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A Walk on the Wolds

From the hidden village of Thixendale over chalk hills and through typical dry valleys.

Distance 4 miles (6.4km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 459ft (140m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Clear tracks and field paths, 9 stiles

Landscape Deep, dry valleys and undulating farm land

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 300 Howardian Hills & Malton

Start/finish SE 842611

Dog friendliness Keep dogs on leads

Parking Thixendale village street near the church

Public toilets None on route

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1 From the church, walk west along Thixendale's village street. Just beyond the last house on the right, go up a track, following the Wolds Way/Centenary Way sign. Cross over a ladder stile in a wire fence on your right and continue walking up the track as it curves round past the television aerial.

2 As you approach the top of the hill, watch out on the left for a Wolds Way sign, which takes you left along a grassy track. Go over a ladder stile then along the field side to meet the track again. Continue straight ahead.

3 At the next Wolds Way sign go over a stile and continue with the wire fence on your left. At the top of the field go right by the sign. The path descends to reach a wooden ladder stile and descends steeply into a dry valley to another waymarked stile, then curves to descend to a stile by a gate.

4 Follow the blue public bridleway sign to the right, winding left up the side valley. Near the top of the valley is a deep earthwork ditch; cross over a stile and continue along the edge of the field. Where the footpath divides go right through the patch of woodland on to a track by a signpost.

5 Turn right and follow the Wolds Way sign. Follow this clear track for ¾ mile (1.2km). At the end of the woodland on your right, look out for a signpost. Turn right here, now following the Centenary Way, going down the edge of the field and passing a ruined building with a tall chimney. Follow the winding footpath past a signpost.

6 At the next signpost turn right off the track, signed 'Centenary Way'. Walk down the field side on a grassy track. At the field end leave the track and go through a waymarked gate. The path goes left and passes along the hillside to descend to a stile beside a gate.

7 Follow the yellow waymark straight ahead across the field, to pass over a track up the hillside left of the row of trees. The path descends to the village cricket field on the valley floor. Go over a stile by a gate, on to a lane by a house. When you reach the main road, turn right back to the start.

Chalk underlies the Yorkshire Wolds. Unlike the harder rocks of the dales and the moors, the Wolds chalk is soft and permeable, so the landscape around here is one of rounded hills and deep dry valleys. These were formed when the meltwater from the Ice Age glaciers rushed with tremendous force across the chalk. Our walk is through rich farming land - indeed, these slopes have been cultivated since Neolithic people cleared them and set up home here more than 5,000 years ago.

More than half the walk follows the Wolds Way, a 79 mile (127km) National Trail that runs from the great bridge over the Humber Estuary to Filey Brigg. At its northern end it links with the Cleveland Way and at the southern end (via the Humber Bridge) with the Viking Way to Oakham in Rutland. Less frequented than many of the other National Trails, it offers consistently fine views and a wealth of archaeological interest along its pastoral route - as well as some very welcoming pubs. For much of the walk, too, you will be following the Centenary Way, a route established by North Yorkshire County Council in 1989 to mark 100 years of local government.

Some say that Thixendale is named from the six dry valleys that meet here. The more imaginative reckon to count sixteen converging dales. Place name dictionaries, more prosaically, derive it from a Viking called Sigstein. Whatever its origin, Thixendale is one of the most remote of the Wolds villages, approached from every direction by deep, winding dry valleys between steep chalk escarpments. It has a number of old cottages, but much of its character is due to local landowner Sir Tatton Sykes in the later part of the 19th century. As well as building estate cottages, he contributed the church, the school and the former vicarage, picturesquely designed by architect George Edmund Street. Do visit the church - the stained glass, by Clayton and Bell showing the Days of Creation is great fun, especially the flamingos and the fearsome waterspout.

Sir Tatton Sykes, 5th Baronet of Sledmere House, was a great church-builder and philanthropist - and an even greater eccentric. He insisted that his body needed to maintain an even temperature, and was known to stick his bare feet out of the windows of railway carriages to make sure. As he warmed up on his walks he would shed clothing, paying local boys to return it to the house. He even wore two pairs of trousers to preserve the decencies as he divested himself. Flowers were a great hate; he had the estate gardens ploughed up and told his tenants that the only kind of flowers they could grow were cauliflowers.

While you're there

Visit Sir Tatton Syke's home, Sledmere House. An elegant Georgian mansion, largely designed by Sir Christopher Sykes in 1751, it has superb plasterwork, an elegant staircase and attractive grounds. Its parkland was landscaped by 'Capability' Brown. In the picturesque village don't miss the Waggoners' Memorial, with its relief sculptures of local men's activities in World War One.

Where to eat and drink

The award-winning Cross Keys in Thixendale has hot meals and sandwiches, as well as a beer garden where children are welcome. Behind Thixendale Store and Post Office is a café (closed Fridays), offering breakfast, lunch, teas and snacks.

What to look for

Wherever you go in the Wolds you are likely to come across a wide variety of earthworks, from large circular barrows to simple ditches. Between Points 4 and 5 on the walk is a typical example, a ridge of earth beside a deep cut. The date and origin of these linear earthworks is not conclusively proved, though it is likely that some of them were built during the Bronze Age, between 2000 and 600 bc. Bronze Age people cleared the land for farming and the earliest of the ditches and banks are likely to be territorial divisions. Later invaders also used this system; they include the Beaker Folk who arrived around 1900 bc and, in the early Iron Age from around 300 bc, the Parisii tribe from Northern France. Many of these ancient remains are used as marks for parish boundaries even today.

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