GEORGE WILKINSON witnesses the potato harvest near the village of Scackleton.

THE village of Scackleton is long and linear, with two pumps, shaggy sheep, a pond and a hint of an ancient moat. It lies bang in the middle of the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB). We turned off the single street and on to a farm lane and watched a display of potato harvesting with two blue Ford tractors side by side, one pulling the red harvester and the other pulling the trailer for the spuds.

We had just passed a sign reading "Ground Nesting Birds... keep to way-marked paths" when we found the first such path obstructed. So we toddled round through the nearby farmyard where the farmers were friendly, the yard was neat, and where there were another six blue Ford tractors. Bypassing barbed wire we dropped down off the fields of fine silty soil into a small sheltered valley with a curious chimney, gorse bushes, a spring, skylark song and, as reward, a waymark!

Our exploration continued, the valley sides only take a minute or so to climb. The woods of oak and ash and sycamore were full of rooks and pigeons and are Nature Conservation Priorities. Waymarks, stiles and gates improved; for a while the field furniture was positively extravagant. New fingerposts have the name of the destination, plus "Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty", plus inserts of small yellow arrows. Gates have lever-operated bolts; aficionados please note the latest in plastic hinges.

We circled round the head of our valley, saw late-flowering dandelion types and a good hatch of large brown flies on ivy and got a peek at the moors. There was a lush field of clover ringed with an electric fence. There was a lovely field of blonde grass also improperly laced with electricity and complete with an up-turned and rusting motor car. A tier of three ponds had a serene swan, dragonflies mating in the airborne "tandem position" and jittery ducks. A fence had a new sign, but no stile. There are a lot of new signs, but they tease, they promise but do not deliver. A mile from Scackleton we tried to finish via Lodge Farm.

A posh AONB fingerpost pointed to the farm which had instead of arrows "Bull Beef" placards. We were defeated. A few days later I got through from the other direction, but it was not easy.

This is the third walk we have done recently in the well-funded Howardian Hills AONB and all have seemed as tricky as any other North Yorkshire farmland.

So for us it was the pleasant back lane to Scackleton instead, by grown out hedges glowing rich with berries.

Fact file

Distance: Five miles.

Time: Three hours.

General location: The Howardian Hills.

Start: Scackleton.

Right of way: The complete route is along public rights of way, plus three deviations required by obstructions.

Date walked: Saturday, October 5, 2002.

Road route: Scackleton, about ten miles north of York, is signed off from the Sheriff Hutton to Hovingham road.

Car parking: Roadside in Scackleton.

Lavatories: None.

Refreshments: None.

Tourist & Public Transport Information: Malton TIC 01653 600048.

Map: Based on OS Explorer 300, How-ardian Hills and Malton

Terrain: Small valley in the "central hills and valleys" of the Howardian Hills.

Points of interest: The authorities have been notified of problems with route.


Difficulty: Moderate for the agile - had to scale a few fences at the time of walking.

Dogs: Suitable if they can jump.

Weather forecast: Evening Press and recorded forecast 0891 500 418

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


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

1. From church, through village, left to lane before last house on left, turns to track. Footpath obstructed, so right and through farmyard (track), 150 yards, track swings left before trees, 200 yards.

2. Fieldgate at field corner, grassy path/track diagonally across small dip/valley (pass trees to right) to field-gate in corner.

3. Uphill at 1 o'clock, right at corner of wood, 100 yards downhill, gates/footbridge over stream, 1 o'clock, gate to path which parallels to right of outbuildings (signed), join track by wood.

4. Opposite house, right to tarmac drive.

5. Path on right by fence and trees (signed), immediately ten yards through thicket/ditch, right to field-edge "path", snickelgate by track then either 11 o'clock across field (was electric fenced) on public right of way or track around two sides of it.

6. Gate, downhill across pasture, gate below tree, right to road through Coulton (pavement).

7. Gate on left after bungalow (signed), diagonally across field and join track, stile in corner, track (hedge to right). Ignore fieldgate on right by waymark, 100 yards, stile, (triple electric fence had been knocked over), stile by fieldgate and downhill to wood.

8. Footbridge (stile missing), path for 100 yards by edge of wood, hurdle-gate/fence by wood, 11 o'clock to fence then right to path by side of pond (waymark), into field after pond.

9. Fence (stile missing by new signpost) and right to track, right then left-hand bends. Becomes tarmac.

10. Right to lane (tarmac). Left at junction and back to Scackleton.

A route option for the agile: At new fingerpost (signed to Scackleton), track on right through Lodge Farm (no house), left after first barn, right so barn to right, track to wood edge, stile between pile of tyres and rusting muck spreader. Left into wood, 20 yards to arrow on larch tree, path south. Stile out of wood, downhill and angle left through felled area, over wire fence (awkward and no stile) uphill over old fence and right to hole in hedge.

Left to wide field margin up to tarmac lane and rejoin route.

Click here to view a map of the walk

Updated: 08:56 Saturday, October 19, 2002