A visit to the cold store

The ice house at Wykeham
The ice house at Wykeham

by Maureen Robinson

Country lanes to the north of Wykeham and Ruston towards Wykeham forestry, make interesting and pleasant walking, especially when combined with the sighting of a restored 18th century ice house!

Access to the starting point, by public or private transport, is along the A170 Scarborough to Pickering road as far as Wykeham village. The Wykeham Tea Rooms and Gift Shop are seen to the left before reaching All Saints Church and the Downe Arms from where this walk beings.

Start. The Downe Arms. There’s a small car park at the foot of Wykeham Lane beside the right stone walling. Just beyond is an obvious sign reading: ‘Permissive Footpath – Ruston via Ice House’. Turn off right and make a short, gentle ascent to fencing leading to the Ice House. Gaze down into the illuminated depth of a restored 18th century ice-house which for generations had been used as a rubbish dump!

Thanks to residents and volunteers of Wykeham and Ruston, December 1, 2001, marked the official opening of their millennium project by Viscountess Downe. Conservation Awards in 2003 presented them with first prize – very well deserved too!

You’ll observe below ground level, the egg-shaped chamber covered with a dome of earth. From the entrance a passage leads to the chamber.

Blocks of ice would be removed from the pond when an inch (2.5cm) thick. The ice was taken by labourers to the chamber and pounded with a heavy wooden rammer into a solid mass. Stored in a cold location underground, in alternate layers of ice and straw, or sometimes packed with sawdust for insulation, the ice would remain frozen for many months – even during hot summers.

Ice would be removed as required by the house, The Downe Arms, and used for keeping ice cream, desserts and cold drinks fresh and wholesome. Natural ice was replaced by artificially-produced ice in the 19th century. So –ice houses were the fore-runners of modern fridges and freezers!

Now descend the dozen steps from the ice house, and turn right to a Millennium Stone, in keeping with the project. It depicts Celtic designs which would have been seen around 1,000 years ago to guide pilgrims and walkers on their way.

Leaving the ice house and information board, retrace your steps to Wykeham Lane. Turn right over the bridge, and beyond over the dis-mantled railway line. Keep close to the right verge as the hedged lane traverses agricultural land, with Martin Garth to the east.

Bedale Grange is off right as you gently rise to a level area commanding more views and isolated sycamore trees. A rough track off left only leads to a quarry, but the next track left towards Rowhowe House is to be taken briefly. It swiftly elbows left again down the rough track of Ruston Lane. Watch out for partridges and pheasants! Sweeping views across the Vale of Pickering southwards to the Yorkshire Wolds are revealed.

Sheep graze the meadowland and you can appreciate the stillness of this remote country lane. Ruston Cottage Pasture features off right as you wind down into Ruston village, with its stone-built cottages and ivy-clad walling.

Seek number 63 on a door near Cottage Farm Stables, and please halt here, before embarking on another millennium highlight of this walk. Extension work was carried out on a millennium walk through the ancient Fish Pond Woods and part of the old Scarborough to Pickering railway line.

Leaving Ruston Lane enter the wooden gate and turn left to pass the sign: ‘Permissive footpath to Wykeham’. This area forms a lovely village green for children’s recreation.

The path is initially parallel with Ruston Lane’s walling and then bears right as arrowed up the hillside, beside fencing.

Enter a gate from the children’s play area and follow a good, fenced footpath between pony paddocks. Reach a three-finger post and go straight ahead as signed: ‘Permissive footpath to Wykeham.’ The grassy path leads to a waymarked gate in the fencing ahead. This is a Community Access Project.

Enter, and continue on a grassed, hedged path by Fish Ponds Wood. Ahead is a bold sign giving alternative routes via a) Fish Ponds Wood to the Downe Arms, or b) straight forward on a permissive path to Wykeham via Ice House. Select route b on this occasion and keep straight ahead.

Keep straight forward through the railway cutting with steep embankments either side and rabbit warrens! Pass a seat near six concrete posts and continue along the stony way banked by trees and ferns etc.

Approaching a bridge, you’ll see a sign to Wykeham, but please ignore this and ascend about 14 steps to your left leading onto Wykeham Lane. Turn right over the road bridge to return to the Downe Arms for possible refreshment.

Distance: Four miles [can be shortened to just view the ice house and rail track close by]

Refreshment: The Downe Arms. Also, almost opposite the church on the A170 is the ever-popular Wykeham Tea Rooms and Gift Shop where you’ll enjoy a welcome and warm-up, plus attractive gifts for Christmas.

NB. An easy walk. The Millennium rail track is beautifully signed throughout.

Christmas stocking filler

A new volume of Rural Rambles by Maureen Robinson is now available from sole agents Crag and Moor Outdoor Shop, 38, Victoria Road, Scarborough.

17 walks and maps for only £3 per copy. All profits donated to Scarborough’s RNLI.