GEORGE WILKINSON leads us on a Boxing Day walk where the animals take the scenery - and the walkers - in their stride

Friday the 13th we walked a route selected for Boxing Day, but superstition ran like rain off waterproofed backs, and we had a super time. Skipwith Common was recommended by a friend as classy, comfortable and close to York, even closer to Selby, plus there is a pub.

We parked up on the surface of the Second World War airfield and read an info-board about the 660 acre Nature Reserve. A flock of fieldfares flurried by, and nature, in the form of silver birch saplings, was bursting through old Tarmac skimmed green with moss.

After a few hundred yards we saw piles of dung and we hushed our chatter, David Attenborough-style. There are unusual animals here. There are also unusual habitats, a mix of ponds, woods, mire and zones of very rare lowland heath.

Paths made by man or beast snake are everywhere: ours was a perimeter route to make something of a circle of the walk.

A girl trailing a terrier pushed an all-terrain baby buggy through the woods, and she warned us that there was water up ahead. Soon a pond blocked our way. One side was fence, the other a swamp, a mire skewered by rotting birch trunks bracketed by hard tinder fungi. A horned skull pierced the black water.

We bypassed this, admired the big oaks - one had ropes for swinging - and eventually saw a church through the mist and homed in on the village of Skipwith. With a quarter mile to go the rain came down, and in a blur we passed village green, white ducks and a Primitive Methodist chapel as we did the fastest few hundred yards I can remember - to the Drovers Arms.

What a relief, what a welcome. "Come in," hailed Julian Taylor Schofield. "Don't worry about that (sodden clobber)." We settled for an hour, the chips were ace.

The publican's card reads: 'Haggard and thin we staggered in, happy and stout we waddled out!'

Our return route was simple, straight and on rustic Tarmac. We saw the Exmoor ponies, wild, shy, small and hairy and here to eat the rank vegetation. Hebridean sheep that do a similar job did not emerge, but English Nature scientists were out and about with notebooks.


Distance: Three miles, or more, or less, depends on route. Have shown some options. Maps at Skipwith Common car park.

Time: Two hours, or more, or less.

General location: Ten miles from York, five from Selby.

Start: Car parking GR. 645 374.

Right of way: There is public access to the whole of Skipwith Common.

Date walked: Friday 13 December 2002.

Road route: East from A19 when opposite southern end of Riccal, signed King Rudding Lane.

Car parking: Free car park at end of lane, opposite sheds.

Lavatories: None.

Refreshments: The Drovers Arms at Skipwith 01757 288433.

Tourist & public transport Information: Selby Tourist Officer 01757 292070.

Map: Based on OS Explorer 290 York, Selby and Tadcaster.

Terrain: Heath, wood and mire.

Points of interest: Wheelchair users have a dedicated but not exciting circuit, but there are miles of very flat (not always super smooth) concrete and Tarmac track, so exercise a right to roll.

Difficulty: Easy on main tracks, as straight to pub and back.

Dogs: Suitable, bear in mind ponies and sheep.

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. Gate/Fieldgate (by signboards)from car park to old Tarmac runway, turns to path by ponds.

2. Cross old runway to path then right. Edge of wood. If you have to detour to avoid the pool across the path, either hop over wire fence and with care skirt the football pitch sized wooded mire, or retrace steps to T-junction, left to old runway then left to partly metalled track, then the wood-edge path is rejoined immediately after the fenced area via a path on the left of the track.

3. Join main track through Skipwith Common, 200 yards, path on left (immediately after passing double fieldgates), around inside of edge of wood.

4. Left to track/Tarmac. Road into Skipwith. Pub is on right after pond.

5. From pub back to main track/Tarmac. Ignore side turns.

6. At 5-way junction (fieldgate and snickelgate on left to wheelchair access area) fork right for car park, staying on main track.

Click here to view a map of the walk

George Wilkinson will return with another walk in two weeks

Updated: 09:31 Saturday, December 21, 2002