Yorkshire Wolds Way Day 5 (Part 1): Ganton to Muston

Published 5 May 2019

A tree lined path near Ganton
A tree lined path near Ganton

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. The fifth, and indeed final day, started off with a bang, with a secret base, an abandoned car, and a multitude of dales. It was time to walk to the seaside.

“Oh, it’s bloomin’ hot already.”

The sun had had a day off the previous day. But now it was back and burning on full blast. The clouds had gone, and within minutes of rejoining the Yorkshire Wolds Way, we were feeling the heat in a big way. There was no relief. The trail was pottering around more fields of barley, with little to provide any shade. As for a breeze? Well there was none.

At least we didn’t have to walk that far. Our fifth and final day was to be the shortest of the lot. We needed to go only 12 miles to reach our destination on the cliffs above Filey. For the first time on the Wolds Way, we could afford to take things a little easier. And in these temperatures, that was no bad thing.

For the morning, the Wolds Way settled into a bit of a routine. It would follow field boundaries, turn up a track or lane, then go off again along some more fields. It refused to stay going in a straight line. Always left, then right, then left, right once more, another left and… Well, after that I began to lose track of it all. And whilst that went on, the Vale of Pickering stood in the distance to our side; gleaming in the bright sunlight.

We crossed the busy B1249, and followed a private road past a pig farm and then – obviously – some fields. And this took us to a set of buildings.

Control tower and dome at RAF Staxton Wold
The mysteriously quiet RAF Staxton Wold.

It looked like a Premier Inn, albeit one surrounded by razor wire, high chain-link fences and lots of CCTV. And also, only if you ignored the large tower, transmitter and a mysterious domed building. In fact it looked nothing like a Premier Inn. Nor a Travelodge, for that matter.

This was RRH Staxton Wold, an RAF radar station. Through the wires, the place looked completely empty. Were it not for a van driving round emblazoned with the logo of Severn Trent, we could have taken the place for being closed down. There wasn’t even any sign of life at the main entrance gate. There was no one on sentry, and a sign told visitors to pick up the nearby yellow phone and call someone. And hope that there was actually someone inside to pick up the receiver. The sign even had visitors in quote marks, as if they couldn’t quite believe anyone would actually come here.

Sign addressed to visitors at RAF Staxton Wold

Another sign explained to those who bothered to read it that CCTV was in operation. Amazing, who would have thought it? An RAF base with security cameras? Shocking. It also told us that if we wanted to know more about the CCTV, we could phone the Ministry of Defence. It included a telephone number we could call.

I was half tempted to get my mobile out and ring it. Although what would they have said if we did.

“Yes, we have CCTV. We can see you there now next to our fence. Now stop waving at the camera and get going.”

So we did.

Cotton Dale Slack on the Wolds Way
Cotton Dale Slack on the Wolds Way

The path became narrow, surrounded by thick clusters of wild flowers and bushes. It was going towards Cotton Dale, but at the minute the Wolds Way changed its mind and went up a steep path instead.

A brief section of uphill walking and a signpost directed us across a field. This surprised us. A field? On the Wolds Way? How bizarre. Completely unexpected it was. Although, as it turned out, the fields would now give way to the dales for much of the rest of the day.

A small, unnamed dale was first. One that would have looked far more attractive had there not been a huge pile of manure on the valley floor.

Next was Flixton Wold, and then Lang Dale, which – unlike the similarly named Langdale in the Lake District – didn’t include any large fells. Although there was a campsite that had some glamping pods.  So that was nice.

A bench at Camp Dale
Why not have a rest in Camp Dale?

At Raven Dale the bigwigs of the Yorkshire Wolds Way had installed another of their arty benches. It was a nice spot, with a great view. But with no shade, so we pushed on, slowly perspiring as we followed the track into the adjoining Camp Dale.

Although once home to a medieval village, Camp Dale now home to lots of wild flowers. The path was relegated to a narrow strip of grass down the middle. It was rather lovely, although the flowers left little room for anyone to sit down and rest if they needed to. About all you could do was sit down in the middle of the path.

For a couple of days, we’d been walking two trails. The Centenary Way runs between York and Filey Brigg. And it shares much of its route with the Yorkshire Wolds Way. It was opened in 1989, to celebrate 100 years since North Riding County Council was born. Although the North Riding only lasted until 1974, when North Yorkshire County Council replaced it. The current council has, by the way, a fantastic logo featuring an N and a Y curving around a rose. It’s quite a glorious piece of design.

Overgrown path at The Camp, on the Yorkshire Wolds Way
That narrow strip in the middle. That’s the Wolds Way that is.

Anyway, it was at a spot called The Camp, that the Centenary Way bade us farewell. After being with the Wolds Way for many miles, it would now make its own way to Filey. For some reason it took a route further to the east than the one via the village of Muston that we would take.

Our path went through Stocking Dale. (I patted my pockets and glumly realised I’d neglected to bring my fishnets with me. Another time then.) Trees lined the sides of this narrow valley. And what little land remained contained tall wildflowers and patches of nettles. It was getting close to lunchtime, and we wanted a shaded spot in which to escape the sun whilst we ate. But such places were in short supply.

In the end, we found shade only by sitting down in the middle of a dusty path, as we walked through a patch of woodland. It was not the perfect place to stop and eat your sandwiches, but at least it was cool. And it was not like we’d be inconveniencing anyone by sitting on the path. The Yorkshire Wolds Way is a quiet trail. We’d seen only a handful of walkers all week, and that wasn’t changing any time soon.

Trees at the top of Stocking Dale
Some nice shade from the sun at the top of Stocking Dale

Throughout the whole trip, it had felt like the Yorkshire Wolds was some great secret. That we were the only ones who had heard of this beautiful part of the world.

I suspected it didn’t help that this wasn’t a particularly “natural” looking area. And I say natural with quote marks because few places in Britain escape human kind’s touch in some way or other. But here was an area whose beauty definitely came from our management of the landscape. From people dividing up the land into distinct parcels, tending the soil in each, planting the crops, harvesting them, and then starting the process all over again. As I’ve said already, the patchwork quilt effect.

It wasn’t always this way. For a long time sheep had reigned supreme, and in some areas, this was still true. Modern mechanised arable farming would struggle with most of the dales we passed through. Areas with steep slopes, narrow valley floors. And in those places, the sheep still reigned supreme. There you’d find the sheep still. But for the most part, crops were the order of the day.

We passed through a farm that also seemed to double up as a car graveyard. It was as if the farm’s owners had dumped every old motor vehicle they’d owned near to, or inside, the farm’s barns. And then left to gather dust, or to be enveloped by grass and bramble. Like some sort of something you’d see in a post-apocalyptic dystopian future.

A dusty, abandoned car in Stockendale Farm.
A dusty, abandoned car in Stockendale Farm.

It was not the most attractive sight for the eyes. Nor was the veritable mountain of manure and dung piled high in a nearby field. It was taller than us, and ran most of the way down this particularly long field. As we walked past it, a tractor pulled up and emptied another load on the pile before driving off again. As it sped off, it’s huge types raised cloud of dust that appeared to envelop the whole area..

It was the Yorkshire Wolds Way at its finest, and no mistake.

Next time: mysteriously painted bicycles, strange games, the seaside, and a finale overlooking a town.

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