Tales from the Big Trails, in print on 2nd September 2021, available now for pre-order from Vertebrate Publishing. Featuring all 15 National Trails in England and Wales, and the 4 designated long-distance Scotland’s Great Trails. This is the story of the people I meet, the landscapes and coastal scenery and the sheer joy of walking these iconic long-distance routes in the UK. Click on a link below for a copy.
A walk through a landscape carved in chalk, from Hessle, on the Humber estuary to Filey Brigg on the dramatic coast of North East England. Superb villages, pubs and pies and a grand Yorkshire welcome. A landscape so beautifully captured by a series of paintings by David Hockney that evoke a strong presence that you will recognise by walking this quiet trail. The dry chalk valleys are spectacular as are the views over Yorkshire.
Time of year
Much of the trail can be very muddy indeed and this will make progress difficult at times. Having said that I walked the trail in early March, where the odd hard frost was welcome on the high ground, but still ineffective in the woodland sections. The landscape in winter evokes the Hockney paintings in a particularly striking way. A strong easterly wind outside of summer will feel very cold, coming directly from the North Sea. So any time of year with dry conditions.
Length of walk
At 79 miles this is a not a long trail but it can be combined with the Cleveland Way (109 miles) for a longer expedition. I completed this walk in 4 1/2 days and continued on towards Scarborough along the coast of the Cleveland Way, ending up in Helmsley 10 days after leaving Hessle. I walked from South to North to keep the sun on my shoulder, lighting the landscape ahead.
Accommodation is hard to find, specifically campsites. But with some planning, you can find good accommodation in the villages, usually with a superb pub a short distance away. I found accommodation expensive compared to other regions I have walked in. So plan and book ahead in summer months and consider using bus connections on the last section to Filey Brigg.
Up early to catch a train to Hessle (just short of Kingston-Upon-Hull), via Kings Cross and Doncaster. A short walk then brings you to the starting stone, near the colossal Humber Bridge structure, once the largest suspension bridge in the world. The initial stretch follows the Humber estuary and then turns inland, following muddy paths and steadily rising on to the Wolds. Watch out for the 5 miles interval acorn posts that mark your progress.
I managed to get a lift to/from the local hotel from the path where it crossed the B1230, perhaps the only accommodation option that night. Early morning it was snowing and the going underfoot on frosty ground welcome after the previous days’ mud. Swin Dale is one of many dry chalk valley you will walk through, a surreal experience with the absence of muddy conditions or a stream. You now enter a landscape shaped by the thoughtful management of large private estates, with landscaped gardens and pretty unspoiled villages bereft of cars and modern life.
A night in Millington was very pleasant, having stumbled upon a Pie making competition at the local pub. Perhaps the best steak and kidney pie I have ever tasted washed down with a fine Yorkshire Bitter. With a great breakfast to power me up a hill and down dale, progress through the mud was strangely enjoyable but the strong easterly wind and rain were not. Rested at the abandoned village of Wharram Percy, before entering North Grimstone, and a pub caught in a time warp, with 2 walkers from Hull in their 60’s taking it easy.
The following day, the weather improved and good progress into Ganton along the escarpment, with fine views north. A steep ascent at one point is rewarded by one of many sculptures and poetic benches which illustrate the landscape and path. The local pub is good, with a great collection of jugs. Meet up with my walking companions, who seem to have caught the bus from the last pub.
The last half day into Filey Brigg along the escarpment as it peters out towards the coast. Through Holloway’s and across fields teaming with Lapwings and Hares. Filey Brigg is a stunning peninsula of landmarking the end of the Yorkshire Wolds Way, which then immediately connects to the Cleveland Way leading north towards Scarborough.
- Day 1 – 15m – Train to Hessle, walk to B1230 – lift to Hotel
- Day 2 – 17m – Millington – Rambler’s Hostel
- Day 3 – 20m – North Grimstone – Pub
- Day 4 – 15m – Ganton – Motel
- Day 5 – 12m – Filey Brigg
and on to the Cleveland Way along the coast path to Scarborough