The Yorkshire Wolds encompasses well over 120 deep glacier-formed dales, dotted with isolated farmhouses and tiny villages. Many of these settlements were in existence before the Doomsday Book and are not much bigger now than they were then.
You will encounter some of these places on the Yorkshire Wolds Way, but there are many more great walks in the Yorkshire Wolds, including this moderate-level route through Thixen Dale, Hanging Grimstone Wold and Water Wold.
A moderate-level circular walk though Thixen Dale, Open Dale and Water Dale in the Yorkshire Wolds.
Length: 8.6 miles/13.8km | duration: 5 hours | difficulty: moderate
1. Village start
Start at Thixendale and head to the top of the village towards to north end of Thixen Dale. Leave the Yorkshire Wolds Way and, just after the pig farm, drop down to a gate on the left. This is where Water Dale and Thixen Dale meet. Angle to the left to join the Chalklands Way. Climb steadily, passing through two gates and, after almost a mile, turn right through a gate into Milham Dale. Walk for half a mile to another gate, turn left onto a wide track and follow it to the main road. A great panoramic view of the Vale of York stretches out before you.
2. Road walk
Turn left and walk along the road for a little under half a mile, keeping an eye out for a footpath sign – the sign is on the left-hand side of the road, but the path goes right. The field has a new fence but there is an access gap left by the farmer.
- Walk: Thixendale, North Yorkshire
- Walk: Deep Dale and Bishop Wilton, North Yorkshire
- Best walks in the Yorkshire Dales
3. Open Dale
Follow the field down to the bottom with the hedge on your right. Pretty soon the lovely Ray Dale and Open Dale come into view. At the bottom of the field there is a stile, ignore it and follow the little arrow marker to the left (yellow arrow for public footpath and white arrow for permitted footpath). Go through the gate and continue down with a scattered line of trees on the left. You are now in Ray Dale.
As you go through a gate, look down the hill and a little way to the left you will see a white house. Turn left along the top of the field and continue down to the gate. Go through the gate onto a wide path and follow it down to the left, winding downhill for about 250m. The path carries on to the left but look to the right and you will see a little yellow arrow on a post – follow this. The route is barely noticeable but soon arrives at a gate with two more arrows. Ignore the one to the right, keeping ahead, then drop down to your left to a double and single gate, and the running waters of Open Dale beck.
4. Beside the farm
Go through the single gate (it has a boarded timber fence round it and no arrow). Walk to the gate up to the left, then turn left past Mount Pleasant Farm to meet the farm road. Both Open Dale and Ray Dale are unique because, as the name of the former suggests, they are more open than other dales in the Wolds. The open land makes it ideal for rearing sheep, so the grass is never too high.
5. Hanging Grimstone Wold
Turn right on reaching the farm road and climb steeply for three-quarters of a mile. It is a narrow road with very little traffic and another nice view to the left across the Vale of York. At the top there is a signpost and the road turns right – ignore the right turn, instead climbing over the stile and continuing straight ahead where pretty soon Deep Dale will come into view on the left.
After 500m there is sign pointing left and straight on. You can take either, but this route drops down then climbs immediately back up – it is less barren than the upper route and takes you along the memorably named Hanging Grimston Wold. Near the top, look back and between the dale walls you will see the Vale of York beyond.
6. Water Dale
At the top, angle slightly to your right and head for the gate at the corner of the field. Go through the gate, cross the road, and go through another gate over to your left into a field. After a short walk, drop down to the left and through a gate to enter Brownmoor Dale. You will see Brown Moor farm way up top on your left.
After about three-quarters of a mile look to your left where you will see a gate. Pass through the gate with Birdall Dale to the left and Water Dale to the right. The route turns right into lovely Water Dale, tainted only by the tarmac road twisting and turning through it. It is a high-sided dale, often grazed by Highland cattle to your left. A good walk of just over two miles takes you back to Thixendale and Cross Keys for a well-earned drink.
Words and photographs by James Bradley