The walk from Thixendale to Wharram Percy is popular with hikers as it is part of the Yorkshire Wolds Way. That is probably the reason that most ignore this walk – which takes the long way round to reach Wharram Percy – and as a consequence miss the spectacular changing scenery around Birdsall.
This 9-mile walk includes numerous climbs within a small area, encapsulating the diverse and picturesque countryside found in the Yorkshire Wolds.
Thixendale and Wharram Percy walk
1. Track out of town
Park your car in Thixendale near the pub. Head to the top of the village and take the climbing track to the right opposite the piggery. At the bend, look back and see the dramatic scenery of Thixen Dale and Water Dale way below.
Continue to follow the wooden ‘acorn and walking man’ signs for 650yds, then leave the track through a hedgerow and turn left. Over to your right you can see Back Dale.
2. Vessy Pasture
After 300yrds turn right, then, after another 300yds, go through a gate down into Vessey Pasture Dale. There is a mound ahead that offers a good view of Back Dale.
Take the gate on the left near the mound and drop into the bottom of the dale. Go through a gate then climb out to the right to a farm gate at the top. A short walk takes you to a copse of trees – it is here that the described route leaves the Yorkshire Wolds Way.
3. To the Brow
Turn left on to a wide track. After around 500yds, follow the sign to the right, ‘Centenary Way and Birdsall, 1.5 miles’. A short, flat walk through corn fields for a third of a mile brings you to Toisland Farm and Birdsall Brow, where the scenery, suddenly and quite unexpectedly, becomes very dramatic. The views down to Birdsall Wold are fantastic.
It is a lovely walk down through this rolling countryside with changing scenery either side. To the left are Swinham Cottages – now, who wouldn’t want that for an escape to the country? Beyond the cottages, you may be able to glimpse the privately owned Birdsall House through a gap in the trees.
Ignore the metal sign near the bottom, reading ‘public footpath’, and carry on to the bottom through the farm gate.
4. Wolds wander
After a short walk you’ll reach the road. Birdsall village is half a mile away straight ahead, should you wish to visit, but the route turns right. Now on the road, this is a lovely, quiet walk with Birdsall Brow always prominent on the right and the flatter Birdsall Wold to the left. Look out for the entrance to Toft House to assure you that you are on the right road.
After just shy of 2 miles and a climb back up the Brow, you’ll meet a crossroads. Ignore both turnings and continue to follow the ‘Wharram Le Street’ sign downhill, then climb back up for another half mile through a copse of trees. Pass a row of cottages on the left and Station House on the right – here, the route turns right (no sign).
5. Medieval village
You are now on the Yorkshire Wolds Way and en route to the famous medieval village of Wharram Percy. Look to the left through the trees and you may be able to see the now-overgrown station buildings, taken back by nature.
After a little over half a mile there is a bridge on the left that leads to the public car park. Ahead is a 70-year-old abandoned bridge. Take the high gate to the right, climbing then dropping to the left into the grounds of the medieval village of Wharram Percy.
There is a church and pond, and notice boards all around the site, with pictures of how the village looked and what happened to the people who lived there.
6. Deep dale return
After a look around, head for the pond and turn left to a gate, climbing above Deep Dale and following it to the right. The climb becomes easier, passing through two gates; just a little after the second, take the left turn.
The way climbs briefly then heads downhill. A half-mile dog-leg walk leads to a signposted and right-hand turn. There is a short walk to a gate; here, turn left with a hedge on your left. Court Dale and Honey Dale can be seen from the top. This is a tricky track when wet with a steep downhill at the end to a gate. Go through the gate and turn left down to the road. Turn right and walk for half a mile back to the village for refreshments at the Cross Keys.
During the shooting season expect to see a notice asking you to turn left before the gate, with the hedge now on your right, carry on same direction to a gate into Court Dale and the steep downhill to the gate.
Words: Jim Bradley