Can anyone remember that really hot two weeks we had in June? Me neither. After what feels like the soggiest August ever, I’m casting my mind back to sunnier days when it actually felt like summer. It was almost too hot, certainly too hot to take the dogs on long walks on the fells, so we spent a lot of time scouting out new woodland walks early in the mornings. One new find was Hamsterley Forest in County Durham, but slightly less well known is the lovely little woodland at Yearsley Woods in the Howardian Hills. Yearsley Woods is somewhere I discovered after seeing quite a few local Instagrammers posting photos of dog walks here – a sure fire way to find the best new walks.
Yearsley Woods is an area rich in history and fantastic walks. From the woods you can walk up to Yearsley Moor, across to Ampleforth Abbey or wander the woodland trails to find signs of the site’s industrial and medieval past (the North York Moors National Park have produced a series of short videos documenting the history of Yearsley Moor if you’re interested).
There are so many different walks you could do around the woods. I’d highly recommend downloading the paid version of the OS Maps app to help you navigate the seemingly endless trails – it’s only £25 a year and if you enjoy hiking you will get plenty of use out of it. We set out at about 8am with the intention of following this 5 mile circular walk through the woods, but in the end we used the app to cut about half of the walk out as it was getting very hot very quickly. We were sad not to spend longer exploring, but it’s a good excuse to go back another day.
For the most part, the paths we followed were broad, well surfaced tracks, the kind which don’t get horrifically muddy and boggy when it rains. It was only when we detoured away from our main route that we picked up some smaller, more uneven trails, which I imagine would get a bit slippery in wet weather. We didn’t have to worry about that at all due to the beautiful weather we were having, and the paths were well shaded from the morning sun by the trees. Despite this, the woods still felt really open and airy, with plenty of light able to filter through. There was a great mix of native deciduous trees as well as conifers, something which I think makes a wood feel much more welcoming and natural – I know that probably sounds mad!
There is no dedicated car park for Yearsley Woods, just a quiet lane which dead ends at the edge of the woods. You can park considerately along this lane for free, but be aware that at busy times this might be tricky, as the woods are popular with local dog walkers – when we arrived at 8am on a Sunday morning, there were already a fair few other cars there. Despite this, we saw hardly anyone when we set off into the woods: just one or two other dog walkers and a few horse riders. The woods are so large with so many different paths to choose from that I imagine it’s pretty rare to have an experience here that feels crowded. It certainly felt completely deserted for the majority of the walk – we spent a good 10 minutes on one of the narrower trails away from the main path just listening to the early morning birdsong with no human, dog or traffic noise to be found.
Dog friendly rating – 5/5. There’s not many walks in North Yorkshire where dogs can be offlead the whole time so we’re always thrilled when we find a walk like this. Our dogs absolutely loved zooming around the woods and we absolutely loved watching them have a great time. There are no stiles on this walk either, so as a dog owner it’s probably one of the easiest walks you can do in terms of dog related effort. As it was so quiet, this would be a great walk for more nervous dogs who don’t like busy places. However you like your dog walks I guarantee that Yearsley Woods will tick nearly every box – we will certainly be making a return at some point!
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