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.