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 route from the village of Thixendale. The village lies in the valley of Waterdale, just off the A166 York to Bridlington road (17 miles from York).
Thixen Dale, Worm Dale and Painsthorpe Dale walk
Length: 7.4 miles/11.9km | duration: 4 hours | difficulty: moderate
Parking is available in the village of Thixendale, either outside the church or the pub. The name Thixendale, or Thixen Dale, is also used to describe two nearby dales – for the purpose of this narrative, the dale at the top end of the village near the pig farm is North Thixen Dale and the the one at the other end, the pub end, is South Thixen Dale.
Turn right out of the village, immediately joining the Yorkshire Wolds Way, and take the road towards The Robert Fuller Gallery.
2. Waves and Time
After half a mile, turn left on a dirt track between two fields. Go through a metal gate 150 yds or so from the road and continue along the bottom of South Thixen Dale. Pass through two more gates and after about a mile you will reach a series of swirls in the ground.
The rings, seen here at the bottom of the valley, feel like some sort of ancient sacrificial creation, or a place where fairies appear at midnight on a midsummer’s eve. They are, however, much more recent than that. Known as ‘Waves and Time’, the rings were created by artist Chris Drury and were commissioned to promote more public interest in the Wolds.
3. Worm Dale
Take a right turn through the gate and into Worm Dale, leaving the Wolds Way on a public footpath. The path climbs gently through Worm Dale for about half a mile before steepening to the left up to a gate.
4. Roman road
Walk for 400 yds alongside a crop field, turn left and walk another 100 yds or so, then take a right and continue for a further half mile with Painthorpe Wold Farm on your right until you reach the old Roman road.
Turn left and, after 300 yds, turn right on the road to Kirby Underdale. 350 yds down the road, look for a metal gate on your right and take it to enter Painsthorpe Dale, my favourite dale.
5. Painsthorpe Dale
I’m not the only one who admires this valley. Artist David Hockney painted the scene here, referring to it as Bugthorpe Valley. Had he walked a couple of hundred yards to his right, I think he would have enjoyed the view even more.
To reach the viewpoint, take the dog leg track down to the left, then at the bottom turn left towards two gates. There is usually a shallow stream of spring water before the first gate. Sometimes you have to climb over the first as the catch is very tight. After the second gate, keep going more or less in the same direction until you see what looks like sleepers forming a bridge. Cross this and turn left. Follow the fence that is on your left to a gate, go through and there you can take a well-earned rest on the garden seat. Totally out of place in such rural surroundings, but welcome anyway. The walk down is probably about three-quarters of a mile.
For me, on any sort of day, sitting there, lake and woodland in front, surrounded by the walls of the dale, there is no nicer place to be. No noise, no people, no pollution; it is for me as close to heaven that you can get here on Earth, and it is Yorkshire. In mid-summer, to the right and behind the seat there is a wall of wildflowers on a corner of the hillside rising from the stream. A cascade of deep pinks. Yellows and greens in late summer. There are little fish and tadpoles in the lake. You can explore further down as the stream continues between Kirby Underdale and Uncleby.
Heaven of course has a price to pay and you have to climb back out the way we came. If you are adventurous, you can ignore the track back and instead mountain climb up at the almost vertical end and back up to the top. A friend and I did it once, not all in one go and never again.
Once back on the road to Kirby Underdale, there is another optional viewpoint: Hundle Dale with the Vale of York spread out just beyond. To visit it, turn right then, after 100 yds or so, go left. A half-mile stroll along the track leads to woodland and the top of Hundle Dale.
6. Country lanes
Return to the Roman road and turn left, this time walking north along the road for a mile to reach the road to Thixendale.
If you are in the mood for more dales then, just before the Thixendale road there is another road – signed to Uncleby – to your left. About 700 yds down this road, take a right and you will see a short walk through some woods. Take the gate at the end and venture round. For me it feels like you are on the top of an amphitheatre. This is North Dale.
Back at the turn off for Thixendale, take the narrow country road and enjoy the pleasant two-mile walk downhill to the village.
Words and photographs by James Bradley