The Yorkshire Wolds Way is proof that you shouldn’t confuse distance with difficulty. This is the shortest National Trail at just 78 miles, and we completed the whole thing in three and a bit days.
But that doesn’t mean that we found it easy. I found the South Downs Way, around a third longer at just under 100 miles, to be easier. I even think the Thames Path, at almost 200 miles, and thus almost three times as long, is, in some respects, more straightforward than the Yorkshire Wolds Way.
That’s not to say that the Wolds Way is a difficult walk. It’s really not. There are a few short steep sections, but nothing too dramatic. The trail is also very well signposted, like all National Trails, ski navigation is pretty straightforward too (indeed, as this post proves, for large stretches you don’t even need a map or guide book to walk this long-distance trail)….
But there is one reason why the Wolds Way scores highly on the trickiness factor, and that is because of the lack of facilities you encounter along the way. There are several large sections where there is simply nowhere to eat, nowhere to stay and no means of transport to get away from the trail either.
In other words, you have little option but to plod on.
So what are the rewards for those prepared to do a bit of planning to make sure they have somewhere to eat each day, and somewhere to rest their head at night too? Well, despite the fact that we made the mistake of not planning our walk, and not even taking a map, and in spite of the fact that we were subjected to the worst weather we’ve ever had on any trail, we still developed a fondness for the Wolds Way.
Our reasons are manifold and include (but are not limited to) the endless series of endless views that you get from the top of the Wolds themselves down into the Vale of York below. We also like the fact that the trail starts by a city, ends at the seaside, neither of which are in any way similar to the scenery you encounter along the trail itself.
I also really like the fact that the trail cuts through a part of the country that, before I embarked on the Way, I knew so little about. On pretty much every other trail you have an idea what the scenery is going be like before you set foot on it. You know before you set foot on the South-West Coast Path, for example, that your adventure is probably going to be filled with lovely beaches, cute fishing villages, cream teas and fish and chips. And I reckon you can go through most of the National Trails and have at least some idea of what you’re going see. Indeed, you may well have even been to some of the places before.
But the Wolds Way? Well I had no idea what was in store for me and, other than Filey, which lies at the very northern end of the walk, I had never visited any of the other places en route. Indeed, if I’m being honest, I hadn’t even heard of them.
In fact, only the word ‘Wold’ gave me any clue as to what the walk might be about, and even then I had to look up ( which I did, just now. It means ‘a piece of high, open uncultivated land or moor’, apparently). Which means it was a lovely surprise when I found myself striding atop some gentle rolling hills above the Vale of York, with York Minster itself occasionally just visible from the path.
Other advantages? Well this one sounds corny – but I genuinely think it’s true. It’s normal for people to say that the locals they met on holiday were friendly. It’s also normal for people to say that folk up north are friendlier than their counterparts elsewhere.
But I swear that the people in this part of Yorkshire are the friendliest I have ever encountered. We had hardly left Filey before somebody was asking if my dog wanted water – and then asked if I wanted a drink too.
The same thing happened at a farmyard crossed by the Way, where the farmer – someone whom you might have thought would have good reason to be irritated by walkers constantly crossing his property – asked if the dog wanted a drink, then if I wanted a drink, then proceeded to chat amiably about both his own experience of the trail and about my plans too.
And throughout the way I found it easy to strike up conversations, or join in discussions at the pub of an evening – and I’m neither particularly good at that sort of thing, nor feel comfortable doing so. But the people I met on this walk were so open to chat, and have a laugh about any small thing, that it was not just easy, it was natural.
So while I usually agree that people in other parts of Yorkshire tend to be slightly – just slightly – friendlier than the norm; here in the Wolds, they are truly a class above.
And, if nothing else, that’s a very good reason to walk the Wolds. Because it does go some way to restoring your faith in humanity.