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Askwith to Clifton – a short loop walk in Wharfedale

Having pretty much exhausted walks around Burley in Wharfedale where I live during lockdown, it was satisfying to find a walk I hadn’t done in the Burley in Wharfedale walkers are welcome booklet I had stumbled on in my study. Waking up and seeing a crisp, cold morning, with some faint blue in the grey sky, I set out with my wife and black lab Bronte to explore.

The Walk starts from the village of Askwith at the Askwith Arms pub, sadly closed at the moment because of lockdown. So with our backs to the pub we turned right and walked up the road for a short stretch.

This stretch of road goes past a beautiful old medieval Manor House, which is still occupied today. This grade II listed building dates to 1681, and still has the original mullion windows. We followed this road until the road starts to bend to the right we took a farm road on the left down a quite road – Hallam Road.

A few hundred meters along this road the path split, so we took the right fork towards Covey Hall Farm. There were some cracking views down Wharfedale with the sun starting to break through the clouds and shedding a weird light on the frozen ground.

We crossed Mill Dam Beck over a small wooden footbridge and walked through fields to Covey Hall Farm. We passed through the farmyard, following the signs to Clifton. We then walked through a small area of woodland and headed through more fields towards Lane Head Farm which we could see across the fields.

After seeing a sign stating beware of the bull, I bravely let my wife in her pink jacket go in first! As we walked through more farmland, we came across a field of recently tupped sheep with the dye from underneath the ram still prominent on the sheep’s behinds!

We arrived in the farmyard and followed the signs which took us out into the beautiful historic village of Clifton.

Clifton is an interesting Yorkshire village with a number of very old stone built cottages. It is officially in the Harrogate District of North Yorkshire and the name originates from Saxon times (Ton meaning Farmstead and Clif meaning on a hillside).

Perhaps the oldest building in the settlement is Old Hall Farm. It is a high status building but it is believed there may have been a previous building/hall on the site. In the Domesday book Clifton is listed as being an outlying estate of Otley manor and was actually under the Lordship of the Archbishop of York. It does record a Hall being in the village at the time.

The area has always been an agricultural manor and much of the land in the area was eventually purchased by tenant farmers after the plague, many of whom appear to have invested in new buildings in the early 17th century. This is backed up by there being many buildings in the settlement dating back to the 1600’s.

Clifton is just off the road between Otley and Timble and is essentially a big cul-de-sac. We walked down the main road in Clifton and just before the road ends we followed a path to the right following signs for the long distance path – the Six Dales Trail.

This stretch of the route had stunning views back over towards the Chevin and over the farmland of Wharfedale. We also came across a herd of cattle with a calf which must have only recently been born as the umbilical cord was still visible

We continued down the path which eventually led into a small wooded area , known as East Wood before coming out at the main road to Askwith.

At the road we turned right for a short stretch before taking a turn on the left signed Weston Church. At this turning there is a red telephone box and the original village stocks where minor crimes would have been punished by the person being locked at the site and ridiculed by rotting refuse thrown at them!

As we had seen Weston Church from a distance from the River Wharfe on previous dog walks, we had always planned to one day take a closer look. We took a small detour here down a farm road. Walking down hill, we came to one of the entrances to Weston Hall. Sadly there was no great view of the house, but we got to see some very clever topiary, a stable, outhouses and a nice plaque.

I have since found this image of Wiki Commons of the Hall. Quite grand I think you will agree!

The Hall is still owned by the Vavasour Family, who have owned the estate for many hundreds of years and are the Lords of the Manor of Weston. The Vavasours are the same family who owned a limestone quarry near Tadcaster and supplied much of the stone for York Minster!

Walking past the house we reached Weston Church. This Grade I listed Church has an interesting history. We know the site has been used for Christian worship since Saxon times due to a 9th Century preaching cross being found previously in the graveyard. The Church is predominantly Norman with some additions made in the 1600’s and then in the 1800’s.

In 1990 the Church bells were stolen, but fortunately the thieves were found and the bells retrieved. On analysis they were revealed to be some of the oldest bells in Britain with one dating to 1200. With a Heritage Lottery Grant they were restored and eventually re-hung in 2016.

What was lovely to see around the Church were the tiny snowdrops starting to come up. Lets hope that this sign of spring and renewal is a sign of hope for the next year!

After exploring the Churchyard we re-traced our steps back up the hill to the main road. Turning left at the top of the road we walked on the main road for about 10 minutes passing Mill Dam Beck lower down than where we had crossed it earlier ( the beck eventually comes out in Burley in Wharfedale at Greenholme Mills). There were icicles on the branches of nearby bushes at the beck just to remind us that it was still freezing!

Eventually at another bend in the road we followed a bridleway along farm fields to an old Quaker Meeting House (now a residence), then past a farm with dairy cattle coming out back on the main road again at the Askwith Arms.

This was a great little stroll of about 6 miles which clocked me up 14,000 steps on my fit bit and took about 2 hours 15. A great short walk and maybe worth combining with Sunday lunch at the Askwith Arms when lockdown finally ends.

1 Comment

Feb 03, 2021

Thanks to Tim Barber for this fascinating yet local nugget of history. Interested in the mention of Weston Hall and the Vavasour family; one of their ancestors Earl Vavasour, proudly shown above the main door of York Minster and below the West Window; with a block of stone in his hand; undoubtedly to show all who entered it was his family who had provided the stone from their Tadcaster quarry!

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