The New Walk was created during the Georgian period to provide a space for the high society to promenade and socialise. It was laid out in 1730 as an avenue along the river Ouse. By 1824, 820 trees had been planted. The gentry and other fashionable people could take some fresh air and enjoy each other's company and the possibility to present themselves to society while at the same time enjoying a quieter atmosphere and a short escape from the city. The walk was an important part of York's scheme to develop into an important social centre and to attract more wealthy visitors.
The walk is 1,2km long and extends from the city centre to Millennium Bridge. You can cross the bridge and then walk back through Rowntree Park, making the walk a pleasant loop that takes in several interesting sights. Along the New Walk itself there are some interesting things to see, such as the Blue Bridge, the Pikeing Well and Millennium Bridge. You can read more about these in the following tips.
I really enjoyed my walk, I did it quite early in the morning and liked the quietness and the colours. The green trees and blue river looked so pretty on this sunny day. There were just a few people walking their dogs and the teams rowing their boats on the river, and it was a perfect start to my second day in York.
The New Walk starts at Skeldergate Bridge and including the loop back to they city, it takes about one and a half hours, of course depending on your walking speed.
Skeldergate Bridge is a very pretty bridge in York, looking similar to Lendal Bridge. It is no accident that the bridges look so alike: They were designed by the same architect, Thomas Page, although the construction of Skeldergate Bridge was finished by his son George because he died in 1877.
Skeldergate Bridge is located southeast of the city centre, and you pass it when doing the New Walk, or when doing a boat trip on the Ouse. The bridge is linking the area of Clifford's Tower on the eastern shore and the city walls on the western shore.
The bridge was constructed from 1878 to 1881, previously, there was just a ferry crossing in this area. It was originally a drawbridge to allow bigger ships to pass, but the last opening happened in 1975, and since then the opening mechanism has been removed. Until 1914, it also was a toll bridge. You can still see the tollhouse on the eastern side. Other interesting things to look out for are the historical plaque indicating the foundation stone of the bridge, and York's Coat of Arms.
Adress: Bishopgate Street/Terry Ave/Tower Street
While the New Walk leads along the river southeast of the city, to the northwest there is the Dame Judi Dench Walk. The great actress Judi Dench, who won an Academy Award for Shakespeare in Love and is no doubt one of Britain's best actresses, was born in York in 1934, and also grew up there. Her parents both worked for the local theatre (her father as doctor, her mother as wardrobe mistress), and therefore she started her acting career in York! When the York Mystery Play was revived, Judi Dench was involved in the first productions. In 1957, she played the role of the Virgin Mary at exactly the spot where the Play is now staged every year, in the Museum Gardens. You can see a picture of her in the role here.
Due to these connections to York, it seems only fitting that there is a walk named after Judi Dench. It is a wonderful walk along the riverside, in a quiet area. It starts at Lendal Bridge and leads all the way to Clifton. Thus, it was a perfect alternative for me walking from my accommodation to the town centre. I was only advised not to walk there alone after dark.
The walk is very nice, as it is so green and quiet and you have some wonderful views on the river and the surrounding vegetation. It's not crowded here, I only met some locals walking their dogs. On the other side of the river, there are just green fields and a few houses, so it feels like being in a rural area.
This is another one of the sights you will pass when you do the New Walk, and it originates from the same time as the walk itself. The well house was constructed in 1752, and people came here during their walk to take the water. The water was believed to have medicinal qualities, thus, it was a popular part of walking along the river to come here and drink a little of it.
The well house is a grade II listed building and was restored in 2002. The original architect was John Carr, who was the Lord Mayor of York from 1770 to 1785, and who designed many buildings in Yorkshire and around the UK, such as Harewood House, Castle Howard and Chatsworth House, and the interior of Fairfax House in York.
Directions: New Walk, between the Blue Bridge and Millennium Bridge
These tramway tracks are a little hidden and I think I would never have seen them if they weren't included in my leaflet about the New Walk. The tracks are quite narrow, as it was an 18" gauge tramway. They were built in 1888, and now they run through the grass on the shore, and then stop at a nearby wall.
These tracks belonged to a tram, but it was not a passenger tram. It was used to deliver goods and supplies to nearby Fulford Barracks, a military depot and hospital. These goods and supplies, such as food and explosives, arrived by ship and were then transported to the Barracks by tram. There was also a small wharf located here, but it is no longer there, just the tracks remain.
Directions: Between the Pikeing Well and Millennium Bridge
Millennium Bridge is another bridge crossing the Ouse, and it is an interesting one because it was designed to look like the wheel of a bicycle! I first did not really understand this, but it became clear when I walked over the bridge and saw the structure, designed to look like the spokes of a bicycle wheel.
The bridge is eighty metres long and, as the name indicates, it was built to celebrate the Millennium. It was completed in 2001. It is surrounded by some green lawns where there are also benches, a nice place to have a rest and enjoy some views of the bridge and the river. It seems that this is also a favourite place of the locals to have a pick nick or a game of frisbee.
This is the end of the New Walk, but you can cross the bridge and continue back to the town on the other side, where you will also find Rowntree Park.
I first saw the Blue Bridge and the Foss Barrier from the boat when we did a boat trip during our VT meeting, but I later had a chance to see them a little closer when I did the New Walk along the river.
The Blue Bridge is a very pretty bridge that can be seen easily from afar because of its bright colour. It is a small, wooden drawbridge that was constructed in 1738. It is located exactly where the rivers Foss and Ouse meet. If you are walking along the river and want to continue, you have to use the bridge to cross the Foss and continue the walk. But even if this wasn't the case, I recommend to walk over the bridge, as from here you have a great view of the Foss Barrier.
The Foss Barrier is one of the younger sights in this historical city, as it was only constructed in the 1980s. The structure incorporates a large gate that can be closed to block the Foss and thus helps to prevent floods in this particular part of York. Floods often occurred here when the Ouse was very full of water and thus water from the Foss ran back - using the Barrier, the Foss is blocked and there is an alternative outflow for the water.
It is quite a big structure and not very pretty, so it forms an interesting contrast to the pretty blue bridge from the 18th century.
Adress: Blue Bridge Lane/New Walk
Directions: Where the Ouse and Foss meet - south of the town centre
Davy Tower is not one of the towers belonging to the city walls, but it still was part of York's defenses. It was built in the early 1300s, and there was once another building like this on the other side of the river, Skeldergate Postern. A chain could be stretched between the two buildings to close the river off and secure it.
Another name of this building was "Tower of the Friars Minor", because there was a Franciscan Friary in this area - however, in the 17th century, the tower was used as a brothel.
I wondered why this building was called a tower because it rather looked like a usual house, but apparently its appearance changed a lot over the centuries. Only the fundaments and ground floor walls are left of the original, medieval tower, while the brick structure was added in the 18th century.
Directions: North of Skeldergate Bridge, east side of the river
I kept coming back here every day I was in York, but I never did see Dame Judi!
The finest Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria of our time was born in York some time ago. (As a gentleman, I don't want to reveal in what year.) She also attended Mount School here.
Dame Judi Dench walk is along the Ouse river, on the town side, just to the north and west of Lendal Bridge.
One of the trips I took to York was during a 6 week motorhome vacation around Europe. When we arrived in York there had just been a flooding of the River Ouse
and at least 2 houseboat pubs were under water. No attempt was made to bring them afloat. We parked the motorhome for free along the river and walked past the sub-pubs daily on our way into town.
A new pedestrian bridge downstream from Skeldergate Bridge - nice design! Apparently no major engineering problems - unlike its namesake in London.
Just out of the centre of the city. We discovered it when we took a trip along the river on a pleasure boat.