Howardian Hills Walks
Crayke & Oulston Reservoir
Date: 20th June 2015
Distance: 5.5 miles
Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
Start Grid Ref: SE563707
A pleasant little walk from the hilltop village of Crayke following the Foss Way to Oulston Reservoir before returning via crop fields, wild meadows and sheep pastures.
Route Summary: Crayke - Brandsby Road - Mill Farm - Woodfield Farm - Beckfield House - Burton House - River Foss - Oulston Reservoir - River Foss - Close House - Ellers Beck - Crayke
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: This walk was the latest in an occasional series of walks exploring the Howardian Hills, a small but attractive area between the south-west corner of the North York Moors and the Vale of York. On this occasion there was a practical reason for choosing the Howardian Hills as a destination for a walk - they are not far from York where my wife and I needed to collect some garden furniture!
The route for the walk was largely taken from Paul Hannon's walking guide 'The Howardian Hills'. Somewhat misleadingly he calls the walk 'The River Foss' for, while the route does indeed follow the 'Foss Way' on the outward leg, the river, merely a stream this close to its source, is hardly seen at all.
The start of the walk was in Crayke, a hilltop village that has been in existence since at least 685 AD when it was given to St Cuthbert by King Egfrid of Northumberland with the aim of founding a monastery. Despite standing at a modest height of 112m the village commands an extensive view south over the Vale of York and west towards the Pennines. This panorama was not obvious to us as we arrived in murky conditions of low cloud and showers.
Thankfully the showers eased off almost as soon as we arrived and the start of the walk, along Brandsby Road as far as Mill Green and then following an access road to Woodfield Farm was very easy. Along the way we had our first encounter with the River Foss, it would have been easily missed in the undergrowth below the bridge if I had not been paying attention.
After Woodfield Farm we crossed a stile in a hedge to enter a meadow of buttercups. Clearly it is not a well trodden route and with no obvious way through the tall grass and buttercups we had to make our own way. This would have been fine it it were not for the fact that it was all very wet from the rain earlier in the day and as a result our trousers and boots got soaked.
In the next field we then had to push our way through about twenty metres of rapeseed that had obscured the path resulting in us getting even wetter. I did not mind though because the far end of this field contained numerous poppies adding much needed colour to what was still a dull and cloudy day.
Continuing on past Burton House we dropped down to the riverbank to once again cross the River Foss, the stepping stones were hardly necessary as the 'river' was barely a stream a stride across. Whereas Hannon's route returns to Crayke at this point we continued north a short way to visit Oulston Reservoir, an attractive and secluded sheet of water.
Retracing our way back to the stepping stones we briefly followed the Foss downstream before commencing a return to Crayke through a variety of sheep pastures, wheatfields, meadows and more rapeseed. By the time we got back to Crayke my boots were so waterlogged they felt like they had doubled in weight.
After taking a look in St Cuthbert's Church, one of a number of interesting churches to be found in the Howardian Hills, we walked a short way along Crayke Lane, past the private Crayke Castle. Here at a bench and with the cloud lifting we could finally appreciate the impressive long distance views from the village looking west towards the Pennines.
As with most walks in the Howardian Hills this walk was more interesting than it initially looks on the map. Despite the name of the area this cannot be described as hillwalking but a walk in the Howardian Hills always provides a welcome change of pace and a chance to see flora and fauna that I would not normally see in places like the Yorkshire Dales or North Pennines.