THE winter has been dominated by flooding and weather continues to cause disruption into spring.

The rivers are up at the slightest drop of rain, with the Derwent playing havoc with my chosen walk last weekend.

Normally it is a leisurely five mile circuit from Kirkham Abbey up towards Crambe and then back along the river opposite Howsham Hall.

However, the Christmas flooding washed away a crucial footbridge in a field near Howsham Gates railway crossing.

If that wasn't hindrance enough, the latest deluge rendered the riverbank a mudbath - and impassable to all but the most intrepid (or foolhardy).

Taking the advice of a local resident we opted to shelve the riverside walk until a future visit.

Maybe it was the tales of unfortunate walkers attempting (unsuccessfully) to leap the deep ditch, or the description of a mud-splattered hiker emerging from a battle along the riverbank.

Maybe it was the looks of my walking companions (that definite "you're on your own" look).

Whatever. Common sense prevailed. And the best advice might be to keep this walk on your to do list until well into spring - unless you are prepared for some mudlarking.

It had all looked so much more promising when we left a sun-tinted Kirkham Priory gatehouse an hour earlier.

A muddy climb through Oak Cliff Wood gave a hint of conditions to come, but we then bowled along with elevated views above Crambe.

Howsham Gates level crossing is one of those modern rarities - a manned crossing overlooked by a wooden signalbox sentry.

Howsham Hall was a hazy sight in the distance, with the restored Howsham Mill even further beyond.

There are options for salvaging your walk from this point, even if the footbridge remains moored among trees a distance from its normal home.

Turning right on reaching the ditch will allow you to follow it to the point where a farm track crosses bridges the gap, or Riders Lane will take you close to the riverbank path near the Mill.

It's a shame to miss out on the peaceful, isolated two mile stroll - assisted in places by duck boards - back along the Derwent.

As you approach Kirkham Abbey, the Priory dominates the view across the water.

The Augustinian priory was founded in the early 12th century by Walter l'Espec, lord of Helmsley, who also built Rievaulx Abbey.

The ruins, now managed by English Heritage, are dominated by the well-preserved 13th century gatehouse, but the full extent of the grounds can be appreciated from the opposite bank.

A post-walk visit to the priory is recommended, if only to investigate the site's links to Winston Churchill and the Second World War D-Day landings.

The priory was the backdrop as troops and landing vehicles were tested in readiness for the Normandy beaches, with Churchill and King George VI making a secret visit to Kirkham to assess operations.

Presumably preparations were not hampered by a swollen River Derwent...


* Leave Kirkham Priory car park and turn left towards Kirkham Bridge (1). Cross bridge and railway line, walk uphill and turn left into woods at footpath sign (2). Follow steep path up through woods to reach a road.

* Turn left and then, after a few yards, go left off the road and through a gate. Walk on track at left edge of field alongside trees. Follow path into woods and continue ahead to a gate into a field.

* Turn right and follow the right-hand edge of the field to the corner (3), then turn left, continuing on right edge of field. When fence ends, walk straight ahead downhill towards large lone tree to join farm track. Pass two cattle grids to reach Riders Lane.

* Turn left and, in half a mile, go across railway level crossing. After quarter of a mile turn left at a footpath sign (4) to walk across the middle of a field. Go ahead through a gate to reach a ditch.

* Recent flooding washed away the footbridge across the ditch. If you are unable to cross, turn right and follow ditch to the end of the field where a farm track allows you to cross. Turn left and join riverside path.

* Wherever you join the river, turn left and follow path back to Kirkham for two miles, with views of the Priory across the river for the last section (5). Go through a gate next to Kirkham Bridge, turn right and return to car park.


Distance: 5 miles.

Parking: Car park next to Kirkham Abbey.

Refreshments: The Stone Trough Inn, Kirkham Abbey.

Map: OS Explorer 300 Howard Hills & Malton.