First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
A streaky sky foreshadowed a morning of sun and breeze over the arable countryside of East Yorkshire. Jane and I were off early from our night stop at Kilham Hall, following paths south through pale fields of wheat and oilseed rape. Long whalebacks too low to be called hills gave the skyline a seductive dip and roll you’d never suspect from the main roads. The poplar groves along Lowthorpe Beck stirred and hissed like a dark green sea away to our left. By the brook on the outskirts of Harpham a sparrowhawk went pouncing down with a crackle and thump into a patch of willowherb, startling a brace of hares to lollop away into the safety of the hedge.
Harpham holds two ancient wells, both encased in steel cages and strong old stories. St John’s Well on the eastern edge of the village, very efficacious in curing headaches, deafness and dumbness, and in calming the fury of wild beasts, was brought into being during the Dark Ages by the holy healer St John of Beverley, a native of Harpham. On the west side, the Drummer’s Well has an altogether more ominous history. The story goes that during the Norman invasion, William the Conqueror promised the land around Harpham to whomever should arrive there first. The noble Sieur de St Quintin, infuriated when a humble drummer boy beat him to it, pushed the lad to his death down the well and claimed the title for himself. To this day, the death of each head of the St Quintin tribe is foretold by a drum-beat from the depths of the well.
Burton Agnes church tower beckoned us on over fields bright with scarlet pimpernel and speedwell. The handsome Tudor manor house of Burton Agnes Hall – in the hands of one family since Elizabethan times – hid its red brick face among its trees. We turned west again across the fields, finding a long green lane between high old hedges that brought us steadily back to Kilham and a welcome pie and pint by the Old Star’s nice bright fire.
Start & finish: Old Star Inn, Kilham, East Yorkshire, YO25 4RG (OS ref TA 064643)
Walk (7½miles, easy, OS Explorer 295): Leaving Old Star Inn, right (‘Bracey Bridge’ fingerpost) through pub garden, past gardens; left at path junction (fingerpost, yellow arrows/YA) through kissing gate to bottom right corner of field. Bear right (066642); cross fields parallel to Lowthorpe Beck for 1½miles. Cross A614 at Bracey Bridge (076620). Cross parking place; across stile by gate; follow track. In 200 yards fork right (079618; fingerpost, YA); follow field edge for 2 fields; through kissing gate; left on track across Lowthorpe Beck (085614); on to road. Right into Harpham. Past St Quintin Arms inn, left ('Bridlington') for 30 yards; right over stile (YA); through fields for ¾mile, aiming for Burton Agnes church tower. At A614, right into Burton Agnes. 2nd left to Church and Burton Agnes Hall. Return along A 614; first right (‘Rudston’); in 1/3mile pass village sign; in another 50 yards, left (fingerpost, YA). Follow YAs through fields for ¾mile; right along farm lane (087634) for 1 mile to road. Forward round right bend; in 50 yards, left (fingerpost) past battery sheds and sewage works; over stream (068641). Bear right to field corner; on into Kilham.
NB –Online map, more walks: www.christophersomerville.co.uk
Lunch: Old Star Inn (01262-420619)
Accommodation: Kilham Hall, Kilham YO25 4SP (01262-420466; www.kilhamhall.co.uk): upmarket, comfortable, welcoming