Leader : Jan Mole. Distance : 8.5 miles.
Left click map and elevation to enlarge
In spite of weather warnings to the contrary, 16 members led by me set off from Masham on a cold but gloriously sunny day. We picked up the ‘Rowal Way’ heading south along the banks of the river Ure where we stopped for elevenses before eventually making our way up to the entrance to Hackfall Wood. I was pleased that I had forewarned the group about the mud and they weren’t disappointed. Christine even went so far as to wallow in it! However the view from Limehouse Hill, looking back up the river to Masham church made up for the clarty parts as did the features and natural beauty of the wood.
Now for the educational bit!
The history of the wonderful Hackfall wood is well worth looking into. The area is first mentioned in the Doomsday book but the wood itself although in appearance, natural, was actually man made. John Aislabie, famous for the landscaping of nearby Studley Royal and Fountains Abbey bought the wood for £906 in 1731. He built follies, created grottoes, waterfalls and a fountain which can be seen today. During the following centuries, the wood endured a chequered history until it was bought by the Woodland Trust and restored by the Hackfall Trust in the 1980s. The public amenity we enjoyed on Saturday is thanks to a major restoration project funded by the Heritage Lottery and to its classification as a Grade 1 listed garden.
It would probably take a full day to explore all that this wood has to offer; as for us, we climbed up to the ‘Ruin’ and then lunch was taken back down at the lake where the sun continued to shine. Afterwards, our return was via the wood of Nutwith Common, followed by a short road walk to the river where we retraced our steps to Masham’s market place and then swiftly to the ‘Bruce Arms’ for welcome refreshment.