North York Moors walks: New walking trail showcasing the history of five Yorkshire moors villages to launch
The Parish of Upper Ryedale has designed the route to connect St John’s at Bilsdale, All Saints in Hawnby, All Saints in Old Byland, St Mary’s in Scawton and St Michael’s at Cold Kirby, and will hold a ‘Ride and Stride’ event on Saturday September 9 to launch the trail.
The walk will be led by two experienced guides and include refreshments at the village hall in Cold Kirby at the end. Anyone is welcome to join at 8.30am at Fangdale Beck in Bilsdale.
The event will raise money for the upkeep of the historic churches. Parish deacon Helen Rawlings said: “Ride and Stride events are a large source of income for many old churches around the country. Within the Upper Ryedale Parish, we have five breathtaking churches. Because of the historic nature of the buildings, essential
maintenance work costs a lot of money.
“Many of our church members have worked extremely hard to plan this walk, including arranging refreshment breaks, but at the same time found the experience very enjoyable. Some participants are raising money through sponsorships. The support pledged by both the participants in Ride and Stride and their sponsors is hugely appreciated.”
North Yorkshire councillor George Jabbour tested the route over the Bank Holiday weekend and described it as a ‘magnificent’ way to see the churches.
He said: “I highly recommend it. By taking part in this new event in Upper Ryedale, people who care about our historic churches can make a positive impact. At the same time, they can carry out a healthy activity while enjoying some of the most stunning views within the North York Moors National Park.”
After the event, the parish will promote the walk as a permanent trail, and intend to erect signposts later in the autumn once the best route has been established. It is also available online via Ordnance Survey in two parts – one and two.
The parish has historic links to nearby Rievaulx Abbey. The church at Old Byland was already standing in 1134 when St Aelred arrived in Rievaulx.
The buildings all have colourful pasts. All Saints at Hawnby was ransacked by Scottish raiders before being rebuilt in the 14th century. During World War One, the village men were encouraged to join up by the vicar, whose own three sons were among those killed. A flash flood in 2005 left gravestones flattened.
St Michael’s at Cold Kirby is one of the newest of the five, having been built in 1841. It stands close to an old drovers’ road that William the Conqueror’s army used before it became a main route for Scottish cattle traders driving their stock to market in Malton. The area was also home to an 18th-century racecourse called ‘the Newmarket of the north’.
St John’s in Bilsdale, built in the 1890s by the Earl of Feversham, serves a dale that was so remote that it didn’t even get its first road until the 1930s. The Lords Feversham, of Duncombe Park, insisted that the first telephone box was painted green to blend in with its surroundings, and there was national outctry when BT removed it without permission in 1992, replacing it with a modern kiosk. They were fined, the green booth was allowed to remain and it is now listed. The church never served a large population and was mooted for closure as far back as the 1970s before it was merged with others.
All Saints at Old Byland has Saxon and Norman features, though its exact age has not been established. The village was part of the Newburgh Priory estate until the Wombwell family sold the whole place off in 1922 – farms, a pub, a school and the blacksmith’s forge were all disposed of.
St Mary’s at Scawton was built in the 12th century by the Cistercian monks 30 years before Byland Abbey.