Yorkshire Wolds Way Day 3 (Part 2): Fridaythorpe to Wharram-le-Street

Published 14 April 2019

A wooden acorn sign roughly marking the half way point on the Yorkshire Wolds Way
A wooden acorn marks the half way point on the Yorkshire Wolds Way

For 79 miles/127km, the Yorkshire Wolds Way runs from Hessle, near Hull, to Filey. One summer I walked it with a man called Tal, over five days. After two days of amazing scenery, day three wasn’t going to disappoint. In the morning we’d seen some great things. And there was certainly even more due in the afternoon.

We crossed over the border. The first part of our walk had been in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Now we were in the county of North Yorkshire, and would remain so until Filey.

We didn’t linger much in Brubber Dale. Well why would you? Not when there was Gill’s Farm to visit nearby. I mean, Gill’s Farm offered a field bordered by an immaculately mowed lawn! Yes, right next to the crops was a one metre strip of grassland cut extremely neatly. There was not a single visible weed or even a daisy. If you wanted verdant green turf next to some Barley, you were in luck. It was like walking on someone’s lawn,

And thence to Thixen Dale. Some declare this to be one of the most enjoyable parts of the whole trail. Not the most enjoyable of course. Just one of them. Needless to say, it was very nice.

A not very good photo of art installation, Time and Flow
Art installation, Time and Flow. And Tal.

A chalkstone track, bright white in the sun, led the way to the valley floor where Thixen Dale met with the slimy named Worn Dale. And positioned at the junction was another piece of outdoor art. This may have been the day of the Dale, but it was also the Amble of the Art. This was no bench though. No book with Jesus drawn in it. No. This was different.

In a piece named ‘Time and Flow’, artist Chris Drury had elaborately cut a large swirling spiral pattern into the ground. Too big to really appreciate from close quarters, it was best viewed from afar. Although, for me, the fact that grass was growing in the groves rather lessened the impact. For my money there wasn’t enough visible definition to the spirals. It blended into the landscape a bit too much. Although maybe that was always the plan. Still, art, eh? Good stuff.

The road from Thixen Dale to Thixendale
The road from Thixen Dale to Thixendale

We weaved our way through Thixen Dale, to, well, Thixendale, a village with a similar yet completely different name. The village had the builders in, with builders putting up several new homes. But up a side street, the local pub gave every appearance of not having changed that much in decades.

No time for a beer though. There was that taxi to catch. But we did bump into two fellow walkers, both who had been out on a day walk. The pair told us that this peaceful village had once housed a youth hostel. For 29 years the YHA had leased the village hall, with doors closing for the last time in 1999. Still, at least the village still had a shop, the duo continued.

The village of Thixendale
Looking down on Thixendale.

It turned out one of them was completely obsessed with stats, measuring data on their walks on his smartphone.

“We never walk less than 2.25mph!” he told us, triumphantly.

How fast were we walking? We had no idea, neither us having felt the compulsion to track our progress. As long as we were going in the right direction, that’s all that mattered. And that we got to Wharram-le-Street by five o’clock. That was important as well.

We bade our farewells, and went on for the lazy push, and – as it happened – a bit of a break from dales. A short one, anyway.

A chalk track took us up onto a hillside, into an area of large open fields, fully loaded with crops. Barley, wheat, whatever. It was everywhere you could see.

Fields in Cow Wold
It were all fields

We walked along the sides of the fields; the intermittent gusts of wind trying to cool us from the afternoon sun. It was a mercy when we came alongside the North Plantation, and could relax under the shades of the trees for a bit.

One final dale followed. Through Deep Dale we went, and then it was down to Wharram Percy.

The deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy.
The deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy.

For around 600 years, this was the site of a village. But that began to end in the 15th century. Up until that crops had been grown in the area, with most of the local residents working in the fields. But lucrative profits from selling wool saw the move to sheep farming. The sheep farms needed fewer workers, and the jobs began to disappear. And as the jobs went, so too did the residents and their houses. Only a few farm buildings remained. Oh, and a church too.

Despite the fact most people had moved out, St Martin’s Church remained in use for a couple of hundred years more. Then, around 1870, a new church opened its doors in Thixendale. With the new church being closer to the local population, St Martin’s fell into a steady decline. Even so, it took until 1949 for the church to hold its final service.

The ruined church of St Martin's Church, Wharram Percy
The ruined church of St Martin’s Church, Wharram Percy

Today the church’s ruins are the only visible remnants of what Wharram Percy once was, although it has declined in appearance over the years. The roof has long gone, and part of the bell tower collapsed following a storm in 1959. Grass now grows where once the congregation sung hymns.

But Wharram Percy is not forgotten. In fact it’s pretty much the most famous deserted medieval village in the country. Excavations on the site started in the 1950s and carried on until 1990. Archaeologists and historians descended on the village to learn its secrets. A huge amount about life in medieval Britain came from the digs in Wharram Percy.

For us though, it was a nice place to rest for a little while. Sitting with our backs to the church’s stone walls, we enjoyed the peace and quiet of it all. Then we looked at our watches and decided it was time we got going.

A street in the village of Wharram-le-Street
No pub nor no B&B in Wharram-le-Street. Time for a taxi then.

“Taxi for Kyle?”

“For Tal?”

“That was it.”

A mile later we found ourselves in the sedate surroundings of Wharram-le-Street. A perfect stopping point for a Yorkshire Wolds Way walker. Or would have been if it had had a B&B. Or a pub. Or, well, anything other than houses and a bus stop. If you needed anything more, you needed to look elsewhere. And that was what we had had to do. So at 5pm sharp, our taxi arrived. Our destination? The village of Scagglethope, a fifteen minute drive away, where we were to be billeted for the night.

The worry of getting there in time for the taxi had been at the back of my mind for most of the day. Seventeen miles is a long way to walk after all, especially with a deadline to meet. But in the end we’d made it with five minutes to spare.

We were heading to the Ham and Cheese pub, a place that sold fine food and fine ales. And, on this particular night, it was also a place to watch something called foot-the-ball. It turned out that England were competing for some cup that the whole world wanted to win. And various people had gone to Russia to battle it all out in a big field. Although, it all meant nothing to me.

The Ham and Cheese, Scagglethorpe
The Ham and Cheese, Scagglethorpe

I have never been particularly interested in sport. And watching it tends to bore me to tears. Tal, on the other hand, did have some interest. So we compromised. We sat in a corner of the pub away from most of the crowd, but in a place where he could see the TV screen. And I sat with my back to it.

Above our heads, loudspeaker played out Video Killed the Radio Star and David Bowie’s China Girl. But they were no match against the cheers and moans coming from the other half of the room.

Whilst Tal watched on, I felt some pangs of sympathy for the lass out with her boyfriend. It didn’t particularly matter if the pair of us didn’t talk too much. We had, after all, spent three full days together in close proximity, and had another two to follow. But she was being rather neglected. The pair were dining together, although she ate mostly in silence whilst her companion spent most of his time looking over his shoulder at the TV. The match must have been a bit much for him, as he left most of his food untouched.

Then the game ended. I learned it was a game of two halves. And several people wanted to know what the ref was on. But all in all, most people appeared to be rather happy with the result. This they showed by singing that foot-the-ball was coming home, at rather excessive volumes.

And whilst they did, I thought about the Yorkshire Wolds Way. About the dales. About poetry. And about endless fields of wheat. Or barley. Or whatever it was.

Perhaps by the end of the walk I would actually have found out.

Next time: grey skies, a drop of rain, an abandoned church, and one of the best views on the whole trail.

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