IT’S that time of year again, so follow my recipe for domestic bliss this Christmas, and suggest a trip to York for your loved one.

They will, of course, need to do some “secret shopping” so you can volunteer to keep out of their way for a few hours, exploring quiet country lanes.

I’ve included several miles of single track road, some with grass down the middle. Also two bridleways, but each no more than a mile in length, so walk-able on a poor day. I was fine on my road bike.

Today’s ride starts at the Grimston Bar Park and Ride, on the eastern outskirts of York, just off the A1079 to Hull. Wave your loved one off on one of the regular buses into town, and depart the car park to the traffic lights on the A1079.

This is a complex junction, so just pause to confirm your correct course through the Toucan crossing, to the shared path on the opposite (north) side of the carriageway. Once across, turn left on the path (towards town), and then take the first road on the right, the Osbaldwick Link Road, with B&Q on the corner.

In a third of a mile, our route curves right, (where Osbaldwick village is on the left). Continue beneath the A64 ring road to arrive at Murton village.

Note St James’ church on the right. Some stonework, and the south doorway are said to date from about 1200. A storm in 1834 damaged the roof and made the building unusable. Nobody could agree who was responsible for repairs, so it remained derelict until repaired eventually in 1912-1914.

Beyond the church, bear left at T-junction, signed Stockton-on-the-Forest, three miles. Left again at next T and right at the one after that, still following signs for Stockton-on-the-Forest. Just before the village, you’ll find Deans Garden Centre on the left. Building work was going on when I passed, but the coffee shop remained open, and could be handy on a cold morning.

The village is over a mile in length, with many interesting buildings. At the far end, you’ll find an imposing Old Rectory to the left, followed by the remains of what was once the local railway station, to the right. There are a couple of linesmen's cottages, the station building itself, and indeed the old signal box, all now private residences.

Despite being part of Stockton-on-the-Forest, (and originally named as such) this was later renamed Warthill Station, after a village two miles further on. For 10 years, between 1922 and 1932, it was also the southern terminus of the Sand Hutton 1ft 6 inch gauge light railway, serving the private estate of Sir Robert Walker, 4th Baronet of Sand Hutton. More on this later.

Pause at the T-junction. Ahead is Snowball Plantation. A sparrowhawk perched as I watched, so keep a lookout for him when you pass. Go right here, towards Warthill. Exit the wood and beneath some power lines. Look out for the entrance to Forest Farm on the left at the next bend. Turn left onto this hard packed track, which is a bridleway and open to cyclists. It’s the trackbed of the old narrow gauge railway to Sand Hutton estate.

From beginning to end, it’s about a mile, across Sand Hutton Common. Tree-lined to start, when the trees stop, continue straight on over the next field, generally following the course of the power lines. Keep straight on and finally regain Tarmac after passing through a small wood. I walked this last part.

At the road, turn right, unsigned, to pass through Sand Hutton, following signs for Claxton. Beyond the village, bear right at a war memorial, now signed Bossall. At Kissthorn Farm, bear right onto an unsigned road, indicated as being a dead end.

Not true for bikes; initially it’s a good surface, but eventually it does get a little sandy under the wheels for a few hundred metres. Regain Tarmac beyond Woodhouse Farm. Take the next fork right (unsigned) to run alongside Aldby Park on your left. You can glimpse the house c.1725, through the trees.

Right at T-junction, signed Stamford Bridge. At the next sign for Stamford Bridge (left) go straight on instead, unsigned. Pick up signs for Gate Helmsley. At T-junction with A166 turn right, (do not cross the A166) onto a shared path, to the edge of Gate Helmsley.

If you’d prefer a cafe lunch, stop off at The Balloon Tree, half-way along this path. At the edge of Gate Helmsley, the shared path ends, so go right, then quickly left, to pick up the Back Lane, running parallel to main road. Follow to far end of village, where the car park to the Duke of York is on your left. Big choice of hot or cold sandwiches, washed down by some Guzzler (3.6%), from York Brewery. Also available, Black Sheep, and Yorkshire Blonde from Ossett Brewery, near Wakefield.

Retrace down Back Lane, then left at T onto minor road, away from A166. Take the next left, and then left again at a T-junction, following signs for Warthill, then Holtby. At Holtby, follow sign for York, but stop off to view Holy Trinity church (grade II listed).

Towards end of village, take Panman Lane on the left. Marked as a dead end, it is really just an old road, which will take you beneath overhanging trees to emerge at the A166.

Walk a few yards left on the verge, then cross to the opposite side and onto a single track lane, marked Local Traffic Only, which will take you into Dunnington. Here, give way at cross road, and straight over onto Church Lane, by a wicker Ploughman. Bear right at village school, onto Pear Tree Lane. Right at T-junction (York Road) and cross bridge over disused railway.

Watch for a blue Sustrans (route 66) which takes you over to a path on the right hand side of the road. Follow this as it bears right, to run alongside the main A1079 in direction of York. However, turn quickly right again, still following blue Sustrans sign for York. In 200 metres, meet the A166 again, and cross with care, following the Sustrans signs and using a refuge in the middle of the carriageway.

Join Murton Lane, and into Murton. In about 800 metres, turn left onto Murton Way, and retrace from here back to the Park & Ride.


Date of ride: Tuesday, October 25

The map: Ordnance Survey Landranger number 100, York & Selby

Cafes: Deans Garden Centre, Stockton-on-the-Forest, YO32 9UE. 01904 400141. The Balloon Tree, Gate Helmsley YO41 1NB.

The pub: Duke of York, Gate Helmsley, YO41 1JS. 01759 373698.

The bike: Dolan Preffisio 2016

Distance: 22 miles

Car parking: Park and ride at Grimston Bar, York, YO19 5LA (Free)