Addlebrough and the Causeys

From Thornton Rust 8 miles (12.9km)

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Starting from the ancient village of Thornton Rust, this walk has an excellent mixture of terrain and scenery. It is a journey filled with legend and history. The views are exceptional.

Thornton Rust, recorded as Torentun in Domesday Book, is an attractive and peaceful village far from the heavy traffic passing through the valley bottom. Its history can be traced back to the fourth century when a small chapel was dedicated to St Restitutus, a Bishop from London.

We leave the village along a walled lane meandering uphill onto the open moor and the slopes of Addlebrough. The hill is named after the British chief, Authulf, whose burial site is said to be marked by a cairn on its summit. Addlebrough may have been used as a lookout station by the Romans, who had a fort at Bainbridge.

Our route across Thornton Rust Moor traces the course of a glacial valley, and on its southern slope is a large stone-covered burial mound called Stony Raise. Despite stone robbing, excavations and mindless treasure hunters, it still covers an area of 113 feet (34.5m) and stands at a height of 8 feet (2.4m). Legend records that a giant fell here, dropping a heavy chest of gold. The chest fell to the ground, sank into the earth and was covered with stones. It is said that the chest will be recovered by a mortal when a fairy appears as an ape or a hen, but it must be removed in complete silence and without cursing!

At Carpley Green we continue along a quiet lane towards Bainbridge. There are good views of Semer Water with Wether Fell rising behind. To the north is the wild moorland of Askrigg Common, which separates Wensleydale from Swaledale.

Bainbridge was established in the late twelfth century when it became the head­quarters for the Wardens of the Forest of Wensleydale. They were entrusted with guarding the forest and its game in the King’s name. The medieval stocks on the village green were in use during the reign of Elizabeth I. Offenders were fastened in the stocks for several days to be abused by other villagers, who would throw rubbish at them as a punishment.

Village Stocks, Bainbridge
Village Stocks, Bainbridge

After crossing Yorebridge we reach the first of the flagged causeys. The causeys were built in the eighteenth century to provide a dryer route to the market and mills at Askrigg. Our path leads to the tiny hamlet of Grange. This was the site of Fors Abbey, founded as a Savigniac monastery in 1145 and absorbed into the Cistercian order in 1147. The monks toiled for eleven years to establish their abbey. However, the harsh climate and rough land eventually forced them to move to the more hospitable site at Jervaulx in 1156. The abbey continued to be used as a chantry chapel and grange farm until the dissolution.

Causeys near Askrigg
One of the Causeys near Askrigg

From Grange we follow another causey to Mill Gill. In 1908 a local entrepreneur, William Handley Burton, harnessed the power of Mill Gill to generate electricity for Askrigg. He devised similar schemes for other villages in Wensley­dale and Swaledale. We enter Askrigg along a quiet lane leading to St Oswald’s Church. The church was founded in 1125. On the SW exterior wall there is a tombstone of ‘an honest attorney’.

Askrigg is an elegant village. It has a narrow main street lined with three-storey houses built during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The village enjoyed a period of prosperity due to its many industries. These included clockmaking, cotton spinning, dyeing and hand-knitting. Askrigg became world-famous as Darrowby in the popular BBC series All Creatures Great and Small. Skeldale House, the vet’s home in the series, is opposite the church.

Our route from Askrigg crosses the former Wensleydale railway line, where a final causey leads us through the meadows to Worton. In 1757, due to the high price of corn, this peaceful hamlet became the scene of a bread riot. A quantity of corn, destined for some gentlemen from Upper Wharfe­dale, was stolen by an angry mob. The mob also demanded money from people in the surrounding villages. The offenders were eventually caught and imprisoned in Richmond Jail.

Leaving Worton, we climb gently to the woodland of Thornton Scar, where you may be lucky enough to catch sight of a roe deer, as these shy little creatures take shelter in the wood. Another short climb through the wood returns us to the road at Thornton Rust.

Download PDF with map and directions

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