Start / End: Sir Tatton Sykes Monument
Distance: 7.28 miles
Time: 3 hrs 15 mins
Map: OS 300
This lovely walk explores some fascinating locations and stretches of beautifully tranquil dales. Cottam is the 2nd deserted medieval village that we have visited and this walk also crosses an eerie abandoned WWII airfield.
1. Park in the layby at the Sir Tatton Sykes Monument which is on the B1252 Driffield to Malton Road from Garton on the Wolds. You can't miss it as its 120ft high!
The monument was built in 1865 in memory of Sir Tatton Sykes, known by his friends and tenants as 'Old Tatters’. Above the central band is an inscription which reads: 'ERECTED TO THE MEMORY OF / SIR TATTON SYKES BARONET / BY THOSE WHO LOVED HIM AS A FRIEND / AND HONOURED HIM AS A LANDLORD'. Above this is a sculptured relief of Sir Tatton on horseback beneath a tree.
2. From here cross the road and walk up York Road opposite past Monument Cottage towards Sledmere Grange. This is path turns into a wide rough chalk track - on the downhill stretch you can walk left of the track on a grassier track which would be better if its slippery. Enjoy the views all around as you walk this stretch over to Warren Dale on your right and Greenland Slack on your far left.
3. At the end of this track you meet a minor road in Garton Bottom. Turn left and follow the road for about 1/4 mile to a bridleway sign on the right (almost opposite a passing place). Take the bridleway through the gate into Cottam Well Dale.
4. The path bends left and follows the bottom of this secluded valley. There may be sheep here so keep dogs on a lead if there are some. The path is fairly clear all the way along here so just stick to it ignoring the fork right (dead end) after about 1/3 mile. After another 1/3 mile go through the gate and carry on straight ahead.
5. Carry on along the main valley bottom ignoring another bridleway coming in from the left to Cowlam Well Dale, Cowlam Manor and Phillip's Slack. There is an ancient earthwork at this point, on your left.
The site of Cowlam, at the head of this valley is another deserted medieval village. Aerial photography here suggests that the village was established in the 10th century. Cowlam appears four times in the Domesday Book as 'Colmun' and once as 'Coletun'. This could be Old Scandinavian- 'Kollum', meaning 'at the hill-tops'. The Domesday Book also noted the presence of a church at Cowlam, with half a carucate of land owned by Archbishop Thomas.
6. After about another 1/3 mile go through the gate to the right-hand side of a locked wooden gate (behind which might be sheep) and follow the path along the valley bottom with the fence-line on your left. The path keeps to the dale bottom and starts to slope steadily up and at some point, you will spot the steeple of the ruined Cottam Chapel in the distance.
7. As you approach the chapel ruins you will see the lumps and bumps of the medieval croft houses all around you. Although you can't get into the chapel do go up and have a good look around and enjoy the views and the history.
Cottam is associated with St John of Beverley, (Bishop of York from AD 705) who supposedly cured two of the inhabitants of the village, and was recorded as Cottun in the Domesday Book of 1087. In 1377 50 people over the age of 14 were listed for the poll tax in Cottam, but by 1569 most of the inhabitants had gone. In 1706 there was still a small settlement of nine cottages, but in 1719 permission was given to demolish of all but four cottages. Shortly afterwards a rabbit warren was established here and by 1743 just one family was said to live in Cottam.
The ruined brick-built chapel dedicated to the Holy Trinity dates to c.1890 and was built to serve the expanding farmstead population. It replaced an earlier church which, because it originally contained the Norman font now in Langtoft Church, is thought to have been in existence by the 12th century at the latest.
8. Once you have had a good rest, bear left at the chapel towards a fenced off paddock with a signpost showing you the way. Cross the paddock to the top right-hand corner through the fence and cross the concrete drive.
9. Walk straight ahead with the woodland on your right and turn right after a short distance, continuing ahead with the woodland on your right.
10. Turn left onto the path that leads away from the houses. The path soon opens up with fields either side and lovely views all around. When you reach a section of concrete roadway, which is the start of the airfield, turn right.
11. Follow the concrete pathway all the way up into what was the centre of the airfield, where there are now farm buildings, but you will see stretches of the runway leading off to your right behind a metal gate.
The airfield at Cottam was built in 1939 as a bomber site, but was never used as such. It was constructed with three runways measuring 5,280 feet (1,610 m), 4,050 feet (1,230 m), and 3,960 feet (1,210 m), a brick control tower, which was demolished in 1980, and one T1 aircraft hangar. Although not used for bombing missions, it was used for bomb storage. In December 1944, 1057 men and 118 women of Maintenance Command were stationed at the base.
12. Carry on walking straight ahead up the concrete and stone roadway with fields either side. At the next crossroads take the right-hand path along the field edge all the way down a slightly sloping hill.
13. As the path narrows carry on straight ahead with lovely views out along Garton Bottom. It might be a bit slippery here so just watch your footing.
14. Keep following the path downhill and you will eventually come to a wooden gate which takes you back onto the quiet road at Garton Bottom. From here it's an easy walk back up the path in front of you, which you came down originally and back up to the Sir Tatton Sykes Monument.
If you would like to continue your day out you can drive up to Sledmere and visit Sledmere House, where there is a with a terrace where you can sit with your dog and dog-friendly grounds (on leads). Alternatively, you can drive down to Garton on the Wolds and take a look at the magnificent Church of St Michael and all Angels.
Built c.1132 for the prior of Kirkham Abbey the church has long associations with the Sykes family and Sir Tatton Sykes commissioned its major reconstruction in 1856–1857. Sykes' son, then commissioned a series of murals for interior decoration, depicting a range of bible stories. which were restored in 1985–1991 and today are well worth a visit.
If you would like to make a short-stay of your visit then the beautiful dog friendly Church Farm Cottages are an ideal place to base yourself for all of your adventures.