We enjoyed a day off the other week. Well, it wasn’t really a day off – we actually spent the day checking out this circuit, but it felt like a day off.
Why, you may wonder? Because never has country walking been so simple.
Broad and easy tracks with excellent waymarking were the order of the day. And, even better, there were no obstructions or blockages of any kind, no overgrown paths or broken stiles, no mud, no hills. On top of all this, the views were magnificent and expansive all day.
It can only mean one thing – we were in the Yorkshire Wolds, that friendly paradise for you and I, the walker. If you have never been tempted by the Wolds, then this is your opportunity. They really are rather special and so welcoming.
Huggate, the starting point, lies at the heart of an ancient landscape rich with relics of bygone cultures. Scattered everywhere are the earthworks and burial mounds of Bronze Age and Iron Age tribes. The earthworks were either defensive positions or land boundaries; the experts aren’t certain.
In the days before William of Normandy landed at Hastings in 1066, the manor of Huggate, according to Domesday Book, was split between two Saxon landowners, Baret and Ernuin the priest. The Conqueror took Baret’s portion for the Crown, but allowed Ernuin to retain his half share.
However, within a few years of the Conquest, Huggate was in the hands of two new overlords, Roger Fossard, lord of many estates in the East Riding, and Forne, son if Sigulf.
The Fossards, a great Norman dynasty, granted much of their Huggate property to Watton Abbey, 10 miles to the east near Hutton Cranswick. By 1316, the Abbot of Watton had increased his holdings to such an extent that he was styled Lord of the Manor of Huggate.
Huggate church existed in the time of the aforementioned Forne, who is recorded as giving the patronage of the church in the late 11th century to the newly-built St Mary’s Abbey at York. The abbey continued to appoint the rectors of Huggate up until the Dissolution in 1538.
PARKING: Huggate is approached via the A166 York-Bridlington road. Go over the top of Garrowby Hill and follow the signposts on your right into the village. As you enter Huggate, turn left at signpost for “Village only” along the main street and park by the roadside in the centre of the community in the vicinity of Church Farm and St Mary’s Church. Please park with consideration.
HUGGATE and COW DALE
7 ½ miles: Allow 3 – 4 hours. Map: O/S Explorer 294 Market Weighton
From Church Farm (or St Mary’s Church), walk back up the road to the crossroads at the southern edge of Huggate and cross the main road half right and go along the road signposted Warter.
After a good half mile, with fingerposts on either side of the road, turn left along the Minster Way (a 50-mile, long-distance path linking York and Beverley Minsters). Stride out on a splendid journey over Huggate Heads with far-reaching views rightwards over the southern Wolds to the flat lands around Hull and the River Humber.
After a mile and a quarter, you will arrive at double metal gates on your left with a bridle gate. Enter the Huggate-North Dalton road, cross over and go straight ahead along right side of hedge. At end of this huge field (sink hole on your right), go through the hedge and turn right and follow the hedge into field corner and then turn left.
After three-quarters of a mile, ignore a fingerpost pointing right – keep straight on to end of field. STOP! Do not go through the gap in hedge ahead, but turn left (fingerpost) alongside hedge to a wood.
1: Walk up left side of wood and press on to emerge in the Huggate-Tibthorpe road at Freshlands Farm. Cross the road and take the tarred road opposite.
Stride out for about 600 yards to the first hedge on your left with a marker post on your right with multiple arrows. Here, turn LEFT along right side of hedge. At end of this massive field, go straight ahead, then kink right, to continue with hedge now on your left. Follow it all the way to emerge in the Huggate-Wetwang road at Foxcovert Farm.
Turn left for 20 yards and then turn right along vehicle track (arrow). After about 150 yards, on passing through a narrow wood, immediately turn left (arrow) to walk by hedge on your left with the spire of St Mary’s Church at Huggate to your front right.
After about 100 yards – don’t overshoot! - go through a waymarked gate on your left and drop down into Shortlands Dale and follow it to a gate and kissing gate. Go straight on, Shortlands Dale now giving way to Oxlands Dale.
2: Stroll along this pleasant valley with wood on your right masking a prehistoric earthwork.
This area is awash with earthworks and burial mounds of Bronze Age and Iron Age tribes. The Iron Age tribe which settled the Wolds was the Parisii, members of the La Tene race of migrants who crossed from the Rhine Valley in about 300BC, sweeping across East Yorkshire under their warrior chieftains.
However, life in the Wolds must have mellowed the Parisii - some 400 years later, when the Roman armies marched north, they yielded with hardly a fight and accepted the Roman way of life, content to work the prosperous farms of their new masters.
On arriving at next gate and kissing gate (with two arrows), pass through and turn left along the final valley of the day, Cow Dale.
As you dawdle up Cow Dale, another valley opens up to your left after a few hundred yards – ignore it! Go straight on as Cow Dale widens and becomes shallow. Now stay alert!
When the dale starts to bend slightly left, spot the kissing gate and fingerpost to your front right (up the righthand bank of Cow Dale). Don’t miss this turn.
Go through the kissing gate and turn left along a country lane along the Wolds Way and follow it into Huggate to arrive – hopefully! - at the spot where you left your vehicle near Church Farm.