North Yorkshire walk - High Hutton in the Howardian Hills

Winter mist on the Castle Howard Estate, Pyramid and Welburn village in North Yorkshire

Mist on the Castle Howard Estate, Pyramid and Welburn village in North Yorkshire - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

This walk is one of 16 in a new book on Yorkshire’s best leafy outings by retired Geography academic, Dr Margaret Atherden, from York. It follows a curve in the beautiful River Derwent, takes in the site of a medieval manor house and has wildflowers aplenty to enrich the senses. 


1. Starting from St Margaret’s Church, walk down the lane through the tiny village of High Hutton, which in medieval times was known as Hutton Bardolf and is one of two settlements mentioned in the Domesday Book comprising Huttons Ambo (ambo is Latin for 'both'). Pass the red phone box (now a tiny library) and at the end of the road turn right along Back Lane. Walk up the hill for a few hundred metres, passing Hutton Hall on the right. This grand building (now apartments) was built in the 19th century, reversing the importance of High and Low Hutton (old name Hutton Colswayn). When you reach the right-hand bend in the road, bear left along the footpath signed to St Andrew’s Lane, which turns sharply to the left, then at the end of the field, turn right along St Andrew’s Lane. Ignore the footpath sign to Low Hutton and keep the wood to your left. 
 
2. At the end of the wood, go through the gate and walk along the track, which makes a large loop around the field. There are good views south-west and you may be able to make out the 113 foot spire of Whitwell-on-the-Hill church on the skyline. This is a good place to spot buzzards or red kites, which have thrived following their re-introduction to Yorkshire in 1999. Eventually the track bears left, going uphill through more woodland for over a kilometre, which in season is rich in ground flora, including bugle, bluebell, wild angelica, primrose, water figwort and enchanter’s-nightshade. 
 
3. At the end of the wood the path narrows and goes through a gate into a field. The river to your right is the Derwent, which rises high in the North York Moors and flows through the Vale of Pickering and the Kirkham Abbey gorge. Rich in wildlife, it is also the source of 200 million litres of water per day to homes and businesses across Yorkshire! Head for the smaller of two gates on the other side of the field. This takes you through another small wood and out towards Low Hutton. The wood is a carpet of snowdrops in early spring, plus daffodils, bluebells, violets, primroses and ramsons, all under a canopy of sycamore, beech, wych elm, ash and holly. 
 

Author Margaret Atherden and pet terrier Bertie enjoy one of the walks in her new book on Yorkshire'

Author Margaret Atherden and pet terrier Bertie enjoy one of the walks in her new book on Yorkshire's finest woodlands - Credit: Margaret Atherden

4. Turn right at the end of the lane and keep close to the hedge on your right. Follow it round to reach a gate in a field with obvious humps and bumps in the ground. These earthworks are the remains of a medieval moated manor site, where the lord of the manor of Hutton Colswayne lived in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Colswayn family may have been given the land by the Crown for duties performed guarding York Castle. This was a troubled period, but despite appearances such dwellings were usually a status symbol, illustrating the wealth and importance of the owners.  Moats were for prestige rather than defence. The site was partly excavated in the 1950s, when it was made a scheduled monument, but much more remains to be discovered. 
 
5. From the earthworks site, cross the village green, with its beech, sweet chestnut, birch and young oak trees, to the road. Turn right and walk to the junction at the bottom. Fork left, passing Huttons Ambo village hall on your right and walk up the pavement to the junction, with the entrance to Grange Farm on the left and a minor road on the right. Turn left here and take the footpath past the farm entrance. This is the other end of St Andrew’s Lane, which you walked earlier. It is lined with hawthorn, hazel and elders, with some very impressive large trees further up, including elms, oaks and Lombardy poplars. At the top of the hill, turn right and return along the footpath to High Hutton. Note the magnificent ash trees on your left – a fitting way to end a leafy stroll through the Howardian Hills. 
 
*The book on 16 of Yorkshire’s top woodland walks is available for £12 including post and packaging. Contact place@yorksj.ac.uk for ordering information. 

READ MORE: Great walks near the Howardian Hills

READ MORE: The best woodland walks in Yorkshire

Compass points: 

Start/finish SE 754685. 
Distance: 8kms (5 miles) 
Accessibility: Fairly easy, with two gentle uphill stretches in the middle. 
Time: 3 hours 
Parking: Usually possible along the verge near the church (alternative parking along Back Lane) 
Refreshments: Dogh (Wellburn village). 
Map: SE 754685 

SUBSCRIBE: To Yorkshire Life magazine's print or digital editions to discover everything that's wonderful about living in the county