The Minster Way.

The Minster Way is a 50 mile long distance trail linking the Minsters of York and Beverley passing through the Vale of York, The Yorkshire Wolds and Holderness. I began the walk in York on the last Sunday in January intending to walk to Stamford Bridge, a distance of 13 miles. Leaving York via Lendal Bridge the route follows the Ouse until Fulford where it leaves the city and heads into flat farmland.

My interest though was in Fulford which was the scene of the first of three battles in the momentous year of 1066. On the 20th September the northern earls Edwin and Morcar were defeated by the Viking army of King Harald Hardrada. The Vikings withdrew to await hostages after agreeing not to sack York.

Some of the site is not built upon and now as it was then it is very swampy and muddy and I carried a lot of that mud with me through the Vale of York. I managed to scrape some of it off climbing the steps to the bridge that crosses the busy A64 before heading across Heslington Common.

Road walking is not one of my favourite pastimes but I was glad of it for the next mile or so as a relief from the cloying mud and it was a pleasant way to cross Langwith Stray. The next track across Kexby Stray wasn’t too bad either but I was to pay for it as I entered the charmingly named Rabbit Warren Wood. Crossing a stile, I slid downhill coating my jacket and pack with thick grey mud which, in the cold wind chilled me to the bone. As I expected, the wood was boggy and I was glad to leave it at White Carr farm where I had my lunch beside a dismantled railway line.

At Scoreby I crossed the A1079 and plodded through more muddy farmland and dripping woodland before emerging a mile and half further down the same road. At least now I would be walking for the last 4 miles beside the River Derwent which I was looking forward to.

The two bridges are the more modern road bridge whilst behind it is Kexby old bridge a scheduled ancient monument built in 1650. The Derwent, swollen by heavy rain and snowmelt rushed and gurgled on my right as I walked along the very muddy path and to my left was evidence that it had recently burst it’s banks .

These lakes were home to hundreds of noisy seabirds. The River Derwent rises on Lilla Rig in the North York Moors flowing south before turning west it is connected to the North Sea at Scarborough by the sea cut which I followed in the Tabular hills walk. It flows west then south again before joining the Ouse at Barmby Barrage. Happily, for the sake of my boots I was only following it to Stamford Bridge and the bridge which gives the village it’s name was soon in view.

The Battle of Stamford Bridge took place on the 25th September 1066 and was an utter defeat for the Viking army taken by surprise by the speed in which the English King Harold had raced North with his forces. Of the 300 longship’s which had brought the Vikings across the sea only 26 were required to take the survivors home. King Harold had no time to celebrate as he had to turn south and fight again at Hastings.

Having walked 13 miles through two battlefields and endless mud I too had no time to celebrate as it was time for me to head home, however, in the absence of a longship and having had enough of rivers I turned my Kia east and home.


Sunshine in Fordon.

For my final walk of 2017 I decided to explore an area of chalk grassland near my home in the Yorkshire Wolds. Fordon is in the midst of at least three areas of Special Scientific Interest, sites containing rare flaura and fauna found only in the grassland and banks of chalk upland. It was a bitterly cold and frosty day as I made my way to the tiny church of St James on the hillside above the village.

The church was built between 1086 and 1115 serving a village which was much larger before the Black Death decimated the area. I made my way through Fordon which  consists of a few houses and farms and turned onto a path which took me along the bottom of winding North Dale. Fortunately the frost hardened ground made for easy walking as I passed this frozen dewpond.

The valley sides are part of the SSI ,chalk grassland has been a feature of the Yorkshire Wolds since the last Ice Age but due to extensive farming are now reduced to less than 1.5 % of the land area. As such  this land is now protected.

At the end of North Dale I crossed over a stile and into another lovely dale called Lang Dale. The eastern side of this valley is very steep with gorse and hawthorn clinging to the sides . At another stile I turned right and began climbing steeply now following the Yorkshire Wolds Way.

Eventually I reached a road from which,directly in front of me was Sharp Howe  one of five Neolithic bowl barrows hidden by a clump of trees. When excavated a skeleton with food bowls was discovered. The views from here were tremendous , the sea and the white cliffs of Bempton were clearly visible. It was also bitingly cold so I had some soup to warm me up.

I saved some of the soup for later as Snowmaggedon had been the forecast on the morning news and various sorts had been advising travellers to carry a hot drink just in case.  Twenty minutes later at Danebury Manor I finished my soup and began descending a long green track which took me past The Sheepwalks, one of many clearings made in the Wolds by Bridlington Priory in the 13th century where sheep could be grazed.

The green lane took me to a minor road where I turned right and then passed through a gate to reach  access land and a chalk bank, part of the SSI site. Climbing the steep hillside I had great views of this special area.

In summer the hillsides abound in chalkland flowers and various butterflies, but in winter the banks were brown and frozen although a number of hawks were hovering ominously close by. Perhaps I should have heeded the warnings and saved my soup!  Eventually I reached a farm track and descended to the road and back to my car at the crossroads. 

The light was fading as I ended this delightful walk and I look forward to retracing my steps in the summer. Happy New Year…….2018.

Snowmeggedon never happened so I was able to make a number of completely unnecessary journeys.

Tabular Hills Walk. The Last Bit.

The final stage of this trail is a relatively easy 13.5 mile section from Hutton Le Hole to the lovely market town of Helmsley. Easy that is, if Storm Ophelia wasn’t making its presence felt on the day I had chosen to complete the walk. Having watched various weather presenters on TV standing in puddles warning me to stay at home, I left Hutton Le Hole in warm autumn sunshine climbing steadily out of the village. As I crossed the only area of moorland in this final few miles, the wind was noticeably stronger, although a steep descent into the valley bottom soon returned me to the still conditions I had begun the walk with. I crossed the River Dove via an impressive footbridge before climbing steeply up again through woodland.

I emerged from the woods at the edge of the village of Gillamoor, one of only two villages passed through in this section of the walk. Gillamoor is worth exploring as is its tiny church of St Aidans. I had a rest here in the porch with a swallows nest above me awaiting the return next spring of its residents.

Next to the church is a viewpoint looking out over the moors and the valley I had crossed named Surprise View . Ophelia was by now gusting quite strongly as I walked through the village and along the road towards Fadmoor. I passed the boarded up Plough Inn before turning right at a post marked Sleightholmedale.  Being hilltop villages both Gillamoor and Fadmoor lacked a decent water supply until Joseph Foord built an aquaduct to supply both villages with water in the 18th century. They both now have piped water I am happy to say. Following this track I continued uphill and down dale until I reached a stone bridge in Kirk Dale at Hold Caldron Mill where I stopped for lunch.

A feature of this final part of the walk is the constant crossing of dales which involves numerous ascents and descents. Finishing my sandwich I contemplated the next uphill bit which again was steep and again through woodland. 

Finally reaching the top I turned right onto another feature of this route…road walking. Although little used roads, I prefer soft tracks and paths and I was duly rewarded as I crossed the River Riccall and floundered in muddy, boggy tracks watched by some bemused goats .

One more climb took me to another road that leads to the little village of Carlton but a path just before the village took me to the right and a final descent to Ash Dale. This is a lovely, wooded valley with a perfect grassy track which took me to Helmsley and the end of the Tabular Hills Walk. 

Helmsley is a delightful market town. It has some great shops , a large market area with a market cross and some very fine and interesting buildings.  But for me, it’s finest building is the Castle and that’s where I headed to at the end of fifty miles of walking that had begun under the shadow of Scarborough Castle.

Tabular Hills Stage Two.

Levisham to Hutton Le Hole. 15.5 miles.

I was looking forward to this section of the walk as both Levisham and Hutton Le Hole are lovely North York Moors villages and worth exploring if time permits. Heavy overnight rain promised to make the downhill sections of the route interesting and I was not to be disappointed. Soon after leaving the road out of Levisham the track descends steeply and so did I. Managing to grab a tree root I arrested my slide and was fortunate to sustain only muddy shorts and wounded pride. Reaching the valley bottom I passed the ruins of St. Marys Church which dates back to the 11th century. Legend has it that when the church was being built in the village the devil took all the building materials down into the valley each night. So that is where it was built.

The church was abandoned in 1884 and a new church was (finally) built in the village. The path now went through damp woodland before crossing Pickering Beck at Farworth. The North York Moors Railway passes over a level crossing at the attractive Farworth Halt although the trains only stop now at Levisham station further up the line.

Resisting the Tea Rooms I climbed steeply up the valley side until I reached the attractive village of Newton on Rawcliffe where I had a rest on a bench overlooking  the village pond which in the brief sunshine was alive with dragonflies and swooping swallows. 

The village pub, The Mucky Duck looked very enticing but I still had far to go, although amazed at my powers of resistance I continued on my way. The path now dropped steeply through Newton Banks before rising again to pass through Stony Moor where the patchy woodland, heather and bilberry represents what the moors once looked like after the last Ice Age, before farming and heather moorland converted it’s appearance.

At Keldy Farm I came to a road which took me steeply uphill although a gap in the trees afforded an excellent view of the Tabular Hills over which I had passed.

At the top of the hill and to the left is Cawthorn Roman Camp. During the first century AD the Romans advanced this way, subduing the Britons with military might and establishing fortified camps such as these at Cawthorn.

By now, this ancient Briton was hungry so I had my lunch before continuing on my way, passing through the village of Cropton which has the New Inn and beer brewed in it’s own micro brewery. I sampled these on a long distance walk in 2010 and have a hazy memory of how delicious they were. Walking briskly on I eventually crossed the River Seven to reach Appleton le Moors. This is a typical Yorkshire Crofts and Tofts village. The Crofts being the little cottages either side of the main street and the Tofts are the land extending from the backs of each cottage primarily used for growing vegetables in. Here, interestingly enough are the remains of Low Cross a medieval cross which may have once been a standing stone.

It began to rain a little as I left the village and began the final leg to Hutton Le Hole and a short climb led me to some large fields that were alive with pheasants which scattered noisily as I passed by. Looking back I had a good view across the fields to the distant Wolds.

A long descent through woodland took me into the village of Hutton Le Hole and the end of this section of the walk. I like this village, I have stayed here on a walk and it is a lovely spot with a stream running through it. It’s name is fairly new although the site dates back to Neolithic times. Up to the 19th century it was known variously as Hoton under Heg  and Hewton.  

The final stage of the Tabular Hills Walk is a 13.5 mile stretch from Hutton Le Hole to Helmsley, a section I am looking forward to immensely. 

High Wolds and Low Dales.

Although the Yorkshire Wolds aren’t particularly high the views from the tops are excellent and far reaching. What makes this area special though are the steep sided, deep, dry valleys which help make any walking here quite hilly. Tuesday 29th August started with a steady drizzle which at times was quite heavy as accompanied by my son Gary I parked at the car park near Wharram Percy to begin an exploration of this unique area. The rain stopped as we headed out of the car park and headed west on the Centenary Way, a long distance route beginning at York Minster and ending in Filey.

Initially the route took us through damp woodland before emerging onto rolling farmland dotted with bales of hay.  Joining the Yorkshire Wolds Way, a National Trail stretching 79 miles from Hessle near Hull and ending also in Filey, we followed the path above a shallow valley for a short while enjoying the  sunshine on our faces.

The Yorkshire Wolds along with Orkney and Wessex have a huge number of prehistoric barrows and earthworks. The chalky earth  mounds marked howes or tumuli on OS maps indicate burials dating back to 2400 BC although many have succumbed to the plough through time. Our boots by now we’re succumbing to the wet, long grass and mud and we were glad when we turned left and onto a chalk bridleway which we followed steadily downhill until we reached a cornfield above Water Dale which along with the other valleys is completely dry.

A steady descent on another very wet sheep trod took us into the valley bottom and for once it was comforting to walk on tarmac and to let our boots dry a little. We made our way into the lovely village of Thixendale and to the Cross Keys Inn which was shut. Disappointed, we hovered outside for a while before deciding it was lunch time. The church of St Marys seemed a good place to rest and eat so we made our way there passing an old parish pump close by.

Before this church was built the inhabitants would have had to walk to St Martins church at Wharram Percy some 4 miles away.  The church was built between 1868 – 70 and must have come as a relief to the footsore villagers. Until the late 1990s, Thixendale had no TV reception surrounded as it is by high valley walls , however a small transmitter was built and gave the residents terrestrial TV for the first time. Having ate our fill we set off on the return leg of our walk and soon we were climbing steeply out of the village which is one of the prettiest I have seen.

We followed the Wolds Way now literally up hill and down dale before reaching the ridge we had left much earlier. Following the track above Deepdale again we branched left and began our descent to the abandoned mediaeval village of Wharram Percy. The only visible above ground remains are of the church of St Martins which now appeared through the trees.

The village was abandoned in the late 1500s  when the whole area was cleared by the landowners to graze sheep. The only buildings left inhabited were a farm, the vicarage and the church. Today, thanks to 60 years of study by archaeologists you can still see the grassy mounds of the houses and the streets they stood by.  The fishponds are still there and the whole site is well worth a visit.

Leaving the village we crossed a stream which was spanned by a crumbling railway bridge, all that remains in this area of the disused Malton to Driffield railway . Interestingly enough,  the site engineer was Alfred Dickens younger brother of Charles Dickens the author.

A short pull uphill took us back to the car and the end of a very interesting if damp walk.  The Wolds are worth exploring and although the highest point is Garrowby Hill at only 807′ the view over the Vale of York is special. We look forward to further exploration. 

A Table Top walk.

The Tabular Hills are a range of flat topped Corallian limestone hills on the southern boundary of the North York Moors running East to West from Scarborough to the Vale of Pickering. The range is best viewed from Saltergate and Levisham Moor where their flat tops can be truly appreciated. There is a long distance walk of 50 miles titled The Tabular hills walk which starts at Scalby Mills near Scarborough and ends at the attractive market town of Helmsley.

Parking at Scalby Mills on Friday 18th of August I set off to walk the first section of the route. The first part is 21 miles to Levisham but having already walked a 7 mile section I didn’t quite have that far to travel.  Climbing steeply up the cliff I had a superb view of a brooding Scarborough castle standing proudly above a glittering sea.

Soon I was heading west through wheat fields before crossing the busy A165 and passing  caravan sites before heading to the village of Scalby. The Tabular Hills walk can be done in a variety of ways, as a long distance walk over 3 or 4 days,  as a warm up for the Cleveland Way which begins in Helmsley or as I was doing it picking off sections as day walks.  Crossing the A171 I came to the Sea Cut and took shelter as a brief shower of rain came in on the strong winds.  The River Derwent rises on Fylingdales Moor and heads towards the North Sea but 4 miles from the coast it turns west and heads far inland before turning east again and flowing into the River Humber and finally the North Sea. The sea cut was dug in the 18th century to divert floodwater into Scalby Beck and to power the mills further downstream.

I followed this for 3 miles to Mowthorpe Bridge and then in, warm sunshine I trudged uphill towards what had been the Everley Country Hotel but was now a tea room promising excellent views. Unable these days to resist a tea room I went inside and was not disappointed.  A feature of the Tabular Hills is that on the southern side the slope is gentle and are farmed whereas the northern sides are very steep, formed as they were by rushing meltwater from the last Ice Age. I crossed the River Derwent at Wrench Green and began to climb steeply in the hot sunshine through woodland until I reached a gravel track and Wykeham Forest. The forest prevented views until I came across a sign for a raptor viewpoint. Intrigued, I followed an increasingly boggy path for a quarter of a mile until the woodland cleared and I had a view over lovely Troutdale.

It was a good spot to polish off my lunch and to view my surroundings which included the high moors to the north and  the glacial valleys and hills through which I was walking. The best example being the Forge Valley. I did not see any birds of prey but a cross bill landed close by me, no doubt interested in my black pudding scotch egg ! Continuing my walk, the smell of woodsmoke drifting through the damp and chilled woodland made it feel almost autumnal and I was glad to emerge,blinking into sunlight alongside fields filled with young pine trees. I don’t recall ever having been asked to wipe my feet before entering a field before but signs dotted around the plateau suggested that this was a requirement.

Finally I reached the end of my days walk at Givendale Head Farm which also meant I had completed the first 21 miles of the Tabular Hills walk. This whole area abounds with Tumuli and boundary and defensive ditches such as these at Cockmoor.

When this area was open country the views must have been tremendous but the woodland has taken that away. I enjoyed the walk but much of it is minor road walking or through forest but happily that part is now behind me. Much of the first day is very remote so I drove to Burniston and the Three Jolly Sailors. Timothy Taylors Landlord was in fine fettle which made this old sailor very happy.

Sun, Sea and Sandsend.

Yorkshire is a county of many contrasts. It has Moors and Mountains, Dales and Fountains and a proud industrial heritage. It also has Skinningrove. It was here on Easter Monday 17th April that I set out to walk the 14 miles to Sandsend along the Cleveland Way National Trail. South of Saltburn on Sea, Skinningrove was, until 1850 just a quiet fishing village but was transformed with the discovery of iron ore and a steelworks was built. Passing over the very orange Skinningrove Beck and climbing steeply up the cliff path I could see the harbour which at one time hosted ships carrying away huge quantities of iron and steel products.

Levelling out, the path gave me chance to catch my breath and although the sun was quite warm the breeze had an icy chill to it as I made my way to the highest sea cliffs on the East coast of England at Boulby. At over 660′ above sea level the views were tremendous, North to Middlesbrough and South the cliffs stretched away towards distant Whitby.  Somehow, someone long ago had carved a poem to a lost love for passers-by to read but unfortunately my photo does not do it justice. 

Pausing here for a drink I could see to my right Boulby Potash Mine. It is the only one in the country and opened in 1973. Potash is mainly used for agricultural fertiliser and is difficult to mine. The shafts here are 4900′ deep and extend out under the North Sea and mining is done by remote control due to the heat and pressure.  Walking along at this height was exhilarating and I enjoyed watching seabirds such as kittiwakes and fulmar effortlessly gliding on the thermals generated by the cliffs. I began though to descend steadily and then more steeply as I reached the picturesque fishing village of Staithes. 

Staithes is a lovely village, with a natural harbour, Captain Cook heritage centre and attracts artists and photographers from far and wide. It also has The Cod and Lobster Inn but as I still had a long way to go I resisted it’s charms and sat on a bench outside to eat my lunch. James Cook worked here briefly as a shop assistant before leaving for a seafaring apprenticeship in Whitby and his place in nautical history.

The headland to the right is Cowbar Nab and protects the harbour from the worst winter storms. Having descended steeply into Staithes the climb out was even steeper but after a bit of effort  I was back on the clifftop and making good progress despite the stiffening breeze. Soon I was looking down at the remains of Port Mulgrave harbour battered by the sea. The village is a short distance inland and it is difficult to see how the villagers used the harbour. It was in fact used by the iron ore mine at nearby Grinkle and the ore was transported to the harbour by tunnels.  I had tremendous views inland to the North York Moors and the fields were a riot of yellow in the glorious spring sunshine as I continued my journey accompanied by the ever present Skylarks  to my right and seabirds whirling and calling to my left. I began to descend again to another pretty village, this time Runswick Bay. 

It is a lovely village with a nice beach although it has to be explored on foot as cars must be left in the car park higher up. Although it seems timeless much of the original village slipped into the sea on a stormy night in 1664 leaving only the white painted thatched cottage at the end as a reminder of what it once was.

Yet another stiff, steep ascent took me back to the Cleveland Way and to the headland of Kettleness another area of past industry this time Alum and Jet. The old village also slipped into the sea in 1829 but it was gradual and allowed the villagers time to leave. Looking back the weather was changing, cold grey clouds were sweeping down from the North and I put a spurt on for the final couple of miles.

Soon I was passing through the abandoned Alum quarries of Sandsend Ness which were last worked in the 1860s, these too were extensive as Alum has many uses not least as an additive in baking powder . Yet another orange stream testified to the presence of Iron Ore and orange footprints on the footpath suggested someone had been paddling in it. Finally at 4.25 p.m I arrived in Sandsend, another picturesque village with a sandy beach and a stream crossed by a bridge cutting it in two. As I reflected on a walk of such interest and beauty and having walked 14 miles with over 2000′ of ascent the threatened rain arrived.