Ripon Rowel Walk near Masham




4 miles (6.4kms)

566ft (173m)

About the walk

Start or finish the walk with a druidical flourish by visiting the Druid's Temple – one of the most extraordinary of Yorkshire's rich crop of follies. It was created on the orders of William Danby, eccentric maser of nearby Swinton Castle, in 1809. One of his purposes was philanthropy – there was widespread unemployment in Nidderdale, and he saw his version of Stonehenge as an early job creation scheme. What his workers thought when they were paid to build something so strange is not recorded; they were no doubt supposed to remain silent – and grateful.

The Hermit and the Luminous Moss

Danby's Druid's Temple bears only superficial resemblance to Stonehenge. It is oval, not round, and sits in a hollow, solidly lined with great upright stones. At the opposite end from the entrance is a cave, said to contain a rare type of luminous moss. Outside the Temple, like tugs around an ocean liner, are pretend cromlechs, consisting of huge flat stones on uprights. These betray the early 19th-century origins of the temple – they are spaced with perfect symmetry, in the best classical tradition. Less classical, though very fashionable, was the hermit who is said to have inhabited the cave for four and a half years, without cutting his hair or beard.

The walk passes through what was perhaps a trial run for the splendours of the Druid's Temple, a gateway of massively piled boulders, before descending towards the valley of the Pott Beck – a reminder that the area for council purposes, goes under the delightful name of Ilton-cum-Pott. You will see the dam wall of Leighton Reservoir ahead (you can see the reservoir itself from just beyond the Druid's Temple). It was under construction at the outbreak of World War I (the neighbouring Roundhill Reservoir had been constructed more than 10 years before), and the engineering works were served by a light railway from Masham. As war broke out, the site was taken over by the 1st Leeds Battalion – the Leeds Pals – who were stationed here for nine months, before being transferred first to Ripon, then, via Hampshire and Egypt, to the Somme.

Spurring On

Much of the walk follows the Ripon Rowel Walk, a 50-mile (80km) circular route centred on the city of Ripon, and officially starting from the cathedral. It is, appropriately, named after the rowels – the small spiked wheels fitted to the back of a horse rider's spurs – that were Ripon's speciality in the 16th and 17th centuries. So renowned were the rowels manufactured here that a royal charter recognised their superiority, and they gave rise to a common folk saying 'As true steel as Ripon rowels'. A spur appears in the city's coat of arms (along with a horn) and can be seen on the top of the 300-year-old obelisk in the Market Square. Many local clubs and societies also use this symbol in their emblems and even their titles. The Ripon Rowel Walk is well waymarked by a spiked wheel symbol.

Walk directions

Park in the car park by the Druid's Temple (to visit the Temple, walk though the wood, then return to the car park) and walk down the road you drove up. Just after a row of metal posts, cross a stile on the left marked with the Ripon Rowel Walk symbol, opposite a farm track. Walk ahead across the field and go though a gate surrounded by boulders. Bend left, along the edge of the wood and at the farm track, go left to a gate.

After the gate turn right, following the track. It bends away from the wood and down to a ladder stile. After the stile, bear half left across the field towards the pine trees to a stile in a crossing wire fence. Continue ahead, bearing slightly left, to descend by a small wood to two stout wooden posts, one of them waymarked.

At the posts turn sharp right, uphill, on the grassy track. Follow the rutted track, mostly level, until it passes to the right of Broadmires farm. The track becomes stony and then leads straight out into a metalled lane. At a road junction continue straight ahead, now descending. On a bend, turn right through a metal gate towards Stonefold farm.

Walk past the farmhouse, then turn left through a gate into a small enclosure. Cross a stile and go a few paces to another stile. From this bear right to a gate then continue ahead to a waymarked post. Bear right across the field through a gateway in a crossing fence and pick up a descending track, which bears right. Below a plantation, leave the track and cross a stile on the left. Follow a narrow path to another stile and a footbridge just beyond.

Cross the bridge and go over a waymarked stile, then turn right, along a track. Go through two gates, past a barn, and through another metal gate on to a lane.

Turn left, then turn right on the next track. Go over a stile beside a gate, and along the track. After a gateway, turn right alongside a wall, climbing toward the farm on the ridge. Approaching the farm, cross a stile in a wire fence.

After the stile, bend to the left, following a wooden fence, in front of the farm building then through a metal gate on your right-hand side. Follow the farm track and exit onto the metalled lane over a stile by the gate. Turn left back to the car park.

Additional information

Tracks and field paths, 7 stiles

Valley and farmland, with some surprising constructions

Keep dogs on leads or under close control

OS Explorer 298 Nidderdale

Car park by Druid's Temple

None on route

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About the area

Discover North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire, with its two National Parks and two designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is England’s largest county and one of the most rural. This is prime walking country, from the heather-clad heights of the North York Moors to the limestone country that is so typical of the Yorkshire Dales – a place of contrasts and discoveries, of history and legend.

The coastline offers its own treasures, from the fishing villages of Staithes and Robin Hood Bay to Scarborough, one time Regency spa and Victorian bathing resort. In the 1890s, the quaint but bustling town of Whitby provided inspiration for Bram Stoker, who set much of his novel, Dracula, in the town. Wizarding enthusiasts head to the village of Goathland, which is the setting for the Hogwarts Express stop at Hogsmeade station in the Harry Potter films.

York is a city of immense historical significance. It was capital of the British province under the Romans in AD 71, a Viking settlement in the 10th century, and in the Middle Ages its prosperity depended on the wool trade. Its city walls date from the 14th century and are among the finest in Europe. However, the gothic Minster, built between 1220 and 1470, is York’s crowning glory.


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