Reports on 2008 Activities

The following reports give a flavour of what took place in 2008:

On 11th October 2008, a small but select band of Members gathered at Easthorpe for a morning's walk which took in the quarries, bridge and kiln in Thackadale and Hildenley, the "Holy Well" on the boundary of Hildenley and Easthorpe, the "lost" Hildenley Hall (almost invisible in the undergrowth until you are within a few feet of it) and the industrial landscape which was remodelled by the "fox hunting squire", Sir Charles Strickland, in the late nineteenth century. Richard Myerscough was our guide to the very fine Hildenley limestone which was used from Roman to Victorian times for lining, details and carving in forts, town walls, churches, castles and farmhouses. Barbara Hickman showed us the exotic trees which Sir Charles, also a well-known collector of orchids and geological specimens, had planted over this beautiful, south facing hillside. Tony Wright talked a little about the history of the estate.

Thanks are due to the Barran family for their kind permission to visit sites away from the public footpath.

Richard has started a project to investigate all aspects of this fascinating area: where the stone is used, how it was quarried and by who and the ecology which has resulted. There are also remains of brickworks lower down towards Huttons Ambo and connections to the "stone quay" at Malton. Further details are on the Ryedale Vernacular Building Materials Study Group website.


A record number of twenty-four Members of Helmsley Archaeological and Historical Society attended the 2 hour tour and presentation on "Ancient Trees in Duncombe Park, Helmsley", led by Mr Tim Tollis, Forest Manager. A BBC Open Country programme gives some useful background.

At an impulsive suggestion by our Chairman, the Group immediately went off-piste and through-nettles to find the old Ice House. This well-preserved building is shown on the right, together with views of the domed, corbelled ceiling, and its deep pit in which ice, well-insulated with straw, would have been preserved for use in the House.

Back on track, the Group learned about vintage and ancient trees and their management (see below).

A trusted method for dating a tree is "hugging"; a British standard hug from an adult with arms outstretched is about 1.5 metres. This ancient oak - left - works out at about 800 years old! A splendid view over Helmsley and its Castle was to be had from Duncombe Park - see below.

The Group then climbed up to the Yew Walk, which sends out its limbs in great arches over the path, and on to one of the the tallest ash trees (148ft) in England. Further on were the Ionic and Tuscan Temples, offering seats for the weary, and excellent views from the Terrace over Helmsley, the Moors, and the River Rye 180ft below.

The Conservatory, flanked by its massive twin Deodars, was to be found in a tranquil clearing in the wood adjacent to the Terrace.

A further walk through the massive deciduous woodlands led to a solitary, dead Spanish Chestnut (right) which - when it fell over - had been reinstated in a bed of concrete!

The Group had an excellent, informative day in fine, warm sunshine. Our thanks go to our guide, Tim Tollis.


Sixteen Members of Helmsley Archaeological and Historical Society visited Cawood. Margaret Brearley gave us an overview of Cawood over coffee in the Ferry Inn. This was followed by a visit to the Castle Gatehouse and Banqueting Hall; members can be seen within the Gatehouse, sheltering from the heavy rain!

Margaret guided us to Castle Garth, the Moat, the site of the Mediaeval Garden and one of the fishponds, with the rain still falling. One recurring topic was that of flooding, which has been a regular occurrence in Cawood; it was not difficult to understand why...


The Group then made its way to All Saints Church (left), where Sam Taylor gave us a short presentation on the 12 - 15th century Church, and its features of interest, including the Norman west doorway, the 13th century chancel, and the strangely-positioned 15th century bell tower.

It had been intended that, after lunch, Barbara Hickman would take us all to Paradise Wood, near Ryther - a fine example of uncleared woodland. However, the poor weather and the anticipated height of the undergrowth meant that the visit was only for a few, hardy individuals (above right) - with the intention of rescheduling a visit for Spring.

Our hearty thanks go to Keith Bellwood, Margaret Brearley, Sam Taylor, Barbara Hickman and Mary Brill for their hospitality, expert knowledge and organisational skills!

Fifteen Members of the Society were taken on a two-hour conducted walk of York. The theme was "1066 and All That, or What the Normans did in York".

Led by John Oxley, the group can be seen in front of Bootham Bar.

A most interesting and informative presentation, given by an enthusiatic and knowledgeable guide.



Seventeen Members the Society undertook a walk between Port Mulgrave and Runswick Bay looking at the remains of jet mining and iron ore smelting.

Led by David Pybus, the Group can here be seen examining the remains of jet (fossilised wood of monkey puzzle trees) embedded in shale on the sea shore.

An excellent day, topped off by brilliant weather!


Members of Helmsley Archaeological and Historical Society examining the remains of jet embedded in shale on the sea shore between Port Mulgrave and Runswick Bay

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