Village Focus: Getting their kicks on Route 66 through Burnby

The name is synonymous with a golden age of open-top motoring across the heartland of the United States. The so-called Mother Road, from Chicago to California, even spawned a song.

Burnby in East Yorkshire, where one of the locals has decorated the side of a house with images of detectives.

But transplanted to Yorkshire, Route 66 is a cycle trail – one of a network that connects the cities and offers outdoors types a path through the rural hinterland that is relatively free of traffic and obstructions.

It extends from Manchester to Spurn Head, via Bradford and along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal before branching off to York and Beverley. But nowhere is it more quintessentially English than in the tiny East Riding village of Burnby, two miles south east of Pocklington and at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds.

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Here, one of the locals has rescued an old wooden bus shelter, abandoned when the service was withdrawn, and turned it into a cycle stop for passing travellers.

“It’s absolutely fabulous,” said Mick Bettison, who has just stepped down after a 10-year stint as chairman of the parish council Burnby shares with its neighbour, Hayton. “It’s got everything you can think of – maps, guides, repair outfits, even a library.”

Its visitors’ book has been signed by people from as far afield as the original, American Route 66.

With seating for four people in the shelter and more outside, it is the nearest thing Burnby has to a village amenity. There is a beautiful church with Norman features and ancient stone seats – but no pub and no shops. Even the village hall – a former schoolhouse that closed in 1953 – is in Hayton.

Burnby does, however, have a new drainage system.

“The place is in a hollow – it used to flood virtually every time it rained,” Mr Bettison said.

The village, whose drains were put down by its former estate owners and had been little changed since, was among the worst affected by the floods that washed over the East Riding in 2009.

“The problem is that it is right on the edge of the Wolds. Once you leave the village, you start climbing,” Mr Bettison said. “When the fields get saturated, if anything goes wrong with the drainage, the water runs straight into people’s houses.

“It only takes two hours for a trickle to become a torrent.”

The villagers were now “water conscious”, he said, clearing the gullies and obstructions from the beck that goes to the River Derwent, and keeping their fingers crossed that the new system, put in by the council at a cost of around £65,000, continues to hold.

The area remains prime farming country, with three families operating much of the land around the village. There is also a well-established riding school and hacking centre at Burnby’s Equestrian Centre.