Reminders of the past

Nafferton Beck
Nafferton Beck

by Maureen Robinson

Nafferton lies two miles north east of Driffield on the edge of the Wolds – a large parish where the Wolds meet the Holderness Plain. There is evidence of human habitation over the last eight or nine thousand years. Archaeological evidence includes flint, bronze and iron tools and weapons from numerous round barrows, dykes, Anglo Saxon burials and other sites in the parish. The area was well-settled by Roman times.

In this drive, visit the sites of watermills; a very, very old church; old houses and schools; attractive mere, and interesting restored Spittle Beck Sheep-Wash or Wash Dyke, plus many other features. An optional walk by West Beck to Wansford may also be included, being only 4.5 miles return.

Access to Nafferton from Scarborough area is via Seamer Road to the round-about and A64, turning right towards York and Malton. At Staxton roundabout turn left on the B1249 up Staxton Hill, with its grand viewpoint at the summit’s car park. Continue straight ahead through Foxholes and across the B1253 Octon crossroads via Langtoft to the next roundabout. Approaching Driffield, turn left on the A614. From the roundabout beyond, go right and it’s just quarter of a mile into Nafferton.

You may choose to walk around the places of interest, rather than to drive, as you’ll observe much more on foot. Following North Street, to your right is the Star Inn and the Cross Keys, with Nafferton Methodist Chapel on the High Street. Swing right on Middle Street, and seek the village hall, King’s Head, fish and chip shop and post office to pass Rectory Close off right. To your left, prior to reaching the mere, is Coppergate. Maybe worth a little deviation to seek any more 18th century houses with dated stones.

Returning to Jubilee Gardens, near your first glimpse of the mere, admire this little green with seats and flower tubs. Decide which to visit next – the prominent church on the hill-top, or the mere. Unfortunately a service was in progress at All Saints’ Church, so we missed the interior. However, do take time to admire this lovely old church dominating the village centre. Its earliest traces are Norman (11th century) but the site is said to possibly pre-date Christianity. It is built of limestone, and its earliest features are the Norman chancel arch and font. Major restorations have taken place, especially during the 19th century.

From the church, cross Middle Street to the ‘pond’ or mere which is fed by springs. It used to supply water to the water mills. Now it’s a popular spot for feeding a variety of ducks and swans. Continue along Priestgate, with fine views over Nafferton Mere.

Pass The Maltings which is now a housing development. The last water mill and malting were demolished in 1985 when we sadly witnessed the conversion to housing.

Where Priestgate ends, and Station Road begins on a right-angled bend, stop! [In the corner is a public footpath sign which you may later choose to follow. It’s a 4-and-a-half mile level route, which accompanies West Beck to Wansford, returning along a minor lane.]

However, on this occasion keep to Station Road, and to your right seek the Feoffee Cottages, number 30, painted white. A parish workhouse existed in Station Road opposite these cottages, from the end of the 18th century until 1834. In the 19th century there were several charities drawing 
income from land and property to be used for the support of the poor, and for more general purposes in the village. These are now administered by the Feoffees of the Jefferson Trust.

Just beyond the Feoffee Cottages is Mill Chase, another mill site transformed by housing since our previous visit. Smith’s Flour Mill once stood there, dated 1878.

Go over the level crossing at the station, and almost immediately see to your left, white rails and white sign indicating Wansford, one mile ahead. You must stop here to view quite a highlight of your visit. Just beyond the white rails is Spittle Beck Sheep-Wash, or Wash Dyke. This historic feature was beautifully restored by Nafferton Scout Group in 1991. Sheep were washed here over a period of 100 years.

The stream of pure water was ideal for washing sheep before shearing, to ensure clean fleeces and with no added chemicals. A man stood in a wooden tub and thoroughly washed one sheep at a time. Following a good wash they scrambled up the bank to dry. Admire the excellent illustration and description close by.

Leaving the Wash Dyke, either spend more time in Nafferton, or do the 4.5 mile walk before returning home. I suggest a return route via Wansford and Driffield to add variety.

Continue as signed to Wansford one mile. A long, straight road traverses flat agricultural land. Agriculture was the main occupation by the 17th century. Many smallholders worked the open fields under the watch of the manorial court. There were sheep pastures on the Wolds. Corn was shipped down the River Hull. There were also brickworks and chalk pits by the 1800s. The watermill on Nafferton Beck had a chequered history until replaced in 1840 by a larger combined corn and malting mill which stood until 1986.

The steam mill by the railway station, built in 1858 by Bointons of Wansford, was demolished in 2005/6 to be replaced with a housing development on the site. Changes!

Pondering modern ‘progress’, enter Wansford, round the bends, and view the church on Nafferton Road. The village hall features to your left before the road junction. Turn right to Great Driffield, accompanying the canal to your left. Flat, open countryside prone to flooding 
features, and the Trout Hatchery is to the left.

Enter Driffield – the Capital of the Wolds – and bear right over the level crossing as signed to Scarborough. You may wish to spend time in Driffield, before returning home along the well-directed route.

Distance: Approx. 46 miles complete return drive.

Refreshment: Inns in 
Nafferton, and plenty of choice in Driffield. Otherwise, take a picnic!