The Old Ways – Mastiles Lane Drovers’ Road

I’m currently reading a book called ‘The Old Ways : a journey on foot‘ by Robert Macfarlane. In fact, I have a pre-publication copy. A couple of months ago I decided that I would like to participate in a group read of the book organised by Lynne – the Dovegreyreader.

The plan is to read the book and and record our own ‘journey on foot’ along an ‘old way’. My hike was originally planned with a group friends for a Saturday in April but the weather on the days leading up to the trip was so bad that it has been postponed and hopefully the full walk will take place in July or August. Mastiles Lane is to be ‘my’ Old Way.

On Thursday I had been invited by my Landmarking friends to visit them during their stay at one of the latest Landmark properties : Cowside. It’s way up in Langstrothdale in Upper Wharfedale, North Yorkshire and as the invitation was for tea I set off early from home in order to fit in a couple of hours hiking along the beginning of Mastiles Lane. It is just part of an old monastic road which linked Cumbria with Fountains Abbey. Mastiles Lane itself is the stretch between Strete Gate, on Malham Moor, and Kilnsey – a distance of about 5 miles. The Cistercian monks of Fountains established a grange at Kilnsey which formed an administrative centre for the vast sheep farming estate.

Kilnsey is the village at the start of the route and it is most famous for its Kilnsey Crag a great rocky outcrop that juts out almost over the main road and is very popular with rock climbers. There are places to park in the village and along the main road and Mastiles Lane itself, although I never noticed an actual sign for it, is easy enough to find.

Kilnsey Old Hall

Built over the site of the former Kilnsey Grange

Kilnsey Old Hall (17th century) built on the site of the original Kilnsey grange (Fountains Abbey – by Herbert Whone, 1987.)

As you start uphill out of the village you notice Kilnsey Old Hall. The seventeenth century hall is built over the site of the original Kilnsey Grange

Kilnsey was the place to which the immense flock of this [Fountains] Abbey were driven from the surrounding hills for their annual shearing; a scene of primitive festivity to which the imagination delights on recurring'” 

from ‘The Deanery of Craven’ by T. D. Whitaker (1878).

The tarmac road is soon replaced by an open track which itself is replaced, after a passing through a gate, by a walled track.

Mastiles Lane walled track in the Yorkshire Dales

Mastiles Lane continues on in a WSW direction towards Malham Moor

 I walked for about an hour on a gradual incline until I reached the highest point of the track as indicated by 1384 feet/423 meter marks on my Ordnance Survey maps. A few paces further along and I was over the brow, round a bend and could see the walled track clearly wending its way for possibly another couple of miles before disappearing over another brow.

At this point I turned back. The picture above shows the return route to Kilnsey. Many of the members of the discussion group are keen on flowers and birds and I duly noted that these both existed along the route but my own interest lies in the influence of man on the landscape and I hope to report back later in the year on the walk in full and on the evidence man has had on the landscape.

And so back to Kilnsey and a further drive deeper into the more remote part of the Dales – Langstrothdale Chase where the kettle at Cowside was whistling on the stove and the fruit cake and Yorkshire parkin were lying in wait for one hungry walker!

7 comments on “The Old Ways – Mastiles Lane Drovers’ Road

  1. ms6282 says:

    I quite like the look of MacFarlane’s new book and it has had some good reviews. I’m looking foward to reading your review.

    Good luck with your walk. I’m bet you’re glad you were’nt trying to do it today. At least it looks like you had a reasonable day on Thursday.

  2. Thank you, but I could only comment on my own thoughts not on the quality of writing and all that.

  3. Oh well, perhaps one day.

  4. […] happened a few weeks ago in the middle of July, I walked the length of the Yorkshire old way, Mastiles Lane. The weather stayed reasonable and it’s a dry track most of the way but there was a fair wind […]

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