I'll shortly be adding a day-by-day account of the entire trail, with photographs taken along the way, but first of all I thought it might be helpful to write a short overview, covering our preparations, accommodation choices and some of the highs and lows of walking 79 miles from the Humber Bridge to Filey Brigg. In planning our walk I had found the Yorkshire Wolds Way National Trail website to be invaluable, including as it does a downloadable accommodation guide, distance calculator and other useful information. I didn't take any maps on the walk (it's so well sign-posted they weren't really needed), but I did carry with me a copy of the Cicerone Guide (which also covers The Cleveland Way and Tabular Hills Walk).
Most of the books and articles or websites I'd read in preparation describe the Yorkshire Wolds Way as a long distance walk that can be completed "with relative ease", or words to that effect. Whilst I'd agree that on the face of it this route is lacking in some of the challenges encountered along, for example, the Pennine Way, the description "easy" could be misleading. When we had previously attempted the walk I was certain that my level of fitness was sufficient to enable me to walk up to 20 miles in one day and I'd prepared for this by walking up to 12 miles every Sunday. This was definitely not enough training! And 20 miles, for me, is just too far to walk in one day when preceded by a day of 12 miles walking, then followed by one of 15 miles. This time I had ensured that I could walk up to 14 miles on three consecutive days and, even then, I found the going a little tough towards the end of a couple of days. It's important, I feel, not to underestimate the cumulative effect of walking for several consecutive days, however "easy" the terrain may be considered.
Our previous attempt was scheduled over five days, which necessitated quite lengthy treks. This time I opted to complete it in six days. Along the way we met other walkers who were taking varying lengths of time from ten days (which I feel is just a bit too relaxed) right down to just one day (a couple of very fit runners). The average duration though does seem to be six days. There are a few factors to take into account when working out how long to take. Firstly, you have to know your limits and what you consider to be a comfortable walking speed, allowing for rest stops and diversions. It's worth bearing in mind that a planned 15 miles can easily turn into 18 miles. This can happen, for instance, if like us you decide to detour to a pub or cafe for a break. After Market Weighton there are virtually no facilities on the actual route itself. The entire route is extremely well sign-posted and yet it's still possible, on occasion, to take a wrong turn and this can easily add half a mile or so. We averaged a walking pace of two and a half miles per hour, on occasion speeding up to three and a half, which with rest stops meant we were arriving at our accommodation each night at approximately 4.30 to 5 p.m. We found this ideal timing for a shower, a rest and then an evening meal.
In addition to the distance, unless using a baggage transfer service, the extra weight of a backpack has to be taken into account. Even though I thought I'd been very frugal with my packing, when I left home to walk to the railway station to catch a train to Hessle, I was almost instantly beset with doubt. It felt like I was piggy-backing a small child! Was it possible, I fretted, to carry this "small child" on my back for 79 miles? Happily, thanks to the excellent design of my new rucksack, the extra weight soon became almost unnoticeable. I only had to apply Voltarol to my shoulders once. By the end of the week though I did feel as if I was missing something when walking without the backpack and I found myself looking around for any small children who might fancy a piggy-back ride.
Another factor to consider was whether to use walking poles. I always use them when there are likely to be steep descents as they really help take the pressure off my knees, but I wasn't sure whether they'd be more of a burden on a long trek. Then I read an article about the correct usage of poles which explained that when properly used up to 20% of a walker's bodyweight can be taken on the arms during every step down, thereby reducing stress on the lower body and especially the knees. That convinced me that I should take them along and it was definitely the right decision. They certainly helped keep me going and also proved very useful for thrashing away nettles and bolstering my confidence when crossing a field full of cattle.
Perhaps the most important consideration is that of footwear and foot care. On our previous attempt I had been beset by blisters from day one, due in no small part to humidity (there was a heat wave at the time) and also because I was wearing relatively new boots with the wrong type of socks. This time I had planned to walk in trail shoes, as opposed to my leather hiking boots, and had bought myself a pair specifically for this purpose. In the end though I scrapped the idea of walking in the new trail shoes and went with my leather boots after all. And I'm very glad that I did. For starters, in spite of feeling supremely comfy in the store and around the house, the trail shoes quickly became uncomfortable when worn for more than a couple of miles. They just didn't have enough give in them and as my feet became hot and expanded a little, I was very quickly limping. The decision to walk in leather boots turned out to be the right one, because although we set off in fine, dry weather, as the week progressed the weather deteriorated dramatically, meaning that by the fifth day we were at times wading through ankle deep mud or knee-high wet grass. Along the way we encountered a couple of other walkers in trail shoes and, although we're not entirely certain, we believe they didn't actually complete the walk. It was just too wet.
A few words now about our accommodation along the way. As I mentioned in my first blog about preparing for the walk, I found accommodation options to be a little limited, especially along the middle section. Here, for those who don't want to wait to read each of my forthcoming daily accounts, is a brief summary of our itinerary and accommodation. Distances are approximate.
Day 1 - Hessle to Brantingham - 10 miles
Accommodation: Keeper's Lodge, Brantingham
This small bed and breakfast establishment is located directly on the Wolds Way. It has just three letting bedrooms which are presented to a high standard - very clean and comfortable, with everything you'd expect, like tea and coffee making facilities, en suite bathroom (ours had a shower over a bath) and toiletries. The landlady greeted us with a smile and a very welcome cup of tea and provided a tray for our boots. An evening meal isn't available but there is a nearby pub, The Triton Inn, Brantingham (it's worth booking a meal in advance). We were the only guests staying here at the time, so enjoyed a very peaceful night and an excellent breakfast.
Day 2 - Brantingham to Shiptonthorpe - 15 miles
Accommodation: Robeanne House, Shiptonthorpe
This superb bed and breakfast establishment is located on the main A614 just outside Market Weighton. It's approximately a mile and a half from the centre of Market Weighton and about half a mile from where the Wolds Way crosses the A614, before heading off in the direction of Londesborough. We chose to walk all the way to Robeanne House and this did involve walking alongside very busy roads. However, the owner will provide a taxi service, picking walkers up from, for example, Goodmanham and dropping them off there the next day. Also, it's possible to stay here for more than one night as the owner will actually travel further afield to taxi walkers to and from the route. This is a very worthwhile consideration as it would allow for a backpack free day's walking! Also, as there is nowhere close by to get an evening meal, the owner will provide a two course evening meal for walkers without transport at a very reasonable price, including a glass of wine or beer. We availed ourselves of this service and it was truly excellent! The accommodation is of a very high standard indeed and, in spite of being by a busy road, it's very peaceful and relaxing. We thought it was very obvious that the owner of this B&B really loves her work as it was reflected in every aspect of our stay. It was so good, in fact, that if I was planning the walk all over again I'd definitely fix my schedule to allow for two nights here - and more if that was possible!
Day 3 - Shiptonthorpe to Huggate - 15 miles
Accommodation: The Wolds Inn, Huggate
What a letdown after the excellent accommodation we'd enjoyed for our first two nights. We arrived at the Wolds Inn at around 4.30 p.m. feeling rather weary and in need of a sit down, a shower and a drink. The building was locked with not a soul in sight. After waiting around 30 minutes a man arrived on a motorcycle. It turned out he was the chef and he couldn't get in either! He told us the landlord should be along shortly and he eventually turned up after around another 15 minutes. He then proceeded to ignore us completely and we had to go and get a kitchen assistant to ask him to let us in. He was very surly and unwelcoming as he showed us to a small, drab room. To be fair, the room was clean and had the usual en suite, TV, tea, coffee, etc., and the building is very old, but it was nevertheless very dreary. We had a very nice (but rather pricey) meal in the pub that night and found the place to be rather lacking in cheer. There was a younger, more friendlier member of staff but the atmosphere seemed to noticeably chill every time the grumpy landlord reappeared. Breakfast, it turns out, is optional, so we opted to settle our bill before turning in for the night and were thus able to let ourselves out at 7 a.m. the next day. This establishment is adequate but not very welcoming. Which is a pity because accommodation is rather scarce on this part of the walk. (I was later told by other walkers that Laburnum Cottage in Millington is an excellent B&B in this area.)
Day 4 - Huggate to North Grimston - 15 miles
Accommodation: The Middleton Arms, North Grimston
We arrived at the Middleton Arms shortly after another pair of Wolds Way walkers to find the building locked and no one around...again. This time though we didn't have to wait long before an apologetic landlady arrived to let us in. We were immediately shown to our room which was rather old-fashioned. It had an en suite (a bath, no shower - the other couple told us their en suite had a shower but no toilet!), no television and although it seemed clean initially, later that evening I found mushrooms growing behind the toilet. I'm just glad I noticed them after I'd had the steak and mushroom pie for supper (which was actually very nice indeed). I wouldn't say the establishment was dirty - just very old and very tired - and I got the feeling it was being run by a lady all on her own. I wanted to like the Middleton Arms. I really did. But as it cost the same price as a night at lovely Keeper's Lodge, and because it's located a mile off the trail, unfortunately I cannot recommend it. In short, I just pretended I was camping!
Day 5 - North Grimston to Ganton - 16 miles
Accommodation: The Ganton Greyhound, Ganton
What a difference a day makes! After walking for the entire 16 miles in driving rain, we were extremely pleased to arrive at the Ganton Greyhound, and to find that it was open, and to be immediately greeted with a pile of newspapers for our boots. Our room was lovely and although the radiator didn't work, someone quickly attended to this for us, allowing us to dry everything out nicely. We dined there that evening and had a highly enjoyable meal, followed by a very comfortable night and a superb breakfast. Top notch. And only £2 more than the Middleton Arms, which makes no sense at all! Happily I can thoroughly recommend the Ganton Greyhound.
Day 6 saw us complete the walk at Filey, from where we were able to catch a train home, meaning accommodation wasn't needed. This being a seaside resort, however, there are plenty of options for those requiring an overnight stay.
A quick word about the completion here. As we approached Filey we could see a couple of walkers ahead of us and a group of six people behind us. We knew both groups were walking the Wolds Way and yet neither party seemed to walk all the way to the finishing stone at Filey Brigg. This led me to wonder if people actually believe the walk finishes in the town of Filey itself. It doesn't! It officially ends out on the Brigg, at the stone marker which also marks the end (or beginning) of the Cleveland Way. I wonder how many people think they've finished, when they actually haven't? Or perhaps the lure of fish and chips was just too strong at this point and both groups made their way to the finishing line later in the day. I guess I'll never know.
I will, in due course, be writing a day-by-day account (one day at a time) covering the whole walk, which will include lots of photographs. It was a wonderful journey through stunning countryside of gentle rolling hills(with three short, steep climbs), wide open spaces, big skies and lots of British wildlife including roe deer darting into woodland, foxes scurrying into the undergrowth and red kite soaring over trees. I look forward to reliving it all through my blog. I hope you'll be able to join me.