Beningbrough Hall Walk
In Search of the Jewel of York
A favourite walk in the York area is around the perimeter of Beningbrough Hall. This is a lovely route for either a summer evening stroll or a winter trail run, not too long (approx 5km) and finishing at a lovely pub. We most recently ran the route on Boxing Day 2019 with an impromptu meeting of running friends.
One of the reasons we go back and do this route frequently is because it is one of the best places to find tansy beetles - the jewels of York. Tansy beetles are so rare that the banks of the River Ouse around York were thought to be the only place they could be found in the UK. Another colony has now been found in Cambridgeshire too. Their entire life-cycle revolves around the tansy plant and, as the plant has been put under pressure from grazing, invasive plants and ragwort clearance (the plant is similar to ragwort), the beetle has become increasingly rare. They don't fly so cannot get to new clumps of tansy or avoid summer floods.
The first time we did this walk I had never even heard of the tansy beetle. Now I inspect all clumps of tansy along the Ouse in the summer, but this is still the best place I have found to see them.
Beningbrough Hall Walk
Start the walk from Newton-on-Ouse, we usually park on the road near the Blacksmith Arms and the Church, and walk towards Beningbrough Hall. At the gates to the Hall take the public footpath on the right across the field. This was very boggy on Boxing Day, but the route is pretty good underfoot for most of the year. Before you get to the end of the field go down to the river bank - the Ouse is lovely here and through the summer you are very likely to see sand martins which nest in the opposite bank.
The route then takes you on a tree-lined bank with excellent views of Beningbrough Hall to the left and the river on the right. Just keep on this route and enjoy the pleasant ambience and the bird-song. Just before the confluence with the River Nidd you will see a fenced-off area of plants - the conservation area for tansy beetles. There is an information board here to tell you about the beetle and conservation project. If it is the right time of the year you are very likely to see these large irridescent beetles feeding on the tops of the plants. They are quite tricky to see at first, but once you get your eye in you can usually see plenty of them. I usually spend some time looking for the beetles and pointing them out to any passers-by who will spare the time.
At one time the lure of the Pub would often mean that we turned back at this point, but it is well worth carrying along the river bank and doing the round walk. You eventually move away from the river into a narrow fenced track and then, just before you get to the road there is a wood on the left, with a very obvious footpath through it. In May this is carpeted with bluebells.
There are a number of routes back from this wood. You can either keep straight on towards the house and then take the tarmaced drive back to Newton-on-Ouse - this takes you close to Beningbrough Hall but also means you are on the main entrance route for visitors, so it can be busy on a sunny day.
The Hall is a National Trust property. The farm shop is very good and free to visit, but the Hall, walled garden, play area and tea room do have an entrance fee. It is well worth visiting and is particularly popular with children.
If you want to keep away from the road you can turn right from the woods and skirt the estate - this path is not on the OS Map but is very good. Along the route are a couple of wooden frames through which you can view the hall or take selfies with the hall in the background. Just keep on this route until you get back to the gates and Newton-on-Ouse.
If you enjoy cycling, there is a mostly off-road cycle route from York out to Beningbrough Hall and the cafe at Home Farm shop is an excellent destination.
Distance: 5.5 km
(can be muddy in winter)
- tansy beetles
- sand martins
- bluebells (early summer)