The Roecliffe Ramble
This gentle, circular walk takes you from the picturesque village of Roecliffe out along the banks of the River Ure. Passing by Westwick Lock, the walk goes on to offer excellent views across the river to Newby Hall and Gardens before returning to the village via hedge-lined paths and a farm road.
Roecliffe is a name which comes from the Old Norse rauthr and klif, meaning ‘red cliff or bank’. The settlement’s first recorded history dates back to the reign of Edward I in the 13th century.
The full walk is five miles (8km) long and should take around two-and-a-half hours at a steady pace. Park thoughtfully in Roecliffe village. Start at the walk interpretation panel in front of St Mary’s Church. Follow the route shown by the blue waymarkers.
OS Map Explorer 299 covers the area.Buses serve Roecliffe (www.northyorkstravel.info)
The church of St Mary’s was built in 1844. It is believed to be the only one in the country with an entirely vaulted roof, which is in a shape known as ‘wagon-head’. Its marble floor and the steps to the chancel were originally part of the pavement in front of the high altar at York Minster.Follow the footpath to the right of the church, signposted ‘Public footpath to Westwick Lock’ and, following the blue waymarkers, turn right in a farmyard through a five-barred gate and make your way down to the banks of the Ure.
Wildlife abounds around this stretch of gently-flowing river. At different seasons of the year roe deer, barn owl, tree sparrow and finch flocks can be seen over the farmland. Buzzards are also evident in winter and spring. Waterfowl abound, especially geese on autumn stubble.
Follow the riverbank, over stiles and bridges, through fields and into Cherry Island Wood. (after exiting the wood, if you wish to shorten the walk, turn left uphill as per final parargraph and return to Roecliffe)Continue along the bank to Westwick Lock. You might pause to watch canal boats heading to or from Ripon Canal. Large information panels here tell you about the history of the river.
Follow the path to just beyond a stand of trees, where you’ll be met with an uninterrupted view of Newby Hall across the river. This fine Adam house was built in the 1690s, and you’ll also catch a glimpse of its 25 acre gardens.The waters here may look tranquil, but in 1869, two gardeners from the Hall and four members of the York and Ainsty Foxhounds were drowned. The hunt was using the ferry here, which was manned by the gardeners, to follow a fox when the overloaded craft capsized.
Now retrace your steps along the riverbank until, just this side of Cherry Island Wood, you branch right uphill past the blue waymarker to a metal gate. Walk along Sheaflands Lane passing Roecliffe Grange and on to the common. Pass to the right of a small pond, then through woodland, until you come back to the village by road. You’ll pass The Crown which stands where inns have stood since the 14th century – and you may feel that you’ve earned yourself a drink and a bite to eat as you finish The Roecliffe Ramble.