The Gazette welcomes new cycling correspondent Robert Murphy for the start of the monthly cycle rides.

Most readers, even those non-regular users of Ordnance Survey maps, will be familiar with the locations of the North York Moors and Yorkshire Wolds as being the areas of high ground immediately north and south respectively of the Gazette & Herald catchment area.

However, those of you who know the name and location of the Howardian Hills will quite likely be the walkers or cyclists among us.

Forming a spine that runs roughly from Helmsley and Coxwold in the north-west, diagonally south-east down to Malton and Kirkham Abbey, (the course of the River Derwent here forming a readily identifiable boundary) the Howardian Hills take their name from the Howard family who still reside at Castle Howard.

Today’s ride cuts straight through the hills, from west to east and back, offering views of Castle Howard Estate, and an opportunity to enjoy refreshments in one of the oldest hostelries in Malton at the halfway point; but starts and finishes in Easingwold.

When I joined my first proper cycling club as a teenager, the A19 still ran through the centre of Easingwold. What was once the main road is somewhat descriptively called Long Street. Midway along on the eastern side is the similarly imaginatively named Little Lane, which takes you onto the market square (no entry for traffic, but just a short walk, as the street name suggests) and at this junction with the market square you’ll find my recommendation for a pre-ride coffee and bacon sandwich, Clarks Bakery.

Leave Easingwold firstly by heading north-west along Long Street to a mini-roundabout, then turn east, which is signposted to Crayke and Brandsby – take care on the rough surface. It is a steady climb up to Brandsby, where you turn left onto the B1363, signposted Gilling. Stay on this road for another climb, this time into the Howardian Hills. Climb about 250ft or so in the space of a mile and you now approach a four-way junction. The right turn is the one for you.

Here you’ll find yourself on something of a plateau, with extensive views. Be careful not to daydream at this point because if you go too far you’ll find yourself wastefully losing all that height you’ve just worked hard to gain. Instead, watch out for a small road on the left, just half a mile after leaving the B1363, and turn down it, heading roughly east. Pass Bonnygate Farm and woodland on the right.

Although the height is falling away steadily in front of you, don’t rush to get up any speed, instead keep a look out for a wooden bench on the left hand side, with a low wooden fence beyond. You’ll find what you are looking for just past a farm track (Scackleton Grange) on the left. For those of you who are a dab hand at grid references, it is SE 625719.

At this point I could use a couple of column inches describing what it is you will be looking at. But I won’t. All I will say is that it is a Very Interesting Thing and that the local authority has erected one of those handy notice boards to tell you about it. Hopefully, you will visit on a fine day and in which case I would encourage you to make use of the bench and to take a few moments to savour the view from this quiet and special place.

Back on the bike again and keep straight on towards Terrington. On the way you’ll experience some of the Yorkshire “Alps” as the road first plunges down to Dalby Bush Beck, then steeply up again. Ignore junctions to left and right, keeping straight on through Terrington, where the village store sells refreshments and has picnic tables outside.

Descend now out of Terrington and keep left at the junction after about half a mile. The road curves through woodland, climbing gently. Emerge from the woods and straight over (give way) at a staggered junction. Pause here a moment to take in the view to the right (South) towards the entrance of the Castle Howard Estate and the Great Lake. Continuing east towards Malton and to your right the road is now bounded by the mellow stone wall of the Estate. Make a note of the architecture of the estate houses you now pass, especially when you pass the Estate Stud (Easthorpe Hall).

The last three miles into Malton are nicely downhill. Into the built up area and give way (turn left) at the B1248. Continue straight ahead, as Yorkersgate flows gently downhill towards the town centre, past the offices of the Gazette & Herald on the left, and take a left at the traffic lights just beyond, onto Wheelgate. This is the B1257 north out of Malton towards Helmsley.

After about 300 yards, you’ll see your destination, The Blue Ball on the right. If you go around the rear (Princess Road and onto Wentworth Street), you’ll find the entrance to the pub beer garden, and a safe place to leave your bike.

I have fond memories of the pub, having first visited as a boy back in 1970/1971. A long ride from home in (at that time) Middlesbrough. It doesn’t look to have changed much, which is a great in these days of re-fits and “opening out” of smaller rooms. It’s a real gem.

The Blue Ball is a Cruck House, known to have been a pub in 1750 and maybe earlier. The earliest mention of the Blue Ball name is 1823.

It is in the Good Beer guide and does food (or were doing so on the recent Saturday I visited) so enjoy.

Suitably refuelled, I’m going to be kind to you now and keep things level for the first eight miles or so. We’ll catch up with the hills again later, but for the time being just take the road (B1257) out of town in the direction of Helmsley. This runs along the northern fringe of the Howardian Hills. To your left, the hills rise up towards the Castle Howard Estate. To your right is the flood plain of the River Rye, across which, in the distance, you’ll be able to see the southern edge of the North York Moors. That same view will have been enjoyed by ancient man, as the top of the ridge to your left has a string of tumuli and earthworks running parallel to the road.

A succession of villages now follows: Swinton, Amotherby, Appleton-le-Street, Barton-le-street, and so into Hovingham.

The main road bears right through 90 degrees as you enter Hovingham. It’s worth having a look around. Follow High Street (which changes its name to Main Street) through to the north end of the village. Where the road starts to bear right again and you find the stream hard up against the left of the road. Stop here and walk back a few yards to look for Church Street, forking off to the right. Follow Church Street in a roughly southern direction now, past the Big House.

The Worsley family arrived in Hovingham when they bought the Manor in 1563. Hovingham Hall was built by Thomas Worsley between 1750 and 1770 in the Palladian style, and it is still the family home. The house is unusual in that it is accessed through the stables which front onto Church Street.

Continue ahead to the T junction with Park Road and turn right (West) to start your afternoon crossing of the Howardian Hills. Very shortly enter Hovingham High Wood, which is part of the Hovingham Estate. The road becomes unfenced here. Emerge from the wood and straight on over a small crossroads. After another mile, ignore a turning off to the right (Gilling).

Very quickly afterwards, you’ll reach the edge of another wood where the road splits. Keep right, into the wood. This is Grimston Moor and again the site of various tumuli.

Clearing the wood, the road does a little dog leg to the left and right before meeting the B1363 at an acute crossroads. Cross with care, direction Yearsley, and watch out for the Long Barrow just off the road to the left. This is immediately before the driveway to a house and most people will think it is just some form of garden debris. Amaze your friends with your archaeological knowledge.

Carry on forwards now and the road runs downhill gently. Give way at the crossroads as you approach Yearsley. Through the village and climb gently now to the very edge of the Howardian Hills. Pause at the top, just before a small covert on the left, to take in your last high level view of the day, looking out West across the Vale of York.

Check those brakes now, as you are quickly into a steep descent. Straight over the next crossroads, and after a few wiggles, turn 90 degrees to the right, ignoring a small road off to the left. The road is falling gently now giving you an easy ride back into Easingwold. Into the built-up area and stop at the crossroads.This is the road on which you left Easingwold this morning; with Crayke and Brandsby now off to your left. Instead of turning right and retracing your mornings route, get a different perspective by crossing straight over onto Back Lane, which turns immediately right (ignore the various cul-de-sacs on the left side) and go back into the Market Place.

I quite like what is the obviously dominant building in the market place. Originally built as the Town Hall for this market town, the official business was carried out on the upper floors. If you look around the walls of the ground floor, you’ll notice a series of arches marked out in the brickwork. Now filled in, these arches were originally open and giving access to the ground level, filled with traders on market day.

Several cafes and other watering holes can be found here.

Route is 38 miles; split equally by the pub stop.

Map: OS Landranger No.100 Malton and Pickering Parking is available in Long Street, Easingwold.


Our new cycling corresponent..

Robert Murphy has been a member of the Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC) for more than 40 years and was introduced by the local Hardriders section of the CTC to that symbiotic relationship of beer and bikes.

The CTC Hardriders (so called because of their love of long distances at brisk speeds) taught Robert the unwritten rules and etiquette of club cycling in the early 1970s. His first significant tour, while still a teenager, was from his then home in Middlesbrough to John O’Groats, via Cape Wrath, the appropriately named North Western extremity of the British mainland. A round trip of approximately 1,000 miles.

A couple of year later, and having left school, the next trip was to Land’s End (and back).

By the age of 21, and having exhausted the routes of mainland Britain, Robert and his younger brother, Graham, devised a number of long distance challenges which would fit into a two-week holiday, including Switzerland, France and Luxembourg.

In the 1970s, marriage and children curtailed the escapades and Robert dabbled in cycle racing.

Then in the 1980s he completed the Three Peaks cyclo cross race, held each year over the Yorkshire course of Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent, then the Otley Cycling Club 12-hour time trial – the object being for individual riders to amass as many miles as possible in the allotted time and Robert accumulated 2,000 miles in an unbroken series of annual events.

In the end, 10 consecutive annual events were completed. His best event total was 225 miles in 12 hours (driving from York to London is only 210 miles).

These days, Robert rides simply for enjoyment of the countryside, fuelled (in moderation of course) by the odd real ale and pub lunch. Mileage is more modest too, with 40 to 60 miles a day forming the comfort zone.