Ebberston is a small village on the eastern boundary of Ryedale and in the Vale of Pickering. Its main street runs directly north to south, and consists mostly of stone-built properties with red pantiled roofs, though some are brick-built with slate roofs.
St Mary’s Church is about half a mile away at the foot of Kirkdale – the site of the former village. It’s charmingly tucked away by the thickly wooded little valley. It’s of Norman origin with Norman pillars and font, and has many stained glass windows.
Behind is Ebberston Hall, built in 1718 by Campbell, a member of the Hotham family. Built in the style of a palladian villa, it’s said to be the smallest stately home in the country.
The A170 Scarborough to Pickering road should be taken to access Ebberston with parking near the Grapes Inn or on Main Street. To fully explore Ebberston and its environs, I suggest you start by heading north from the crossroads, and follow the charming walking route of about three miles. This could be followed by a glimpse of St Mary’s Church and Ebberston Hall before (or after) refreshment at the Grapes Inn. This allows whatever time is available, to head south from the crossroads to explore the village.
Start from the crossroads near the Grapes Inn, which is the only surviving public house in the village. Follow Netherby Dale Road past a large house on the corner for about 300m. Seek a turning left into Chafer Wood Nature Reserve. This area was originally known as The Dale to locals. It was renamed Chafer Wood, and leased to the Yorkshire Wildlife Fund. Within the area are the remains of a pinfold, where the pinder enclosed stray animals. He returned them to careless owners only on payment of a fine.
This area is important for its mosaic of semi-natural woodland, scrub, limestone grassland, wetland, and associated flora and fauna.
Follow the rough path, or track, climbing quite steeply for a short while with grand views over Ebberston village.
Shortly the path curves right and you see before you, crowning the hillside, a stone-built cairn built to mark the site of a cave. It was erected in 1790 to celebrate the memory of a King of Northumbria. Here, in AD704 King Alchfrid rested after being wounded in a battle fought in a field opposite St Mary’s Church. The injured king was taken to Little Driffield. There he died, and was buried in the churchyard.
I suggest you climb the grassy mound to the squat low cairn for remarkable vistas over Ebberston and to the distant Wolds. Then return to the route, and leaving the dale your track levels.
Nearing the top, old stone walling is to your left. At the brow of the hill, enter a field and glance back at the view. Follow the long, straight, grassy track to the far end.
Enter a gate in stone walling and continue likewise beside a second field. At the far end, continue beside a third field. Ignore a farm track off left to High Park Farm keeping straight ahead.
Then – at the sharp bend swing right with the track onto a metalled road. Extensive views surround you as you gently descend and see Malton Cote Farm in the foreground.
Meeting the lane, turn right into Netherby Dale with its high banks of cowslips and rock roses in season. A lane enters from Malton Cote Farm, but keep straight on down a single track lane with passing places.
Either keep to this pretty lane back to the A170, or seek the footpath off right into Chafer Wood. Veering left beneath trees you step into enchanting woodland. A sunken footpath leads through glades and dells, with mossy stones and lofty trees creating a secret solitude. Ferns and flowers smother the ground in May, but every season has its highlights.
Eventually leave Chafer Wood to re-enter the lane. Turning right, you’ll see springs bubbling from Chafer Wood to join the roadside stream.
The stream enters an underground culvert and emerges to the left of the lane, as you follow it to the road junction.
Meeting the A170, why not turn right for a welcome break at the Grapes Inn for refreshment? Then you can explore the village itself, or continue up the road to see St Mary’s Church tucked into the hillside. The font and south doorway are Norman. A rare and precious possession is the iron work on the modern door, believed to be the work of Normans. The hinges are enriched with curious scrollwork in haphazard fashion. Over the top hinge is the dove with the olive leaf. Examine the walls for fragments of old coffin lids, with crosses and a sword.
Finally, before departing, admire from the churchyard a glorious outlook over the Vale.
Distance of walk: three miles.
Refreshment and toilets: The Grapes Inn.
Access by private or public transport – Scarborough and District 128 bus service.
Ordnance Survey Map: Explorer OL27. North York Moors Eastern Area. Scale 2.5 inches to 1 mile.