This is another of Williamson’s castle walks. They all start from pubs, in this case The Scott’s Arms at Sicklinghall. (Pedants’ Corner. If they mean ‘Scott’, the surname, why the definte article? If they mean the nationality, that’s not how you spell it.) From there I walked down the main road, left into Stockeld Lane after the village pond and left again soon after onto a field path towards Spofforth. This was a nice midday stroll through fields full of sheep and new lambs. One perhaps protective new mum took umbrage at my presence and came charging towards me baaing ferocious - if one can baa ferociously - but it wasn’t too alarming. She got up to about five feet away when she suddenly remembered she was a sheep, turned round and ran away. Even had she not backed off, I suspect there is only so much damage a sheep can readily do. The last field I crossed coming into Spofforth, cutting a corner of the road by the cricket club had a big herd of cows grazing in it but they were chilled out beasts and left me be, unlike some of their conspecifics I would meet later.
After pausing to peek at the castle I took the path making a nice tree-lined avenue through the middle of the golf course and on to the south of Lodge Wood to pick up a track by Lodge Farm that took me to Sunrise Farm. At Sunrise Farm there are some notices posted to say the rights of way have all been altered since my map was published (and since Wiliamson write his directions). The map gives alternative routes between Sunrise and Low Hall. There now seems to be only one. The notices say to take the straight track south by southwest a bit before the farm, then the next track right, turning left towards Low Hall along the field boundary in between those followed by the original two alternative paths. I didn’t quite do that but cut the first corner taking the track a little closer to the farm that skirts to the left of the buildings as this was where all the Footpath This Way signs were telling me to go. Walking, a bit later, up the hill after crossing the Keeper’s Walk stream, I nearly jumped out my skin when some unseen person not very far away at all let off a firearm very loudly, but if they were aiming at me they missed and on I went, thought Kirby Overblow and on past Birdwell Farm. It was settled now into a gorgeous spring day: wild flowers everywhere, primroses, celandine, forget-me-not. I turned left onto the track to Swindon Hall with its imposing and evidently unused gates and across more fields to cross the A61. From here a lane called Green Lane heads up Healthwaite Hill with glorious views down to the Wharfe valley and over west towards Almscliffe Crag.
Turning left by the mast at the top took me south down a road and across a field to the woods at Rougemont Carr which were glorious with bluebells. Then it’s a lovely walk along the Wharfe to Harewood Bridge. After the bridge a corner of two busy A-roads is cut by a footpath that first cuts through the sawmill and then takes you through a big L-shaped field. Matter got a little complicated here. The path through the sawmill was a bit unobvious and not so well signposted. The L-shaped field was full of some extremely boisterous bullocks who were extremely excited to see me and chased back to the stile where I had started. I think they were boisterous rather than belligerent and I would perhaps have been fine if I had followed the standard counsel with bullocks which I think is to march fearlessly and unhesitatingly through their midst herding them away from one's person with a sturdy stick and cries of "shoo". Which has worked for me in the past when I was feeling brave and there was no alternative way round. But these were really very boisterous and very numerous, it was a long way through this particular field and I was feeling a bit vulnerable as a solitary walker, so I took the slightly longer bullock-free way round on the road, feeling a bit of a wus. I do think it’s a little obnoxious grazing beasts like this on fields with footpaths, not least as, no matter how brave I might feel on my own behalf, I would really not like to venture through such a field if, say, I had a couple of small children in tow. In any case I had some reason to regret my cowardice (pun intended) as the road were horrible, with busy fast traffic and little or nothing of much use by way of verge.
As I entered the ground of Harewood House big signs warned me of the presence in the field of stags. I had had enough excitement for one day by now but stags are a lot more sensible than bullocks and have never given me the least bother. In fact I never encountered any stags but I’m pretty sure those were a couple of red kites I saw circling high above me. On I went through the park, southwest then east along the ridge into Harewood, most of which seems to be for sale at the moment. From here my way went north up the A61 then down Fitts Lane onto the lovely part of the Ebor Way that follows the Wharfe for a couple of miles East before turning south and heading for the A659. The last half k or so before the road there was some discrepancy between where Williamson was telling me to go and where the yellow waymarks wanted me to go. I followed the waymarks along a muddy overgrown path - probably the Williamson way is nicer. I had already learned today that the A659 is a horrible thing to walk on and the next few hundred yards confirmed this lesson. Soon there’s a welcome bridleway off left after which the final couple of miles back to Sicklinghall is pretty straightforward even on what were now after 1t6 miles, rather tired feet.