Ike looks around Walmgate Stray, York

Like many of us throughout the 2020 lockdown periods, Helen & Traff have been exploring walks and green spaces close to home. They kindly took Ike along so he could report back on what he found. In this post, which is the last from York with Helen & Traff, Ike looks around Walmgate Stray.

The Strays of York is the collective name for four areas of open land – Bootham Stray, Micklegate Stray, Monk Stray and Walmgate Stray. Historically, Freemen of the City had the right to graze cattle on common land. When these rights were extinguished in the early 19th Century, the Strays were allotted to each City ward in lieu of these rights.

Walmgate Stray today consists of about 79 acres of pasture one mile from the City Walls – as Ike started his York adventure at Walmgate Bar he thought he would finish by a walk around and on Walmgate Stray. 

York Cemetery adjoins the Stray and is one of only two privately owned Victorian cemeteries in the UK. Founded in 1837, it went into voluntary liquidation in 1966 and became an overgrown derelict wilderness. In 1987 the York Cemetery Trust became the new owners and they set about reclaiming the cemetery to become a working burial ground, as well as a place of historic, educational and ecological interest and beauty. The Friends of York Cemetery provide several self-guided walks and from these Ike found some of interesting people & graves from York’s history. And a new friend!

Ike also investigated the chapel, which was designed by the architect James Piggot Pritchett, who also designed Huddersfield Railway Station, home of Geography Cat’s good friends Felix & Bolt. You may be interested to hear that Felix and Bolt are being interviewed by Geography Cat for the first issue of Mews, the mewsletter for GC Supporters.

Next Ike went through the Low Moor allotments to get to the Stray proper. Nowadays, there are paths so that walkers & cyclists don’t have to get muddy but the whole Stray can be explored (in better weather!). Helen said that in the summer there are often cattle grazing here.

The path passes close to a long brick wall. This is the boundary of The Retreat – a Quaker hospital founded in 1792 which pioneered a more humane and psychologically based approach to treating mental health issues than the fear, terror and brutality of lunatic asylums of the time. The Retreat continues to run outpatient community psychological services.

Leaving Walmgate Stray, Ike continued onto the University of York West Campus. York first petitioned James I for a university on 1617. A mere 346 years later the first students were admitted! Although the campus buildings are very 1960’s with lots of concrete and glass, they are set in landscaped grounds, including (as anyone who has seen a York team on University Challenge knows) the largest plastic bottomed lake in Europe…

Ike spent some time bird spotting at the lake as apparently this is a university tradition – there is even a “Duck of The Day” website!

Ike looking for his duck of the day!

You can locate the sites of Ike’s Adventures in York on this map:

If you have missed any of this series you can find them here:

Geography Cat thanks Helen & Traff, and special guest star Margaret, for their excellent blog material. It has been a real treat to mind-travel to this fascinating city.