The North Yorkshire Wolds is an area of chalky uplands north of the Humber, reaching a height of some 800 ft. The area is bounded on the west by the Vale of York, on the north by the Vale of Pickering, on the east by the North Sea and on the south and east by the Plain of Holderness.
This 20 mile circular walk on public rights of way passes through Thixendale, Kirby Underdale, Bishop Wilton, Great Givendale and Millington. It offers a variety of contrasting scenery from the typical grassy wolds valleys to picturesque villages and affords impressive views from high vantage points.
The walk begins from the large 'Layby / Picnic Area' at the Huggate turnoff, opposite Wayrham Farm, on the A166 approximately three miles south west of Fridaythorpe (GR 836567). The 'layby', a loop remaining after road modernisation, is in a dip partly hidden from the main road. (There are of course other possible starting points) An average time for the walk is around eight hours.
Cross the A166 and follow the footpath down into Wayrham Dale through the gate. Pass through another gate (½ mile) into the Forestry Commission plantation. Bear right (¼ mile) and follow the valley bottom, past a small pond, Bradeham Well in a dip on your left, until you reach a double gate at the junction of three valleys (GR 845586). Turn left and follow the valley bottom walking in a northerly direction until you reach the road (1¼ miles) - GR 841603. Turn right and follow the road into Thixendale. Turn left into the village (note the 'Cross Keys' on your right for refreshments when open), past the church of St Mary, built in 1870 by G.E. Street. Inside the style is early 14th century.
Carry straight on until you reach the public bridleway on your left just past Manor Farm (GR 837612). Go through the gate and bear left after 100 yards following the valley bottom which climbs uphill. Pass through a gate (600 yards) and continue straight on until the valley sweeps to the left. At this point you will see a gate on your right. Turn through the gate and continue climbing to Thixendale Grange Farm. At the farm turn left and follow the cart track to the road (GR 812607) and turn left. The radio mast on the horizon, almost due south of you, is a useful landmark as the route comes out on the A166 just west of the mast.
Walk along the road for about 600 yards and pass through a gate at the 2nd hedgerow. Drop down to the bottom of the field with the hedge on your right (400 yards) and turn left towards copse of trees (100 yards). Turn right through the gateway and continue straight on downhill (keep the hede on your left) until you reach the back of Woodley Farm. Go through the gate on your left 400 yards past the farm. You will shortly join a cart track - keep straight on and follow this to the road. Turn left up the hill and then right *through the farm (200 yards) (GR 811591). Follow the hedge on your left, walking south, until you reach a small bridge across the beck. Turn right through the gate, over the fence and head diagonally towards the church of All Saints (GR808586) in Kirby Underdale.
* The path has been diverted to avoid passing through the farmyard. Follow the FP sign on the right just before the farm - still comes out at the church.
All Saints is an interesting church, in a superb wooded setting, dating back to the 11th century. It was restored by G E Street in 1871. Remains of the windows of the earlier structure can be seen above the arches of the north aisle.
Turn right, pass the church and follow the road through the village until you reach the post office/telephone box. Turn left and follow the green lane uphill, walking south until you reach the A166 (GR 809567). (At this point the start is only 2 miles away on your left. This provides a useful 'escape route' in emergencies and a useful pick-up-point if doing the walk in two sections).
Cross the A166 and go down the minor road opposite. When the trees are reached (400 yards), climb up the bank on the left alongside the fence. Turn right (50 yards) and keep the fence on your right until the wood is reached. Turn left and follow the wood round (keeping it on the right). At the southern corner of the wood an excellent view of Bishop Wilton is obtained. Turn left and left again through the gate (50 yards). Follow the path right round the top of the valley with the fence on your left. You can see Bishop Wilton Wold Farm on your left. Do not drop into the valley. In about half a mile as the trees break, a view of the tall spire of St Edith's is again obtained. Turn left and walk through the gate on the left (100 yards). Head straight for the church, through another gate under the telegraph wires. Climb over the fence in the corner of-the next field, turn right and drop down into the village between the cottages next to the stream.
Bishop Wilton is a picturesque village, spaciously developed on either side of the stream. The church of St Edith's is worth visiting. It has a fine Norman south doorway which is ornamented with carving of animals and faces. The church was restored in 1858 - 9 when much of the old stone work was retained.
Carry on past the church and turn left at the Fleece Inn (GR 797551).
In 600 yards as the road sweeps right pass through the gate on the left. Climb to the top of the field along its northern boundary, pass through the gate and immediately turn right over the fence. Walk along the top edge of the field which sweeps left in 200 yards. Climb over the ranch fencing on the right, turn left and immediately right through the gate. With the fence on the right follow the field round, past the copse of trees (Fox Covert). Turn left at the gap in the hedge when the field corner is reached. Follow the track to the road and turn left into Great Givendale, past the magnificent herd of Charolais (200 yards). At the T-junction cross the road and take the path opposite (GR813538).
The church of St Ethelburga's on the right is worth a visit. It is in an excellent setting overlooking a small lake at the head of the dale. The church which dates from the 12th century was almost totally rebuilt in 1849 by W.H. Dykes using original materials.
Follow the track down into the dale (ignoring two left forks). Keep the stream on the right and cross over the bridge at Whitekeld Beck.
Carry straight on up the steep bank and turn right at the footpath sign at the gate. Follow the path up to the cart track, past the farm and on to the Fridaythorpe - Pocklington road (GR 827525). Go straight across, signposted Millington, and then across the crossroads in a further ½ mile. Turn left at College Farm (100 yards) and follow the path on the right (100 yards) which climbs over several styles, to Warren Farm (GR 840519). Turn left over the last style and round the back of the farm. When the cart track is reached turn right and then left almost immediately, at the footpath sign. Turn left at the field corner, cross the style on the right and drop down to the valley bottom. Carefully climb the steep hillside keeping the hedge on your left. At the top carry straight on until you reach a style on the left. Drop down the uneven bank. (At the bottom the Millington road can be seen on the left). Climb up the other side and over two styles before coming out on the road (GR 850544). Cross the road and follow the footpath which winds along the valley. Go through the gate (¾ mile) at the start of the Forestry Commission plantation. Climb slowly uphill to a junction and take the footpath on the right in half a mile as the plantation sweeps to the left. At the road turn left and carry straight on over the cross-roads (¾ mile) until you reach the welcoming site of the layby, and the walk is completed.