Hackfall Wood fills the south side of a long gorge carved by the River Ure south of Masham and provides one of the finest autumn walks in Yorkshire.
Interesting views and features abound, including follies built by William Aislabie, whose father John (famous for his water gardens at Studley Royal) bought the land in 1731. The woods were popular with the Victorian middle classes; the artist J. M. W. Turner painted here; and William Wordsworth was another admirer. After years of decline, in the 1980s the wood was rescued by the Woodland Trust and the newly formed Hackfall Trust, their restoration programme funded by a £1 million Heritage Lottery grant. The walk starts from Masham and takes in the woodland on Nutwith Common. Woodland birds include nuthatch, tree creeper, great spotted woodpecker.
1. In Masham Market Place find Millgate, which leaves from the north-east corner and follow the Ripon Rowel signposted road down to the River Ure. Turn right on the riverbank and keep with a clear footpath which eventually bends right to follow the River Burn to Low Burn Bridge.
2. Turn left on Thorpe Road, cross the bridge and walk with care southwards along the road. At a bend take a left fork to follow a bridleway along the edge of Roomer Common. Rejoin the road of a short distance and cross with care to a forestry track.
3. Go immediately left on a footpath which climbs into the Nutwith Common woodland. Near the top ignore a forestry track and continue on a footpath ahead. Cross another track and follow the path out of Nutwith Common and across fields to Nutwith Lane.
4. Turn left and follow the road with care into Grewelthorpe. At the junction, refreshments are to the right. The walk continues to the left. Go round a bend and enter Hackfall Wood on the right. The good path proceeds downhill and arrives at the famous folly known as Fisher’s Hall.
5. Turn left at the River Ure and follow the Ripon Rowel path over the rise of Limehouse Hill. Continue down the north side, passing through kissing gates to follow the Ripon Rowel footpath along the River Ure.
6. At the inlet of the River Burn the path swings left and arrives back at Low Burn Bridge. You have a choice of walking with care along Thorpe Road into Masham or retracing earlier steps by turning right and following the path along the north side of the River Burn and back along the Ure to Masham Market Place.
Difficulty Rating: 3 stars
Time: 3 hours
Distance: 8 miles
Maps: OS Landranger (1:50000) 99 Northallerton & Ripon.
Parking: Masham Market Place (honesty box)
Public transport: Masham is on the 159 bus route between Ripon and Richmond operated by Dales & District (Tel 01677 425203). Ripon is served by the 36 bus route from Leeds operated by Harrogate & District (Tel 01723 566061).
Refreshments: Masham, Grewelthorpe