Yorkshire Wolds Way Day 3 (Part 1): Millington to Fridaythorpe

Published 24 March 2019

Sylvan Dale on the Yorkshire Wolds Way
The lovely Sylvan 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. After two days of amazing scenery, day three wasn’t going to disappoint.  Even if we did need to rush for a taxi.

In hindsight, our decision to tackle the Yorkshire Wolds Way over five days was not the best. 79 miles split over five days works out as an average of sixteen miles per day.

Based on walking alone, that’s more than achievable as the the trail is pretty gentle. There are no mountains to climb, and what few hills there are, are pretty tame.

But a trail is not only about the walking. There’s accommodation to think about. This adds complexity, as accommodation is not uniformly spaced out. It’s not like you can walk sixteen miles every day and at the end of it, find yourself at a pub or hotel. Sometimes we needed to walk a more than sixteen miles.  Some days, less.

On our first day we notched up fifteen miles. Our second day saw us doing eighteen. Day three would be shorter, but not much. We still had to clock up seventeen miles.

It was achievable. We walked between nine to five most of days, and never finished particularly late. Nor were we racing against the clock to get to places (or our lifts!) But the distances we needed to walk meant there wasn’t much time to stop and relax. If we’d had another day we could have taken things a tad slower. We would have had more time to sit on hillsides and rest our feet whilst enjoying the views. That kind of thing.

Millington, seen from Wan Dale
Millington, seen from Wan Dale

There were some great places where we could have lingered for ages. The hillside that looked down on Millington was a perfect example. Without time pressures, I could have spent half an hour soaking up that view across the Vale of York. Sitting there gazing across the patchwork quilt of fields, villages and hills for half an hour, would have been time well spent.

But on our third day, there was little time for lingering. We were walking to a fixed deadline. For at five o’clock sharp, a taxi would arrive at the tiny, B&B-less hamlet of Wharram-le-Street. And if we weren’t there, well who knows what would happen.

That we were against the clock was especially annoying as our third day had lots to see. Especially dales. There were lots of dales. This was going to be a good day for those that liked dales. And less good for those that didn’t.

Poppies in Sylvan Dale
Poppies in Sylvan Dale

As it happens, I love dales, which was handy as we got to the first one very quickly.  And Sylvan Dale was great one to start with. Wild flowers grew all over the place; butterflies fluttering around them. Scrub covered the slopes, and there was also a sizeable earthwork too. Members a late Iron Age tribe had cut a series of lines in the hillside. Why, who knows. The answer is long lost. But their work remains visible to this day.

No sooner had we left Sylvan Dale and we were at dale number 2. Millington Dale was simpler, and had a road running through it. But there was no traffic, and the place was quiet and rather tranquil.

The stingingly named Nettle Dale went off to the right, but this was not to be our third dale. Instead we carried on past Jessop’s Plantation. As we did, the pair of us chatted about several highly important topics. Topics as diverse as the Gender Pay Gap, and Adrian Chiles’s tenure as host of the BBC’s early evening TV spectacular, The One Show.

A photograph of a thistle with Pasture Dale in the background
Pasture Dale

Above yet another dale – this one named Pasture Dale – arced Huggate Sheepwalk. This old drovers route, was heavily lined with thistles and nettles. For those in shorts (me), an especially enjoyable combination. But that was okay as now we were talking about another classic TV programme. Yes, that staple of Sunday evenings, Countryfile.

We crossed York Lane, and meandered through more fields of barley, and past a farm before heading towards the village of Huggate.

The Wolds Way sees no need to enter the village itself. It could have been the nicest Wolds village ever, but we’d never know. All we got to see was a lane blocked by a lorry that had a grabber scooping up logs, and piling them up on the lorry’s open pack. What would have happened if someone else needed the road, we didn’t know. But as no one did drive down the road whilst we were there, it was a rather moot point.

A grabber on a lorry scoops up logs
Log loading in Huggate

There was yet another dale off to our right, but it was another we were to miss. But that was fine as we were heading towards what was a contender for highlight of the day. And that was a dale too. Beyond a farm, the Wolds Way took us to the top of the mighty Horse Dale, from where we passed into the adjoining Holm Dale.

“Horse and Holm. Isn’t that a magazine?” punned Tal.

“Nah, that’s Holm and Country,” I replied.

The blank, borderline withering look I got back in return, was rather justified. After all, how many men in their forties have heard of the Women’s Institute’s monthly magazine? And it’s not even their current magazine. The WI abandoned the name ‘Home and Country’ some years ago, and now sends something called ‘WI Life’ to its membership. Although Tal’s reply of “That’s Horse and Hound”, made even less sense.

Maybe the works of Adrian Chiles and John Craven had made better topics of conversation after all.

Horse Dale and Holm Dale
The world famous Horse Dale and Holm Dale. (Note: may not be World Famous)

Horse Dale was a wonderful spot. Yes, another one. It followed “Bowden’s Rules For Fantastic Looking Dales” to the letter as well. Tree lined sides? Check!  Wide grassy floor? Definitely. Peace and tranquillity? In plentiful supply. Sheep resting in the shade? More than a couple. Yes, it was lovely all right. And someone else agreed, as they’d chosen to put a bench there.

There were quite a few benches on the Yorkshire Wolds Way. In fact, the bench per mile ratio was higher than most of the walking trails I’d done. Some were pretty standard affairs made of wood or metal. But others were more fancy, installed by the snappily titled “WANDER – Art on the Yorkshire Wolds Way” project in 2014.

These WANDER benches were elaborate, made out of curved wooden backs. Carved into the wood were inspirational quotes. And this particular one also had a plastic tub on it.

“Oh-oh!” I thought. “Someone’s left their packed lunch behind. They’ll be going hungry then!” But as I sat down to look at it, my eyes were drawn to the words written on the lid.

“Words on the Wolds Way.”

A picture of a plastic tub marked 'Poetry Bench'
Time to get writing some poetry!

Inside the tub was a notebook, a pen and an invitation to write your own poem about the view in front of you. Here was a bench, installed as part of an art project, that had an art project of its own.

Not everyone had understood these clear instructions though. The final entry was an extensive thank you note for the bench. A party of twelve had seen the bench and felt compelled to write how handy it was to have found it. Not that it would have fitted them all on at once though. They would have had to take turns in sitting on it. But they didn’t write this in a poetic way. There were no rhymes, no stanzas. Just comments about how great the bench was.

At least they wrote something though. I skimmed through the pages to find an entry that missed the point in an even more spectacular fashion. A page where someone had drawn an elaborate drawing of Jesus nailed to the cross. It was a reasonable drawing, but drawings aren’t poetry. And why even put it there? Who opens a book of poetry and draws Jesus on the cross? And why? Although whoever it was, I could picture them finishing it with a satisfied nod, before turning to their walking partner and saying the immortal words…

An elaborate curved bench in Horse Dale
Another glorious bench, in Horse Dale

“That’ll convert a few unbelievers, Brenda, mark my words!”

Not everyone misunderstood the book’s intentions. The penultimate entry nailed it. It was a lovely piece of prose. I can’t tell you what it said, because I was so lost in the moment after reading it that I failed to copy it down. But it included the words “hue”, “verdant” and “azure blue” in a way that was a joy to read.  And yes, that is possible.

It put anything I could possible write to shade. It was too perfect, written by someone with real talent. Could I beat it? No, I couldn’t. Rather than sully the pages with my own inadequate missive, I stashed the book back in its box and we set off once more.

Fridaythorpe's elegant bus and walker shelter
Fridaythorpe’s amazing shelter

We ate lunch in a cafe in a small village with the fantastic name of Fridaythorpe.

We were some of the few customers who hadn’t come by motorbike. Parked outside were Yamahas, Kawasakis, and the occasional Harley Davidson. Bikers came from miles around to meet here. They may even have come for the food. The cafe served a Panini with an insane amount of cheese. A heart-attack inducing amount of cheese. Needless to say, I was very happy with to eat it.

Fed to bursting, we walked on, going past a closed and very derelict looking pub, and then to a bus shelter. Not any old bus shelter though. This was another Yorkshire Wolds Way art installation.

It was an elaborate structure; a temple of wood and glass. A definite cut above the dark, dank and gloomy concrete monstrosity down the road. There was also plenty of room inside. More than enough for those waiting for the handful of buses a week that served it. But then this wasn’t only a bus shelter. It also serves as a refuge from the rain for Wolds Way walkers. Not that we needed it. There was no hint of the wet stuff anywhere. Indeed in the sunny weather of our walk, this very grand this bus shelter acted as a greenhouse.

Fridaythorpe's duck pond
Round the back of the shelter.

There was a duck pond at the back though. How many bus shelters can say that? And at the back of the duck pond, was the village beacon. It seemed every village in the Wolds needed one. Although for reasons best known to someone, else Fridaythorpe’s was to some houses. If the beacon was lit, it’s unlikely you’d be able to see it from very far around due to all the surrounding buildings. No good if you need to ask for help from Rohan. You couldn’t even take a good photograph of it. No, because next to the beacon was a grit bin, a street sign, and a receptacle in which to put your litter.

When it came to beacons, Fridaythorpe knew how to do them in style.

Fridaythorpe's beacon, next to a grit bin and a litter bin
A beacon attractively placed next to a street sign, a litter bin and some grit.

Next time: North Yorkshire is entered, there’s more art to admire, speed is discussed, and a deserted village with ruined church is reached.

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