The Wolds, north of Hull, is a great walking area, punctuated by deep valleys and ancient villages.Photo: Les Gibbon/Alamy
All Hallows Church in the village of Goodmanham is where King Edwin of the Kingdom of Northumbria’s conversion to Christianity began in 627. Edwin had already embraced the new religion in nearby York, and to seal the deal the pagan temple that stood at Goodmanham was destroyed by its high priest, Coifi. This was a symbolic moment in the spread of Christianity in North East England.
Spiritual matters are often discussed on this walk, where you will visit a sacred spring where people still leave offerings to this day, and where you can taste brews named after pagan witches and their victims. From the car park in Goodmanham I turn left into the center of this pretty East Yorkshire village, where pretty brick houses and whitewashed cottages surround the 12th-century church. The Goodmanham Arms is on the corner, but I resist the temptation for now and stop at the church to absorb the story of Edwin and Goodmanham, told in stained glass.
As I walk uphill out of the village I follow the signs for the Wolds Way to the right. Under the cloud-covered blue sky it is tingling cold with a veil of frost underfoot. The whirring blades of two wind turbines on the ridge ahead create flickering shadows on the hill. Here I get my first good glimpse of the Yorkshire Wolds, where the last ice age carved deep valleys between undulating chalk hills. It is an area of wild beauty with big skis that inspired artist David Hockney. The 75 mile Wolds Way passes through it and my walk will be in two parts.
Finches and song thrushes sing sweetly, their sounds interrupted by the coarse calls of rooks and jackdaws
I descend to the trackbed of an old railway, a 10-mile stretch between Market Weighton and Beverley – the Hudson Way – but not before taking a short diversion to Rifle Butts Quarry, a First World War shooting range that is now a small nature reserve is. home to chalk-loving wildflowers and butterflies in summer. The quarry front exposes the layered geology of millennia, with a handy information board to help you distinguish your Cretaceous from your Triassic.
The Hudson Way is named after George Hudson, the 19th century ‘railway king’ whose wealth enabled him to purchase the Londesborough Hall Estate (which I’ll touch on later), although his dubious financial dealings led him to prison and poverty.
The gurgling waters of Mill Beck shimmer through the trees along the railway line, where moss shrouds rotting branches and the brick remains of the railway infrastructure. Finches and song thrushes sing sweetly, their trembling interrupted by the coarse calls of rooks and jackdaws.
Waving ribbons draw my attention to a tree next to St Helen’s Well, one of four springs in the area named after the mother of Constantine the Great, who was declared Caesar in York in 306 AD, after the death of his father , Constantius. A hilltop spring flows through an arch into a triangular stone pool before being drained away. Belief in the healing powers of this sacred spring persists, with ribbons, medals, chimes and even a baby pacifier left here. Because it was so close to the railroad, it once provided a constant flow of water to refill the steam engines.
The landscape becomes more rural, taking in rolling meadows and ending at the monumental stone gateposts of Londesborough Park
Near the medieval town of Market Weighton, the Hudson Way ends at playing fields. In the 18th century this was the location for the September Market, the largest sheep fair in the kingdom. However, this award is not the city’s only claim to fame. One of the tallest English men ever, William Bradley, was born here in 1787. He was known as the Yorkshire Giant and grew to a length of 2.36 metres.
A quick search for his grave in All Saints cemetery proves fruitless, but a trio of women cleaning handbells in the church point to a memorial plaque on the wall. Bradley was buried in the churchyard in 1820, but his remains were later moved within the church to prevent grave robbers from stealing them.
Opposite the church is the Giant’s Stone: a boulder that Bradley is said to have brought all the way from Goodmanham. Around the corner is a life-size statue of the gigantic man, who made his fortune as a traveling exhibit. Nearby is Bradley House, built especially for him, with raised ceilings and doors. It is now a gift shop and part of the Giant Bradley Heritage Trail.
I continue along York Road to a Wolds Way sign on the right, leading along field edges, before crossing the A614 to a track and through a farmyard. The landscape becomes more rural, encompassing undulating meadows edged with deciduous woodland and ending at the Grade II listed stone gateposts of Londesborough Park.
The stately stack at the end of the driveway is long gone. Londesborough Estate belonged to the Dukes of Devonshire; However, burdened by debt, the sixth Duke, William Cavendish, had the Elizabethan Hall demolished in 1819 and the stone used for building projects in Chatsworth. The current Londesborough Hall is an enlarged Victorian hunting lodge.
The absence of a grand house adds to the romance of this glorious 18th century landscaped park with its chalk streams, lakes and weirs, original brick deer house and abandoned stone staircase. As I sit on a large tree stump with a bottle of tea, a swan glides over the lake and the splashing and buzzing of green-winged teals and coots on the water underlines the tranquility. A few red kites circle above.
I continue walking and cross a footbridge over a small weir to climb out of the park. An irresistible urge to look back is rewarded with a beautiful view over the sparkling lake and a glimpse of Londesborough Hall rising above the trees in the distance. The final stretch follows the Wolds Way along alleys and paths, the afternoon sun casting long shadows of skeletal trees on the plowed fields. Emerging from a tree tunnel at Goodmanham, I obey a message to ‘clean your boots here’, throwing away clods of earth on a boot scraper shaped like a shepherd’s crook, before heading to the pub.
Google map of the route
Get started Goodmanham village car park (free parking)
End Goodmanham Arms
Distance 7.5 miles
Time 4 hours
Total increase 158 meters
GPX map on OS
Related: A great walk to a great pub: the Fox & Coney, Yorkshire Wolds
Inside the Goodmanham Arms I am greeted by the buzz of chatter. There are several eclectically decorated rooms, including a motorcycle museum: the passion of Italian landlord Vito Logozzi, who enjoys restoring old motorcycles.
A cooking pot hanging over the log fire adds to the menu, chalked on the blackboard, of traditional English and Italian dishes. Across the courtyard is All Hallows Brewery. Landlady and brewer Abbie Logozzi brought her skills from a previous life as a laboratory technician, brewing only dark ales. “The hard water suits dark beers. I don’t like using chemicals that I would need to make light ales,” she says.
Favorites include the smooth-tasting No Notion, a dark bitter, and Ragged Robin, a ruby porter – named after an alleged victim of 17th-century local bandit Peg Fyfe.
Where to stay
The market town of Beverley is a good base for exploring the area. The Beverley Arms, a Georgian coaching inn, offers well-appointed rooms (doubles from £121, room only). In Sancton, the North Star Club (suites for up to six people from £295 for two nights) is an enchanting retreat with safari-style tents with four-poster beds and roll-top baths.