Country & Coast: Internet experience nothing like the pleasure of walking the Wolds

It is 35 years since I trailblazed the Yorkshire Wolds Way long-distance path to write the official guidebook, and since then many thousands of people have followed in my footsteps.

A glacier valley near the Wolds village of Thixendale - one of the many fascinating features of a walk in the Wolds.

Seventeen months before it was declared open, in May 1981 I set off on the 79-mile route across the chalk landscape of the Yorkshire Wolds from near the Humber Bridge to finish above the dramatic reef of Filey Brigg.

At that time it had not been walked in its entirety, and some stretches of the path were so new as public rights of way that the ink on the map was still wet. On the ground that meant I found no signposts and some stretches badly overgrown.

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I have retrodden the Wolds Way twice in the intervening years and still return to my favourite stretches around Millington and Thixendale in summer. But now I can get back onto the path anytime I like, in a virtual sense, without even pulling on my boots. For like almost everything else, the path can simply be experienced on the internet.

A wonderful video on YouTube shows what it is like to walk the entire length of the route from beginning to end.

Similar films condense the adventure of walking other national trails, including the 190-mile Coast to Coast Walk and the 87-mile Ridgeway.

Unfortunately, the Yorkshire Wolds Way video was made in winter, and for me the route is seen at is best in May and June when the abundant hawthorn hedges are in blossom and chalkland wildflowers are a riot of colour.

By any standards it is a beautiful landscape yet the Wolds have a low public profile compared to the Yorkshire Dales, the North York Moors and the Brontë area of the South Pennines.

Establishing the Wolds Way footpath was not an easy task, with bitter disputes between the Ramblers Association and local landowners in what became the ‘War of the Wolds’.

In those books on Great Yorkshire battles you will see no mention of the Battle of Welton Dale, the Invasion of Millington or the Siege of Wharram Percy. That is because these weren’t historic military engagements with combatants standing knee-deep in gore but demonstrations to uphold the right to walk through the Yorkshire countryside.

Before the official route was finally agreed, many footpaths in the area had disappeared under the plough, but the fight to reclaim access rights - which began long before I set foot on the Wolds Way - was ultimately successful.

Many of the estimated 800-1,000 people who walk the entire route each year come from abroad, led by the Dutch and Belgians possibly because the North sea ferry from Rotterdam docks at Hull, a short train-ride from the starting point at Hessle. Interestingly, also coming to walk it are Canadians, Americans, Australians and New Zealanders.

The route may now be viewable on the world wide web, but I can’t imagine that will ever become a substitute for the actual experience of walking this beautiful route yourself.