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The Wolds Way & Headland Walk / 4 days / 100 miles (161km)

Wolds Way OS Route Map → Map GPX Route file →

Date: 19 May 2008

Wolds Way:- Start: Hessle. Finish: Filey Brigg.
Maps: Explorers 293 Kingston Upon Hull + 294 Market Weighton + 300 Howardian Hills + 301 Scarborough.

Headland Walk:- Start: Filey (Coble Landing). Finish: Bridlington.
Maps: Explorer 301 Scarborough.

National Trails website National Trails website

Day 1Hessle Haven to Londesborough28.4m (45.7km)
Day 2Londesborough to Deep Dale30.3m (48.8km)
Day 3Deep Dale to Filey Brigg20.8m (33.5km)

Day 4The Headland Walk21m (33.8km)
YWW scenery

Primarily a fast-and-light solo training walk of the Yorkshire Wolds Way (YWW), as this national trail is now known, with a continuation along the Headland Walk (HW) to Bridlington. Actually I would call it fast and reasonably light since I had to carry a fair amount of water, being a low level route mainly through small rolling hills and dales of farmland followed by the walk along the coast.

The YWW is essentially a country ramble and not really our kind of walk, and we would not be inclined to invest several days in exploring the fine detail to be found along the way, but it makes a good training route. It consists mainly of farm tracks, field-edge paths and woodland paths with some pleasant and peaceful dales, and my overall lingering impression at the end was one of intensive agriculture:- broad horizons seen over vast crop fields. Beyond this I don't have much to say about the route and I took only a few photos, I'll leave the detailed descriptions to others more enamoured of this kind of walking.

The real surprise was how pleasantly quiet this national trail was: on the trail itself I saw less than a dozen walkers in the whole 79 miles, and walking alone through all the dales was a striking sensation compared to many past outings in the popular White Peak District.

Day 1 - Hessle Haven to Londesborough

I didn't anticipate the first difficulty of the day but I should have done: the stop/start traffic jams on the M62. Beyond Leeds they melted away and progress was rapid but I still arrived over an hour later than expected in Hessle, which weighed on my mind and made me set a relentless fast pace for the day.

The start of the YWW is announced by a fingerpost at Hessle Haven saying: 'Filey 79 miles' and from the good shoreline track the Humber Bridge quickly comes into view.

The Humber Bridge
The Humber Bridge (19 May 2008__09:35:00)

The way is generally very well signed but you have to keep your eye on the map and know when to expect the turnings, due to the various other named trails that share common tracks hereabouts and also because some YWW signposts are set back from the path or easily obscured by vegetation. The only puzzle I found today was where the YWW emerges from Long Plantation at SE 979263: my map shows the trail turning R and almost immediately crossing the A63, in fact it now ascends L to the roundabout and crosses the road via the pedestrian crossing and bridge.

Swin Dale
Swin Dale (19 May 2008__15:20:40)
Swin Dale
Swin Dale (19 May 2008__15:30:08)

The map shows a YWW spur leaving Market Weighton and joining the main route at Londesborough Park, but no inward spur. I had to replenish water and I left the YWW at SE 900425 to walk into the town, bypassing the short Goodmanham section and joining the signed YWW spur to return to the trail, initially on a narrow path through a field of neck-high oilseed rape: good job I don't suffer from hay fever!.

Trying to relax in the tent that evening after 28 miles, I thought I had paid a hefty price for that fast pace when my legs were aching all over and refused to switch off, but the effect was short lived and they were fine after an hour or so.

Day 2 - Londesborough to Deep Dale

An early start after a quite chilly night and the grass was glistening with dew: then I discovered that the liners in my Stratos had finally failed. Overhanging wet grass is more efficient at soaking the feet than standing water, or so it seems, and my feet would now inevitably suffer and become very tender from one cause or another, I know this scenario very well from the old days. How come it always happens on the longest or hardest trips?. Sod's Law I guess.

Notes for backpackers:- Fridaythorpe has a petrol station that sells some foodstuffs and drinks. Thixendale has a charming shop selling a range of food and drink, the smallest shop I've ever seen with about enough room for two people inside: they advertise on a board outside the garden gate (otherwise you would never know it was a shop) and the entrance is at the rear.

Dale scenery near Millington
Dale scenery near Millington (20 May 2008__08:49:41)
Thixen Dale
Thixen Dale (20 May 2008__11:00:59)
Wharram Percy
Wharram Percy (20 May 2008__15:26:10)

That evening after 30 miles I examined my feet, and despite adhering to the pre-backpack ritual of carefully cutting nails, there were thin lines of dried blood where some nails had cut into adjacent toes. I don't know why this should happen merely due to dampness, but it usually does and I was expecting it.

Day 3 - Deep Dale to Filey Brigg

Another lovely morning and a repeat of the previous day, including the wet broad-leaved grass. At SE 890775 I took the signed alternative variation on the YWW via West Farm, a surfaced track that would reduce the amount of wet vegetation to contend with. There were extensive views northwards from these upper slopes, maintained as far as Heslerton Brow.

View from Heslerton Brow
View from Heslerton Brow (21 May 2008__06:44:29)
Dale scenery near Folkton Wold
Dale scenery near Folkton Wold (21 May 2008__11:34:49)

I arrived in Filey around 14:00 with plenty of time to restock supplies for the last day and take the final walk out to Filey Brigg and the obelisk marking the end of the YWW.

View to Filey Brigg
View to Filey Brigg (21 May 2008__15:20:51)

Mindful of the long walk tomorrow and the tender state of my feet, I decided to forego the planned pitch at North Cliff and make some progress southwards today, despite the uncertainty of this unknown coastline for good pitching. Passing the Filey golf course and walking onward on the clifftop path, the situation was looking very grim and the high tide this evening would prevent progress on the beach beyond Flat Cliff, but just as I was beginning to despair I spotted a small shelf far below on the tangled slopes that looked flat and free of brambles. I picked my way down and it was indeed level, just big enough for the tent with the soft vegetation flattened and a short way above the beach. It was an excellent comfortable pitch and I set up the tent with the door facing the sea, watching a couple of evening surfers making the most of the small breakers in the bay.

Day 4 - The Headland Walk

Headland Walk logo

The Headland Walk is intended to use the beach from Filey to Bempton cliffs and any other variation would be messy to say the least, but I knew the tide would be high again during the critical period early this morning. The plan was to investigate a higher route above the water mark which would mean negotiating the caravan sites and any other man made difficulties.

The LDWA description implies that a fairly clear way exists, at least when walking from S to N, but I just knew it would not be that simple.

A fresh set of clean dry socks felt soothing on a fresh day, and it dawned with a warming view of the sunrise over Filey Bay from the tent.

Dawn from the pitch at Mile Haven
Dawn from the pitch at Mile Haven (22 May 2008__04:56:26)

The first impassable point on the beach walk was near Butcher Haven, but I climbed up a very rough slope to a grassy rake and on to a clifftop path that took me as far as the houses at Hunmanby Gap. A surfaced walkway descends towards the beach where there are steps climbing back up to the edge footpath which leads to Reighton Sands caravan site. This was the end of the line: I explored the eastern end of the site but could see no way through, and even if I'd found one there was still the gash of Black Cliff to contend with further on. It was a lovely morning and I descended the rough broken footpath to the water edge and waited for the tide to ebb.

Filey Bay
Filey Bay (22 May 2008__06:11:24)

As soon as the water had receded a little I set off along the pebbly beach and reached the area of creamy white rocks below Speeton Cliffs. The map shows a path at TA 160752 slanting back up to the clifftop but the beach rocks were getting bigger and rougher and progress slower, so I decided to climb up directly and try to find it. I found no evidence of any path nor any natural line on the broken slopes where there could be one. Looking up to the clifftop I spotted a line which might be feasible: it looked fiercely steep but ended in a less steep grassy breach and I made it to the top without much difficulty. Here there was a path which quickly led to a Headland Way signpost and on to the trig point at a heady 135m.

Bempton Cliffs
Bempton Cliffs (22 May 2008__09:46:19)

From here the path is initially a disappointment after the alluring sight of the sheer cliffs. The path is a long way back from the edge and weaves its way through tall vegetation (which was pretty wet yet again!) and there is no sense of walking on a clifftop at all, the sea itself being out of view much of the time, although the extensive pink campion was in flower and made a colourful show. The route improves a great deal at the RSPB reserve where the paths are much better and observation platforms have been constructed to view the nesting seabirds on the cliffs.

Gannet colony
Gannet colony (22 May 2008__09:53:33)

The route is pretty straightforward now along the Flamborough Heritage Coast, a fine walk via Thornwick Bay to Flamborough Head and the lighthouse and along South Cliff to Bridlington. Another mile or so along the hot promenade and on to the rail station made it a round 100 miles.

Flamborough heritage coast
Flamborough heritage coast (22 May 2008__10:32:23)
Flamborough heritage coast
Flamborough heritage coast (22 May 2008__11:11:35)