JUNE proved to be a changeable month for weather. Encouraged by a sunny day trip to Durham, I resolved to go for a ride the very next day. Fortunately I’d chosen a flat route, so wasn’t troubled too much by the low level cloud I then encountered.

My route this month is more or less circular, meaning you can join it at a point to suit yourself. I parked the car in the village of Sowerby, just south of Thirsk, to pick up the loop at Dalton. An alternative start in Easingwold would allow you to join the route at Raskelf.

Driving through Thirsk I couldn’t help but notice that the Yarn Bombers had been out in force. Google Yarn Bombers Thirsk if you want to see what I mean. The town remains well decorated after the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race passed through on May 1. I spotted a Minion, and a couple of Teletubbies. The bombers of 2016 are more benign that their wartime predecessors. More on those later.

I parked up outside St Oswald’s Church in Front Street, Sowerby. The church had also been bombed. Well, adorned with little angels anyway. Follow Front Street south, away from Thirsk, and leaving the village, pass under the A168. About two miles later, pass under the main east coast railway, to arrive at Dalton, where take the first right, to skirt around the northern side of the village, following signs for Topcliffe.

On your left, you pass the remains of Dalton Second World War airfield, now an industrial estate. RAF Dalton was occupied by 102 Squadron, flying Whitley bombers from 1941 until late 1942, when the Canadians (RCAF) took over, subsequently flying bombing missions over Germany in 1943. Continue to follow signs for Topcliffe to pass under the A168 again.

On the village name sign, note the suffix Magna Carta Village. So what has Topcliffe, a village in North Yorkshire, got to do with a document signed at Runnymede on the Thames, 800 years ago? Well, the Magna Carta, the document underpinning the English law and rights, was countersigned in the year 1215 by 25 Anglo-Norman barons, effectively as guarantors. Their personal estates were principally in the north of England.

One of those barons was Richard de Percy of Topcliffe. The Percy family are perhaps more usually known for their association with Alnwick castle which they bought nearly 100 years later in 1309. Didn’t they do well?

Into the village, watch for the old stone building on the right bearing a blue and gold shield, the coat of arms of the Percy family.

Continue through village, to cross river Swale, then bear left into Asenby. The road curves right through Asenby, then take left at T-junction (unsigned). Re-cross the A168, then first left marked local traffic. Half a mile of single track brings you to another T-junction, where left, signed Cundall and Helperby.

Continue straight on to cross the Swale again at Thornton Bridge, and into Helperby. Right at T-junction (facing the Oak Tree, a CAMRA recommended pub) and then bear left along Main Street, following the sign for York.

Watch for the Artesian Well (1897) on the right, then the almshouses and finally Helperby Hall itself, all attributable to the Coates family. Beyond the village, continue straight on, passing (and following) sign indicating Flawith three miles.

Before Flawith, however, take left at next cross road to Tholthorpe. On your short journey through Tholthorpe, see if you can spot the village library. Left at village green, signed Raskelf three miles and quickly left again, continuing in direction of Raskelf.

Just out of Tholthorpe, the disused Second World War airfield of RAF Tholthorpe is off to the right. It was mainly occupied by Canadian squadrons flying Halifax bombers. The control tower was converted to a private house in 1995, and can be clearly seen from the road. A little further on, a field of poppies made an appropriate memorial. Into Raskelf and take a left at T-junction, back in the direction of Helperby. Half a mile beyond Raskelf, take a single track road to the right, signed for Husthwaite and; Coxwold.

At a right hand bend, take an even smaller road left, marked as a no through road. Pass Sun Beck gatehouse, a remnant of the disused branch line to Malton, on your right and the lane bears left, deteriorating to a bridleway when you reach Oak Tree Farm.

Follow the track straight on (to the right of an old lorry body) and past a sign saying No Unauthorised Vehicles. Beware of the soft, indeed sandy surface. I enjoyed a pleasant walk for five minutes, with old woodland to the right and a view of the mainline railway to the left. Reaching the Tarmac again at Pilmoor cottages, follow this private road straight ahead, (north) and away from the cottages, to emerge on a minor road. Here turn right, away from the railway, and continue north to the edge of Sessay village, where you’ll find St Cuthbert’s church (1848, but a much earlier style) and the village school on a corner.

A shortcut may be had here by keeping left and through Sessay, but I added a small loop by taking the right fork to Hutton Sessay, where left, signed Dalton three miles. Ignore a subsequent road off to the right signed for Thirsk, as this will take you onto the main A19.

Instead, keep straight ahead for Dalton. This brings you past the northern end of Sessay village, and to the edge of Dalton where you’ll find the excellent Moor and Pheasant. The sun was just waking up so I enjoyed a pint of Yorkshire Blonde, from the Rudgate brewery, in the garden. I suspect that this is Rudgate’s Jorvik Blonde, which has been re-badged for the Moor and Pheasant, but it hit the spot either way. From here it was a short distance into Dalton, where the road curves right, to retrace back to the start. As you enter Sowerby, look left for the pack horse bridge (1672).


Date of ride: Wednesday, June 8

The map: Ordnance Survey Landrangers numbers 99 Northallerton and 100 Malton. Alternatively, OS Explorer Map 299 Ripon, covers all but the start from Sowerby.

The pub: The Moor & Pheasant, Dalton, Thirsk, YO7 3JD. Tel: 01845 577756. www.moorandpheasant.com

The bike: Classic 1976 Jack Taylor, Tour of Britain model

Distance: 31 miles

Car parking: Free on road, by St Oswald’s Church, Front Street, Sowerby YO7 1JG. Please don’t block church entrance or bus stop just to south.