Here’s a request for farmers. When you’re ploughing up your fields, leave a narrow margin along the edge of them. That way ramblers might be persuaded to make a detour around a field instead of following the right of way directly across it and trampling on your crops.

I don’t like walking on fresh green shoots or stumbling over row after row of full-grown beet. Nor do I like leaving a trail of bootprints diagonally across a newly-ploughed field. But if the farmer has ploughed and sown right up to the boundary, there is no incentive to take the longer route.

No hint of the path (left) across this field near Green Hammerton
Mind you, such consideration isn’t always appreciated, as a woman rambler in the news this week discovered to her cost when she deviated around a field only to be nudged into a slurry-filled ditch by a farmer’s reversing tractor.

There were plenty of fields to negotiate on this walk through arable farmland around Green Hammerton, just the other side of the A1. In two of them the right of way had recently been ploughed up and we were left to redefine it with boots that grew bigger and heavier with every muddy step (this walk was done on a sunny Sunday following a Saturday when it rained all day).

However, the mud was washed off in subsequent fields by the drenched leaves of the beet.

It was nostalgia that attracted me to this walk. On the map the fields path from Green Hammerton led towards Thorpe Underwood, a hamlet which featured large in my childhood.

It was on a farm near there, which we always referred to simply as The Farm, on the banks of the River Ouse, that we spent many carefree holidays.

My grandparents had been there first, as pre-war bed-and-breakfasters. We went there in the 1950s as a family of campers, first in a large ridge tent and then in a small caravan with a tented annexe (where I slept) attached to the back.

My father would drive us there on a Friday during the school holidays, stay for the weekend and then leave us there while he came home to Bradford alone to go back to work until the following weekend, when he would collect us.

My mother would read, relax, chat to the farmer’s wife, while we children would have the run of the place. We climbed rickety ladders in the stackyard, built dens in the hay ricks, wielded pitchforks at harvest time (on one magical day I was allowed to drive the tractor), and fished in the river.

We fed the pigs, collected the eggs, chased the geese into their pen at night and helped to get the cattle in for milking. We ended each holiday with our clothes and hair reeking of pig muck because The Farm had little in the way of amenities: just a closet in the outer kitchen and a pump in the yard.

In retrospect, we were allowed to take all manner of risks but never came to any harm.

I feel privileged to have been able to spent a week or two, every summer, on that farm. Thoughts of those days came back strongly to me as my wife and I walked across that familiar, flat landscape towards Thorpe Underwood, which is now home to the extensive buildings of the Queen Ethelburga’s School. From there we took the lanes and paths leading to the pretty village of Whixley, where a plaque under the clock on the church towers carries the following message:

“I serve thee here with all my might
And tell the hours by day and night.
Therefore example take by me
And serve they God as I serve thee.”

Step by Step

  1. From middle of Green Hammerton, walk down The Green (cul de sac) and follow track ahead signposted "Public Footpath to Thorpe Underwood". Swing right behind sheds then go left, following waymarked path across field. Keep ahead across next field to clump of woodland, then go over ditch and stile. Walk on with wood on left and then, over another stile, with hedge on left.
  2. Cross stream and then either go diagonally right across field or turn right to walk up field side and then left, to arrive at same point. Again, either continue in same diagonal line towards footbridge at corner of wood or go right on farm track then left along edge of stream with wood beyond.
  3. Cross footbridge and ignore arrow on it pointing directly up field. Instead, turn left and follow fieldside past horse jumps, heading for snicket between hedge and brick wall leading to Thorpe Green Lane. Turn left in lane and walk on for a mile or so, passing fishing centre, to eventually arrive at B6265. Cross and continue up lane to T-junction.
  4. Go left here briefly, looking for footpath sign "To Church" by gate on right, across road from cricket pavilion. Walk up fieldside, pausing at top to look back over fields and trees to White Horse of Kilburn  etched on its hillside. At top of hill, in wide field, go half left towards tall trees to arrive at church yard at Whixley. Walk to far end of it and turn left down snicket between church and buttressed brick wall to arrive at road (Church Lane).
  5. Go left to walk on past village green with seat and then go right along High Street. Keep along this to junction by pub. Cross road to pub then go right across lane and through signposted stile into field. Walk quarter right across field to another stile then continue in same direction through two more fields to emerge via hedge gap into a broad field. According to state of this, either keep ahead across it to pass solitary tree on way to far right-hand corner, or go right up field side to hedge and follow that left to gate into road. Turn right in road briefly, then cross to road leading into Green Hammerton.

Fact File

  • Time for five-mile walk: about two hours.
  • Going: easy.
  • Map: OS Pathfinder 664 or, less usefully, OS Landranger for York and district.
  • Getting there: drive through Pool towards Harrogate, going across at roundabout junction with road from Leeds and heading for Knaresborough. Continue past Knaresborough turn-offs to cross A1 and then stay on Harrogate-York road to pass turn-off to Whixley and soon take road on left to Green Hammerton.
  • Parking: beside road leading through Green Hammerton, just after passing turn-off to The Green on right.
  • Toilets: none on route, but in pubs in Green Hammerton and Whixley.