The Enclosure, Masham Leaves

Masham Leaves Walk

Walk Summary

A lovely short walk to find the Masham Leaves, six stone sculptures located in and around Masham and including some lovely sections alongside the River Ure and River Burn.

Distance: 4 miles
Total ascent: 220ft
Walk Rating: ****
Parking: Car park, Masham
Route: Download Route [GPX]

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Walk Report

The Masham Leaves are six stone sculptures in and around Masham created out of slabs of locally quarried limestone that were reclaimed from Masham’s former railway station platform. They were created in the 1990’s by the sculptor Alain Ayers in a response to a commission from Masham Parish Council using funding by Rural Arts North Yorkshire.

Up until the day before this walk I’d not actually heard of the Masham Leaves. I was visiting my step-father who was showing me some photo albums of a trip to New Zealand in 2001. Somewhat randomly a leaflet for the Masham Leaves Walk dropped out of the various leaflet’s that David had collected on his New Zealand trip. I took the leaflet home with me with the intention of doing the walk at some point over the summer. However, the next day with our daughter out for an afternoon, I thought it would be the perfect length for my wife and I to enjoy a short walk. An updated version of the Masham Leaves walk leaflet can be found on the North Yorkshire County Council website.

“A stile then led us on to a sheep pasture at the far side of which we came to the fifth sculpture ‘The Enclosure’. Made of five slabs it is shaped into an enclosure to symbolise the importance of sheep to Masham.”

The walk starts from the Market Square but we parked in the free car park next to the river just below the town. Walking past a recreation ground we climbed up a flight of steps and into the town proper. The first of the sculptures to locate is the called ‘The Acorn’. It is situated just next to the entrance to Masham Primary School on Millgate. It is the smallest of the sculptures and was half-hidden by the plants growing either side of it.

From ‘The Acorn’ it was a short walk to St Mary’s Church. In the churchyard there was a war memorial and the impressive remains of a large Saxon cross. At the back of the churchyard we passed through a gate and turned left to find the next sculpture, ‘The Standing Tree’. Standing at over 7ft high it is one of the most impressive of the Masham Leaves. On one side is a circular carving of barley seeds which is a nod to Masham’s brewing heritage.

Continuing on we dropped down a field to join a track. Turning right we followed the track until it faded into a path alongside the riverbank. To the right of us we passed in succession fields of barley, wheat and rapeseed. On the left, on the bank above the River Ure, we came across a host of wildflowers including germander speedwell, red campion, greater stichwort, dame’s violets and a few white dead nettles.

Not long before the confluence with the River Burn we came to the third sculpture ‘The Floating Leaf’. It is set just below the path and could be easy to miss with the surrounding undergrowth beginning to encroach on the sculpture. The sculpture is apparently placed at a spot where there was once a ferry that used to send supplies and servants over the river to Aldburgh Hall.

After the ‘The Floating Leaf’ the path soon entered some woods to begin following the River Burn upstream. The woods featured some late flowering bluebells as well as plenty of wild garlic. On the far side of the wood we crossed over Low Burn Bridge. Turning right we continued upstream initially set further back from the river.

Just before a golf course the path was deflected back alongside the river. This section, a narrow strip of woodland between the golf course and the river, was especially beautiful. Again there were lots of colourful wildflowers. About halfway along this section we came across the fourth sculpture which is called ‘The Shrine’. It is designed as an ancient offertory in memory of an old Roman road which is thought to have passed nearby.

Not long after ‘The Shrine’ the path left the woods to follow the edge of the golf course. At the far side we turned right on a road to cross over Swinton Bridge. Turning left into the golf course entrance we took a track leading into some trees. A stile then led us on to a sheep pasture at the far side of which we came to the fifth sculpture ‘The Enclosure’. Made of five slabs it is shaped into an enclosure to symbolise the importance of sheep to Masham. Viewed from different angles varying silhouettes of oak leaves can be made out. Together with ‘The Standing Tree’ it was the most impressive of the Masham Leaves.

Just beyond ‘The Enclosure’ we crossed into another field to follow a faint path towards a small industrial estate where they apparently make animal feed. Joining a track we turned right past the buildings to arrive in a corner of Masham suburbia. Turning left and then right we found ourselves on the main road through Masham. Turning right we followed the road downhill. Crossing over next to the petrol station we found a memorial to the six people who were killed when a German parachute mine landed on the White Bear pub in 1941.

Just before reaching Masham Bridge we took a path heading upstream alongside the River Ure. After a couple of hundred metres or so the path crosses a small side stream. Here we found ‘The Footbridge’, the sixth of the Masham Leaves. This one can’t be missed because, as its name suggests, it forms a small footbridge over the stream. The sculpture is in the form of two connect oak leaves. The centre of the bridge is exactly two feet wide which is apparently to match the gauge of the Colsterdale Light Railway which once crossed the River Ure at this point.

To finish the walk we retraced our steps back to Masham Bridge. Crossing over the road it was then a simple case of walking across a field to the car park. Along the way we passed a few gypsy and traveller caravans that were stopping en-route to Appleby Horse Fair. All in all this was a lovely little walk. The sculptures were all interesting but just as enjoyable was the fine riverbank scenery and especially the display of late spring flowers.

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