Stride out! Get your heart and mind working on one of these five interesting walks in York.
Walking has been acknowledged to be one of the best all-round exercises for physical and mental health. It may not get our heart pumping as fast as running or jogging does, but we are far less likely to injure ourselves when walking. And, let’s be honest, most of us are far more likely to actually get out there and have a walk than we are to take up long distance running!
Walking is free and it’s accessible to almost everyone, with or without mobility aids. It’s a form of exercise we can safely share with a client or anyone we are caring for.
If you need any extra motivation to get on the move, York is full of fascinating routes to encourage you to get your walking shoes on.
River walks are perfect for those who have a pretty poor sense of direction, because you really can’t get lost following a river!
Here you can find a link to a route that starts at Naburn, just outside York and is over four miles long. However, there are paths to follow along most of the River Ouse, and you can create your own route to suit your needs. The Ouse can take you through the City of York if you wish, or it can take you through fields and unspoiled countryside.
A view of a river is always lovely, but views of the River Ouse flowing through the beautiful City of York are truly outstanding. Plus, of course, there are cafés aplenty in York if you feel peckish en route. The river is prone to flooding, and paths are sometimes closed due to being under water. They can also be wet and muddy, so wear suitable boots if it has rained recently.
The Knavesmire is part of one York’s famous ‘strays’ – open land within the City of York. It is also home to York Racecourse and the racetrack runs around the middle of the Knavesmire. As long as there is no race meeting you can walk around the broad, level path next to the racetrack. This route is extremely popular with dog walkers and group dog walks are sometimes organised here. The York Parkrun also takes place here, so avoid Saturday mornings if you don’t enjoy being jostled by dozens of runners!
If you have energy and sturdy shoes, you can walk outside the race track, taking in the Knavesmire woods and the vast grassy stray. Park along Knavesmire Road or in the small car park down Cherry Lane off the Tadcaster Road. There are no toilet or café facilities open to walkers on the Knavesmire, but you can find cafes across the Tadcaster Road if you need a snack.
If you are in need of a breath of fresh air, how about taking a walk on a rubbish dump? St Nicholas Fields is a 24 acre nature reserve in the middle of a residential and industrial area in York. When the City Council stopped using the site as a rubbish dump, nature worked its magic and within a few years it was covered in young trees and wild flowers. In 2004 it was designated a Local Nature Reserve. It is now managed by the St Nicks charity who run a visitors centre and a wide range of events and courses for local people.
St Nicks have done everything possible to make the area accessible to everyone. The paths are mostly gravel or bark, so sturdy shoes are a must. Wander through the Summer Meadow, past the Dragon Stones and Butterfly Walk and on to Tang Hall Beck. If you have energy to spare, the northern boundary of the site is the Sustrans 658 Cycle Route, and you can follow that as far as you like. There is no café but there is a compost toilet in the Environmental Centre. St Nicks is an environmental charity and they would prefer you to arrive on foot or public transport, but there is a small car park at the centre.
Three scientists at the University of York created this scale model of our solar system for the walkers and cyclists of York to enjoy. It follows National Cycle Network route 65 on mostly broad, level track. Every 100 metres of track corresponds to 57 million kilometres in space. At mathematically calculated points along the route there are impressive models of the planets, starting with the Sun at Askham Bar and ending with Pluto just outside Riccall.
This is a six and a half mile walk but it is perfectly possible to do small sections by joining the route at different points. A favourite starting point for a short walk is in Bishopthorpe, close to Brunswick Organic Nurseries, walking along the track to the Fisher of Dreams sculpture on Naburn Bridge and back again. The views of the Ouse from Naburn Bridge are spectacular. Walk just a little further and the pop-up café at the former Naburn Station may be open. If not, Brunswick Nurseries have ice creams, so call in on your way back. Bear in mind that this is a cycle track and you will encounter people on bicycles. Avoid the rush hour morning and afternoon if you want a more relaxed walk.
The outskirts of Copmanthorpe, between the A64 York bypass and the railway line heading up to York Station is an unlikely place to find an ancient wildlife habitat of national significance.
Askham Bog covers 44 hectares, most of it inaccessible to the public due to it being, as the name suggests, a peat bog. However, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have installed wide, level boardwalks so that everyone can enjoy this fascinating and unique environment. Plants grow here that you will see nowhere else in the country. And, along with rare plants come the rare insects and other wildlife that rely on their seeds and leaves for food. The vegetation is dense and lush and it’s not easy to spot the rare species. Information boards tell you what to look out for at specific points.
A steady walk around the bog takes about twenty minutes and there are several places to sit and take in the atmosphere. Ignore the distant hum of the A64 and tune into the birdsong, the buzzing of insects and the sound of the breeze in the trees. There is a small car park, but no toilet or café at the site. If you’re desperate for sustenance, Little Acorns cafe in Copmanthorpe does fabulous cakes and scones.
If you, or someone you care for needs motivation to walk further or more often, try one of these ideas. If you’ve exhausted this short list, the York Mumbler group have dozens more suggestions. Whether you want a twenty minute stroll or a strenuous day of rambling, there are walks aplenty in York.