Recent walk Blacktoft – Saltmarsh area.

Saturday 9th July, once rain had passed by just after lunch-time set off for Blacktoft on the south bank of the lower R. Ouse. Parked just inland of the flood defence bank near the ‘jetty’. However found that access west to the flood-bank was prohibited as initial survey work being carried-out ahead of a plan to improve the local flood defences. Incidentally currently at South Ferriby exploratory borings are being drilled into the ‘clay bank’ ahead of finalising an appropriate flood bank improvement scheme here also. Anyway at Blacktoft many sheep were grazing the bank area, this up to and beyond Yokefleet, so could not take the dog there.

Plan B was to drive to a point just east of Laxton, walk Cotness Lane towards the R. Ouse, take the public footpath around Cotness Hall and across fields to Saltmarsh, take in the view from the seat on the Ouse bank then follow lane through Saltmarsh Hall parkland, along some field headlands (waterlogged) to Laxton road and through Laxton to the car.

Historically this area of Howdenshire has been moulded from the southern part of Wallingfen, a vast wetland area stretching from the Wolds to the east into the Vale of York and from Holme on Spalding Moor to the north to the River Ouse. Two settlements, Laxton and Saltmarsh were recorded in the ‘Domesday’ Survey of 1086, the latter having an area of land equal to that requiring six oxen-drawn plough-teams p.a. At Blacktoft a land transfer was recorded in the late 12th century as was a chapel of ease within Brantingham parish. These settlements must then have evolved on the levee of the River Ouse, a natural feature resulting from periodic flooding. From Norman times such communities sought to instigate local wetland reclamation schemes, eg Hansard Dyke and Gilbert’s Dyke(?), especially when funded by a principal landholder, a trend followed also in the Humberhead Levels (Vale of Axholme) and the Vale of Ancholme.

The history of this area is served by a very good independent website ‘Howdenshire History’, compiled by Susan Butler. Other good sources of information are; Baines, E. History, Directory and Gazeteer of the County of York (2 vols., 1823), Smith, A.H. The Place-names of the East Riding of Yorkshire and York (C.U.P., 1937) and Neave, D. Yorkshire: York and the East Riding (Buildings of England series), (Yale Uni. Press, 2005).