George Wilkinson enjoys a walk in Laurence Sterne country

Coxwold has a village hall with a PC and an honesty box car park – and that’s enough of practicalities for now, because, after walking through the lovely village with 19th century iron unicorns on the walls, we reached Shandy Hall, the most entertaining of the day’s halls.

In today’s square mile of countryside all the houses and farms have classy names, halls, park, and granges, yet it was at Shandy Hall 250 years ago, that Laurence Sterne wrote Tristram Shandy. Then we were out, looking around the countryside, gathering the sights. To the south runs a pleasant, wide, shallow valley holding nothing to distract and lying just outside the national park, the park boundary line zig–zags most violently here for some reason.

We walked up a hillock and then on to a blunt ridge, with our eyes to the north and the rising land. Specifically to the north-east and the new Stanbrook Abbey build by Benedictine nuns a year ago.

Viewed at a distance of three miles it’s a pale slot, modern and elegant, like a length of limestone scar, all horizontal, but not hard.

At the same distance, also pale, further to the north-east, is the less than regular White Horse of Kilburn that, though admired by the late Jimmy Savile, maintains its lumpen quality.

By now there were a dozen real horses, some wearing winter rugs, and a wind turbine spun in the warm south-westerly.

Laurence Sterne had Tristram Shandy mock those travel writers that ‘galloped and wrote’, we were not galloping, but in good cheer, and on another practicality, nearly all our miles were on tracks or pasture, not mired in mud.

We reached a corner at Angram Hall, headed north and the rain came down, a weasel glanced and nipped across the track, the wind charged through the alders and deer played hide and seek in the scrub.

Then things slowed and a weak rainbow curved in a patch of sky for half a minute.

Old ridge and furrow pasture led to a grand, big, shed with hundreds of black and white cattle and the turbine.

After this, the route takes a turn towards Byland Abbey and there are the shapes of Pond Bay which was part of the abbey’s extensive multi-purpose pond and flood bank system, including fish.

Then we aimed for Coxwold, and came in over the Town’s Pasture, back to Shandy Hall again after our little adventure.

It was the pub that brightened us the more, the Fauconberg Arms was putting on a Little Festival of Everything, over three days, a kaleidoscope of performers, some from afar, and that night we had a taste of sweet music and (Laurence Sterne would have approved) deranged comedy.


When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.

1. From car park behind village hall, left to road, right at crossroads, pass Fauconberg Arms, pavement uphill, pass church and Shandy Hall. The DIY notice reading ‘Manor Farm Track – Public Footpath Diverted 500 yards’ could be misleading in that you only have another 150 yards along the road/verge.

2. Path on left (new fingerpost) and gate into field (waymark).

3. Fieldgate (waymark) and two o’clock uphill across field, gate in fieldgate (waymark) to grass path/track on ridge between fields, then gently descend.

4. Cross farm drive, fieldgate (waymark), path down to gate, by fence, stile to track.

5. Into farmyard and at left-hand bend after barn take track on right (waymark) and pass barn to left, 25 yards, wire mesh gate, through trees and grass for 200 yards, mesh gate (waymark) and footbridge, cross sown field – reinstated path. Fieldgate (waymark), one o’clock uphill towards right of house, gate/fieldgate (waymark) track.

6. Cross road, gate (fingerpost/waymark) to grass track by stream, fieldgate to track uphill and ignore a right. Pass above large cattle shed. Fieldgate (waymark) into large farmyard, 20 yards, right fork to concrete, 150 yards, fieldgate between small stone and concrete barns (waymark), track swings right near house and becomes metalled.

7. Right to road, 25 yards, left to grass track (sign far side), left at field corner (fingerpost), 50 yards, gate/footbridge/gate (waymark) on right, cross field.

8. Gate and right to road, 100 yards, gates on left and stile (sign waymark), by hedge, 200 yards, stile and footbridge on right (waymark), footbridge and stile in corner.

9. At hut, track between fields for 20 yards and left (three-way fingerpost), 200 yards, right (two-way fingerpost) and path uphill by oak to cross field. Into field at corner (waymark post), hedge to right. Stile and straight on as per waymark, ignoring fingerpost, gate by wood corner and left to road.

fact file

Distance: Five miles.

General location: Thirsk area.

Start: Coxwold.

Right of way: Public.

Dogs: Legal.

Date walked: November 2011.

Road route: Various.

Car parking: Village hall with honesty box.

Lavatories: Village hall.

Refreshments: Fauconberg Arms at Coxwold.

Tourist and public transport information: Thirsk TIC 01845 522755.

Map: Drawn from OS Explorer 299 Ripon and Boroughbridge.

Terrain: Low hills.

Difficulty: Moderate.

Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.

View a map of the Coxwold country walk>>