Yorkshire Wolds Way – Introduction

Published 17 February 2019

Yorkshire Wolds Way sign at the Goodmanham Arms, Goodmanham
A Yorkshire Wolds Way plaque, at the Goodmanham Arms, in Goodmanham.

For 79 miles/127km, the Yorkshire Wolds Way runs from Hessle, near Hull, to Filey. And in July 2018 I walked it with a man called Tal, over five days. And this is the story.

“At the farm, bear left down a limestone track to join a metalled lane.” Tal was reading from the guidebook. Working out where we should be going next on our walk.

“What’s a metalled lane then?” he asked.

“Something to do with tarmac, I think,” I replied, rather unsure.

“So why is it called ‘metalled’?”

I shrugged. I didn’t have a clue. It was one of those terms I’d read so many times, yet I had no idea what it meant. It was a mystery to me. Tal’s thirst for knowledge was commendable, but I couldn’t help him this time. He’d have to continue walking without knowing the answer. Or look it up using his phone. Either way was fine.

Path leading through Sylvan Dale
Sylvan Dale on the Wolds Way – definitely up there in the Good Wolds Guide.

I can’t actually remember when I first met Tal. I do know a mutual friend that I’d gone to school with, had introduced us. He’d gone to university with Tal, and afterwards we all ended up in London. We probably met as some social event or other. But later, by coincidence, I’d ended up moving into a house not far from where Tal lived.

And over the years we became good friends. Close friends. We had deep and meaningful conversations in the pub, ate copious amounts of curry together, and everything. It was that kind of relationship.

But times sometimes change. Eighteen years after arriving in the capital, I moved back to my native Manchester. For reasons best known to him, Tal decided to stay where he was.

We still kept in touch. Sometimes I’d be in London for work and in the evening we’d meet up in the pub. And Tal had headed north a few times to visit. The rest of the time, phone based communication methods came to play.

But that was about it. So when Tal got in touch and suggested going for a good, long walk, how could I refuse? Who would turn down a good opportunity to fully catch up on the important issues? Politics, family life, and what happened to the Blue Peter Garden when the TV show moved to Salford?

If there was one problem with Tal though, it was his ability to ask awkward questions. Like what a metalled lane was.

It wasn’t his only question of that type during our walk. The following day he came out with another one.

Tal and I, sat in some trees
Happy wanderers

“What is a Wold anyway?”

True, it had been my idea for us to walk the Yorkshire Wolds Way. So you might have thought I would have done some background research into it. Found out about the local history, geography, and so on. Have a little idea what it was I was about to let us in for. And, at the very least, what a Wold was.

But I hadn’t. I had merely ascertained a few key facts. One. It was 79 miles (127km) long. Two. It started at Hessle near Hull. Three. It went to Filey which was somewhere near Scarborough. Four. We’d need five or six days to walk it.

And that was it.

Why the Yorkshire Wolds Way then? Why suggest it at all? There are, after all, lots of walking trails in Britain. So given how little I knew about it, why this one?

Talk walks through Welton Dale next to grassy slopes and many trees
One of the highlights from the first day is the wonderful Welton Dale

Well, that was simple. Because I knew nothing about it.

Nothing at all. Didn’t even know the area the trail passed through. The Yorkshire Wolds were a huge gap in my knowledge.

Yorkshire Dales? Yes. The North York Moors? Been there, done them both. But the Wolds? Nope, I had no idea.

To be fair, I wasn’t alone in my lack of knowledge. The Yorkshire Wolds isn’t a well-known tourist area. It is completely overshadowed by those big hitters of the Dales and the Moors. It was something the Wolds Way trail managers recognised in 2004. So they added ‘Yorkshire’ to the name in an attempt to increase awareness of the trail.

Wheat or barley growing in Swin Dale
Crops in the fields are a big part of the Wolds Way

It may have helped. Who knows? A 2017 BBC TV show about the trail probably did something too. Although it didn’t help me, as I hadn’t watched it.

Actually I did know one other thing about the trail. A couple of years earlier, I’d received a copy of the Wolds Way guidebook as a present. The front cover showed a gorgeous photograph taken from a hilltop, looking down on fields and trees. So I know there was a good view somewhere.

The guidebook also mentioned the trail’s links with the art world. Included was a double page spread on Bradford born painter, David Hockney. He’d lived in California for decades, but in the 1990s he began to regularly visit East Yorkshire. His 2012 Royal Academy exhibition featured multiple paintings of the Yorkshire Wolds. Several were of places on, or close to, the Yorkshire Wolds Way.

But that was all I really knew. Length, where it started, ended, and that David liked the area. And that was it.

One of the elaborately designed wooden Yorkshire Wolds Way benches
Benches are always appreciated on a walk. Beautiful looking ones especially so.

The guidebook sat on the shelf for a couple of years. Forgotten, rather unloved, and mostly unread. Well, until Tal got in touch. Did I have any walks I would recommend? Oh, and did I walk one with him?

It seemed that, for me, the Yorkshire Wolds Way’s time had come.

We arranged to walk in July, meeting up in Hull on a Saturday afternoon, and then walking to Filey over five days. Five days that happened to coincide with a major heat wave, during a summer that would turn out to be one of the hottest on record.

During that walk we’d get to find out what made the Yorkshire Wolds a delightful place. One full of beautiful dales, and endless views of farmland. Of attractive villages, and glorious village pubs.

And most importantly of all, we found out what the Yorkshire Wolds actually were like.

Next time: setting out from Hessle, mysterious bags of clothes, an awesome bridge over a massive estuary, and boat loads full of history.

The author at the start of the Yorkshire Wolds Way
The author (hello!) at the start of the Yorkshire Wolds Way

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