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The Brontës at Thorpe Underwood

In the footsteps of Anne and Branwell Brontë, who spent time near Thorpe.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient Negligible

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Field paths and lanes, 8 stiles

Landscape Flat farmland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 289 Leeds, Harrogate, Wetherby & Pontefract

Start/finish SE 459591

Dog friendliness Dogs should be on leads except on metalled tracks around Green Hammerton

Parking Wide verges beside lane, near Thorpe Underwood Water Meadows Fishing Centre

Public toilets None on route

1 Walk along the lane with the Thorpe Underwood Water Meadows Fishing Centre to your left, to reach a Green Hammerton footpath sign on the right by a high brick wall. This is the edge of the Thorpe Underwood estate.
Go over the stile beside the wall and follow the path between the hedge and wall, then straight ahead. Pass an equestrian water-jump and head half right to a stile in the top right-hand corner of the field, beside a wood. Look back to see something of the Thorp Green landscape.

2 Go over the footbridge and follow the waymarked path diagonally across the field to pass between two oak trees. Continue with a hedge and fence to your right for 10yds (9m), then go over a waymarked stile on your right. Go diagonally right across the field to a footbridge in the hedge opposite. Go over the stile at the end of the bridge and follow the hedge on your right, over another two stiles and a footbridge.

3 Continue beside a small wood, over another stile, to a waymark post, then straight ahead across the field towards the farm buildings. The path curves to pass to the right of the buildings. After passing through a gateway by a footpath sign for Thorpe Underwood, turn left at a crossroads down a metalled road. Where the lane divides go, straight ahead through a gateway and continue along the metalled track. Just after the track passes over a stream, take a stile on the left to walk diagonally across the field, making for the right-hand side of the farm buildings. Go through an iron gate on to the farm track and follow the track as it turns right by a willow tree. Continue along the track, which swings left then continues straight ahead. This is part of the route by which Anne Brontë would have made her way from Thorp Green Hall to the railway at Cattal, on the York to Harrogate line, for her rare visits back to her home in Haworth.

4 Where the main track swings left, go straight on up a lesser track. The track passes beside woodland to a metal gate and comes out on to a lane. Go straight ahead to reach a high brick wall. Behind the wall, and just visible a little further on, is the 'new' Hall, designed in 1912 by York architect Walter Brierley, 'the Lutyens of the North'. The site of Thorp Green Hall was just to the north east of it, overlooking a large circular fishpond, of which Anne Brontë had a view from her room.

5 Follow the wall to a T-junction and turn left. Continue to follow the brick wall, turning left again at the next T-junction, just beyond the post box, and continue along the lane back to the parking place.

Now home to an independent school, Thorpe Underwood Hall was rebuilt in 1912 on the site of the former Thorp Green Hall, where Anne Brontë was governess to the four children of the Revd Edmund Robinson from 1840 to 1845. She had mixed feelings about her position. While she liked the children, she hated being away from her home in Haworth - her poem Lines Written at Thorp Green tells of her loneliness here.

In 1843 Anne's brother Branwell was engaged as tutor to the Robinson's boy. Branwell was ill while he was there - but not so unwell that he was unable to instigate some sort of illicit relationship with Mrs Robinson. Her husband found out and Branwell was dismissed in July 1845; Anne had resigned a month earlier.

Where to eat and drink

There is nowhere directly on the route, though the Bay Horse in Green Hammerton is nearby. It serves real ale and has a beer garden. Food is served at lunchtime and in the evening. On the A59 York to Harrogate road there is a Little Chef restaurant at Skip Bridge, near Kirk Hammerton.

While you're there

Visit the nearby village of Aldborough, by the River Ure north west of Thorpe Underwood. Set around a green with an ancient church, it is a prosperous and pretty place - and sent two members to Parliament before the Reform Act of 1832. Its origins are much older, though. It was a Roman town, Isurium Brigantium, developing from a camp set up by the Ninth Legion. It's still possible to trace much of the town's outline, and see two mosaic pavements. The little museum contains a collection of finds.

What to look for

Anne Brontë, in Agnes Grey, said of the area 'The surrounding countryside itself was pleasant, as far as fertile fields, flourishing trees, quiet green lanes, and smiling hedges with wild flowers scattered along their banks, could make it; but it was depressingly flat to one born and nurtured among the rugged hills.' She enjoyed the local walks and her visits to the church at Little Ouseburn, a mile from the Hall. There is a drawing of the bridge that leads to the village by Anne, and also one of the church itself, where the Robinsons once had a private pew and where young Edmund, taught by both Anne and Branwell, was buried in 1869. He was 37 when he died - 20 years later than his tutors. Beside the church is the elegant circular mausoleum of another local family, the Thompsons of Kirby Hall.


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