South Stainley, Burton Leonard and the Lime Quarries Wildlife Reserve

A straightforward and easy walk in the countryside between Ripon and Harrogate to two lovely villages and to a disused quarry site, managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

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Statistics and Files
Start: South Stainley Distance: 5.1 miles (8.2 km) Climbing: 128 metres
Grid Ref: SE303633 Time: 3 hours Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File About Burton Leonard
Start: South Stainley Distance: 5.1 miles (8.2 km)
Grid Ref: SE303633 Time: 3 hours
Climbing: 128 metres Rating: Moderate
GPX Route File Google Earth File
Ordnance Survey Explorer Map (1:25,000)

The Walk: I have mentioned it before but I cannot stress enough how fortunate I am to live in such a wonderful area of the world. I know we can always revert to complaining about the weather when its inclement; cold, overcast, freezing, snowing and raining, but these are all features of the British weather which provide such wonderful landscapes such as those I enjoyed on this walk in lush green countryside on a beautiful and warm summers day. I did this walk on a Friday, the last day of August in 2012 in the company of my brother Dave. I do not work Friday's any more, a luxury which allows me to enjoy the last day of the working week any way I choose and as the weather was so good I called him on the Thursday evening and we agreed to meet at Harrogate Bus Station the next morning to get the Ripon Bus which would conveniently drop us off at the starting point of the walk; I did not fancy taking the car after commuting on motorways all week.

The Inn at South StainleyThe Inn at South Stainley
The path leaves South Stainley by the village churchThe path leaves South Stainley by the village church

After a pleasant short journey on the number 36 Leeds to Ripon bus I pressed the stop button as we entered South Stainley. The bus stop was in the ideal spot, just across the road from where we disembarked and after safely crossing the road we were on our way through the quaint village. Most of the time I just see the village outskirts that fringe the main road but once beyond the 'The Inn at South Stainley' things quietened dramatically. Just after the pub as we walked beside an hedgerow Dave noticed gaps in the bottom of the hedgerow, the clear sign of a Ferret/ Stoat run. There were several gaps at regular intervals, the animal must like varying excursions out, just like we do. Soon after passing the hedgerow and a few well maintained house gardens we reached South Stainley Church. Here we left the village road and crossed a stile into a field.

Dave leads the way east towards Burton LeonardDave leads the way east towards Burton Leonard
Recent crop fields, now stubbleRecent crop fields, now stubble

Our countryside walk began by crossing some lush pasture fields. As we walked along the first one, cattle in the field to our left scurried across the field to the fence line. They were curious about us, as cattle often are when walkers enter their territory. Not wanting interference we were glad the fence separated us and we continued on our way. A couple of fields later we came beside a small wood but the path took us alongside without entering. After the wood the fields changed from pasture to crop but the crop had been harvested. Only stubble remained.

Climbing towards Jackson's WoodClimbing towards Jackson's Wood
Dave makes his way through Jackson's WoodDave makes his way through Jackson's Wood

As we walked the sun was rising into the midday sky and we certainly felt it getting warmer. The bright sky made for a wonderful contrast in colour between the blue of the sky, the green of the grass and trees and the golden brown of the stubble. It was delightful indeed and walking along the fields was a real pleasure. After half an hours walking we reached the end of the series of fields and entered Jackson's Wood, immediately making an ascent of 25 metres through the woodland. Emerging from the woodland higher than which we entered the views provided across the shimmering countryside were lovely.

Straw for bedding this winterStraw for bedding this winter
Burton LeonardBurton Leonard

In Jackson's Wood I did the usual scan of the species around me, trying to work out if I could recognise any. I used to walk without thought of flora around me but since 2011 I have carried a guide books on trees. I can identify the big species easily such as Oak, Ash, Horse Chestnut and Sycamore but the smaller trees and ornamentals regularly pose problems with which is which so the book acts as a useful identifier and reassurance against ignorance. I cannot say it served any great purpose in Jackson's Wood, some trees so similar to others, but the book did help in an identification which we will come to later on. Leaving the woodland behind for now, Dave and I continued across another stubble field into Burton Leonard. It was around noon and the village was extremely quiet, a throwback to village life I knew when growing up in rural North Yorkshire in the 1960's. We walked across the village green and stopped for a drink while sitting on a bench. As we took a five minute break doing so I was attracted by absolutely nothing. No one stirred, no traffic passed. It was serene.

Flooded track approaching the lime quarriesFlooded track approaching the lime quarries
Burton Leonard Lime QuarriesBurton Leonard Lime Quarries

After our short break we carried on walking through the village, stopping off at the post office for snacks and more drinks on our way and then continuing out of the village by walking south beside Apron Lane and then south west on Limekiln Lane. As we walked on Limekiln Lane we came across a water obstacle. The unmade road was sunken and for 20 metres across the full width and filled with water from recent rainfall. Dave and I had to steadily edge on one side or another. After survey we chose the right hand side and edged our way between the water and protruding high foliage which contained nettles. A soaking of the feet or a sting would have been the penalty for erring from the straight and narrow. After our balancing act we walked a little further until we came across a gate leading off the track to the left. We had reached the beginning of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's Burton Leonard Lime Quarries site.

Lime Kiln in Burton Leonard Lime QuarriesLime Kiln in Burton Leonard Lime Quarries

The quarries had been the feature destination of the walk. I had joined the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust in 2011 and pledged to visit some of the sites managed by the trust. Being conveniently located Burton Leonard Lime quarries was my first choice. On joining the trust promised me over 20 species of Butterfly, grassland awash with colour in summer, with plants such as Betony, Scabious, Carline Thistle and Orchids. Well, true to the promise Dave and I enjoyed a rich variety of wild flowers and wildlife during our special walk though the reserve.

The track leading through woodland in the quarry siteThe track leading through woodland in the quarry site
Profusion of Flower in Burton Leonard Lime QuarriesProfusion of Flower in Burton Leonard Lime Quarries

Regarding the Flora and Fauna in the reserve: Butterflies were scarce, perhaps not ideal time for them but that lack was compensated by lots of other insects like bees and crickets. The promised flowers were all there and more besides, I just could not hope to identify them - a book on trees is one thing, flowers quite another, far too many of them. I'll just enjoy the colours in ignorance. (an example is the lovely purple flowers in the right hand photograph above, I don't need to know what they are to enjoy their beauty any less - perhaps Carline Thistle?) And enjoy the colours I did, and smells too, the amble through the Burton Leonard Lime Quarries was a real delight.

Crossing of Stainley Beck at Mickle HillCrossing of Stainley Beck at Mickle Hill
Walking from Mickle Hill to Rakes LaneWalking from Mickle Hill to Rakes Lane

The walk through the lime quarries was at about halfway through the walk and we began the second half by rejoining Limekiln Lane and following it down to Mickle Hill. Here Dave and I came to where Stainley Beck becomes Robert Beck which continues downstream to Copgrove before continuing on and in to the River Ure near Bishop Monkton. At the point of name change there is a footbridge which we crossed before continuing on a concrete road on a course dead south to Thistle Hill which is where we joined Rakes Lane. Here our journey changed from southbound to south west along another rural concrete lane.

Common Walnut on Rakes LaneCommon Walnut on Rakes Lane
Dave follows the Ripon RowelDave follows the Ripon Rowel

Rakes Lane took us along on a gentle ascent from 50 metres to 80 metres in height but we hardly noticed it, all being so consistently gradual. The only noticeable change was the views of distant countryside emerging again, views we had lost in Burton Leonard. Such had been the immediate interesting points of view we had hardly noticed the change but there is a telling realisation when panoramic views come to the eye again. We are naturally drawn to look into the far distance. Except when interesting features strike ones eyes up close, such as the superb Common Walnut tree which I stopped beside and admired for a good examination of its structure before walking on. While not exactly being a tree hugger I do love the natural beguiling shapes they evolve into, particularly the giants.

Crossing fields towards Stainley HouseCrossing fields towards Stainley House
Near Stainley HouseNear Stainley House

We continued following Rakes Lane for just short of a kilometer, also following the Ripon Rowel which we had joined the course of in Burton Leonard. We left the course of both at a junction with Green Lane which led south west towards Green Lane Farm. We left the lane near a small pond just before reaching Green Lane Farm and crossed a wide lush field with avenues of trees, heading towards Stainley House. The field was more like a park, greener than most surrounding and with the tree avenues in orderly rows but of ornamental value, leading to nowhere in particular. On crossing the field we passed the perimeter of Stainley House, a lovely building in a lovely quiet space.

Making ones way through the sweet cornMaking ones way through the sweet corn
What are you doing here?"What are you doing here?"

After passing the grounds of Stainley House, the end of a lovely short walk in exquisite countryside was nigh, but no before some amusing events. The first was a walk following the track though a field of sweet corn The photograph shows a quite wide track though but there were places where it narrowed and where the sweet corn was higher, thus closing us in and secluding the view. Dave and I had separated in distance in the field and losing line of sight between us caused me, who was leading, to shout him to use the right path where it crossed with farmers trods. Then on emerging from the maze of sweet corn we followed a field down to South Stainley. At the bottom of the field we spotted strange heads over a hump in the field. As we got closer the strange heads assumed full body and we realised we were in a field of Alpaca or Llama. I could not tell the difference so would not assume to do so. Maybe you can, they are looking straight at you in the photograph above left. Whichever, they looked curiously at me and Dave as we did at them. A funny moment of encounter.

You're not welcome Walking Englishmen!"You're not welcome Walking Englishmen!"
Back into South Stainley along the village beckBack into South Stainley along the village beck

Then after the field of South American animals who stood in curious attention as we passed them by we came to a track beside cottages and then to a smallholding which contained more familiar animals. These were not smitten with curiosity at all, they simply did not take to our close attention and as we walked by their territory their leaders charged towards us squawking their displeasure. Geese are like that, as attentive as guard dogs to warn their keepers of intruders and strangers. We endured the cacophony of noise while we passed until it quietened. Then our final few yards of non tarmac walking were enjoyed alongside Stainley Beck until we met the road we had walked along earlier though South Stainley. We walked though the village in quiet as we had done earlier. We never saw the Ferret or Stoat this time either and after waiting at the bus stop for 15 minutes we boarded the first bus back to Harrogate. On the journey back I thought of a lovely walk just done, and one done by accessing public transport. I must do that again soon.

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