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The Monks' Road and Bordley

Remote farmsteads and an old walled green lane between Malhamdale and Wharfedale.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 436ft (133m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Tracks and field paths. 2 stiles

Landscape Moorland and farmland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL2 Yorkshire Dales - Southern & Western

Start/finish SD 951652

Dog friendliness On leads - sheep on moorland and livestock in fields

Parking Roadside parking, before gate across lane from Skirethorns

Public toilets None on route


© AA Media Limited 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 From the parking place go through the gate and follow the metalled lane downhill to a crossroad of tracks. Turn right here, signposted 'Kilnsey'. Follow the track parallel with the dry-stone wall on your right to reach a crossing track at another signpost. This is Mastiles Gate.

2 Turn left along the lane signed 'Street Gate'. At the next signpost continue straight on through the gate and on to another gate. In 100yds (91m) beyond this gate turn left through a gate in the wall and follow the track with a fence on your left. The track eventually goes between walls to a gate.

3 Go through the gate and follow the track, which bears right by a large triangular boulder. After 200yds (183m), pass through a gateway and turn left, going to the left of the bungalow down to a large standing stone near Middle Laithe. Turn left through the farmyard and over a cattle grid. Follow the farm track, crossing a second cattle grid by a National Trust sign for New House farm.

4 Continue along a walled lane into the farmyard of New House. Go through a gate then bear half right to go down the field to a gate in the bottom left-hand corner. Go through the gate, turn left and follow the line of telegraph poles. Go over a stile and descend across the stream.

5 Follow the path on the other side of the stream, to the right to the telegraph poles. The path eventually follows a wall on your right. Go through the first gate on your right and follow the wall on your left, bearing right to go through a gap in the crossing wall.

6 Bear left to go round the angle of the wall on your left to a stone stile in the crossing wall. Follow the wall on the left up the field, past a tumbled wall, to join a track.

7 Turn right along the track, going through two gates. After the second gate bend right, then go left at a blue waymark sign and through the farm buildings to double gates. Beyond the gates turn right and follow the track past the farmhouse. Climb the track, going through a gate, then descend to another gate. Turn right to the crossroads and ascend the hill back to the start.

Many places in the Yorkshire Dales can be described as 'remote' - and Bordley must be one of the least accessible. No metalled roads lead to it, and the settlement (really only a hamlet of a couple of farmhouses) is almost invisible from most of the surrounding countryside, lying as it does in a secluded hollow of the hills. Although the buildings are mostly 18th and 19th century, Bordley has a long, if uneventful, history. It is mentioned in Domesday Book as Borelaie, and its Old English name may mean 'the wood from which the boards were taken' - or perhaps 'the woodland clearing belonging to Brorda'. Whichever it is, the woods have long since gone, and this is now moorland country, some of it enclosed and improved in the 18th century for agriculture. Around Bordley there is evidence of even older settlement. Mastiles Lane ploughs through the middle of a Roman camp a little way to the west, while to the east, just off the road up from Skirethorns, is evidence of a prehistoric field system.

The early part of the walk takes you to Mastiles Gate, one of the landmarks along Mastiles Lane, a superb green track that for centuries has linked Wharfedale and Malhamdale. Its origins were monastic; the monks of Fountains Abbey near Ripon needed straightforward access to their vast estates in the southern parts of the Yorkshire Dales and in the Lake District. So, like the Romans before them, they constructed long roads directly over the fells. The route over Kilnsey Moor was marked by crosses - the bases of some survive along the route. The monastic route crossed the River Wharfe by a wooden bridge at Kilnsey, and then went on to Ripon along the route of what is now the B6265 via Pateley Bridge.

In the 18th and 19th centuries Mastiles Lane was used as a drove road, when great herds of cattle were driven along the lane to market. There was a regular sale at Great Close, near Malham Tarn, where up to 5,000 cattle, most of them from Scotland, were regularly sold. It was at this time that the lane received its walls, to prevent the cattle straying.

In the early 1960s plans were put forward to tarmac Mastiles Lane so that traffic would be able to drive from Malham into Wharfedale. A public outcry quickly saw the idea abandoned and the route is still a haven of peace for walkers and riders - though more recently there has been further controversy, this time about the use of such green lanes by four-wheel drive off-road vehicles, which can cause damage.

While you're there

Visit Kilnsey Crag by the Wharfe where a great limestone cliff dominates the valley, with an overhanging nose that provides a severe test to climbers. The crag was formed when an ice-age glacier ground away the end of a limestone spur as it made its way south from Littondale. Once, a lake lapped the crag's foot - it silted up long ago, leaving rich farm land.

Where to eat and drink

Draw a circle of 4 miles (6.4km) in diameter centred on Bordley - and you will not find a pub or café. So before or after the walk head for Grassington, which has plenty of tea shops as well as several recommended pubs including the Foresters Arms, or try the Old Hall Inn at Threshfield.

What to look for

The merlin, Britain's smallest falcon, may sometimes be spotted above the moorland. The male has a blue-grey tail and back, while the larger female is brown-backed and has a banded tail. They most often nest on the ground, but have been known to occupy abandoned crows' nests. Like most falcons, their diet consists mainly of small mammals and insects, but more especially other birds, particularly ring ouzels and meadow pipits, which they catch in their swooping and spiralling flight.


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