North York Moors Walks
Byland Abbey & Snever Scar
Date: 2nd June 2013
Distance: 4.6 miles
Time: 2 hours 20 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: SE548789
A visit to the impressive ruins of Byland Abbey followed by a lovely flower-strewn woodland walk up to the Mount Snever Observatory.
Route Summary: Byland Abbey - Wass - Abbey Bank Wood Mount Snever Observatory - Oldstead - Oldstead Grange - Byland Abbey
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: The main purpose of this short walk in the southern Hambleton Hills was to visit two historial buildings, the medieval ruins of Byland Abbey and the much later, and less well known, Mount Snever Observatory.
The walk started with an exploration of the remains of Byland Abbey which was originally founded by Cistercian monks in the 12th century. Having only previously driven past the ruins I was surprised at how extensive they were behind the hugely impressive remains of the tall West Front of the abbey. In addition to containing a small museum the grounds of the abbey also feature some of the best preserved medieval floor tiles in the country.
After having spent some time exploring the ruins and taking numerous photos I decided it was about time I started the walk in earnest. From the abbey I followed some field paths to the outskirts of Wass before gently climbing up a wooded track to reach the edge of Abbey Bank Wood where there were still plenty of bluebells to be seen. After following the fringes of the wood the track eventually entered the wood proper, quite prominent in this section of the walk were some large patches of forget-me-nots.
Just before the track exited the woods I then took a path (not marked as a right of way on the map but seemingly open to the public) which led through some more woodland to Mount Snever Observatory standing near the edge of Snever Scar. According to a tablet on the north side of the observatory it was built by John Wormald in 1837, the first year of Queen Victoria's reign. It is a curious building as the door is located on a large ledge six feet off the ground with no steps leading up to it. I managed to climb up but sadly the door was locked. This was a shame as the surrounding woods meant that only tantalising glimpses of the extensive view from the edge could be seen. As the top of the observatory extends above the tree line it would make an excellent viewpoint.
After a steep but enjoyable descent through the woods to Oldstead I then made my way back to the abbey via various paths and tracks. The highlight of this section was a stunning display of wild garlic on the drive of Oldstead Hall. Less impressive was the field of cows I had to cross just prior to arriving back at Byland Abbey.
This was an enjoyable little jaunt and one that I would probably do again some time. Byland Abbey itself was definitely worth a visit and is one that I would highly recommend whether as part of a walk or not.