Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Yorkshire Wolds Way - Day Two - Brantingham to Shiptonthorpe (25th May 2014)

As our second day on the Yorkshire Wolds Way dawned, I awoke from a deep, refreshing sleep.  The dark and stillness of the countryside had certainly been conducive to a good night's rest.  Not that I'd needed any help to drift off.  We may have only walked for ten miles, but the excitement and momentum of the previous day, combined with lots of good food and drink, had meant that I'd fallen asleep almost instantly.  I awoke feeling energised and raring to go.  Glancing at my watch I realised that it was just a little after five.  And it was pouring with rain.  Putting my faith in the old saying "rain before seven, fine by eleven" I shrugged at the rain, made a coffee and studied my copy of the Cicerone guide to familiarise myself with the route for the day ahead.

Today we were heading just beyond the town of Market Weighton for an overnight stay at Robeanne House, a country house bed and breakfast establishment close by the village of Shiptonthorpe.  This should entail a walk of around 14 miles, a distance that was likely to be exceeded, seeing as the Wolds Way doesn't actually pass through any towns or villages between Brantingham and Market Weighton.  A short detour would take us into the village of South Cave, but this was only two miles from our starting point at Brantingham.  The only other possible place for rest and refreshment was the village of North Newbald, which is located a mile off the trail.

A hearty breakfast was called for and that's precisely what we got at Keeper's Lodge.  A delicious "full English" provided the necessary protein for the day ahead.  The landlady had been happy to provide us with an early breakfast and this enabled us to be fed, packed up and back on the trail by 8.30 a.m.  We were totally rested, well fed and in excellent spirits.  It had even stopped raining...for the time being at least. 

Before we left the area I wanted to visit the churchyard to photograph  a pair of wooden crosses, one being carved with the signature mouse emblem of  Robert "Mouseman" Thompson of Kilburn.  As I made my way towards the churchyard it began to rain again and so I sheltered for a while under the lych-gate, fished my camera out of its bag before dashing across to snap a quick photo. 

Brantingham's Wooden Crosses

I've seen several examples of the "Mouseman's" carvings inside churches, but never one on a grave before.  It was really rather charming although I've been unable to find out any further details.  Perhaps a visit inside the church would have provided more information, but sadly we had no time to spare and, as the rain eased a little, we set off up the hill, away from the village.

Detail of mouse carving

A short distance along the lane, just behind the church, we passed a curious ramp leading into a brick-lined channel.  An information panel explained that this was the village sheep wash.

Brantingham's Sheep Wash

The route of the Wolds Way follows the road out of Brantingham Dale for a short distance before turning off into woodland and climbing steadily uphill to the edge of Ellerker North Wold where the distant Humber Estuary came into view once again.  As we paused here to take a photo, a large dog fox darted out of the undergrowth, crossed the track in front of us and then ran up the hill.  When it reached an electricity pylon it stopped and sat down, watching us all the while as we descended and took the path to the right, alongside Woodale Plantation. 

Looking down to Woodale

The rain had been just lightly spotting so far, but as we approached the higher ground of Mount Airy it became a little more persistent and suddenly I had a flashback to our walk along this path seventeen years before.  It had rained that day too as we had approached Mount Airy.  In fact there had been a sudden thunderstorm and we had taken shelter in one of the farm's open-sided outbuildings.  There was no sign of a storm today, but having passed the farm the steady rain turned into a downpour and a small wood provided reasonable shelter.  Below we could just make out the village of South Cave, shrouded in mist and low cloud.  It should have been a nice view but, even so, the scene was atmospheric.

South Cave in the rain

The rain soon eased and we set off again, down the lane to the outskirts of South Cave.  The Wolds Way doesn't actually pass through South Cave and neither did we, climbing instead away from the village and walking along the side of a plantation before turning onto a lane where we were surprised to find a vineyard.  Unfortunately, it was only afterwards that I discovered that tours and wine tasting had been available that day.  Perhaps this was for the best!

A surprise vineyard


On the opposite side of the lane the terrain became even more Wolds-like as we got our first view of beautiful Comber Dale before a fingerpost directed us into the dale itself.  The rain had stopped completely now and there were signs of the day brightening a little as three cyclists whizzed by us along the dale.  Suddenly one of them took an impressive tumble, man and cycle rolling down the hill to land in a heap at the bottom of the dale.  Quick as a wink he was back on his bike, clothing slick with mud as he sped off to catch up his companions.  I expect he was rather embarrassed at having an audience for his unplanned stunt.  We spotted the cyclists ahead of us as we left Comber Dale and joined the dismantled railway track which skirts round the edge of the plantation at the head of the dale.  This was the course of the former Hull to Barnsley line which was used to transport coal from the mines of South Yorkshire to the docks at Hull.  This section of the line was closed in the 1950s.  We followed it for a short distance before turning into West Hill Plantation.  Here we caught up with the three cyclists who were attempting some running repairs to the damaged bike.

"Did you enjoy that fail?" one of them sheepishly asked us, to which Tom replied "Yes. It was epic!"

Comber Dale

We left them behind as we turned into beautiful East Dale, where a sign indicated that cycles were prohibited.  This was a particularly lovely woodland path made all the more lush by the recent rainfall and the birds seemed to be singing noisily to celebrate the improving weather.

East Dale's woodland path

Suddenly the peace was shattered by an echoing gunshot to our left.  Startled I looked around to see where it might have come from but there was no one else to be seen.  I decided there must be a farmer, taking a pot-shot at rabbits, just over the brow of the dale.  The path climbed slowly upwards until we emerged out of the dale and into open countryside just as another shot rang out, quickly followed by a second, which made me jump.  In the field to our left we could see the culprit.  A crow-scaring cannon which, as soon as I spotted it, fired yet another loud blast and I jumped again.  Somehow, knowing something is going to emit a loud noise, and waiting for it to happen, makes me jump more than if I was not expecting it at all. 

The route of the Wolds Way crossed the B1230 at High Hunsley Beacon, which was erected to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002.  From here we followed quiet lanes and fieldside paths until turning into beautiful Swin Dale.

High Hunsley Beacon
 
The profusion of hawthorns flowering on our entrance to the dale was a gorgeous sight to behold.  All the while the terrain was becoming increasingly familiar Wolds country, with gentle hills folding into dry valleys, and our path now followed the bottom of such a valley. 

Swin Dale's hawthorns

It would have been all too easy to have dawdled through Swin Dale.  The day had brightened up nicely, the temperature was just perfect and this little valley was truly beautiful.  It was nearing midday though and, surprisingly in view of the size of our breakfast, we had begun to feel a little peckish.  We were making good time and so we decided that a detour to the village of North Newbald was in order.

The path through Swin Dale

This was one of the few times on our walk when consulting an OS map would have been useful.  Had I done so, I would have seen that there was a short cut accessible to us which would have meant we'd only have to walk half a mile to reach North Newbald.  As it was, we followed the route of the Wolds Way to the road and turned to follow it for a mile into the village.  After a few hours of walking on grass and relatively soft surfaces, the tarmac road really seemed to give my feet a pounding and, as we entered the outskirts of the village, I was painfully aware of every step.  No matter.  Not one but two pubs were soon in sight, and both were open for business.

North Newbald is a small village with a population of approximately 800 people.  It's therefore a bit surprising, especially these days, to find that it can support two inns, located directly opposite each other - the "Tiger" and the unusually named "Gnu", which surely must be the only pub in the world named after a wildebeest.  It reminded me of a comedy song my grandfather once sang to me, along the lines of "I'm a gnu.  How do you do" and the memory made me chuckle.  However, we decided to visit The Tiger.  My feet were really aching and it was just a few steps nearer than the Gnu.  This turned out to be an excellent choice, because once inside the pub we discovered that The Tiger was holding its very own beer festival.  It was 11.30 a.m. and we had walked just over eight miles, which I calculated left around six miles to go with up to six hours available to complete the walk in comfort.  We had time for beer.  And sandwiches.


The Tiger and the Gnu

Inside the pub, where we enjoyed a tasty cheese baguette, there was little sign of any festival.  It turned out it was being held outdoors, in a rather scruffy marquee erected at the side of the pub, the interior of which was patriotically decorated as if for a jubilee celebration. 

Where's the Jubilee?

It was still only a little after midday, and it was obviously going to be a few hours before the beer festival got into full swing.  We were the only people inside the marquee, but the Tiger's cheerful landlord came out and described a few of the beers before serving us with "taster" glasses containing one third of a pint each.  I sampled a trio by the names of "Pheasant Plucker" (my favourite), "Heligan Honey Beer" and the rather sickly sounding (and tasting) "Cup Cake".  I wouldn't have minded trying a few of the others, such as "Nettle Thrasher" and "Old Leg Over", but these would not be on tap until later in the day and the time had come for us to be on our way again.

Beer Festival!!!!

Well rested, with my feet suitably anaesthetised, we retraced our steps for a mile to rejoin the Wolds Way as it turned off the road to pass the rather aptly named Sober Hill Wind Farm. 

A windy, sober hill

At the top of the hill we found one of the National Trail acorns which are placed at intervals along the way and update walkers with the distance to both Filey and Hessle.  This one told us we had covered 19½ miles leaving "only" 59½ miles to walk. 

Not far to go now!

The sun was shining now and the way ahead looked inviting as we strode towards Hessleskew Farm and beyond to cross the main A1079 Hull to York road at the top of Arras Hill.

The way ahead

The road was busy with Bank Holiday traffic and once safely across we walked down the lane to pass through Arras Farm.  This area should be familiar to anyone with a knowledge of archaeology or pre-Roman history as it was here in the early nineteenth century that over 100 barrows were excavated, revealing distinctive burial practices which came to be known as the "Arras Culture".  Four of the barrows had contained disassembled chariots or carts.  The characteristics of the Arras Culture - the burials, their alignment, the type of grave goods and the inclusion of wheeled vehicles - are almost unique to East Yorkshire and are associated with the Iron Age tribe who once lived here, the Parisi.  Nothing visible remains above ground today at this important archaeological site.  However, the Arras Culture, along with several other significant sites in the district, mean that East Yorkshire is an area of national archaeological importance to rival even the likes of Wiltshire.

Approaching Arras

Beyond Arras Farm the arable fields stretch off to the north, almost as far as the eye can see, rippling in the wind like a green ocean.

Fields of green.....


On the opposite side of the path oilseed rape was growing in profusion, the bright yellow flowers emitting a strong scent which was, at times, almost overwhelming.  I'm fortunate not to suffer from hay fever, but even so I began to feel a little heady and was happy to be moving away from the oilseed rape as we descended towards the town of Market Weighton.

...and yellow

At this point Yorkshire Wolds Way walkers are faced with a choice - whether to follow the trail to the village of Goodmanham or to head for Market Weighton.  As our accommodation was located on the other side of the town, we had chosen the latter route which follows the course of the former Beverley to Market Weighton railway which today is known as Hudson Way, after the great railway builder, George Hudson.

The Hudson Way

This route was rather busy with cyclists, families and dog walkers which was in sharp contrast to the peace and solitude of the Wolds.  As we neared the town our attention was drawn to a tree bedecked with brightly coloured strips of cloth. 


A pagan tree

Steps led upwards from the tree to what looked like a small tunnel above a little rectangular pond.  This, it turns out, was an ancient holy well, known as Saint Helen's Well.  An adjacent information panel explained the significance of holy wells and the fact that nearby Goodmanham was once the Pagan High Shrine of Northumbria.  Often such pagan sites were appropriated by the church and linked to a saint, so that they could become a place of Christian pilgrimage.  Saint Helen was the mother of Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, who was declared Emperor at York in 306AD.  Perhaps it was because of its woodland location, and the ribbons hanging from the tree, but the place certainly had more of a pagan than a Christian feel to it as far as I was concerned.

Saint Helen's Well

The Hudson Way ended on the outskirts of Market Weighton, leaving us to walk through the centre of the little market town and along the road which led us out to the busy A1079.  Along the way we passed the former home of William Bradley.  Living between 1787 to 1820, "Giant" Bradley was the tallest Englishman ever recorded.  Measuring a whopping 7 feet 9 inches and weighing in at 27 stones, a plaque on the wall of his house shows the exact size of one of his enormous footprints.


Giant Bradley's Footprint

The final mile and a half of our walk was along the hard surface of a roadside footpath which took us to the Shiptonthorpe roundabout.  Like earlier in the day, the sudden transition from a relatively soft surface to hard tarmac played havoc with my feet which were positively singing as we turned into the entrance of Robeanne House at around 5.30 p.m.  Glancing at our GPS device I noticed that we had actually walked 17½ miles - 3½ miles more than anticipated.  We were therefore extremely grateful to be greeted by the cheerful owner, Jeanne, who immediately brought us a cold can of beer each before showing us to our room.  This was a totally self-contained room above a wing of the house.  It was spacious, peaceful, spotlessly clean and it had excellent views over the countryside.  I immediately wished we could have stayed there for  more than just one night and later that evening,  as Jeanne provided us with a delicious meal in her kitchen (a service she provides on request for Wolds Way walkers), I learned that a longer stay would have been possible.  This is because Jeanne will also taxi walkers between stages of the walk in the neighbouring area, enabling at least one day of backpack-free walking. 

Our room was well equipped with a TV, books, magazines and, best of all, a view from one of the windows which enabled us to look back as far as Sober Hill wind farm and onwards to the start of the following day's walk.  Not that I had much time to savour the view.  Before long my eyelids began to droop as the sun went down on our second, highly enjoyable, day on the trail.

GPS Statistics:
Total distance walked - 17.5 miles
Total ascent - 1,539 feet
Total descent - 1,598 feet
Highest altitude - 545 feet
Mean temperature - 76ºF


Coming soon...Day 3 on the Yorkshire Wolds Way took us from Shiptonthorpe to Huggate, via Nunburnholme and Londesborough and above Millington.


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