Our last day was to involve a slightly shorter walk of around 12 miles, so we could take our time, have a few little breaks and really savour the final stretch to the sea. With no accommodation booked for tonight we should have plenty of time for a minor celebration in Filey before boarding a train for our journey home. We ate a large breakfast before seeking out the Whitby Walkers to say our goodbyes. They didn't say whether they were going to continue or not and I didn't ask but as I didn't catch sight of them again, I suspect they caught a bus home after all.
The A64 was reasonably quiet and we were soon on the other side after which a short walk returned us back to the Wolds Way. It was a very drab, murky morning and a gentle rain was falling as we followed a track which led us along a field by the side of St Nicholas Church with its magnificent 14th century spire. I took a photograph in spite of the poor light. I dislike photos with white, featureless skies but sometimes this just can't be avoided.
Looking back as we walked alongside a hedgerow we could see heavier rain approaching the village of Ganton. Wearing waterproofs from the start had certainly been the right thing to do, especially as the early sections of this walk involved wading through grass and cow parsley which seemed to be growing increasingly higher the further we progressed.
Before long we found ourselves wading through waist high, dripping wet cow parsley along a field headland which I felt was unreasonably narrow.
Eventually the path became so overgrown that I stopped in my tracks and shouted out "Oh now you're just having a laugh!" But it was no joke. The path wasn't even visible, leaving us to thrash our way through as best we could. Were it not for the sight of a Wolds Way signpost at the end of this section I'd have found it hard to believe this was a public footpath at all, never mind a National Trail.
Thankfully the jungle-like conditions didn't last for long as we climbed uphill to emerge by the road at the top of Staxton Hill, which we crossed to carry straight on along a quiet lane. This led us past RAF Staxton Wold, a military early warning station built in 1939 and which, for reasons of security, cannot be found on any publicly available map. Surrounded by a high perimeter fence, it looked rather out of place and intimidating in such a peaceful rural setting. I was tempted to take a photograph but, having spotted several CCTV cameras, I thought better of it and we swiftly moved along the lane which soon petered out to become a simple track along a delightful little wooded dale.
This short, pretty section of the route ended with an unexpectedly abrupt climb to the top of the dale. I paused to get my breath back and, looking down over the dale, I was struck by the lushness of my surroundings. Almost everything was green, even the Wolds Way fingerpost.
For around a mile and a half from the top of the steep hill the trail followed the edge of arable fields. Thankfully these headlands were clear of undergrowth and the walking was reasonably easy. A short distance along we stepped to the side to allow a couple of runners to pass by in the opposite direction. As they approached they slowed their pace and then paused for just long enough to tell us that they were practising for an attempt to run the entire Wolds Way in a day. Today's practice run was to take them from Filey to Fridaythorpe, a distance of 40 miles, which they hoped to complete in around eight hours. We wished them well as they picked up the pace again, leaving us to wonder how they'd cope with the steep, slippery slope they were about to encounter. Climbing up the loose soil and chalk had been a bit of a struggle in hiking boots. I couldn't imagine hurtling down it wearing shorts and running shoes. And their legs were certainly in for a refreshing treat when they reached the cow parsley path!
It was something of a relief when the fieldside walking ended at the top of Flixton Wold, whereupon we were rewarded with a typical Yorkshire Wolds view down into the valley of Lang Dale.
A short walk along a minor road followed and then a little more fieldside walking led us to the top of Raven Dale, a fairly unremarkable valley but one with emerging views into the more interesting Camp Dale.
I calculated that at this point we were about half way to Filey and it was about time for a short break. Ahead of us the trail dipped steeply downhill to immediately climb up again before turning to follow the edge of Folkton Wold above Camp Dale.
Looking across Camp Dale I pondered on the strange undulations across the valley which gave the landscape an almost voluptuous appearance.
A little further along the edge of Camp Dale brought us to the most welcome sight of the day so far. A bench provided by the "Wander" art project was accompanied by an acorn mileage post which told us that we had just seven miles left to walk, not only to the end of the day's route, but also the entire trail. It wasn't yet midday, we'd made good progress and it had stopped raining. Happily, we could spend a while here, savouring our surroundings and finishing off our supply of cereal bars.
Suitably rested we set off again to begin what turned out to be the most enjoyable part of the day, starting with an area at the end of Camp Dale known simply as "The Camp". Here there are earthworks thought to date from the Bronze Age, along with the site of a deserted medieval village. The only evidence for these sites are various humps and bumps in the landscape, although they are rather difficult to make out at ground level. The path opened up before us into a lush hawthorn-lined dale, carpeted in buttercups, the air filled with a chorus of birdsong. After a morning tramping along fieldside headlands, this seemed like a little corner of paradise.
Immediately after The Camp the path turned into beautiful Stocking Dale, an area of ancient woodland and wildflowers which was a sheer delight to walk through and a part of the Wolds Way we have promised to revisit in sunnier conditions.
Stocking Dale ended all too abruptly, merging onto a farm track which led us up to the road by Stockendale Farm where a delightful old tractor provided the only blue I'd seen in a day that had been predominantly grey and green. It looked wonderful.
A roadside sign at the end of the farm track caught my attention and I chuckled at the farmer's marketing skills, wondering just how you can tell whether a hen is truly happy. The quantity of eggs they lay? The tone of their clucking? The colour of the egg yolks? I nearly bought some just to see if the difference was apparent.
Across the road it was time to leave the Wolds behind us as we descended the chalk scarp towards the village of Muston. This was the only village on the trail since leaving Ganton and we were delighted to find that the pub, The Ship Inn, was still open. We now just had two miles left to go and, although perhaps a little early, we decided to begin celebrating. It was rather hot inside the pub and so we sat at a picnic bench by the front door enjoying a pint of Old Speckled Hen. We'd just started on our second pint when the group we had met at Welton and again at the Lavender Farm turned up, and we spent a pleasant few minutes chatting to a couple of them. They told us that they had rented a cottage for the week and used a taxi to transport them all to and from each day's start and finishing points, thereby alleviating the need for heavy backpacks. This seemed an interesting idea which was probably cost effective for a group, but I think I preferred our arrangements. Arriving at a different location every night had certainly enhanced the sense of completing a journey, as opposed to merely walking a set route every day.
We left Muston in high spirits, fuelled not only by the Old Speckled Hen but also the knowledge that the end was now very close indeed. Leaving the village we crossed the busy A1039 and emerged into the town of Filey behind a school playing field. From here the route of the Wolds Way isn't signposted at all until the Coble Landing at the foot of Filey Brigg. The guide books do recommend a course through the town via various streets, but any route down to the seafront will suffice from where it's simply a matter of turning left and heading up to the top of the cliff. The sea was grey and the wind had picked up as we looked down on the seafront before turning to make our way to the finishing point.
Perhaps I was still under the influence of the Old Speckled Hen, or more than likely it was elation at being within sight of the finishing stone, but I virtually skipped along the top of Filey Brigg. At the finishing stone we removed our backpacks and posed for photographs, pausing there a while to savour the sense of accomplishment not only on having completed the trail, but also upon having achieved an ambition we'd held for 17 years. We expected to see other walkers arrive, particularly the group we had left in the pub at Muston, but there was no one else in sight. Perhaps, we wondered, the lack of signs in the town causes confusion or walkers are under the misapprehension that the trail actually ends in the town itself?
Thinking of the late great Alfred Wainwight's favourite meal and being, as we were, at the seaside, we decided to end the day with a meal of fish, chips and mushy peas, washed down with another pint of beer.
And so our Yorkshire Wolds Way adventure ended the way it had begun, with a train journey. As our train travelled along, I could see the very edge of the Wolds in the distance and I found myself already reminiscing about our days on the trail. There are those who would say that the Wolds Way is "easy" and I've also seen it described as a "beginner's long distance trail". Whilst I'd agree that it presents no significant challenges, in my opinion such descriptions do the trail a disservice. Walking the Yorkshire Wolds Way, I had discovered, isn't purely about completing a challenge. It's a journey of discovery through beautiful landscapes not normally seen from the road. It's an adventure to be savoured and anyone who dismisses it as suitable merely for beginners is missing the point. Those who want a challenge may tackle it quickly, like the two runners we had met, but as for me, I'd recommend taking it slowly, one enjoyable day at a time.
Total distance walked - 13 miles
Total ascent - 1,437 feet
Total descent - 1,1460 feet
Highest altitude - 574 feet
Mean temperature - 71.0ºF
Coming soon.....Just over a week after finishing the Yorkshire Wolds Way, we return to walk a circular route around the village of Goodmanham. "The Yorkshire Wolds Way: The Missing Link" will follow shortly.