Yorkshire Wolds Way Day 2 (Part 1): High Hunsley Beacon to Goodmanham

Published 10 March 2019

A tree in a dale on the Yorkshire Wolds Way
The Wolds Way is home to many a fine dale.

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. Our first day saw us leave the Humber Bridge and Estuary and head to a beacon. Now day two would introduce us to some outstanding scenery, religious history, wild flowers and a lovely pub for lunch.

I gave Tal the Yorkshire Wolds Way guidebook. It was his turn to navigate. As the guidebook contained all the maps, this was a big responsibility.

It’s not that I didn’t trust Tal to get us to Millington in one place. But I have a desire to know where I am at any one moment in time. I like to be able to whip out the map and declare “Ah, so I’m stood on Humble Hull. So that over there is the Omega Plantation. Excellent!” And then I can wander on with a warm glowing feeling inside. Yes, true, knowing that a bunch of trees is the Omega Plantation is rarely that useful. But at least I know where I am. Being without a map makes me feel a little naked.

Not that we particularly needed the map. The Yorkshire Wolds Way wasn’t proving to be particularly difficult to navigate. The paths are clear, and there are plenty of signposts. You can follow signs all day long. There are no real difficult bits. The turn-offs are all pretty clear. Only a few times during the whole walk did we go wrong, and when we did it never major. The biggest mistake we made was when we found ourselves off going off the route by a whole five metres.

First task on our returning to High Hunsley Beacon was a walk through fields to Swin Dale.

Poppies growing at the edge of the crops in Swin Dale
Wild flowers growing in In Swin Dale

If there’s one word that sums up the Yorkshire Wolds Way in a nutshell, it’s Dale. There were so many of them. In some respects, the first day of the walk had been unrepresentative of the whole trail. There was an estuary, and lots of woodland. Neither were things that would feature as much from now on. From here on in, dales and fields would reign supreme.

Swin Dale was great one in which to start the day. We were only a bit into day two, but it was clear that the trail was going to take us to some fantastic scenery. Trees lined both sides of the dry valley, and there was an eclectic array of fauna and fauna on the dale floor. If it had one problem, it was that it was difficult to get into. A large group of sheep blocked the entrance and were reluctant to make way. I couldn’t blame them though. The trees around the gatepost provided about the only respite from the sun in the area. And even at 9:30, the sun was getting quite warm.

“What an impressive cluster of thistles,” exclaimed Tal, staring at the ground intently. He chose a perfect moment to do this as at that exact time, a red kite flew out of the trees, with a smaller bird in hot pursuit. Still, he was right. It was a very impressive bunch of thistles. They were growing in a large patch huge patch, right along the path, and all flowering with a vivid purple. Red kites? Meh. You can see them any day. Purple thistles of this quality?  Well they are so much rarer.

Crops growing in Swin Dale
Crops growing in Swin Dale

But it was crops, not thistles, which would dominate the day. After all the dales, anyway. Rapeseed, barley, the occasional field of root vegetables, they were all found growing in abundance. Usually with red poppies and other wild flowers growing at the field edges. And on each flower, a cluster of small black bugs would congregate on the petals. Had they not started flying, you could easily have mistaken them for poppy seeds that had got a little lost.

As humankind sowed the crops and managed the landscape, so we have influenced it in other ways too. Buildings. Pylons. And wind turbines.

There are those that loathe these giant, sleek and silent white windmills. I am not one of them. I find them pleasurable, almost hypnotic to watch. It’s those big whirring blades slicing through the air with a gentle thwud, thwud, thwud. Every move converting natural, free resources into power. From wind comes the ability to power factories, light bulbs and charge smartphones.

The wind turbines of Sober Hill
The wind turbines of Sober Hill

Thwud. Thwud. Thwud. There were few on Sober Hill here to enjoy them the way I did. Few people live round here. The biggest settlement was Hessleskew, and all that was a cluster of farm buildings. But it wasn’t always so. A Roman Amphitheatre once stood in an area where now there is a large clump of trees. And that’s not all. This part of the Wolds was also home to one of the largest settlements of the Parisi Iron-Age warrior tribe.

Now though, it’s farmers and the odd tractor. Rather than rudimentary huts, wheat and barley filled the land. Each field was a different colour. At one end, the young crops were a pale, vivid green, almost unnatural in colour. At the other fields were full of golden yellow plants, all dry looking and getting close to harvest. Most enticing though was not the colour, but the behaviour in the wind. The younger crops would sway, moving left to right, rippling in the breeze. It was almost hypnotic to watch, and rather pleasant indeed.

The quarryface of Rifle Butts Quarry
The quarry face of Rifle Butts Quarry

Riffle Butt’s Quarry, is half a mile before the village of Goodmanham. The name comes from the fact that it was a former quarry, uses as a rifle range during World War II. There are no bullets there now. No guns to fire. But you can inspect the small white chalk face. You can even do so when it’s raining as its surrounded by a metal shelter. The summer visitor also gets to enjoy the vast array of wild flowers growing in the adjoining field.

It’s near the quarry that the Yorkshire Wolds Way walker needs to make a decision once more. The Yorkshire Wolds Way branches off in two different directions. Turn left for Market Weighton where you’ll find accommodation, shops and service. Go straight on to Goodmanham if your needs are no greater than those that a village pub can fulfil. For good measure, you’ll save yourself a good mile and a half of walking as well.

Tal looked at the map. I looked at Tal. Between us we established we had no need for a large town, and took the quicker version post-haste.

Goodmanham was a mere half mile stroll from the quarry and it didn’t take us long to arrive. It’s a quiet village with an interesting place in history. And thanks to a pagan temple, and the king of Anglo Saxon kingdom of Northumbria.

Stretching from the Humber Estuary to the Firth of Forth, Northumbria was a sizeable country. King Edwin ruled over it between 616 and 633, and in 627 Edwin converted to Roman Catholicism. This was a bit of an issue for Goodmanham as it contained one of the main pagan temples in the kingdom.

All Saints Church, Goodmanham
All Saints Church, Goodmanham

Nowadays we see religion freedom as being a personal thing. It’s hard to imagine Queen Liz the Second getting involved with which – if any – god you worship. Not Edwin. Because in the 7th century religious freedom started and stopped, with the king. He’d found the true pursuit of Catholicism and that meant Goodmanham’s pagan temple had to go. There was to be no discussion.

It proved to be a pivotal moment in British history, the start of the country’s move to Christianity. But it was not Goodmanham’s only claim to fame.

“There’s an excellent pub there!” a fellow walker had told us back at Sober Hill, adding that the beer was excellent. “You’ll be wanting to pop in.”

Now I like a good beer. A pint of good English ale is a wonderful thing. And the Goodmanham Arms didn’t skimp on that front. The bar heaved with hand pulled ales, many originating from the pub’s own microbrewery. The food looked cracking too.

Tal outside the Goodmanham Arms after we'd just had a quick lunc
Lime and lemonade for me, thanks.

Whilst the beers looked great but my mind was on other things. It was too hot for beer. Great as I’m sure the pub’s ales were, I needed something colder. Something a little more refreshing. For the last couple of miles, there had been only one drink on my mind. A borderline craving. A pint glass, brimming with ice, filled with lemonade, with a good splash of lime cordial.

We repaired to the pub’s simple but pleasant courtyard to sup our drinks. Basking in the sun in cosy chairs, we put up our feet. And when we were done, we forced ourselves out of them again.

For visiting a pub at lunch time during a walk always has its risks. And the biggest is that the pub will prove to be so cosy and pleasant, that you won’t want to leave.

Without a doubt, the Goodmanham Arms was definitely in that category.

Next time: adorable Wolds villages, more stunning views across the Vale of York, a closed pub, and two become one.



11 March 2019 at 1:14 am

As a yank, I’d have opted for a cool pint. But then, cask ale is rare where I live.

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