None of us will forget 2020 in a hurry. We had planned a series of tours throughout the year. Little did we know what was to come. When it was mooted that we might be able to holiday from July onwards, I contacted the owner of a favourite Certificated Location of ours, based near the North Yorkshire village of Kirkby Malzeard, a few miles from Ripon, in the hope that we would be able to getaway to the Yorkshire Moors and Dales. Fortunately, they were taking provisional bookings and had space. Our original intention was to book for a week, but we thought, “What the heck, let’s go for two!”
On the road again
We duly arrived at West Leas Farm CL. We’d promised to take my parents for a meal at a lovely pub/restaurant in High Grantley, so until they joined us, we busied ourselves putting up the awning – for the first time on our current caravan!
All the hard work had been done by the time they arrived in their aging Auto-Sleepers Symbol, affectionately called ‘Pod’. For the rest of the day, we could simply relax and enjoy the views towards the Yorkshire Dales, from the comfort of the awning.
The following day, my parents decided to visit the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardens at Harlow Carr, near Harrogate, just a few miles away. They love gardening (something that has passed me by).
Kay and I decided to put on our walking boots and explore the immediate area on foot. The village of Kirkby Malzeard, which is about a mile or so away, can be seen from the CL, and there’s a pleasant walk across the fields there. Be mindful, though, that the route is across fields and stiles, and in parts quite steep, so unsuitable for the less able.
Kirkby Malzeard may not be the prettiest village in the traditional sense, but it is a lively, thriving place and does have a certain attraction. It’s also the home of a creamery, owned by Wensleydale Creamery, producers of Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese. Alas, there is no visitor centre or shop here: you have to travel into the Dales, to Hawes, for that.
Of course, the main employment in the area is farming, and if you’re in the village, it won’t be long before a tractor passes by.
It was a lovely day, so after our morning walk Kay and I released at the caravan during the afternoon. Mu and Dad arrived back at the site just as the kettle was going on for a cup of Yorkshire Tea! They really know how to time things.
We hadn’t tried Kirkby Fisheries and Pizzas before – primarily because we never noticed it as it’s tucked away, despite being on the main street in Kirkby Malzeard – but that evening, we enjoyed an excellent fish and chip supper from there.
As I mentioned earlier, we’d promised my parents a meal, and Sunday lunch had been booked at The Grantley Arms, a short but delightful drive away. Owing to Covid-19 restrictions, we had booked and selected our menus in advance as requested.
The owners had gone to great lengths to ensure tables were the requisite distance apart, and staff and customers were kept as safe as possible, and they did it in such a way that we still felt welcome. All I will say about the meal is that it’s not the first time we’ve been to The Grantley Arms, and it certainly won’t be the last.
Replete after our Sunday lunch, we drove to Pateley Bridge, just a few miles away, with a gentle walk in mind. But when we arrived, it seemed the rest of the world had the same idea, so after a stroll in the park and along the high Street, we enjoyed a steady drive back to the caravan and simply took things easy in the glorious afternoon sunshine.
The following morning, my parents left for home, and after bidding them farewell, Kay and I drove to Mount Grace Priory, House and Gardens, near Northallerton.
Mount Grace is owned by the National Trust, but managed and maintained by English Heritage, so if you’re members of either organisation, entry is free.
We were a bit limited as to where we could visit at the time of our tour – many places were still closed under the pandemic restrictions – and we had to book our tickers for Mount Grace in advance.
Of course, just as we arrived, it started raining, but at least the cafe was open and serving drinks and snacks to take away, and there was shelter from the rain just outside.
Thankfully, the rain soon abated, so we were able to explore this splendid 14th-century medieval monastery. Founded in 1398, Mount Grace was among the last of the great Yorkshire monastic houses.
Although we weren’t able to go inside the reconstructed monk’s cell (the Carthusians were semi-hermits and lived in solitude) or the magnificent house, we enjoyed what we could see, and plan to return when permitted – hopefully in better weather!
If you’ve ever seen the Channel 5 series, The Yorkshire Vet, you’ll know that Skeldale Veterinary Practice is based on the outskirts of Thirsk. Peter Wright (one of the vets) was apprenticed to Alf Wight, ala James Herriot, the famous veterinarian and author.
The World of James Herriot, in Thirsk, is the original location of Alf’s (and Peter’s) practice. This is another place on our ‘see next time’ list – it was also closed. But some of the opening credits to the TV show were shot from the top of nearby Sutton Bank, which was our destination for the day.
Sutton Bank is on the A170, which runs between Thirsk and Scarborough, and is well known to caravanners as a road where towing is prohibited. This is because there’s a hairpin bend part-way up, with very steep approaches and departures, which has seen the demise of many tow cars over the years. There’s no problem in a solo car, of course.
Once at the top, there’s a huge car park at the Sutton Bank National Park Centre. You are now on the edge of the North York Moors National Park. On a clear day, the views are spectacular, looking right over the Vale of York towards the Dales.
From the car park, there’s a huge choice of well-made footpaths, mostly pretty flat. We chose the trail that passes The Yorkshire Gliding Club and leads to the White Horse. I stood at the tip of one of its ears to take photographs. From here, as well as looking east towards the Yorkshire Dales, you can see York and beyond to the south.
Thankfully, we’d chosen a good day to visit – it was beautifully clear, so we stopped to enjoy a picnic along the way while soaking up the magnificent views.
A horse and a mouse
Returning to the car, we meandered along the back lanes to the car park below the White Horse. Oddly, from here you can’t see the horse’s head, although the carving is a huge 97m long by 67m tall and covers an area of some 1.6 acres.
Going back to the campsite, we drove through the village, which was the home of Robert Thompson, the Mouseman of Kilburn. Thompson made furniture from oak, ‘signing’ his work by carving a mouse, hence the name. There is a visitor centre here, but – you’ve guessed it – it was closed.
The following couple of days were spent around and about the caravan, exploring the many footpaths, taking us through the fields around Laverton. Kirkby Malzeard and Galphay, before enjoying a pub lunch at the Queens Head in Kirkby Malzeard.
We’re no strangers to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, but we usually visit in December, when the abbey ruins are floodlit and Christmas carols are playing. So, again, having pre-booked our time slot, it was good to see the place with leaves on the trees. Although it wasn’t the brightest of days, it was fine and warm.
When the Carthusians monks founded the abbey, they must have been inspired by the glorious setting. You can wander the ruins at leisure and imagine what the place was like before Henry VIII seized it in 1539.
From the abbey, we walked around the ornamental lakes at Studley Royal Water Garden. Although the tea rooms and cafés weren’t allowing indoor refreshments, they were offering take-away, and we enjoyed an ice cream before our return walk along the opposite side of the lakes.
Woodland and water
If you travel north from Kirkby Malzeard towards the fine market town of Masham (famous for its Black Sheep Brewery), you pass through the wonderfully named village of Grewelthorpe. About a mile north of the village, there’s a small car park for Hackfall.
Covering almost 120 acres of semi-natural woodland, Hackfall sits on a steep, rocky gorge of the River Are. In the 18th century, the landowner, William Aislabie, added numerous follies, grottos, waterfalls and a fountain. Many of these are now rather overgrown, but it’s still a magical place. We enjoyed a picnic by the river before making the long trek back to the car.
Be mindful that the footpaths are often steep and are unsuitable for the less able, and make sure you have sturdy footwear.
On our many visits to Ripon over the years, we’d never seen (or heard) the Wakeman. At 9pm every evening, this combination of town crier and night watchman sounds his horn at each corner of the Market Square, announcing the day’s news – and letting people know someone is keeping watch for invading Vikings!
The Wakeman’s appearance is a tradition dating back to the ninth century, but like much else these days, could not happen during the pandemic. Another one for another time. But all was not lost, as we enjoyed wandering around the deserted streets and watching the setting sun cast a lovely glow on the ancient cathedral.
Our final day arrived, and we spent the morning taking down the awning and packing up. After a light lunch, we went for another local walk, just enjoying the beautiful surroundings.
We kept the lunch light because we knew what to expect from our planned evening meal at The Galphay Inn, which is a pleasant walk from the campsite. And we weren’t disappointed! We both enjoyed a first-class steak accompanied by ‘proper’ homemade chips. I simply had to sample a pint of the local Black Sheep ale, too.
Our two weeks in the gorgeous scenery of North Yorkshire had flown by (don’t they always?) and because so many places were closed or restricted, we have a great excuse to go back. Not that we need an excuse to return to this lovely part of the world.
Way to go
Don’t use your sat-nav, which will direct you along roads that are unsuitable for caravans. From Ripon, we took the Grewelthorpe/Kirkby Malzeard road past Trinity Church. Bear left in four miles for Kirkby Malzeard. Turn left at the stone cross (signposted Galphay). The farm lane is on the left in one mile.
Food and Drink
Where we Stayed
- West Leas Farm CL
- West Leas Farm, Warren are, Galphay, Ripon, HG4 3PB
- Tel 01765 658 416 / 07525 612 911
- Open All year (pandemic rules permitting)
- Pitches 5
- Charges From £15 per pitch with hook-up
West Leas is a Caravan and Motorhome Club members-only CL, on a working farm. The ground here slopes in parts, so levelling ramps are required. Hook-up (10A) is included in the pitch price, but there are no facilities other than a fresh-water tap, a chemical emptying point and rubbish bins.
Breathable groundsheets are allowed at West Leas, as are well-behaved dogs (and children!).
In addition, if you have friends or family who aren’t members of the C&MC, there are six well-appointed holiday cottages on the farm that are available to rent.
Find out more
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We chose the trail that leads to the White Horse. I stood at the tip of one of its ears to take photographs. From here, as well as looking east towards the Yorkshire Dales, you can see York and beyond to the south.