6 reasons to visit the Yorkshire Wolds
PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 September 2017
Please form an orderly queue as we venture forth into one of Yorkshire's lesser known landscapes
How well do you know the Wolds? You might be vaguely familiar with bits of this pleasingly undulating landscape but would you say you’re on first name terms with the entire triangular expanse stretching between York, Filey and Hull.
You might be well up on Warter, in Fridaythorpe every day of the week and on very good terms with Goodmanham, but it’s probably fair to say that you’re not as au fait with the wonders of the Wolds as Fleur and Colin Speakman of Burley-in-Wharfedale, near Ilkley.
Their latest book, The Yorkshire Wolds – A Journey of Discovery, launched with a civic reception at The Treasure House in Beverley, is a practical guide to exploring the area by train, bus, bike, on horseback or on foot.
Colin has written or co-authored more than 50 books, including The Green Guide to Germany, and Fleur is editor of the Yorkshire Dales Review, the Yorkshire Dales Society’s quarterly magazine.
They both became fascinated by the Wolds while walking part of the Wolds Way. After doing a little research, they discovered there wasn’t a single comprehensive guide to the area, which piqued their interest even more.
The Wolds famously inspired – and continue to inspire – internationally-renowned artist David Hockney, but still remain something of a hidden gem, overshadowed by the Yorkshire Dales, Pennines and Moors, despite their natural beauty, picturesque rural landscape, unspoiled market towns and stunning coastline.
‘The landscape of rolling chalk hills, dry grassy valleys, scattered woodland, dramatic coastline and ancient tracks has been described as a little bit of southern England in the north, as its character has much in common with the Wiltshire or South Downs,’ said Colin. ‘But this landscape and its communities are very much a special and distinctive part of Yorkshire.’
The book takes the reader (and potential explorer) on a journey of discovery, travelling in a clockwise direction around the Yorkshire Wolds from Hull to Beverley. Along the way, we are gifted interesting finds about the Roman heritage of Brough, Market Weighton’s link to a giant, the battle grounds of Stamford Bridge, the Great Wold Valley, the lost medieval village of Wharram Percy, Bridlington’s priory and Driffield’s rich canal heritage.
There is as much to enjoy in this well-researched book – here are a few of our favourite Wolds wonders.
Gypsey Race in the Great Wold Valley
The Great Wold Valley is a 20-mile, shallow dip across the north of the Wolds, from just east of Wharram-le-Street to the sea at Bridlington.
A tiny fold in the valley bottom follows the course of the extraordinary Gypsey Race, a stream that often vanishes underground in the porous chalk and apparently gets its name, from its meandering travels.
The Great Wold Valley was known as an important place of worship during Neolithic times. Perhaps because water was so precious, people assumed the unpredictable little stream – popping up here, disappearing there – had magical powers. As a result, there are still scheduled monuments and Neolithic burial mounds in evidence today at Duggleby Howe, Willie Howe and the great Rudston monolith.
Yorkshire Wolds National Trail
One of the best – and most exhausting – ways to discover more about the Wolds is to put on your walking boots and fill a flask (coffee, whiskey – whatever propels you) and hike the 79-mile (127km) National Trail from Hessle, near the Humber Bridge, to Filey Brigg.
Originally developed in the early 1970s by the East Riding Area of the Ramblers’ Association, who had to campaign long and hard for its creation, it follows the high ridges of the west and northern escarpments of the Wolds, taking in numerous key villages, historic gems and cultural sites.
And if 79 miles sounds at least 77 miles too long for you, don’t worry, there are lots of easily accessible bus stops along the way.
Call us childish (you wouldn’t be the first) but we get a great deal of pleasure from simply saying ‘Wetwang’. It is, however, much more than a village with a comedic name.
An important burial site was discovered in Wetwang Ings containing the remains of an Iron Age chariot and the skeleton of what appears to be a female warrior. The village has a very attractive central pond, once home to a bevy of black swans, after which one of the two local inns was named. And BBC weatherman Paul Hudson is the honorary mayor, following in the (loafer-clad) footsteps of Countdown presenter Richard Whiteley, who proudly held office from 1998 until his death in 2005.
The abandoned church at Wharram Percy is all that survives of this once prosperous medieval village, which thrived until the arrival of the Black Death (a bit of a dampener at the best of times) in the 14th century.
The village struggled on until around 1500, when the remaining people were evicted to make way for grazing sheep. But the site has since proved to be a rich source of archaeological finds, with excavations revealing two manor complexes, a mill and long houses typical of medieval England.
Tucked away in a deep fold of the high Wolds, Huggate is the second highest village in the area at 165 metres above sea level (Fridaythorpe tops it at 170m).
Perhaps not surprisingly, this high, high place once had a deep, deep well; reportedly one of the deepest in England at 108m (339ft) below the surface. Local legend has it that it took two strong men at least 15 minutes to haul up one bucket of water which, presumably, led to fierce battles about who was doing the washing-up.
The modern village is home to a picturesque pond and an elegant church – St Mary’s – which has a 14th century tower and beautiful tall spire that puts others in the shade.
Kilnwick Percy Buddhist Centre
The Madhyamaka Meditation Centre, run by a Buddhist foundation, is located two miles outside Pocklington at Kilnwick Percy and sits in 50 acres of parkland, woodland and water gardens.
Visitors – some stay for the day; some book overnight accommodation – can explore the natural landscape, stroll around the lake, take part in guided meditation and enjoy lunch at the World Peace Café.
The Yorkshire Wolds by Fleur and Colin Speakman is available for £15 online at gritstone.coop, from good bookshops and from The Treasure House, Beverley, tourist information centres, Hull History Centre, The Bayle Museum, Bridlington, and Burnby Hall.