Ike stretches his legs around Malton, North Yorkshire (Part 2)

If you missed part 1, here is a link.

Ike, Heather & Mark then walked up, going further into the Howardian Hills area of outstanding natural beauty. The next cache was special because of the view! In an unexpected place, tucked into a hedge was a bench with one of the best views the Mr Men had ever seen and they were very happy to share it with Ike. The bench was tucked away from the main footpath, not far, but far enough you couldn’t see it at a glance. The Mr Men explained to Ike, this is just one of the reasons they love geocaching , discovering places like this. They never would have found this walk and this OUTSTANDING view, without seeing the cache in that area. After finding and signing the cache, they all sat on the bench and just admired the view!

And why was the view so fabulous…? This is what Ike and the Mr Men were looking at…

This memorial bench is perched on the edge of the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).  What you see before you is the Vale of Pickering which was once a great glacial lake. Bordered by the Tabular Hills and North York Moors National Park to the north and the Yorkshire Wolds to the south. 

A legacy of the Ice Age, this area of Ryedale is now a fertile patchwork of arable and grazing farmland. It is populated by small villages, many situated alongside the picturesque becks which feed into the Rivers Rye, Derwent, Costa and Dove. The Vale of Pickering is the heartland of farming in Ryedale.

The Howardian Hills cover 77 square miles of woods, farmland and historic parkland. The Howardian Hills form a line about 15 miles long, separating the Vales of York and Pickering, also acting as a bridge of higher land between the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Wolds. The Howardian Hills take their name from the landowners whose great mansion still dominates this area. Castle Howard is a spectacular 18th century palace, built by Vanbrugh in 1699, with important collections of furniture, statuary, paintings and porcelain, and some 1,000 acres of parkland.

The region is one of great interest and beauty with gently rolling countryside, pretty villages, woodland and historic landmarks.

They lingered a while, listening to the bird song, and admiring the view….then they realised, there was still a fairly long way to walk home, so better get going and set off back! Ike spotted what he thought might be rare flowers in the hedgerow, there were only 3 of them, and they were very unusual, so he got a photo next to one.

Ike and the Mr Men then came off the footpath, back onto roadside and carried on walking back towards Malton. Ike just had to stop and admire the race horse training course they passed, as they walked.

This booklet traces the development of racing in the area, going right back to the first race meeting at Langton Wold in 1692 – and even further. Right back to the Iron Age, in fact. The Parisii, a Celtic race who settled in East Yorkshire long before the Romans came, used to race into battle using lightweight two-horse chariots. Not exactly a sport, that’s true – but it demonstrates the importance of horses in the lives of the people of this part of the world more than 2,000 years ago

For the Parisii, the importance of chariots continued into death, the booklet notes. “A person of high status was buried within a dismantled chariot, accompanied by weapons and decorative objects. A recent discovery near Pocklington uncovered a grave where two horses and a chariot were buried upright, poised to speed the dead man into the afterlife.”

But Malton wasn’t far behind, (Newmarket). In October 1664, the well-travelled merchant and alderman of York, Marmaduke Rawdon, passed through Malton, and noted that ‘there is kept the greatest horse fair in England’. Sir William Strickland, who became MP for Malton in 1689, built a hunting lodge just west of York House, his impressive mansion in Yorkersgate. He used it to entertain his racing and sporting friends – and in 1692 a race meeting was held on Langton Wold, a few miles from Malton. Langton Wold developed first as a training gallops, and then as a racecourse open to all comers.

In 1713, Sir William was one of the signatories of a series of Articles set out for the management of the regular race meetings held there. “Every horse shall be ready to start between the hours of two and three in the afternoon on the day appointed to run, and shall have half an hour allowed for rubbing after every heat,” went one of these. In 1747 the course hosted the ‘Hambleton Hundred Guineas’, also known as ‘His Majesty’s Guineas’: a sure sign of just how important it was becoming.

In 1801, Earl Fitzwilliam and William Garforth of Wiganthorpe Hall put up money to build a stand at Langton Wold, ushering in a ‘golden age’ of racing in Malton. All the major local landowning families – from Castle Howard, Sledmere, Scampston, Settrington, Birdsall and Welham Hall – raced or ran horses there. And in 1814 a Major L Bower of Welham became one of the first owners to register racing colours: a harlequin and white cap. During the course of the 19th century, racing became more of a business, with professional trainers whose standing in society steadily rose. William I’Anson, one of the most successful trainers, breeders and owners in the north, arrived in Malton in 1849. He bought Highfield House in Norton in 1863, and remained there for much of his career. The end was in sight for the Langton Wold course, however.

In 1861 its owner, a Major-General Norcliffe of Langton, died. His estate, including the racecourse, was inherited by his niece, Rosamund. Her son, the Rev. Charles Best, was opposed to racing. He ‘preached against the evils that invariably accompanied a visit to the races: drinking and gambling’, the book notes. So strongly did he feel about it that he persuaded his mother to enclose the course and plough up the turf. “Newspaper reports described the last meeting in 1862 as melancholy, the wrecking of a fine course and its ‘beautifully manicured velvet turf'”, notes the Story of Racing.

A new racing venture, the Malton Races, opened in 1882 at Highfield House, owned by the I’Anson family. It had both flat and steeplechase tracks, but no shelter for racegoers, so could only operate in good weather. It proved short-lived. In 1903, plagued by years of dreadful weather, the course closed. William I’Anson Jr extended his training gallops, and the track is still used for training today. “But Malton has no racecourse,” notes The Story of Racing, rather sadly. No racecourse, perhaps. But Malton still has its racing yards, which ensure that the love-affair this part of Yorkshire feels for thoroughbred horses continues to this day… The above information is all from, ‘The Story of Racing In Malton and Norton’ which is published by Malton Museum, priced £4.99. It is available from Malton Museum, The Subscription Rooms, Yorkersgate, Malton YO17 7AB between 10am-4pm Thursday to Saturday, or by post. (When we went to look the Museum appeared to be closed due to COVID-19, but please check on this yourself if you wish).