In January 2014, England’s Yorkshire Wolds Way National Trail became the newest member of the International Appalachian Trail.
The nearly 80 mile (128 Km) walking route through the Yorkshire Wolds features amazing chalk landscapes with dry valleys and stunning wildlife, alongside vibrant market towns and ancient villages.
The National Trail wends through some of the most tranquil and gentle countryside in England. From the banks of the mighty Humber estuary, along wooded slopes and through serene dry valleys, the walk climbs gently onto the airy tops of the rolling hills where on a clear day “you can see forever”. Descending from the northern escarpment, the final section of the Way finishes on the dramatic headland of Filey Brigg, where it connects to the Cleveland Way National Trail.
It is managed by a National Trail Partnership led by the Managing Authorities of the East Riding of Yorkshire and North Yorkshire County Councils, and Natural England.
The Wolds Way (as it is often called) is a gentle, easy route suitable for almost all abilities, and can be completed as a leisurely stroll in five to six days. It can be broken down into six sections between 8 and 20 miles (13 and 32 kms).
Hessle to South Cave – 13 miles (21 Km)
For most walkers, the start of the Yorkshire Wolds Way will be at the sculpture in the shadow of the mighty Humber Bridge, just 3 miles (5 kms) from the centre of Hull. However, for historic reasons the official start is a short distance back at Hessle Haven.
Enjoy the first 3 miles (5 Km) of the Yorkshire Wolds Way alongside the foreshore of the Humber estuary. No other National Trail parallels such a vast estuary or passes under such a significant structure as the Humber Bridge, once the world’s largest single span bridge. This is an ideal location to observe passing ships and hosts of wading birds.
White chalk pebbles on the foreshore indicate that the Humber cuts through chalk hills of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Wolds and large quarries have, in the past, taken advantage of this low ground route to move their products by water and rail. The Country Park by the northern approach to the bridge was a disused quarry known locally as “Little Switzerland”. A black painted mill used for crushing the chalk is all that is left of the old quarry workings.
Just before the path leaves the foreshore and heads towards the rising Yorkshire Wolds, you pass the site where the remains of three Bronze Age boats were found protruding from the mud that had preserved them for nearly 4,000 years. If you look a little further along the foreshore you will see a cliff of clay, sand and gravel left behind by a once mighty glacier that plugged the Humber estuary during the last ice age and caused extensive flooding of the whole of the Vale of York.
Heading northwest you will pass through the delightful village of Welton. Enjoy a stroll around the village and pause for refreshment at the Green Dragon Inn where you can learn of its connection to the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin.
Continuing north along Welton Wold you will realise that you are now truly in Yorkshire Wolds country. The route passes near Brantingham which for the sake of a short deviation is well worth a visit. Strikingly out of place is the interesting Gothic war memorial, built from stones taken from Hull Town Hall. Pevsner described it as “lovingly awful”!
Pleasant woodland and distant views dominate the final length of this section before you drop down to enter South Cave where there are good pubs, shops and accommodation as well as public transport back to Hessle or Hull.
South Cave to Market Weighton or Goodmanham – 12 miles (19 kms)
The route climbs northeast out of South Cave and soon offers wide expansive views of the Humber River to the south. In Weedley Dale you cross the old Hull – Barnsley railway line before gradually climbing towards the BBC relay mast at High Hunsley Beacon. The Yorkshire Wolds Way now drops down through the long grassy Swin Dale, a classic dry valley of the Yorkshire Wolds. You are within 2km of North Newbald, which is well worth a visit to view its beautiful Norman church or visit one of its two pubs and village shop.
After North Newbald you may get the impression that the Yorkshire Wolds Way is determined to avoid Market Weighton as it seems to keep defiantly to the Wold tops above the small market town. The high ground is, however, of great archaeological significance as you will pass the site of a Roman amphitheatre in a field to the east, Hesselskew Farm, once a granary belonging to Watton Abbey in the Middle Ages, and a great many tumuli around Arras Farm dating from the late Iron Age.
In Spring Dale the Yorkshire Wolds Way divides, one branch follows the Hudson Way into Market Weighton, the other going north to Goodmanham. The Hudson Way, named after the “Railway King” George Hudson who for a while lived nearby at Londesborough, follows the track of one of his former railway lines from Market Weighton to Beverley. In Market Weighton you will find several references to William Bradley, the Yorkshire Giant who was born here in 1787 and reached a height of 7ft 9ins (2.36m). The town also has links to John Wesley who preached in the town in 1788, one of six sermons he preached over only two days at villages between Hull and York. Not bad for a man of 85!
The route to Goodmanham passes close to Rifle Butts Quarry, a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve and a site of international importance which demonstrates a huge gap in the geological sequence of rocks in the area. Goodmanham is an attractive village with a great pub and microbrewery – The Goodmanham Arms. Goodmanham also occupies a significant place in Christian history, as it was here in AD 626 that the Saxon King of Northumbria was converted to Christianity.
Market Weighton or Goodmanham to Millington – 8 ½ miles (13.5 kms)
Setting out from either Goodmanham or Market Weighton, you will soon enter the impressive and most attractive landscaped surroundings of Londesborough Park. (The Goodmanham route makes the most of the Park.) Approaching the village you will see signs of the original Hall long since demolished. Previous owners included the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Over Londesborough Wold, to the east of the Yorkshire Wolds Way, is the course of the oldest horse race in England, the Kiplingcotes Derby, first recorded over 450 years ago.
This is a great section of the trail to see Red Kite circling near their roosts. From Londesborough, the Yorkshire Wolds Way heads north towards Nunburnholme. The rector of the church here between 1854 and 1893 was Frances Orpen Morris. A pioneer of nature conservation in Victorian times, he published the six volume “A History of British Birds”. Continuing north, the Yorkshire Wolds Way passes near Pocklington and Kilnwick Percy Hall. The Hall, now the Madhyamaka Buddhist Centre, offers retreats and has a café and accommodation open to all.
The route then climbs above Warren Dale to the higher ground above Millington. The views from here are wide and expansive across Millington, and on a clear day you might see York Minster and the White Horse of Kilburn.
Millington to Thixendale – 12 miles (19 kms)
Climbing out of Millington and looking across to the far side of the valley is the site of Millington Pasture. There are a couple of short, steep climbs up the sides of dry valleys beyond Millington and then a gradual rise to a high point from which, if the weather is clear, you may be able to spot the towers of the Humber Bridge, York Minster, Lincoln Cathedral and the lighthouse on Flamborough Head.
The Yorkshire Wolds Way continues on beyond Huggate, where the Wolds Inn provides refreshment, before dropping into the appealing dry valleys of Horse Dale and Holm Dale. The path then climbs gradually to reach Fridaythorpe, where there is a pub, accommodation, shop and cafe. Take a rest at the walker / bus shelter set alongside the village pond. This smart looking modern building is part of the Wander – Art along the Yorkshire Wolds Way series of artworks.
The walk heads west out of Fridaythorpe to reach the dale of Thixendale. Here in this beautiful setting lies another WANDER artwork – “Time and Flow” a dramatic spiral earthwork best viewed from the top of the valley sides. Head north along Thixendale to the village that bears its name. The snug location of Thixendale village makes it one of the most charming along the Yorkshire Wolds Way and there is accommodation, a shop and walkers’ favourite pub – The Cross Keys. Also near here is the gallery of the acclaimed wildlife artist Robert Fuller. It is well worth the detour to Fotherdale Farm to admire his work.
Thixendale to Sherburn – 19 miles (30 kms)
Climbing out and beyond Thixendale village, the Yorkshire Wolds Way reaches the highest point on the walk at 700ft (215m) and then descends into Deepdale to the attractively located deserted village of Wharram Percy, the most famous of over 100 deserted medieval villages in the Yorkshire Wolds. There is evidence here that dates as far back as the Iron Age, but most of the remains are those associated with the village that was abandoned in the 15th century. Don’t expect to see many actual ruins, the only standing walls remaining are those of St Martin’s Church which was in use for a further 400 years after the village was deserted.
Beyond Wharram the Yorkshire Wolds Way climbs once again, reaching a high point at Settrington Beacon. The mixed woodland here makes pleasant walking, and as you leave the woods you get wide views across the Vale of Pickering of North York Moors on the distant skyline.
The descent leads to Wintringham where the Wold scarp and the Yorkshire Wolds Way change direction, so that instead of facing west over the Vale of York, the scarp is looking north over the Vale of Pickering as it travels east towards Speeton. Though Wintringham has no facilities, the church of St Peters is well worth a visit. Now managed by the Churches Conservation Trust, it was built from the same limestone seam as York Minster.
The Yorkshire Wolds Way climbs steeply out of Wintringham, before revealing a true surprise – another WANDER artwork called Enclosure Rites, which celebrates the abundant archaeology of the area. From here follow the northern scarp of the Wolds, eventually dropping down to reach Sherburn on the Scarborough – York road. There is a pub here, shop and good public transport between Leeds, York, Malton, Scarborough and Filey.
Sherburn to Filey – 17 miles (28 kms)
You will notice from the maps of this last section of the walk that there are many tumuli and linear earthworks marked. This suggests a long and complicated history of land ownership. Informed opinion is that Iron Age farmsteads became Romano-British villa farms. These in their turn became small hamlets under the Angles and Danes, dependent on more important villages with a larger manor (such as Hunmanby). Bridlington Priory had control of large tracts of the high wolds in this area and the monks were responsible for clearing (or assarting) much of the remnant woodland between established villages for sheep farming. The walk follows the foot of the escarpment between Sherburn and Ganton before climbing back up onto the Wolds for a short distance and then turning back into the Wolds landscape at Staxton Brow.
Beyond Stocking Dale you say goodbye to the Yorkshire Wolds and the landscapes of chalk country as you descend to Muston and onward to Filey. Relax at the sculpture carved with the National Trail acorn that marks the finish of the Yorkshire Wolds Way and Cleveland Way. Filey is the perfect place to kick off your boots and go for a paddle at the end of a long walk, but if you have a day to spare, take the bus to Speeton and follow the cliff path along the airy heights of the magnificent chalk cliffs to Flamborough – a truly fitting finish to a superb Yorkshire Wolds Way!