Photo: Colin Gregory
Not so long ago, Ripon Canal was the most northerly waterway connected to the network but since the Ribble Link was opened in 2002 the title is now claimed by the delightfully rural Lancaster Canal. Ripon Canal carried coal into Ripon from the Yorkshire coalfields, and flax in the other direction, destined for the Knaresborough linen mills.
Before you begin this four-mile amble, be sure to explore Ripon’s winding narrow lanes and 7th-century cathedral. Start your walk at the canal basin, which has recently been renovated along with the canal buildings. You can stock up on picnic treats at The Forge deli, then walk along the wild-flower lined towpath towards the outskirts of the city. Before you reach the first lock, you might catch the smell of bread in the air – that’s from the Ripon Select Foods factory nearby, which is Britain’s main supplier of breadcrumbs! Alongside Ripon racecourse is a wetland bird sanctuary where you may spot herons and tufted ducks.
Continue along the towpath. At Oxclose Lock, the canal joins the River Ure. It’s here that you venture away from the waterway, past Ashbrook Farm and into the village of Bishop Monkton. A stream, graced with weeping willows, runs through the village. On Main Street there is a plaque notifying visitors of three time capsules that were buried here in 2000, to celebrate the Millennium.
If all this rambling has worked up your appetite, call in at the Masons Arms in the village, which serves Yorkshire beef and ale pie and Whitby scampi. You can then catch the bus (number 22) from near the Lamb & Flag pub back to Ripon. This service runs approximately five times a day, apart from Sundays, when there is no service.
If you would rather walk back to Ripon from Bishop Monkton, full details of a walking route are provided here.