George Wilkinson is enchanted by an evening stroll around Nunnington

NUNNINGTON had already settled in for the evening, Nunnington Hall resting after its daily flux of visitors. The River Rye was running in clear, just a little coloured. A touch of breeze stirred a late hatch of flies; occasionally there was the soft plop of a sated brown trout.

Moving up river on the fisherman's path was comfortable, pretty too, the low sun shafting through the alders, across the water a pastoral scene, the other way a mile of gentle slopes boxed with hedges and with a specimen tree or two. Ahead small woods were in silhouette.

Tranquillity exploded with half a dozen surprised mallards, they did a quick out of range swing and landed way upstream. Fifty racing pigeons rocketed over, low and straight.

Hereabouts the river meanders; there is a hint of an oxbow lake. At one big curve we cross a ditch by a plank and leave the Rye to connect with tracks that skirt beside the woods and then up the slope, which is called Caulkleys Bank, 'caulk' as in chalk.

The bank is splendid, open, flat on top and with ace views from each slope. The ones that lead us on are towards the main body of the Howardian Hills. The few clouds in the sky took on sunset pinks over the Hambleton Hills in the west and purple over the moors to the north.

We drop down to Stonegrave but only so far as to be level with the top of the church tower. Stonegrave had quarries, and there are cottages tucked into low weathered rockfaces.

Hardly penetrating the village we climb the bank again. There is a sunken track, a view bench and ten mile views across the Vale of Pickering to the Wolds. The immediate land-shapes have the feel of a small-scale Wolds.

We level out on to the characteristic top line of the bank where they used to have horse races and follow this for a distance. Garrulous rooks had a final say then silence fell. An owl hooted. And there was no movement but the heavy flutter of a moth and, way off, a slow light of a car drifting down from the North York Moors.

Descending was magic, the black moors almost as black as the black sky, the villages hanging in lights.

Though magic, I did wonder about light pollution, with perhaps one community being a little bright. I shall not name the culprit.

Needless to say Nunnington was discreet, having an almost candlelight glow. You return to the church, seemingly with bats in the belfry, and 100 yards down the road is the Royal Oak.


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

1. From road bridge into village, pass Nunnington Studio. At left-hand corner by bridge, snickelgate/fieldgate to riverside path (waymark).

2. As river swings sharp right, plank bridge over ditch and immediately left by high hedge. Dogleg to path beside ditch by edge of wood.

3. At wood corner, left to track, left at corner of next wood, right at corner. Left to road, 100 yards, grassy track on right uphill. Stay on track to Stonegrave.

4. Left to road (some pavement). As pavement on left ends at crest of hill (before right-hand bend), grassy track at 11 o'clock on left, 100 yards, stile/fieldgate and grassy track up and around hillside (ignore right-fork).

5. Stile/fieldgate by trees. Track continues.

6. Gateway (waymarks) and immediately track on left by hedge to Nunnington. Cross road by church into village and back to start.


Distance: Four miles.

Time: Two hours.

General location: Northern fringe of Howardian Hills.

Start: Nunnington.

Right of way: The complete route is along public rights of way.

Date walked: Thursday, August 16, 2001.

Road route: From York, via Strensall and Sheriff Hutton. 20 miles.

Car parking: Roadside in village.

Lavatories: None.

Refreshments: Royal Oak Inn. Tea rooms at Nunnington Hall.

Tourist & Public Transport Information: Helmsley TIC 01439 770173.

Map: Based on OS Explorer 300 Howardian Hills and Malton.

Terrain: Riverside and chalk bank.

Points of interest: Nunnington Hall gardens and tearoom open 12.30-5pm, house 1.30pm; closed Mondays (and Tuesdays in September and October). Nunnington Studio open 10.30am-5pm. Sir Herbert Read, art historian, lived at Stonegrave, and there is a 10th century cross at the church. Limekiln plantation SSSI. Unimproved grasslands.

Difficulty: Moderate/civilised.

Dogs: Suitable.

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.

Click here to view a map of the walk