BOB ADAMS guides us on another Derwent walk

Walking the Derwent: Day 5

Kirkham Priory to Old Malton

10 Miles

Leaving the A64 at Whitwell on the Hill, I walked downhill for just over half a mile to the river at Kirkham. The forecast was glorious sun all day. At the railway crossing I took the footpath to the left, just before the signal box. This grade-II listed building is still operational and I waved to the signalman who waved back. I guess he wasn’t too busy.

Kirkham Priory was founded in 1122 by Walter Espec, Lord of Helmsley who, as well as building Helmsley Castle, also founded Rievaulx Abbey (1132). Espec was clearly a religious man. His son apparently died in a hunting accident and Espec, having no direct heir, gave generously to the church. The area around the Priory was used for practice by armoured vehicles prior to the 1944 D Day landings.

The path took me through meadows then gradually uphill to Crambeck.

An alternate route would have been to cross the river and take the road uphill to Firby, re-joining the Derwent at the Giants Causeway. The only problem with my route was that I had to walk along, and cross, the busy and dangerous A64 for over half a mile before descending to Low Hutton.

Ox Carr woods made it worthwhile. I tried out my new plant identifier App and found red campion, forget-me-not, dog rose and germander speedwell.

At Crambeck village there was a ping of tennis balls and instructions to keep to the identified path. According to its website this private estate village was ‘created’ in 1989 by the ‘conversion or replacement’ of buildings previously owned by a reform school. The school was founded in 1856 to house ‘young lads who had fallen foul of the law or who were in need of special care due to family problems’.

I turned right at the A64 and walked down to the road bridge. Driving to the coast you may have noticed the dip into Crambeck Gorge but you may not have noticed the bridge. John Carr designed it in 1785. It is constructed of nine stone arches and was widened in 1935. It looked like it needed widening again. Cram Beck runs down from the Castle Howard estate to join the Derwent near the Castle Howard Railway Station. This station, once used by Queen Victoria on a visit to the Castle, was closed in 1930. Its sign is still visible from the York to Scarborough train. Roman pottery kilns have been found in the area.

A short slog along the road took me most of the way up Hutton Hill before arriving at a footpath back down into the valley. A sign indicated the possibility of ‘aggressive cows with calves’.

There were cows but they seemed more interested in eating grass than me. I passed through some lovely woods – more wild flowers - and soon got to the village of Low Hutton. Down by the river there were detectorists at work, perhaps looking for the site of medieval fortified buildings, known to be located there.

I took the road to the river passing the old railway station on the way, now a private house. A sign on the path to the station indicated that ‘the owners would accept no responsibility for any injury that may occur in using this path.’ They didn’t say I couldn’t use it. When I did I got the impression from a lady glaring at me from her garden that this was probably frowned upon.

Next up was one of the excitements of the day, crossing a wobbly late 19th-century suspension bridge.

I then followed the east bank of the river. The York to Scarborough railway still crosses the river here. A bit further along was the wonderfully named Cherry Islands (Private Property Keep Off). At this point I was walking along the Centenary Way. This 83-mile long distance walk takes you from York to Filey. I walked part of it on a previous river walk along the Foss.

Just before Malton I passed the golf course and got confused by more signs by the railway. They all seemed to warn of terrible dangers. Now I can fully understand the hazard of crossing a railway, but not necessarily the risk of walking along a flood bank. Apparently you could slip off it. Like a good citizen I obeyed the signs until I found there was nowhere to sit to have my lunch due to a profusion of stinging nettles. The flood bank was the only option.

After lunch the market town of Malton came into view as I passed the back gardens of large houses across the river, one with a balcony on stilts. Then the spires and towers of various churches came into view.

In the 18th and 19th century Malton was a busy place with traffic up and down the river. In 1702 an act of parliament allowed the building of locks and enlarging of weirs to make the river navigable up to Malton and beyond. Sailing barges called Yorkshire Keels were towed up river to unload their goods, usually coal and building supplies. Farm produce went the other way. Competition, in 1845, from George Hudson’s York and North Midland Railway (Y&NMR) hastened the decline of river traffic.

Its successor, the North Eastern Railway Company, succeeded in buying the navigation. Tolls were raised and the locks were allowed to decline.

Malton actually consists of two towns, old and new – or three if you include Norton. New and Old Malton are separated by a mile of playing fields and meadows. I set off along Sheepfoot Hill and passed the site of the old Roman fort. Only a few mounds remain. Back down by the river I passed the stanchions from the bridge of the now dismantled railway that went from Pilmoor Junction, on the East Coast Mainline, to Malton, then onwards across the Wolds to Driffield.

Following a drainage channel, known as The Cut, the square tower of St. Mary’s Priory Church came into view, a welcome site. The Priory was established as a Gilbertine order in 1147. It survived the dissolution by becoming a parish church but, in an act that has been described as clumsy downsizing, lost its central tower, trancepts and chancel.

On a previous walk along the River Rye back in 2015, I started at Old Malton and it was good to be back. The next stage of my walk presents a bit of a problem as there are virtually no paths or roads that follow the river from here to Ayton. A solution has to be found.

NOTE: You can take the 843 Coastliner bus from York to Whitwell on the Hill, and return from Malton by bus or train.

Bob competed this walk on Saturday May 30, 2020