None of us will forget 2020 in a hurry. We had planned a series of tours throughout the year. Little did we know what was to come. When it was mooted that we might be able to holiday from July onwards, I contacted the owner of a favourite Certificated Location of ours, based near the North Yorkshire village of Kirkby Malzeard, a few miles from Ripon, in the hope that we would be able to have a break there. Fortunately, they were taking provisional bookings and had space. Our original intention was to book for a week, but we thought, “What the heck, let’s go for two!”

On the road again

So in mid-July, we duly arrived at West Leas Farm CL. We’d promised to take my parents for a meal at a lovely pub in High Grantley, so until they joined us, we busied ourselves setting up.

All the hard work had been done by the time they arrived in their aging Auto-Sleepers Symbol, affectionately called ‘Pod’. For the rest of the day, we could relax and enjoy the views towards the Yorkshire Dales.

The following day, my parents decided to visit the Royal Horticultural Society’s superb gardens at Harlow Carr, near Harrogate, just a few miles away. They love gardening (something that has passed me by).

Kay and I decided to put on our walking boots and explore the area on foot. The village of Kirkby Malzeard, a mile or so away, can be seen from the CL, and it’s a pleasant walk. Be mindful, though, that the route is across fields and stiles, and in parts quite steep, so unsuitable for the less able.

Kirkby Malzeard may not be the prettiest village in the traditional sense, but it is a lively place and does have its attractions. It’s the home a a creamery, owned by Wensleydale Creamery, producers of Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese. Alas, there is no visitor centre or shop; you have to travel into the Dales, to Hawes, for that.

Of course, the main employment in the area is farming, and if you’re in the village, it won’t be long before a tractor passes by.

It was a lovely day, so after our morning walk, Kay and I relaxed at the campsite during the afternoon. Mum and Dad returned just as the kettle was going on for a cup of Yorkshire Tea. They really know how to time things!

Dining out

We hadn’t tried Kirkby Fisheries and Pizzas before – it’s tucked away, despite being on the main street – but that evening, we enjoyed an excellent fish and chip supper from there.

As I mentioned, we’d promised my parents Sunday lunch at The Grantley Arms, a short drive away. Owing to Covid-19 restrictions, we booked and selected our menus in advance. It’s not the first time we’ve been to The Grantley Arms, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Replete after lunch, we drove to Pateley Bridge, a few miles away, with a gentle walk in mind. But when we arrived, it seemed the rest of the world had the same idea; so after a stroll in the park and along the High Street, we enjoyed a steady drive back to the site and simply took things easy in the glorious sunshine.

Medieval monastery

Founded in 1398, Mount Grace Priory was among the last of the great monastic houses
Founded in 1398, Mount Grace Priory was among the last of the great monastic houses

The following morning, my parents left for home, and Kay and I drove to Mount Grace Priory, near Northallerton. Mount Grace is owned by the National Trust, but managed by English Heritage, so members of either organisation get in free.

Just as we arrived, it started raining, but the café was open for take-away drinks and snacks. Thankfully, the rain soon abated, so we were able to explore this splendid 14th-century medieval monastery. Founded in 1398, Mount Grace was among the last of the great monastic houses.

Although we weren’t able to go inside the reconstructed monk’s cell (the Carthusians were semi-hermits) or the fine house, we enjoyed what we saw, and plan to return when permitted.

If you’ve ever seen Channel 5 series, The Yorkshire Vet, you’ll know Skeldale Veterinary Practice is based on the outskirts of Thirsk. Peter Wright (one of the vets) was apprenticed to Al Wright, aka James Herriot, the famous veterinarian and author. The World of James Herriot, in Thirsk, is the original location for Alf’s (and Peter’s) practice. This is another place on our ‘see next time’ list – it was also closed. But some of the opening credits to the TV show were shot from nearby Sutton Bank, our destination for the day.

Sutton Bank is on the A170, running between Thirsk and Scarborough. The road is well-known because there’s a hairpin bend part-way up, with very steep approaches and departures.

Once at the top, there’s a huge car park at the Sutton Bank National Park Centre. You are now on the edge of the North York Moors National Park. On a clear day, the views are spectacular, looking over the Vale of York towards the Dales.

The panoramic views from Sutton Bank are spectacular
The panoramic views from Sutton Bank are spectacular

From the car park, there’s a huge choice of well-made footpaths, mostly flat. We chose the trail that passes the Yorkshire Gliding Club and leads to the Kilburn White Horse. When we reached the White Horse, I stood at the tip of one of its ears to take photographs. From here, as well as looking east towards the Yorkshire Dales, you can see York and beyond to the south. The day was fine, so we stopped to enjoy a picnic along the way while soaking up the magnificent views.

A horse and a mouse

Going back to the campsite, we drove through the village, which was once home to Robert Thompson, the Mouseman of Kilburn. Thompson made furniture from oak, ‘signing’ his work by carving a mouse, hence the name. There is a visitor centre here, but – you’ve guessed – it was closed.

The following couple of days were spent near the site, exploring the many footpaths through the fields around Laverton, Kirkby Malzeard and Galphay, with lunch at the Queens Head.

Abbey and gardens

We’re no strangers to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, but we usually visit these beautiful places in December, when the abbey ruins are floodlit and Christmas carols are playing. So, again having pre-booked our time slot, it was good to see the gardens with leaves on the trees. And, although it wasn’t the brightest of days, it was fine and warm.

When the Carthusian monks first founded the abbey, they must surely have been inspired by its glorious setting. You can wander the ruins at your leisure and imagine what the place was like before Henry VIII seized it in 1539.

From the abbey, we decided to take a gentle walk around the ornamental lakes at Studley Royal Water Garden. We enjoyed an ice-cream from the tearoom before our walk back on the opposite side of the lakes.

Woodland and water

The trail down to Hackfall Gorge is quite steep , but you can picnic by the River Ure
The trail down to Hackfall Gorge is quite steep , but you can picnic by the River Ure

If you travel north from Kirkby Malzeard towards the market town of Masham (famous for its Black Sheep Brewery), you pass through the wonderfully named village of Grewelthorpe. About a mile north, there’s a small car park (unsuitable for large motorhomes) for Hackfall.

Covering almost 120 acres of woodland, Hackfall sits on a steep, rocky gorge of the River Ure. Back in the 18th century, the local landowner, William Aislabie, added many follies, grottos, waterfalls and a fountain. Much of this is now overgrown, but it’s still a magical place. We enjoyed a picnic by the river before the long trek back.

Be mindful that these footpaths are often steep and are unsuitable for the less able, and make sure you have sturdy footwear.

On our many visits to Ripon, we’d never seen (or heard) the Wakeman. At 9pm every evening, this combination of town crier and watchman sounds his horn at each corner of the Market Square, announcing the day’s news – and letting people know that someone is keeping watch for any invading Vikings! The Wakeman’s appearance is a tradition dating back to the ninth century, but like much else, could not happen during the pandemic.

Another one for another time. But all was not lost, because we enjoyed wandering around the deserted streets and watching the setting sun cast a lovely glow on the ancient cathedral.

Our final day arrived, and we spent the morning packing up. After lunch, we went for another local walk, enjoying the beautiful surroundings.

We kept the lunch light because we knew what to expect from our planned evening meal at The Galphay Inn, a pleasant walk from the campsite. And we weren’t disappointed! We both enjoyed a first-class steak with chips. I simply had to sample a pint of the local Black Seep Ale, too.

Our two weeks in gorgeous North Yorkshire flew by (don’t they always?) and because so many places were closed or restricted, we have a great excuse to go back. Not that we need any excuse to return to this lovely part of the world.


There are plenty of walking trails to enjoy in the locality
There are plenty of walking trails to enjoy in the locality

Way to go

Don’t use your sat-nav, which will direct you along roads that are unsuitable for larger vehicles. From Ripon, we took the Grewelthorpe/Kirkby Malzeard road past Trinity Church. Bear left in four miles for Kirkby Malzeard. Turn left at the stone cross (signposted Galphay). The farm lane is on the left in one mile.

Food and Drink

Where we Stayed

  • West Leas Farm CL
  • West Leas Farm, Warren are, Galphay, Ripon, HG4 3PB
  • Tel 01765 658 416 / 07525 612 911
  • Open All year (pandemic rules permitting)
  • Pitches 5
  • Charges From £15 per pitch with hook-up

West Leas is a Caravan and Motorhome Club members-only CL, on a working farm. The ground here slopes in parts, so levelling ramps are required. Hook-up (10A) is included in the pitch price, but there are no facilities other than a fresh-water tap, a chemical emptying point and rubbish bins.

Breathable groundsheets are allowed at West Leas, as are well-behaved dogs (and children!).

In addition, if you have friends or family who aren’t members of the C&MC, there are six well-appointed holiday cottages on the farm that are available to rent.

Find out more

If you liked this… READ THESE:

15 brilliant green sites

10 top sites for history lovers

Best kit to pack for a motorhome toolkit on tour

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, why not get the latest news, reviews and features delivered direct to your door or inbox every month. Take advantage of our brilliant Practical Motorhome magazine SUBSCRIBERS’ OFFER and  SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER for regular weekly updates on all things motorhome related.