Yorkshire Wolds walk - Kirby Underdale and Thixendale
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 June 2016
Terry Fletcher eases the stresses of a busy everyday life on an afternoon walk with just skylarks overhead for company
If someone could find a way to bottle the Yorkshire Wolds the result would probably come free on the NHS. Turn off any of the main roads onto the near-deserted byways that criss-cross these gentle uplands and the pace of life seems to visibly slow and your pulse rate drops. As you press deeper into the green folds through small villages, often clustered round picturesque ponds, an air of tranquillity descends.
You will look in vain for dramatic features, finding nothing to rival Malham Cove, Ingleborough or Bempton Cliffs. Nor will you find many people. Compared to the Wolds, the national parks of the Dales and Moors are hotbeds of hustle and bustle. Doing this gentle circuit on a warm spring afternoon I met one other walker throughout its length and saw a tiny tractor ploughing a distant chalky field. For the rest of the walk my companions were sheep with new-born lambs and chattering pheasants while overhead skylarks filled a clear blue sky with their lung-bursting song. As an antidote to the stresses of modern life it would be hard to find anything better.
The walk begins from All Saints’ Church in the tiny village of Kirby Underdale. Perched on the side of a steep hill, parts of it date from the 12th century and a stone carving embedded in one wall goes back to the Roman occupation in the second or third century. Take the path beside the stream at the foot of the churchyard to cross a footbridge and go through a gate to enter a field. Cross the brow and drop down the other side to a waymarked footbridge in the bottom left hand corner before heading off half left up the filed towards farm buildings, which are passed to their left to a gate. Turn left down the lane and then after a couple of hundred yards take an unmade farm access track on the right.
When the track turns 90 degrees uphill, carry on straight ahead through a waymarked gate and follow a line of bedraggled trees to the next gate. Go through this and then immediately right uphill beside the hedge before going left to a gate and stile in the top fence. Cross this and carry on steeply to a broad cart track. Cross this and go through the small gate. Turn immediately left round the field edge and follow this to the tarmacked lane known locally as the Roman Road. Turn left along this for about 500 yards to the access track of Thixendale Grange.
Turn right down this across open fields until just before it reaches the houses you take a gated path on the right marked by an Open Country sign. Follow the track as it curves round behind the buildings in the bed of the dale. This is the other side of Wolds agriculture. The huge flat fields on the Wold tops grow crops but the narrow dales, whose sides are too steep for the plough, are given over to sheep.
The path, now part of the Chalkland Way, follows the bed of the valley, at first called Milham Dale before seamless transforming itself to Thixendale. These abrupt and often seemingly arbitrary name changes explain why the Wolds can claim to have far more ‘dales’ than their better-known neighbour, the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
When the path reaches Thixendale village, where there is a shop, pub and a weekend café, carry on straight through to a T-junction at the far end and turn right, following a Yorkshire Wolds Way sign and then continue up the road up the lane in the valley bottom. After about 600 yards, where the lane starts to climb, take a broad farm track on the left, soon passing through a gate and following the bed of the dale, still on the Wolds Way.
After about half a mile it reaches a signpost by some intriguing swirling earthworks. They look like mysterious remnants of ancient man but, a little disappointingly, turn out to date back only five years and are a landscape sculpture called Time and Flow by artist Chris Drury, designed to evoke the swirls of departed glaciers.
The Wolds Way hooks back on itself to climb the left hand slope but the sculpture marks the point to leave the Way and turn right over a stile into Worm Dale. Where the path divides take a rising track left and follow it to a gate. Go through and follow the track leftwards along the side of the hedge. At the end of the field follow waymarks to the left to join a farm track which leads to a road. Turn left and then almost immediately right to Kirby Underdale. When the lane reaches Painsthorpe fork left, straight ahead into the hamlet and then carry on ahead passing a farm down a narrowing track until you reach a narrow gate on the right. Go through this and cross the field to regain the lane, which leads to Kirby Underdale church.
Start/finish: Kirby Underdale, near Pocklington
Distance: 8 miles/13km
Time: 4 hours
Terrain: Farm tracks and country lanes
Maps: OS Explorer 294 Market Weighton and Yorkshire Wolds Central and OS Explorer 300 Howardian Hills and Malton
Refreshments: Pub and weekend café in Thixendale