershed in the study of the Earth’s ancient history.

At the end of this short path, turn out of the woods and cross the two fields back to the Minster.

As far as I know the hyenas, hippos and elephants are long gone. However you can’t be too careful and a chewed up bobble hat below the mouth of the cave did make me just a tad curious. Neither the National Park Authority or the Ramblers Association offer any specific guidance to walkers confronted by a pack of peckish hyenas.

However, in the unlikely event, my advice would be to run as fast as you can to the nearest place of safety, resisting the urge to stop and take photos. The good news is, this will never be much more than a mile away if you stick to the route. If you can’t outrun the hyenas the next best thing, if you are enjoying the company of friends in a convivial group, is to run faster than the slowest member. Whether you close gates behind you is a matter of personal choice but the Countryside Code is there for a reason.


Starting point: map reference SE 676 857

Recommended Map: OS Explorer OL26

Parking is limited but the Minster car park is available for visitors if there is no service and I would suggest a small voluntary contribution.

The route

Cross two fields and a dry water course behind the church before entering woods on a clearly defined path. After a short distance the path forks. Take the lower path close to the field and eventually start to climb.

Look out for a sharp hairpin bend. The fairly steep path leads to the top of the woods and a wide path across arable land.

At a T junction in the field, turn left and walk past a farm to a road. It can be quite busy; take care.

Turning left and then right on the road, follow a lane past Hagg Farm, into a dip with the entrance to Robin Hood’s Howl on the right.

One mile down the Howl into an open meadow. Keeping to the lower path come to a crossroads with a signpost Kildale 1/4.

Follow the road to a footpath into the trees on the right just before a ford. (You can follow the road back to the start as a shortcut).

After 300m turn back into the two fields we crossed at the start of the walk and return to the Minster.