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Brandsby to Byland Abbey via Crayke and Coxwold Walk

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Brandsby to Byland Abbey via Crayke and Coxwold Walk. Coming up in this episode, we take an approximate 9 mile walk from Brandsby to Byland Abbey via two idyllic villages set in stunning North Yorkshire countryside known as Crayke and Coxwold. This is a very scenic route with many features.


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So today we are beginning an extremely stunning and feature packed walk in Brandsby. The name Bandsby derives from a Scandinavian origin, after a norseman known as simply Brand. As it is winter, we are going follow the rural road from Brandsby to Easingwold via Crayke. The junction is simple to find in Brandsby, and initially there is a pavement but it is short lived. After which, we need to carefully walk single file on the right hand side of the road. Sadly, as I began early morning, I hit some rush hour traffic, so please be careful on this section in particular.

You’ll cross over a narrow but fast flowing beck as you walk around the corner. As you can see, we are filming in November 2020 and we are surrounded by some golden colours, a perfect blue sky as well as a frost! However, the frost soon clears for a perfect day. The early morning sunlight brings out some idyllic views as well.

There is also a bridleway that heads into Brandsby but at this time of year, I prefer to walk carefully on a roadside if rather than use boggy fields. Still, these views even with the frost, are amazing. We are once again in the Howardian Hills, and area of outstanding beauty.

Granted, this road doesn’t look busy, but at 7.30am in the morning there was a lot of traffic with people heading for work. On bends I recommend using the grass verge, but the main thing to remember is to be visible to traffic as much as possible. Some even prefer to wear high visibility clothing as a precaution.

You may have noticed that the moon is very clear if not small this morning, so we have both the golden sun and a chalk moon to add to the already feature packed walk we are undertaking. Just to give you a taster, we have a village on a hill, a castle, a white horse as well as a tour around Byland Abbey to look forward to.


Visions of Crayke

Brandsby to Byland Abbey via Crayke and Coxwold Walk


It is very difficult if not impossible to miss Crayke from the direction of walking. Crayke is set upon it’s own hill, and the village is almost like frosting on a cake. Seeing the village from below is one thing, but seeing the views from the village itself is quite another. Actually, I’m unsure if there is another village like it in North Yorkshire. The village is surrounded by amazing views, so you really begin to feel affection for this village as well as its surroundings.

One of the things I like about winter months is the amazing colours such as with the berries. They always suggest that if there are many berries it signifies a harsh winter, but I’m thinking old wife’s tale here. However, I don’t dismiss it as untrue either.

The further you walk, the you get to see Crayke Castle towering above in the distance. However, during our walk this morning we literally come near touching distance with this historic structure. Understandably, it is a grade I listed building from the 15th century. The castle was originally built after the Norman conquest and the current structure is from 1450 built for the Bishop of Durham, Robert Neville. So it is fitting we find it at the summit of Church Hill shortly.

As with the majority of country roads, there are some sharp bends, and when the turn right I always think you are safer walking on the left side if a grass verge isn’t present. The tall hedgerows don’t always help, yet the birds require them for nesting.

Actually, I am pleased with the thin layer of frost this morning which seem to have pastel-ised the green fields en-route. Instead of a bold green you receive a pastel shade. The sheep also seem to be enjoying the environment they are in despite the cold. Admittedly, I too am not feeling the cold so much owing to generating my own heat while walking.

You can certainly understand why someone would desire to build a castle and even a village at the top of this hill when you take into account the eye catching scenery.

As you see the hills across the icy mud fields, you might think you have a steep hill to climb. In actual fact, although there is an ascent, it is more gradual than you might imagine it to be.

By now you get some further views of Crayke Castle and it is a constant feature to the first part of this walk owing to its position. Of course, it is not the only castle in the Howardian Hills considering such as Castle Howard and Sheriff Hutton. However, each castle is unique in its size and dimensions, so no two castles are ever the same. It is that uniqueness that gives them their own charm.

One of the worst things about walking in the autumn and winter is the low sun constantly impairing your vision. Today however, I am facing a less intrusive moon which I am rather enjoying.

On important point I haven’t mentioned yet is that we are on the Foss Way as it runs through the village of Crayke. In summer we could have used a public right of way to Brandsby, but as it is winter we are trying to eliminate muddy boots today.

As you gradually walk uphill into the village, you begin to receive some stunning views across rural fields aided by today’s blue skies. It makes you consider relocating doesn’t it?


The Village of Crayke

Brandsby to Byland Abbey via Crayke and Coxwold Walk


The village of Crayke is just a stones throw from Easingwold and one thing I should mention is that the Reliance No.40 bus service calls here from York. So you might want to start this walk here and pick up a 31X at Byland Abbey.

The red brick cottages are typical for the Easingwold area and this really is an attractive village. However, we meet up with a junction just opposite The Durham Ox, Crayke’s public house. This pub is 300 years old and for the last twenty years has been family owned. It serves food as well as drink but please check their website during the pandemic for advice.

At the sign post, we are going to take a right turn towards Oulston and Coxwold, so with what we have done already will bring us to 7 miles. Then we add a mile and a half to Byland Abbey. Of course, you can modify the walk any way you wish. Today however, we are going to walk uphill a little further along Church Hill.


Crayke Castle

Brandsby to Byland Abbey via Crayke and Coxwold Walk


As mentioned, we now come into almost touching distance of the castle from the 1400’s. This is one of the main features to this route, not simply because of the historic building, but because of the views across the countryside from here. Interestingly, up until James I the castle was surrounded by a deer park. I haven’t seen any deer thus far, but roe deer are often seen in the Howardian Hills. It was also requisitioned in the Second World War as a Land Army Barracks.

It is just over 70ft high by 28 ft wide and the main building is 4 storey. Owing to its elevated position, it is a notable landmark in this area. However, just look at these views over the Vale of York. It reminds me very much of the views from Sutton Bank which we are not far from today. The bench makes a fantastic place to sit for a moment or two and admire the endless scenery ahead of you.

Two things you will be pleased to know is that we are now heading downhill and also this particular country lane is not as busy as the road we were on previously. Fortunately today not all of the leaves have fallen from the trees and I am receiving some amazing colours on the stroll downwards.

As we head downhill through a small wooded area the scenery opens out into some agricultural fields and you still receive some amazing views stretching out into the distance. Speaking of views, you also begin to see signs of the White Horse on Sutton Bank, which is another constant feature on this route. Incidentally, we intend to cover Sutton Bank but we may have to wait for the current lockdown to be over.

You might have noticed that the frost has now started to lift as the light is also lifting too. The interesting thing here is that typically on a walk you might have a particular scenic view in one direction. Here however, it doesn’t matter which direction you look the amazing views are panoramic.

As you walk past another small wooded area, the now quiet country lane is far more appealing than the previous road.

Yes, it makes all the difference when there is less traffic. I particularly noticed a difference during the first lockdown how in just a few days the air began to feel more cleaner when taking the dog for a walk. One cars were back on the road it kind of turned back to normal. It’s ironic how a serious virus that effects the lungs has positively effected our breathing in the prevention of its spreading. Still, the scenery continues as we move further away from idyllic Crayke and towards Coxwold. Oh yes, and the moon is still leading the way.

We tend to consider spring and summer holding the sunny days but you can receive some spectacular weather in the autumn and winter too. Walking weather. Granted, in North Yorkshire you cannot escape the cold and damp, but you can still see the sun every once in a while.

You will discover a junction on the left but this is to be ignored and we walk gently onwards. As expected in a rural setting, you will see a farm or two on your left hand side, and much of the land seems to be predominantly for grazing. Typical for a Yorkshire scene is the rolling hills and green fields that seem to stretch out for infinity. As do the blue skies today which is a huge bonus.

On one particular bend, I considered it safer to walk on the left as it was a blind corner to oncoming traffic. At the time of filming, there were a couple of tractors towing and throwing and they require plenty of room.

The moon today just doesn’t want to sink in the sky, and like me was enjoying the scenery.


The Crossroads

Brandsby to Byland Abbey via Crayke and Coxwold Walk


If you have watched the Gilling to Easingwold episode, you may recognise the next section of this walk. Before then, we head through a wooded section with a slight dip in the road. The crossroads is where we found ourselves turning right to Easingwold from Oulston. Today, we are approaching the crossroads from the other direction.

To get to Coxwold, we continue straight on towards Oulston and overlap very briefly a road we already covered. As an alternative, you may want to walk to Yearsley and use the Brandsby Road to walk back to your car. Another alternative is that you could walk to Easingwold to pick up a bus from there.

Today however, we are going to walk through the village of Oulston around a 1 mile away. The views and terrain doesn’t change, it is still as stunning as before. This time however, we approaching the village the opposite direction taking in some different views along the way. As I have mentioned many times, it is a good idea to look behind you periodically or do the same walk the opposite direction so you don’t miss anything. One thing I didn’t expect to see was Airwolf. I’d imagine you wouldn’t need to look behind you when you have a birds eye view of everything. Still as I’ve already mentioned, the stunning scenery is panoramic here, so wherever you glance great views are inevitable.

After passing an access track to a farm, the curvaceous road bends to the left and uphill prior to meeting with the very idyllic village of Oulston. It’s thought that the village gets its name from the Anglican name of Ulf followed by ton, an old word for inhabitance. There are actually remains of an old Roman villa nearby as Oulston is close to two Roman roads that intersect. After the invasion of the Normans, the villages of Yearsley, Oulston and Coxwold fell into the hands of a Norman family who previously exercised power over Montbray, Normandy.


Here we Are Again in Oulston

Brandsby to Byland Abbey via Crayke and Coxwold Walk


This time walking the opposite direction through Oulston and climbing up hill I kind of ran into a brick wall. Well, actually it was a fallen branch blocking the path. Having managed to get around it, I made my way up past the cottage with the Japanese lanterns I experienced the last time.

I think the village green area is one of my favourite points of interest in this village. Living close to a village green, I think they always appeal to me somewhat. What adds to its splendour today are these orangey-gold trees against the bluest of skies which looks amazing.

You might remember in a previous episode we could see Oulston Reservoir in the distance from a roadside. Well, there is a public right of way through a farm in Oulston that takes you there. Perhaps in the spring when it is dryer we could feature this, but to get there you walk between some farm buildings and follow the public right of way to the reservoir.

However, our aim to day is to progress further to Coxwold and this road in my opinion has the best views of the White Horse as we will soon discover. Today’s magnificent weather could be swaying my opinion however.

At this point looking left of the road you can see the farm with the path down towards the reservoir and I believe that the public right of way here meets up with it.

You will probably recognise these signposts from Yearsley Woods we encountered previously. Today, we now depart the section of route we have already covered and head to Coxwold with some intriguing views ahead of us.

Again, I witness these glowing orange trees over the dry stone wall which I had to stop and admire. There is so much vibrancy in nature that it is somewhat astounding to look at.

Right over in the distance you will see somewhere else where we have previously covered that being Ampleforth Abbey. Of course, we are now walking the pleasant views that we saw in the distance between Ampleforth and Oswaldkirk.

You’ll see a sign for Boroughbridge via Husthwaite, and Husthwaite is a very scenic village too with some fascinating properties. Coxwold however, is straight on for another mile and a half and feature packed.

The spectacular views continue but with an added bonus this time. It is not too long before you get to see the White Horse at Sutton Bank near Kilburn. This can be seen for miles around and I was once astonished to see it from a train window crossing Crimplebeck Viaduct near Harrogate. It faces south-south-west and on a clear day I can see it from my home village. The white horse is constructed with white limestone chips and created back in 1857 by Thomas Taylor from Kilburn. After exposing the rock by removing the topsoil, it took 6.1 metric tons of white lime to cover it. This is why I think its one of the best views of it because you are simply travelling towards it as you approach Coxwold.

However, the White Horse is not the only feature of this section of our walk today. After Crayke Castle, it is only the second out of 4 landmarks that dominate our walk. We head downhill this time to discover another landmark and extremely scenic area just prior to entering the village.

Just prior to this you reach a sharp bend in the road which is actually an S bend, or a zig zag if you prefer. At this point I recommend walking on the grass verge for personal safety. Just around the corner, you will discover a cottage in the near distance with some topiarised hedgerows. This is fitting to see as the cottage is affectionately named Gardeners House which is just across the road from Newburgh Priory. The hedgerows follow the road around the corner towards it.

You will see the grand entrance and drive to Newburgh Priory stately home on the right hand side. Sadly, you cannot see the house from here but there is an amazing lake along side the road. The stately home began in 1145 as an Augustinian priory and the land was granted by William the Conqueror to Robert de Mowbray. Today it serves as a popular and lavish wedding venue.

Just to the left of the entrance is a place to stay which looks very welcoming, appealing and typically Yorkshire. It is carefully placed next door to this amazing lake surrounded by trees, which reminded me a little bit of the large lake we encountered in our Gilling to Easingwold episode. There is a small car park beside it so it is a great place to pull up and have a look. Now, I’m partial to a lake especially if it attracts aquatic bird life. So to meet up with this today was sheer bliss. Obviously the gardens and lake are part of Newburgh Priory Estate and the stately home apparently consists of a water garden as well as a walled garden. Many stately homes had a walled or kitchen garden and the walls were to keep out the paupers and prevent theft.

Not only did I get to scare the ducks today, but I also got to be intimidated by some swan and it is not every day you can reach touching distance. Perhaps they haven’t mastered social distancing as yet. In any case, I was astounded to see this lake and the backdrop of decent weather really augmented the feeling of tranquility.

Coxwold is only a few more steps away just round a bend in the road. As you may have noticed, from the Gardeners House there is a narrow footpath. I was told that Selina Scott lives in this area but in the midst of a pandemic it wouldn’t be wise to approach her for her autograph. Unlike the swans, I have mastered social distancing.


Coxwold for Coffee and Cake

Brandsby to Byland Abbey via Crayke and Coxwold Walk


You’ll see the millstone Coxwold sign prior entering the leafy village. I say millstone as I am almost certain it is what they are meant to be, and they are pretty common in England.

You almost immediately cross a beck as you enter the village and you are greeted with some stone properties. You will also see a sign for the North York Moors National Park which gives you confirmation that you are in a very scenic part of North Yorkshire.

Now, I am typically neutral when it comes to businesses but I called in the tearoom the day before the second lockdown started. Two walkers insisted that they served the best cake. Naturally I called into the tearoom for a coffee, a home-made sausage roll and a slice of Carrot Cake. I can heartily say that I was very impressed and I am a carrot cake connoisseur!

Moving on, I found the crossroads for the last stretch of our walk to Byland Abbey. Here you turn right, but first I’m going to take a look at the village briefly.

One notable building, and I recognised what it was straight away, is the alms houses. This was actually a poor men’s hospital for up to 10 people. It later was turned into 5 almshouses. It is grade II listed and dates back to 1626.

The public house is named the Fauconberg Arms after the Earl of Fauconberg. Not only does it serve food and drink but there is also a shop around the back of the main building. I also noticed that they serve ice cream too.

At the summit is what I would call an unusual church owing to its tower, known as St Michael’s and dates back to the 15th century.

Here we go again. Yes there are refreshments available at Coxwold, and a further tearoom at Byland Abbey, but always bring a drink with you just in case. Even in autumn and winter, you may just need to drink. During the pandemic, another good idea is not only to bring a face covering, but also a small bottle of hand sanitiser. The risk is much lower when walking in a less populated area, but you cannot be too careful especially if you intend to call into somewhere for food and drink.


Coxwold to Byland Abbey

Brandsby to Byland Abbey via Crayke and Coxwold Walk


So we head to Byland Abbey on the Ampleforth road approaching a garage and petrol station. By the way, you can catch a bus back to Easingwold and York from here with Reliance buses if you prefer. Also on the right you will see the village hall.

Again, walking on the right hand side single file, we come away from the village towards a possible ford. I say possible because it only seems to exist after any heavy rains. The worrying thing is that the measure goes up to 6ft and I am 5ft 11 inches. If the water has come over, there is a crossing on the opposite side. This is Wakendale Beck incidentally. Not sure about try your brakes, but dry your feet would be more appropriate to the theme.

Again, some amazing views already enhanced by the good weather. The hills tend to be frosted with trees and you’ll see part of Byland Abbey in the distance as well as the White Horse beside you. This section of the walk is around a mile and a half.

If the road does happen to be busy, there are some grass verges to walk on. However, when you’re at the foot of hills, verges can be somewhat squelchy in winter. You will come to a rise and bend in the road to the left, and it is just after this you will reach Byland Abbey and the end of today’s walk. Aforementioned, there is a bus stop here for Helmsley and York which is currently the 31x operated by Reliance Buses. Oh yes, and there is also a tearoom here too. Sadly, however, during the lockdown it will be closed as per government guidelines, but you are permitted to bring a picnic on site.


Byland Abbey Walk Around

Brandsby to Byland Abbey via Crayke and Coxwold Walk


At the front of the abbey you will notice the circular window at the top which was inspired by the Rose Window at York Minster. This comes as no surprise in a way because the abbey was designed in a Gothic style and York Minster is the same.

It’s history kind of began in 1128 when a group of Monks from Northern France established a community in Furness, Cumberland. They were known as Savigniacs, and were one of many monastic orders of the day. By 1134, they began to seek land for a further abbey which was constructed further up the coast, only to be sacked by a Scots army just 4 years later. For the next forty years they sought one area of unsuitable land to another until they reached Byland. It is thought that the current structure began to be constructed in the late 1150’s and this also included draining the marshland. The buildings were completed by 1177 yet the church would have taken another 15 years to construct.

Like the majority of abbey’s in England, by 1538, the abbey closed owing to the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, sometimes referred to as the suppression of the monasteries. This is the reason why many of the abbeys we see today are ruins. When you look at the size of the foundations and the height of the main structure, you can really get to understand how huge the abbey was in its heyday.

You might imagine that the front of the structure was where the tower would have existed, but in fact it would have been closer to the other end. This of course was the abbey church, and the other buildings were located on the right hand side where you can still see the foundations today.

Did I mention that Byland Abbey is free entry? It is not very often that an abbey such as this is admission free, so as a frugal Yorkshireman, you can understand the need to come here! Old Byland was located near Rievaulx Abbey, but was short lived owing to it being too close to Rievaulx which was a Cistercian abbey, another monastic order which was growing in number. You may remember our Best North Yorkshire Walk from Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey last year which is another amazing walk.

Certainly it is fitting to complete this walk at an old ruin, because this is just how I feel after a ten mile hike. Still, I have had such an amazing experience with this particular walk and we have covered some substantial local landmarks on this journey including a castle, a white horse, a lake and an abbey all woven into some stunning countryside. Wow!


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