York Walks /4

Riverside walk – Rowntree Park to Bishopthorpe

Photographed on 8 September 2004

Rowntree Park

Rowntree Park lake – view 1   Rowntree Park lake, view 2

Rowntree Park was created by Fred Rowntree and W J Swain between 1919-1921, and underwent a £1.6m lottery-funded makeover in 2002. It was York's first municipal park, presented to the city by Rowntree & Co, as a memorial to the Rowntree employees who who lost their lives in the First World War. The entrance gates at the Terry Avenue entrance are a memorial to the fallen of the Second World War.

For more recent photos of the park, particularly the sculptures installed in recent years, see my page Green spaces: Rowntree Park.

Impressive water feature, and no Charlie Dimmock in sight   Rowntree Park, water feature

Terry Avenue and Millennium Bridge

Terry Avenue   Millennium Bridge

The riverside path along Terry Avenue, alongside Rowntree Park, has always been a pleasant walk, and it's even better now the new Millennium Bridge (above right) is in place across the river, as this means you can cross to the other side and walk to Fulford Ings, should you so wish. On this occasion though I was heading straight on, staying on the Bishopthorpe side of the river.

Millennium Bridge to Bishopthorpe Bridge

Buildings give way to boats on the opposite bank, at Fulford. It's many years since I walked along this section of the river path. On the opposite side, where those boats are, I had a brilliant walk across Fulford Ings in the spring this year. I'm hoping that today's autumn wander will be as pleasant. It's good, in any case, to get away from the city and all the buildings and people. After Millennium Bridge, the scenery becomes more rural.

  River Ouse
Sheep, by riverside  

So rural, in fact, that I encountered some sheep. Being such a townie, I always find sheep rather fascinating and endearing, and end up with lots of photos of them. Usually of their back ends, as they run away from me.

I particularly like that giddy little skip in the air that lambs do sometimes in the springtime. As it's early autumn now, these are wised-up fully-grown sheep, and instead of skipping about, they just looked at me in a mildly curious way, before heading off in search of interesting patches of grass.

On the horizon, as you leave the city's buildings behind, is Terry's factory. I've taken a lot of photos of Terry's in recent months, as we've recently heard that it will close soon. Terry's are a long-established York firm, though in recent years they've been owned by some multinational company who are obviously not flavour of the month around here, since the decision to close, so I'm not going to mention them. Instead I'll remind everyone that Terry's make the famous Chocolate Orange. Now I've mentioned that you'll all be wanting to eat one, I bet.

  View of Terry's factory
Graffiti: Clifton Crew  

I don't belieeeeeve it! You go for a walk up the river to the countryside to get away from it all, and you find the "Clifton Crew" have been there before you, and scrawled their name across a fence.

Hawthorn berries on the riverbank, in an area I think is called Middlethorpe Ings. It was a big field, without any buildings visible, and only a few people, running, or walking dogs. Bliss. And sunny too. (I'm not that dedicated to this project that I'd countenance wandering around a field in the rain.)

  Hawthorn berries

Bishopthorpe Bridge

Beautiful Bishopthorpe Bridge   It's that bridge again

Every now and then on these walks I find something really surprisingly interesting. As I approached this bridge over the river, which I guess carries the bypass, I was merely a bit irritated at the sound of cars encroaching on the peace and quiet. But when I got underneath, I thought it was fantastic. The underside is beautifully curvaceous. In places it's developing that rather nice green mossy bloom that older buildings get in dark and damp places. The light comes through that central channel and is also reflected up from the river. I'm surprised that a modern road bridge can be so strikingly well-designed. And underneath too, where most people will never see it.

And the bridge, again   Bishopthorpe Bridge, underside, again
Bridge, the section on the riverbank   Stone marker reads: 1976 – Bishopthorpe Bridge

I was pleased to see this marker near the bridge, so I could give it a name. Apparently it is Bishopthorpe Bridge, and it was constructed in 1976. I'm not sure if it's something the people of Bishopthorpe are proud of, but I think it should be.

After the bridge I followed a path that narrowed and became a bit more overgrown, and skirted around a fence, leading away from the riverside. The path at this point skirts the York Crematorium, and emerges on the road close to Bishopthorpe Palace.

Around Bishopthorpe Palace

Archbishop's Palace gateway   Archbishop's Palace gateway – 2

A total contrast to Bishopthorpe Bridge is the better-known and much admired Bishopthorpe Palace, home to the Archbishop of York. The photos above show the gateway, visible from the main street. (The heading "Around Bishopthorpe Palace" is intended to suggest that I wandered around the periphery of the palace, not that I went in it to have a look around and have tea with the Archbishop. I'm sorry if anyone's disappointed.)

This gateway is rather cute, with a beautiful blue clock and those handsome clipped trees on either side. English Heritage records tell me that the gatehouse and adjoining walls were built between 1763-5 by Thomas Atkinson for Archbishop Drummond. The clock dates from 1744 and the turret from 1895.

Formerly a stable  

There were some interesting buildings to one side, which attracted my attention, but there were signs telling me it was private property and that I shouldn't trespass. I managed a quick photo of this rather attractive window, while loitering momentarily just inside the gateway.

While compiling this page, I've discovered that this building, now someone's house, was originally part of the stable buildings for the palace, built in 1761-3 by Peter Atkinson for Archbishop Drummond. I think it's the grandest stable I've ever seen. I'm sure the horses appreciated it . . .

And while taking in the fabulous surroundings at the front of the Archbishop's Palace, I noticed this detail on the wooden fencing. When you're the archbishop you get better fencing than the usual B&Q trellis.

  Lovely weathered wood

It was a beautiful sunny day, and Bishopthorpe was peacefully going about its business, with no one much around, and no obvious tourists. Obviously in York we depend on the tourism industry, but there are times when you want to be on your own in a place so you can take it all in without distraction. Thankfully this was such a day. (I thought I deserved a bit of tranquility, having walked such a long way.)

When I visited Bishopthorpe, I couldn't recall ever having paid it much attention in the past. I think I may have walked up here via the riverside path about twenty years ago, but I could remember nothing much about it. I knew about the Archbishop's rather impressive residence, and I have friends who grew up here, who call it "Bish". I'd read the chapter in Ivan Broadhead's book, so was aware of some landmarks I might meet. And that was all I had in mind when I set off.

Nothing prepared me for meeting the remains of this old church at the bottom of a quiet lane near the palace grounds. Nothing announced its presence, it was just standing there, reflecting the bright midday light, in the middle of a green space surrounded by trees. I followed the path around it, and discovered the remains of its graveyard, by the riverside.

  Old St Andrew's Church, Bishopthorpe
Old St Andrew's Church, Bishopthorpe – view 2  

The area was open and I could wander into the old church yard. The other side of the facade, in brick, was silhouetted against the sky. It was one of those places that just exudes peace, and a feeling that people have cared for the place, and for everything that happened in it, for centuries.

This is the remains of the old church of St Andrew, and I thought it was so special that I've given it a page of its own: York Walks /4: Old St Andrew's church, Bishopthorpe.

Tales from the riverbank

Bishopthorpe – riverbank doors – 1   Bishopthorpe – riverbank doors – 2
Bishopthorpe – riverbank doors – 3  

The path along the riverside continues past the village, and apparently goes on for miles. I went a fair distance, rather intrigued by these doors. You don't expect to find doors on the riverbank – perhaps only in children's stories, where talking, human-like animals might live behind them. It was all rather intriguing.

Actually, though it's not so interesting, real people, rather than animals, live behind these doors. I know because I saw one (but I didn't like to take his picture). I think that boats must be moored here.


I was looking for a quiet place to sit down and eat my lunch, but I couldn't help but notice that there was a strange smell, which I suspected might be a sewage works. The smell, and the realisation that I still had to walk all the way back home, meant that I decided against continuing up river right to Acaster Malbis, and headed back into Bishopthorpe village.

St Andrew's Church and the war memorial

St Andrew's Church, Bishopthorpe  

The original St Andrew's Church, now a ruin, has been mentioned above. This more recent replacement church, on the main road into the village, near the Archbishop's Palace, was built between 1888-1903 by Hodgson Fowler.

War memorial, Bishopthorpe


In front of the church is a memorial remembering the residents of the village who lost their lives in the two world wars.

The text from the memorial has been transcribed and is available on the web at Genuki – Yorkshire: Bishopthorpe, War Memorial transcription.

Bishopthorpe scouts sign

This sign stood at the main junction in the centre of the village. It was this that made me realise that I was in a small and close-knit village community. We never see signs like this in the centre of York. I thought it symbolised rather nicely the spirit of Bishopthorpe.

  Sign for scouts paper collection, Bishopthorpe