Fascinating villages full of legend and tradition

Annual St John of Beverley procession in Harpham
Annual St John of Beverley procession in Harpham

by Maureen Robinson

Savour superb scenery throughout this rural drive. Meet Harpham’s happy villagers, sample the healing waters of St John’s Well, and seek the Drummer Boy’s well of legendary fame! Skirting Rudston, don’t miss Winifred Holtby’s birthplace at Rudston House. Then 
returning home via Kilham, observe signs of turkey breeding, discover a most unusual sundial in the churchyard, and secured in a block of stone –
a bull ring!

If you’re departing from Scarborough, take the A64 to Seamer. Turning left continue to Staxton, and joining the A1039 go left into Flixton. A long climb out of the village follows, as you swiftly turn right along a three-mile scenic route to Fordon. Fordon’s chalk banks are much valued for their wild flowers in season. Entering Fordon you meet the crossroads and go left to Burton Fleming, but halt briefly to view the tiny St James’ Church close by. Built in 1768 it is now sadly closed, but may be viewed if arrangements are made 48 hours in advance. A narrow, single-track lane with passing bays meets crossroads. A sign indicates Burton Fleming 1.5 miles straight ahead. Shortly, Windmill Country Park is viewed to your right.

Entering Burton Fleming, the church and war memorial are to the left as you proceed along Back Street, passing the old school and pond. At a junction, go left, and then turn right to Rudston two miles. Approaching Rudston, the Gypsey Race flows to the left of the road.

Next, from Rudston village turn right to Burton Agnes three miles, and bear left as signed to Burton Agnes Hall. You’ll observe in Long Street, Rudston House where novelist Winifred Holtby was born on June 23, 1898. Her major achievement was the novel, South Riding. Please read the wall plaque to the right.

Entering the village, turn right briefly along the A614, and then sharp left to Harp-ham village which lies just one mile south of the main road. It’s so easy to miss this peaceful village tucked away from the pace of modern life! From the moment we parked the car, we sensed the peaceful existence of the friendly villagers we met there. However, first we remained in the car as we entered Harpham, passing the Old Chapel to our left. I suggest you do likewise, to meet the crossroads. Here, turn left.

This takes you along East End to pass East End Farm prominently sited to the left of the lane, attractively painted cream with pale blue railings.

Beyond the farm, trees beside the right ditch guide you to St John’s Well. It has been here for many centuries and never fails to spring in the driest of summers, and is said to cure all ills. Shaped like an old beehive or skep, the stone well cover is dated 1266. It’s encircled by black iron railings tipped with ‘gold’. Anyone suffering headaches and eye disorders may benefit by sampling its healing waters! Ferocious dogs and wild animals may be led away ‘as meek as a lamb’!

Tradition relates how St John of Beverley was born in Harpham in AD640. Since striking his staff upon the ground, water has flowed through the ages. St John’s tomb is in Beverley Minster, but celebrations take place here because of his associations.

Every year, on the Tuesday nearest St John of Beverley’s Day, which is May 7, a choral procession commemorates his day. Visiting choristers from the minster walk from Harpham Church to the well which is decorated for the occasion with flowers. The 
return walk ends with a church service, followed by a supper in the village hall.

I suggest you next continue to the church , therefore return to the crossroads and turn left. The square, grey tower of this early English church rises above the trees and roof-tops. Park near the church and take time to view its interior. Then, leaving the church you’ll discover adjacent to the metal handgate a footpath between walling and hedging. A short stroll along the path, and you enter a handgate to a small tennis court. Turn left and right by its perimeter to find the Drummer Boy’s Well. It’s sited on an area of mounds, ridges and hollows. This rough, unploughed land is the site of Harpham’s ancient manor.

The well relates to an interesting legend – too lengthy to relate! The shaft is said to be about four metres deep, built with a stone surround. Protected by a circle of iron railings, it would benefit by clearance of vegetation. Such wells remind future generations of how villagers relied on such natural springs until the mains water supply was eventually laid in 1953.

Before leaving Harpham, do take refreshment on Main Street, at the St Quintin Arms, and read the information board nearby.

Driving next up Main Street, take the first turning left down Station Road towards Lowthorpe. The village hall to your left was built in 1933, and is now a popular rendezvous.

Saying goodbye to Harp-ham, continue to meet the main road. Cross the A614 and head to Kilham. You may see signs of gipsies and horse grazing along the way. Rounding the bend you should park as convenient near the church.

Kilham thrived as ‘Capital of the Wolds’, until the late 1700s. The impressive All Saints’ Church dates back to Norman times. On the grassed verge, left of the steps is a bull ring secured in a block of stone. Times have changed since baiting entertained our ancestors!

Ascend steps to the churchyard. Beside the war memorial is a sundial with 
unusual mounting, being set into the top of a stone coffin placed upright in the ground!

Glance at the church tower. Notice the turkey weather vane presented by Mr Raymond W Twiddle denoting turkey breeding. Can you find the old village pump?

Finally, leaving Kilham past the Bay Horse Inn and The Stores on Middle Street, sweep right to head for Thwing four miles. Entering Thwing, and the junction, go right, and then left to enjoy a handsome ‘tunnel’ of trees and vast open views beyond.

Reaching a fork, go right to Foxholes, and at the junction turn left as signed Foxholes one mile, and the remainder of the return route to Scarborough is well-directed. Only 12 miles remain, but do appreciate the glorious view from the car park at the top of Staxton Hill before your descent to Staxon and homeward drive.

Distance: 44 miles approximately.

Refreshment: St Quintin Arms, Harpham.