How do you think up your walks?" That's what some people ask. And the answer is that more often than not you don't.

They've already been thought up. Such has been the popularity of walking and of writing about it in this country in recent years that there is scarcely a route worth having that hasn't been written down in some form or other.

Browse through the contents of the "Walks" shelves in your local bookshop and you'll come across the same outings cropping up in several different volumes. These are tried and tested routes. Sometimes writers (including me) will set out to map new routes, and sometimes we'll succeed. But it's a hit-and-miss affair. You can find that your time's been wasted because the route that looked fine on the map is rubbish when you come to walk it on the ground, or something has happened to it to make it impassable.

So by and large the routes featured on this page, and on most other newspapers' walks pages as well as in books of walks, have already been written down somewhere.

What you can do though, as a writer, is customise it by adding a modest detour to it, or picking a different starting place. Then write about the things you see or experience while you trek along the route and there you are - you've made it your own.

You can't copyright a route, but you can copyright your account of walking it.

This week's walk is my version of a stroll through arable farmland to the east of the A1. It's adapted from one of four walks in a booklet written by cycling and walking writer Paul Kirkwood and published (along with one bike ride) at £1 in aid of the Green Hammerton Recreational Charity. Paul sent it to me more than two years ago but it was only the other week that I got round to putting one of the routes to the test.

I managed to make my own mark on it right at the very start, because I failed to find the road we were supposed to set off down. Instead we walked down The Green, the broad grassy strip running north-south through Green Hammerton and lined with very attractive houses and the smallest Catholic church I've come across.

As The Green narrowed into a lane, we stopped a local man and asked for advice. Fortunately he was able to point out our position on the map and direct us on our way.

Soon we were heading down the broad track towards Pool Spring Farm, indicated with one of the very few footpath signs or waymarks we were to encounter on this walk. Had we started where we should have done, we would have been proceeding on a fields path parallel to this track and converging with it nearer to the farm.

But this was good enough walking, particularly as a hard frost had frozen any mud. As we neared the farm, the map showed that we should cut across the corner of a field towards it. But we couldn't find the start of the right of way so continued along the track to the farm instead.

And then we lost our bearings again. The double gate we were supposed to go through appeared to be locked and didn't look sturdy enough to climb over. So I went to the house and asked. In fact the gate wasn't locked. It was fastened with one of those screw catches. So after unscrewing it, passing through the gate, and screwing it back again we proceeded on our way.

We were heading northward now, on a good track interrupted by several gates as it passed through open, level farmland dotted with small clumps of woodland. The sound of shotgun fire indicated that someone ahead was hunting. And the occasional rabbit sprinting across the fields as we approached suggested what the prey might be.

We found ourselves eventually joining a tarmac lane which headed in the direction of Thorpe Underwood, close to where I used to spend childhood holidays on a farm. However our route, indicated by a footpath sign that in summer will be lost amid foliage, led to the west on a narrow grassy path through a long, long field, and then a shorter field, before curving round the edge of a third field to pass the end of a small wood and join a farm lane.

By now the sun had melted the frost and we were slopping through mud as we walked between the barns of Low Farm and continued along the track to rejoin the narrow road we'd started out along. Ten minutes later we were walking back up The Green towards our car.

As we turned around and drove up through the village we passed the end of the road we should have set off along. But never mind. It had been a decent enough walk the way we did it.

Step by Step

  1. From centre of Green Hammerton, walk north along The Green and into lane at far end. Continue along this until with barn ahead and furniture workshop gateway on left the track goes right, passing on left a gate with a footpath sign pointing into a field. Ignore this and continue ahead briefly to fork.
  2. Take right-hand route, signedposted as footpath and with Pool Spring Farm sign on gatepost. Walk along broad track, doglegging round mound of bales of hay and continuing until just before it swings left and heads for farm. If you can spot the start of a fields path here, take it and go diagonally across field towards farm, exiting by a gate at top right-hand corner. If you can't, stick with track to end up at same place.
  3. Go right to pass in front of farmhouse garden and gated drive. Go ahead through broad double gate (with screw-fastener chain). Walk ahead briefly and with another gate ahead turn left. Pass through single metal gate beside double one and follow track between wire fences to another metal gate (ignore stiles on either side). Continue ahead with fence now on right to go through yet another gate, ignoring track going left. Continue ahead, passing telegraph post on left, to gate stile into lane.
  4. Walk up lane for a couple of hundred yards, looking for footpath sign pointing left beside gate and stile. Follow this sign into field and walk ahead, with fence on right (this is a big field used for grazing cattle according to the evidence on the ground, but there were none on the day we did the walk). Cross stream via footbridge then walk on in same line to go through gap in hedge into next field. Follow hedge on right as it swings round leftwards to leave field at end of small wood and join farm track.
  5. Walk along this, passing between farm buildings, and follow it until it rejoins track you started on next to Pool Spring Farm gate. Turn right here to return to start.
Fact File

  • Start: centre of Green Hammerton.
  • Time for 3-mile walk: 1 hours.
  • Going: easy level-pegging.
  • Map: OS Explorer 289, Leeds
  • Getting there: follow A658 past Knaresborough and continue on A59 across A1, heading towards York. Turn off left to Green Hammerton. Harrogate-York bus passes through village.
  • Parking: alongside The Green.
  • Toilets: none along route or in Green Hammerton.
  • Refreshments: pub in Green Hammerton.
  • Copies of Four Walks and a Bike Ride Around Green Hammerton are available from the village store opposite the Bay Horse pub (£1 each).