Saturday 9 July 2011

Wolds Way

Noooooooooo! not the (rather nice) beer from Wold Top brewery, but the long distance trail after which its named. I've certainly mentioned this route before when I've run sections f it. I'd pondered the idea a few weeks previously on a long run in the Wolds. At 79miles it's a longer run than I needed to do as preperation for a 100 (or two). But, with an ankle that is 'suspect' on descents this might just be an ideal test of recovery and all round readiness, with regular lumps and bumps rather than monstrous hills. Other good reasons to do it include that it starts in my hometown on Hessle foreshore - almost in the shadow of the Humber Bridge and ends on the seafront at Filey from where I could get transport back without too much trouble.

A popular way to run this seems to be Filey to Hessle, but having ran the earlier stages often in training runs I thought I'd rather get the familiar out the way first. It also seems to be popular to start very early and finish very late in the day. However, within days of the longest day I saw no reason or difficulty with running overnight. This way I could start after work on Friday evening after eating and packing my bag, hit the familiar mostly in darkness and enjoy the rising sun in the more remote and (for me) unexplored 'Woldland' beyond. With any luck and a fair dose of persistence I'd be finished early afternoon and back home by Saturday evening to relax through a full nights sleep into Sunday.

So, Friday afternoon, leave work, but I couldn't relax too much. Popped to the shops to get a pot of cold pasta for dinner and for the road, then it was down to packing. My bag would be made heavier than usual today by the food and drink requirement I needed to haul around. Some events I've done have more exhaustive 'kit lists' than the clothes I would take, but most provide food and water on route so I don't carry more of that than I need to get between checkpoints. I packed:
  • 5 x 500ml bottles of water (2 pre-mixed with carb/electrolyte drink)
  • 2 further portions of energy drink to be mixeed later
  • 2 x sandwiches with daiylea filling (4sl bread)
  • 1 malt loaf chopped into 4 pieces and buttered
  • 1 pot pasta (600cals)
  • Lots of celebration sized snickers
  • various other cereal, cake or choccy bars
Plan was to eat every 1 hour with water and drink energy drink in half hour intervals for optimum energy supply. Though disadvantaged by extra weight I had to my advantage that I could eat take on energy as regularly as possible.

I figured I'd be out somewhere in the region of 17 to 20 hours, so I wouldn't actually have enough water or food to keep optimumly fueled-up. But, all I had to do was find a shop somewhere on route, my route passed through several villlages so I wasn't worried about this.

9:30pm Friday... and I took this picture of the start stone of the Wolds Way and I was off. Walking at first under the Humber bridge, before picking up to a jog along the long stretch of foreshore path to Ferriby and the last large village I'd pass through until near Filey. I had to take the high tode route through the village rather than the usual route which takes in half a mile of stoney beach and a plantation to the west of the village. Due to high tide I had no choice, but figure this saved me some energy which would be useful later.

Beyond Ferriby and into the woods through a series of Plantations over undulating ground before entering Welton Dale. It'd already taken me an hour to get here and the headtorch was out for the wooded sections. As I emerged from Welton dale to run through farming land to the north it was still light enough to run unaided. I was making very good progress at this stage, up a gentle gradient to the top of Welton Dale avoiding a few ascents and descents I'd usually throw into a short hill run in this area.

From here I descended to Welton dale and about two hours in it was time for the headtorch to come on. Though it was by no means pitch black and never would be this night. A few challenging climbs through Woodale and up Mt Airey/great Wold to descend towards the edge of South Cave, before ascending up through a Plantation and away from suburbia for quite some time.

It was drizzling by now, but so lightly that it almost wasn't dampening my t-shirt which was being well warmed by my efforts. Descending Coomber Dale towards Drewton Woods I saw a deer scarper across my path and then was briefly starled by a light up ahead. As I got closer I passed a very fast moving nordic walker ascending the hills. Reminded for the first time in hours that I wasn't quite alone I shared a cheery hello, only to be stonewalled. Rude I thought, only later did it occur to me that maybe he was doing what I was doing, but from Filey to Hessle and had been out all day already?

Before descending to the edge of the woods I aslo passed a large tent pitched on the hillside, well lit up and with jolly voices going on, probably some local teens letting off steam. The sort of thing you don't necessarily expect on a dark night near the woods - had they saw me they would probably have thought likewise. But beyond this it definately feels like the start of a proper rural stretch - I'll only pass through a few farms and small villages for a great many hours now. Into the woods and this hilly stretch went on as I gradually followed the steepening path through the woods to pop out near High Hunsley some 300ft higher. From here the undulations steadied off for a good few hours or relaxed running.

Into "pretty by day", Swindale and I was suddenley in company. The native sheep were all out, scarpering as I approached. The effect was even more exaggerated at night as they had gathered into several large groups near the path, probably for protection. Out of Swindale and its mostly gently undulating agricultural land all the way to my next civilisation at Godmanham. This isn't unpleasent, but the rain was really soaking the foliage now, so my feet were soon soaked as I shuffled along slightly grown-up and lesser used field edge paths. There seems to be a very strong orangey light a few miles ahead, is somebody having a fire?

I'm briefly onto a road and can actually turn off my headtorch as starlight makes the road glisten. I can see better without it when its not needed to watch the path ahead as the rain has a blurring/misty effect on the torch beam. Then onto another section of field edge paths, which seems to go quickly compared to the other times I've run it. Is this because it is dark? If so I worry how I'll motivate myself when tiring in daylight as I may get glimpses of my route well ahead of where I am - this could be quite hard. Does that make sense?

Onto the roads and into Godmanham where I see that the strange light I saw up ahead earlier is actually a super powerful light in a farmers yard. I can understand the need for night-working and security a light, but this is more like a beacon or a spotlight, I can't look at it directly.

I'm through the village in almost no time and descending on a path northwards. I take the opportunity to stop under a railway bridge off a dismatled track as the rain seems to have increased slightly. I pop my windproof/water-resistant jacket on, not wanting to sacrifice body cooling with the full waterproof just yet and also gobble down my 5 hour food - I've enjoyed a mix of malt loaf, sandwiches, cereal bars and snickers celebrations so far. The hourly eating and half hour in between energy drink strategy is working well - around 200cals per hour has me moving consistently and at a good pace upto now. I'm slightly ahead of where I thought I'd be at this time.

Soon after this I get another brief glimpse of the real world as I cross a main road, but then its on down a wet track towards Londesborough Estate. Into the park and its a descent down the hill to cross the landscaped valley and a climb out into the village. This brought about a quite welcome few miles of road for me to push on along without footing worries in the dark (head torch went off for this whole road stretch as the wet roads glistening in increasing light showed the way).

Then its back to farmland tracks and along a bill brow before dropping into Nunburnholme. A muddy farmyard awaits and some confusion as the path seems to be barriered where it meets the farm drive. last time I was here i ran down this track to ford the beck and then join the main road. After a few minutes back and forth I discover a little bridge tucked away in trees over the beck. Then follows a seemingly pointless run out of the village south, a right turn to round some fields nearly back into the village before entering the woods. Such pointless micro-navigations are a bit annoying the a few hundred yards of quiet road use wouldn't kill us.

I stop to walk up the hill into the woods, taking my time on the climb to have a nibble as I go. Then its back into runnable pastureland, which seems the theme of this second-quarter of the walk before the return to the signature dry valleys at Millington. With all the rain in the long grass, I have very wet feet, but not quite the discomfort or problems associated with complete submersions on difficult ground. Its time to turn off the headtorch for good and have a brief moment of confusion trying to navigate through a farmyard at Lower Warrendale.

Now comes what seems like a long climb, maybe completly runnable on fresher legs, but run/walked today. Back up onto the Wolds escarpment proper. I then run along the escarpment taking on energy drink as Millington - surely the prettiest village that the route bypasses - passes below to my left (the early morning, grey sky pic doesn't do it justice). The Wolds way now merges with the Chalklands way and Minster way as I drop steeply to cross a dry dale and 'plug away' up the other side. Many other signposted walks cross or share parts of the WW and one day I hope to do them all. These two offering up 40 and 50 miles of Wolds hills respectively - despite the lack of monster hills and mountain streams this area is pretty generous for the slightly adventurous walker and runner.

Millington dale wriggles between the perfectly scultured, almost symetrically steep banks and offers me another short, steep, dip and climb before cutting over the flatter tops and joining Pasture dale - one of many continuations and one drirection from which secluded Millinton can be accessed by road. I just run along the top 'trod' of this dale, scattering and stampeding cows. It still feels uphill, but probably isn't much, its just my tiring legs asking for an energy injection. I had some pasta just a few miles back at the bottom of one of the aforementioned short dips, but I'm getting through energy fast now!

I'm back on known ground now. I know I need to rattle off a few field edge paths before following a track running north of Huggate. My pace is slowing a bit so I challenge myself to run at over 4mph for the next few miles. This was easy at the start, but now requires a good chunk of running every hour and no luxuriously long breaks when I take on food and drink. Heading north from Huggate its more field edges before a dip back into the dry dales at Horse dale.

From Horse dale I left turn into Holm dale. On spongy, but uneven dale bottom grass, and with what should be an almost unnoticable climb towards the source of the dale, that 4mph isn't easy. A short, steep climb on leaving the dale brings me onto the track into Fridaythorpe.

Running through Fridaythorpe, my first civilisation visit since sunrise, I stop to capture my progress on camera at the near enough halfway sign post. I also send a text to Clare to inform her I've survived the night (but hoping I don't wake her!). I 'take stock', ideally I'd like to be moving with less effort at this stage, but I'm 39m in and pretty happy about my physical state otherwise. The feet feel good, no hotspots or blisters so far as I can tell without removing my shoes and socks.

The only slight worry is that I am running short of water. I'd figure on drinking a bottle of energy drink every fours hours and slightly less water. Unfortunately and unncessarily - its not hot for a summers night/day - I've hammered my water at the same rate as energy drink and now I need a refill source. Ideally a shop to buy three 500ml bottles. Had there been a shop in Fridaythorpe it was far too early for it to be open.

Away from Fridaythorpe and a further descent into a trademark dry dale. After scattering more sheep I make the shallow climb out of the dale to fields before dropping into one of the many outreaches of Thixendale (enterance to dale pictured). I head for the confluence of the tentacle-like dales where the village sits beneath its 'phone signal blocking' valley walls. Here the rain finally starts to belt down and I quickly remove the jacket to replace with waterproof upper.

Its been light for over three hours by time I enter the village. But, its still early enough for my brief hopes of purchasing food and water to be dashed. To my surprise in this one road, off-the-beaten-track village, there is a shop! The sign outside even says 'open' and points around the back of the house. I walk around, its little more than a conservatory set up as a shop, but I can see inside tantalising glimpses of liquids that would hydrate and food that would nourish. But glimpses are as much as I'll get, the sign on the front obviously isn't changed to closed each night. But the one on the conservatory door is - its closed - not that suprising as its not even 7am yet.

Trudging out of the village and up the steep climb to the next dale my spirits are dampened further by a heavier burst of rain. Nothing I can really do about drinks/food now until I get to Wharram. After this climb and a few short steep undulations I make a significant westward turn along the valley top path and towards the coast. I reaffirm my commitment to hitting a 4 mile hour and get along the occasionally rutted, but otherwise decent and level path along the valley.

But again my 'quite doable' pace aspiration is tested, this time its a cow. As I approach, most move, but one stands its ground as I run past. Staring at me with its big black eyes it then decided to run after me. Now cows ain't horses, but for a distance they can shift and this one was catching me easily - its intention unknown. Strangely this is a situation I can't remember facing - so I decide to try the "its more scared of you..." theory out, which works on most animals in the britsh wild. I stop turn around, look it in the eyes, point at it and shout ("get back...." or similar). This seems to work, it stops, so I run on. But soon after turning my back it persues again. I repeat the cow threat, possibly twice between getaways. The last time adding walking away backwards facing the 'confused' animal. Once I'm far enough away I turn around and get a good pace on.

As I approach the end of the valley I see the old ruined church of Wharram Percy, the only near to complete remnent amongst the deserted medieval village site of archeaological interest. But before I get there, more cows. Slightly frustrated and cautious now, I round them and again find one or two to be aggressive. I get passed and descend through a gauze and small tree-lined bank to find the path of the WW as it goes right passed the church - leaving behind me cows which have decided to stampede down the valley the other way.

There is a testing march up from the village to a b-road which takes me in the direction of Wharram-le-Street, the surviving neighbour of the deserted medieval village. There is no evidence of a shop or pub at Wharram.... damn..... and a local dog walker confirms when I ask. "I don't suppose you know where the nearest shop is?", there is a pause and I am answered "Norton". Damn..... this is a good 6 miles north-west and the WW is heading east. The lady kindly offers to fill my bottles at her nearby home. With hindsight I should have accepted, but I decided to push on to the next village with my remaining 3/4 full bottle of water and 1/2 full bottle of energy drink - hoping for more luck.

A steady uphill track leaves the Wharram's behind. I walk and take a small belt of my remaining energy drink to the top of the hill and then get a jog underway as its a pretty good track. Over the top of the hill and then there's a steep little valley to cross and I march up the hill and into a plantation track. The edge of the wolds escarpment appears to my left giving me the impression that I've turned a corner towards the end. Through the woods its onto a steep drop and the next village enters my sites.

The plod down to Wintringham feels hard work, I slow to take some food and call somebody as its now a sane hour of the morning. The WW leaves this track and diagonals across a field. I spot somebody walking my way and dare to ask if the upcoming village has a shop or other source of drink. Disapointment...... I get some pretty thorough instructions to the nearest village with a shop, but it sounds quite a long way "off piste".

What now? Its make or break time. Way too far to persist on without a bit more water - even though its not a hot day, it is summer - and food is getting short too. Do I knock on the door of a local and ask for water? I'd rather not disturb anybodies Saturday morning ritual, but that might be my only option if I decide to go on. The next village is a good few hours onwards from here. 

Then a sound enters my conciousness as I near the village.... running water. I stop and turn around to look, water bobbles into a tiny waterfall beneath the wooden bridge I've just crossed. The stream appears to edge the field after coming off the hill. Its not exactly a fast running stream from a Lakeland fell top that would taste fantastic and I wouldn't think twice about drinking from. I guzzle the remnants of my water bottle and fill up here. Just the one bottle, erring on the side of caution, hopefully this will get me to a shop, pub, or guaranteed safe water source.

The WW planner obviously wasn't keen on any kind of civilisation disturbing the solitude of his walk. Immeadiately on entering Wintringham we head out of the village, only to then follow a track running behind the houses of this one road settlement. But the track soon turns up a hill to a woodland, back to business and I feel better for that full bottle of water too. I soon realise the woodland is a working plantation and just round the corner I'm reminded that the hard work is far from over.

The sign post points up the hill angled to point upwards at near 45-degrees, as if more emphasis is needed of how steep the track up through an area of chopped down plantation actually is. I adopt the hands on knees, leaned over, push up the hill in a hard march. My task not made easier by the loose ground and dampness caused by yeterdays rain. Speaking of rain, at least this appears to have stopped for now, I thought it never would, the waterproof comes off and my skin breathes easier "hurray!". At the top theres a slight drop to a woodland edge path allowing me to run again. The path is again heading eastward towards my ultimate destination.

As I follow the edge of the escarpment a view down the hill on my left to the A64, York - Scarborough road is an encouraging reminder that I'm taking a direct route. Its not quite that easy in reality as the path runs up and down the escarpment to round fields in between heading along the contour lines. This is now the pattern of many miles to come, barely even a village to break the route up.

Moving on a few miles there is actually a brief threat of heading down right to the road at Sherburn. I make good pace downhill and then the route makes a swift turn back up the escarpment to make me work hard for pace. A while back I decided to try and hit 4 miles per hour again and including this hill my next hour sees me do about 4.3mph - but work very hard into the bargain. From here on I'm barely able to record over 3mph, often slower, till the end. From Sherburn its about 16m to the end, but for some reason I had in my head it was 20'ish. A mileage marker wouldn't have gone amiss around here.

After a few up's and down's the route reverts to a bouncy, soft, flat track to Ganton, home of a Championship golf course, which saw the likes of Harry Vardon in past times and even hosted the Ryder Cup in 1949. But I couldn't see that from my route as I dive through a plantation. Now, not only following the WW, but also now the Centenary Way, which is even longer than the Wolds Way, but with about 2000ft less up and down climb (which might have been nice the way I was feeling at this point). 13m to go....

Now a challenge I hadn't anticipated, not knowing this section of the route, I was heading back uphill. The last finger post had been for Staxton Wold, which didn't reassure as I guessed this could be at the top of Staxton Hill, the infamous steep road descent day-trippers from the East Riding  would travel down on route to Scarborough, Whitby and other East Coast resorts. At this point I text Clare to tell her to add an extra half hour to our meetup time.

On the way up I was again chased by aggressive cows. A few this time, and uphill, the buggers really had it in for me and maybe sensed an easy target. Still this warmed me up nicely for running across the aforementioned road (B1249) down a track passed a farm and towards the RAF Station on the Wold Top. A straight well laid road, but I couldn't run all the way up even though the gradient was slight.

My water and energy drink are almost gone now and I don't have enough food left for my hourly snack anymore - and what I do have offers up less indulgent portions than in the overnight and morning hours. On top of tired legs and the renewed hilliness of the route the lack of water and food means I'm really on a go slow now. On the positive, the feet aren't in agony from sores or blisters. The upcoming UTLD 100 is a different beast, but I'd take this condition at this mileage in that event this year!

I'm almost at the front gate of RAF Staxton Wold now and don't really like running this close to a military base. My tired mind looks for a sign I've not strayed off-route and am about to get the military welcome from the opposite end of a barrel of a gun. Its ok! I turn right along the front of the base, slowly down the hill towards an east turn that takes ages to arrive. When it does its a short, but hands on knees steep climb!

The cruel finale goes on with the path crossing several steep mini dips before climbing to a road. A few hundred yards down and I'm off the road again to a gradually steepening dip and after climbing from this, another shocker, the route basically takes a round trip detour of several miles to join what looks on the map like it used to be a continuation of the same track/path. Nice as Camp and Stocking Dale are I'd like to be taking the "as the crow flies" route at this stage.

Now back on track the road gradually begins its descent towards the last village before Filey, Muston. Just outside the village I pass some walkers taking group pictures, the first time I've seen a gathering of more than two people on route - this really was a lonely route - which is just what i'd hoped for. I then lose the path and can't figure how to leave the field. Both gates I can see seem to be locked up, usually a sign I've strayed. I climb a gate to another field..... just topping it I see a large bull hald obscurred by a tree. I swear it was scraping its hoof back in the dust! I quickly backtrack to the other gate.

I'm sure this gate isn't right either as I get a belt from the electric fence running in front of it. But it brings me onto the road through Muston to Filey - I'm not going to lose sleep over a minor route infringement at this stage. In the village I pass a pub, too late now, I'm out of water, but with just 3 miles to the end I'm not going to stop now.

I cross a field and join an alleyway back onto the road into Filey. The level of street activity is quite a shock to the system. People out walking the streets, shops aplenty and there even appears to be a cycling event riding into town. I stop at a shop and grab a coke to give me a boost for the closing miles. I can't help feeling I like Filey as I plod/walk towards the seafront, all very clean and without the shabby look of many British coastal resorts. I also pass a divin smelling fish and chip shop, where aforementioned cyclists are gathering.

I'd like to end here, on the promenade, in the park, near the bandstand. But, the route ends officially at Filey Brigg, so I plod another mile up there to plod back again. At this stage I even manage a little run there and back. When Clare arrives I'm plonked down in the park. I'm glad to see her, its very nice to be picked up as its a fair mileage back to Hull and who knows with public transport! I show my appreciation with Fish, Chips, mushy peas, scraps and a bread bun x2 for us. a sizable portion of tasty Fish and chips, looking out over the sea, is exactly the way all journeys should end!

78m - 19 hrs - 8000ft+ ascent and descent. An excellent and perhaps under-appreciated long distance trail.


  1. great account de. im not sure these days whether your dad should have given you a trophy or had you certified. great effort. sure you'll fly round the utld100 this year.

  2. Great achievement Danny, Got me thinking of a Staffordshire way attempt just for the hell of it. Don't think there's an ale named after it though! See you at UTLD