Leader: Phyllida Oates

On this bright and colourful autumn day, our group of walkers set off through the lower side of Aysgarth’s Freeholders’ Wood. The Middle Falls of the River Ure demanded a quick look as they displayed a dramatic volume of water tumbling over the ancient limestone ledges, and the long-managed woodland was dressed up in recognition of the imminent Halloween. Soon we were in upper, open country and viewed some of Wensleydale’s glorious landscape as we approached Hollins House and progressed eastwards to join the ancient routeway of Thoresby Lane. This lane had been an important link in the local medieval transport network, its rich botanical diversity and hedgerow revealing evidence of its great age, and it led us to the (originally Norse) farmstead of Low Thoresby. Here we turned northwards and crossed a series of fields and the disused rail track, uphill to the impressive 14th century Bolton Castle and its accompanying historic hamlet. The Norman family of Scropes occupied and emparked this vast estate in 1314, built the castle and St. Oswalds church, but the succeeding family now live in Bolton Hall nearby. The old farming field systems can still be seen, which were worked from the 12th century, when much of the area was owned by Rievaulx and Jervaulx Abbeys.

From this elevation, we were offered the expansive panorama of the valley and fells. Our walk progressed westwards on this contour, in the direction of Askrigg, Ellerlands Edge above us on the right. We were on the old (Oxclose) drove road, which had been popular with travellers and traders as it avoided the costly tollgates, but they must have endured fierce and wild weather often on this exposed height. Beldon Beck cuts through a dramatic little gorge en route, and little pockets of sheltering trees are attractive. As we approached Carperby nestling below, we continued on the Oxclose road a little further (Wegber Scar looming on our right) before descending Ponderledge Scar to reach Carperby. This was once a busy market town, its fine market cross still standing, and some prosperity was gained from lead mining and quarrying stone, but agriculture has always been its prominent industry.

Our final section of walk, from Carperby, led us through the handsome 17th century Bear Park, across the old rail trackbed again and into the Aysgarth Visitor Centre, concluding a successful walk of nearly eight miles, in very good company.