Christmas shopping or escaping to Healaugh Priory

THIS is the third in my series of annual Christmas shopping rides. The idea being that you send your loved one off on a shopping trip in York and, because you appreciate that they will need to make some secret purchases, you kindly offer to keep out of the way.

So begin by travelling together to Askham Bar P&R on the southern outskirts of York, then send your partner off on the bus, with an arrangement to meet back at the car about four hours later.

On your bike, follow the car park signs for the exit. At the gateway, look for and take the cycle path over to the right. At this point you’ll spot a sculpture, in the style of a medieval window, erected by Brickwork & Stonemasonry students of York College in 2014.

Follow the path as it curves right from the P&R, and then crosses the east coast main line railway on a shared cycle/pedestrian bridge. Keep straight on, passing Askham Bog nature reserve. The path then starts to run alongside the main A64 dual carriageway. Continue along here to pass the entrance to Pike Hills Golf Club, then approach the Askam Bryan interchange.

Bear right, still on the path, as it now runs uphill alongside a slip road, against oncoming traffic. At the top, you’ll find a roundabout just left of you. Wheel your bike with care across the carriageway immediately in front of you (A1237) and then do the same again over the next exit from the roundabout. This will put you on the correct side of the carriageway to now take this exit towards Askham Bryan. In just a few yards, you reach the village sign.

Pass several buildings belonging to Askham Bryan College, then take a left, signed Bilbrough. After a mile, take an unsigned road to the left. Just beyond the junction, there’s a blue Local Traffic Only sign, to reassure you that you are on course. The road climbs gently, and away in the distance you might see the cooling towers of Drax Power Station (Selby). As you approach the main A64, take a minor road right, for Bilbrough. This is quite narrow, so watch for local traffic. Arrive at Bilbrough in Cat Lane. Curve left, then take the second road right, on to Main Street (not the first which is Back Lane), signed for Catterton and Healaugh. I puzzled over the possible connection between Cat Lane and Catterton. As far as I can tell, it’s nothing to do with cats. Catterton may be derived from a Celtic hill name (Cadeir) and the old English tun, for settlement. If anyone has another theory, please let me know.

There are several interesting buildings along Main Street. Note Bilbrough Grange towards the end on the right, then go right at the next T-junction (Moor Lane) to have a look at the old Carriage House, (now a separate private residence) to the rear.

Judging by its size, the occupants of Bilbrough Grange must once have owned a selection of carriages and horses. Retrace to the T-junction, but now keep straight along Moor Lane to leave Bilbrough, for a gentle descent to Catterton. Here, keep right past Beck Farm, following sign for Healaugh. Keep left on arrival to pass along the main street, then through a double bend, out of the village.

A hundred yards beyond, look for a bridleway on the left. A low metal barrier keeps vehicles out. Assess the condition of the track. We’d had some wet days before I arrived, and I was also riding my single gear bike with skinny 23c tyres. So generally speaking, you should be okay. If in doubt however, just stay on the road to arrive at the lunch stop at Wighill, less than two miles further on.

The track surface varies, and there are a couple of softer places, but I managed without putting a foot down, so I’d encourage you to try. Navigation is quite simple, and in a mile or so, arrive at a short stretch of tarmac, where you’ll find Healaugh Priory on the right.

Originally an Augustinian priory, established in 1218, it was abandoned in 1535 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. It is now privately occupied as Healaugh Manor Farm. Not open to the public, but it is still a very interesting building when viewed from the road. Beyond the priory, the route softens again.

Follow the track for just over a mile to a T-junction in the track at Broadacre Stable, where a footpath goes left, but the bridleway we are following goes right. A short descent brings you to Brickyard Farm, where turn right on to Tarmac again. An interesting malty aroma wafts over here from the nearby Tadcaster Brewery. This is meant to be a minor road, but I suspect that it forms a short cut from Tadcaster to the Thorp Arch trading estate, so take care for the next two miles into Wighill.

The White Swan welcomes cyclists and walkers. It was a cool day so I installed myself in the front bar, facing the log fire. The Black Sheep was being temperamental, so I was persuaded to try the Rudgate Brew No.37 (4.5% ABV) on the assurance that it didn’t taste of the maple syrup it apparently contained. Maple & Rye, according to the pump clip. It was excellent. The Rudgate brewery is just up the road at Tockwith. The barman also recommended the fish finger sandwich, so I trusted his judgement once again and was again pleasantly surprised.

Out of the pub, bear right, in same direction as before. In less than two miles, arrive back at Healaugh village, where you can now take more time to view the church on the hill, and also Healaugh Hall, set back to the left of the war memorial. Continue through Healaugh, but bear left at the far end, following sign for Askham Richard. Out of the village, keep straight on beyond junctions to either side. Then in 100 yards or so look for an obscured turn off to the left. This is a proper roadway which has fallen into disuse and disrepair.

If you ignore the initial litter, it becomes tidier and is an intriguing traffic free way into Askham Richard. Turn right at the attractive duck pond, then left at the next T-junction. From here, it’s a simple matter to retrace past the college buildings we saw earlier in the ride. At the roundabout, cross the busy A1237 with care, to pick up the cycle path alongside the A64 once more, and continue to retrace back to the P&R.

Cycle ride information

Date of ride: Friday, October 13, 2017

The map: Ordnance Survey Landranger No.105, York & Selby

The pub: The White Swan, Wighill, Tadcaster, LS24 8BQ. Tel. 01937 832217,

The bike: Classic 1971 Jack Taylor, Super Track model, built in Stockton-on-Tees. 23c Continental Gatorskin tyres.

Distance: 21 miles

Car parking: Askham Bar Park & Ride, Tadcaster Road, York, YO24 1LW. Park for free. £2.90 return ticket on bus to city centre.