Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route: a one-day ride

The (proposed*) Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route is a loop of more than 140 miles including two off-road sections that can be avoided fairly easily if required. There seems to be no specific start to the well-planned route developed by ‘Visit Hull & East Yorkshire’, but we completed this course as a one-day ride in a clockwise direction starting at Beverley Minster on Sunday 10th April 2011.

My second attempt to map the route. This time I missed out Bempton Cliffs and back to Bempton. (Both of the off-road sections of the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route are plotted above, but we avoided the first one north of Newbald by going through Gardam then Etton.)

I stumbled upon this route when trying to complete all of the Big Skies Bike Rides. To date I’ve ridden five of these eight little loops and enjoyed all of them so far except the one from Driffield, which I found to be rather featureless. Like the Big Skies Bike Rides, The Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route includes Beverley, Market Weighton, Pocklington, Sledmere, Bridlington and Driffield. It avoids Hunmanby (the starting point for a 21.1-mile loop of the Great Wold Valley) and on the day we skirted past Malton (a loop that takes in Thixendale), instead following one of the two off-road sections on the route.

Beverley to Huggate

As with the Morecambe to Mappleton coast-to-coast ride last year, I started the day with Steve, the husband of a colleague. John (another colleague) and I picked up Steve in Cottingham and cycled through a heavy mist before leaving Beverley Minster at 6.15am heading towards Walkington.

Even before we reached the end of Little Wood Road we had cycled further than any of John’s previous bike rides. He doesn’t drive either, so it was nice to introduce him to Trundlegate and, with the mist almost burnt away, the view on that satisfying descent. North of Newbald the route is supposed to take you along a “to be upgraded” stretch of the Yorkshire Wolds Way. I had ridden this part of the route a few weeks earlier (after this off-road section you would cross the A1079 and come out next to the railway bridge at Kiplingcotes), but didn’t fancy risking the stony surface with such a long day ahead of us, especially as Steve had previously punctured on this section riding his mountain bike.

So the longer route through Gardam then Etton, where we stopped for Steve to fix his first puncture. Tube replaced, a bit of flapjack, and we were on our way to Market Weighton and Steve’s second puncture. Steve’s wife Marian would be meeting us later with drinks and sandwiches. And, at my suggestion, a replacement tyre. After Londesborough, Burnby and Pocklington we passed the drive leading to the World Peace Café (still closed at that time in the morning) and took the gentle climb through the splendid Millington Dale.

Steve and John make a break for it just beyond Millington Wood

I wanted John’s ride to literally end on a high (his wife was picking him up to go shopping in York) and he did fantastically well with no training to get as far as Huggate (its public house claims to be “the highest country Inn on the Wolds”) and our first refreshment stop. I wonder if I’ve switched John on to cycling for pleasure, or turned him off completely. We shall see.

Huggate to Sledmere

To get to Thixendale the route avoids the most direct course and goes off on a ‘V’ shaped meander, emerging at the A166 and the 300-metre length of cycle path, before crossing the main road and passing through Painsthorpe Wold and Fother Dale in to Thixendale.

Water Dale: the gentle climb out of Thixendale on the way to Leavening

The route out is along the newly resurfaced road through Water Dale. That is both my favourite way in and way out of Thixendale.

A brief rest at the beginning of the Howardian Hills

Beyond the thrilling drop in to Leavening the route passes through Westow and the beginning of the Howardian Hills, skirts Kirkham, bypasses Firby and heads towards Malton.

Kirkham Priory is just beyond this point. It is a beautiful spot for a picnic on the benches of the English Heritage administered site. But we pushed on towards Firby.

We were enjoying the ride so much that neither of us noticed we had missed our left turn at the junction we whizzed past. The signpost points to Menethorpe, a name which is omitted from the AA North of England map I fasten to my Altura Orkney bar bag, and Steve hadn’t noticed the route change on his swanky new SatMap GPS device.

After we passed through the very pretty Lzysike Wood, more quiet lanes took us closer to Malton. Here you can decide whether to go that far, or head more or less straight on using a rough, stony track (marked “No Through Road”) that brings you out on the B1248 and opposite the road to Settrington. I had tried as best as I could to plot the route on MapMyRide.com using the .pdf version of the (proposed) Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route map I had found online. This particular electronic version it is not especially detailed, so I may have made a mistake in trying to send us through the village of Settrington rather than avoiding it all together.

The, ahem, sleepy village of Settrington

In the end I was glad that we took a slight detour again, as it allowed us to visit the delightful All Saints’ Church in Settrington. Our approach to what turned out to be a dead end passed by hundreds of daffodils, the scent of which alone was worth the diversion.

All Saints’ Church, Settrington on a lovely spring afternoon

According to a woman who rents a nearby cottage, walking magazines incorrectly state that access is possible through the grounds of the large house next to the church. The signs warning of guard dogs helped steer us away from that would-be shortcut so we turned around and passed over a little bridge in preference to fording the river.

Enough of Settrington. Time to climb out and push on to Sledmere

Last year, on our coast-to-coast ride, Steve began to tire on the climb out of Settrington. This time it was my turn to struggle and I watched Steve pull away from me on this fairly long drag. We turned off the Lutton road and faced an unfamiliar headwind on our way to Duggleby. This section of our route turned in to a bit of a grind for me. Normally, the little rise out of Kirby Grindalythe wouldn’t present much trouble, but I had to drop on to the inner ring here and then again on the last kick before the descent in to Sledmere. I was ready for a hot drink and one or two of Marian’s sandwiches.

The grounds of Sledmere House were open, but the café was closed until Easter, and I stretched out in the car for a much-needed rest, although and we probably lingered too long before moving on to the next leg of our journey.

Sledmere to Bridlington

Eleanor Cross monument, Sledmere

Powered by caffeine, fresh sandwiches and a tail wind, we set off at a fair lick in a north easterly direction passing through East Lutton, Weaverthorpe and Foxholes. From here you might expect to go east to visit Wold Newton, but the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route takes you north along the B1249 for a short while before turning left and then right on the road north towards Ganton. A mile or two before the A164 we reached a right turn at a what turned out to be Ganton Wold farm and its outbuildings at the junction. They provided temporary shade on this hot afternoon while I reapplied my sun block, and something for Steve to lean his bike against whilst he fixed his third puncture of the day. (Luckily we had relieved John of his spare inner tube before he went shopping.)

Steve’s third and last puncture of the day

And it’s thataway… puncture fixed, this unsigned road took us on our clockwise route towards the crossing of the B1249, and Fordon

We took the unsigned road after checking on Steve’s SatMap that it was the correct way to go and before long we saw the welcome sign indicating the descent in to Fordon. When plotting our course I hadn’t paid too much attention to the profile of the ride at this stage of the route, so I was relieved that at Fordon we could freewheel for a while.

After the steady climb out of Foxholes, Steve gives his approval to the next section of our ride: the descent in to Fordon

After that it was Burton Fleming, Grindale, Buckton, Bempton and Sewerby.

Checking the SatMap in Buckton

Sewerby should have come at the 100-mile mark, but our earlier diversion to Etton, and just getting to Beverley, had pushed us over that particular milestone some time earlier. At any rate, we stopped at a pub for soft drinks and hard chips. Steve fitted that spare tyre before we followed the prescribed route along the cliff tops and in the tracks of Burlington Bertie. Actually, I think it was too early in the season for the little tourist train to be out on the narrow strip of tarmac, but the many families taking advantage of the spring sunshine didn’t easily give up a bit of space for us to squeeze past; Steve rode on the grass. Given that this is meant to be part of the official route I think there should be some appropriate signage about, if only to legitimise our presence among the tourists. Maybe it will follow when the route is officially opened in June this year.

Bridlington to Driffield

I always seem to make hard work of getting out of towns and on to the correct route. Leaving Bridlington was no exception. After choosing the wrong dead end road to go along we eventually lifted our bikes over a kerb and followed the shared use path that runs alongside the A165, before crossing over and taking the minor road that leads to Kilham. Except that we needed to pass through Burton Agnes so turned south, then briefly along the A614, before negotiating numerous crossings of the railway line that runs up the east coast. I’m not too keen on this part of the ride. The Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route was developed mainly by ‘Visit Hull and East Yorkshire’ and necessarily incorporates Wolds-edge towns and villages such as Driffield. Unless I needed refreshments at Bell Mills café I think I would ordinarily be tempted to bypass Driffield completely. I rode the Driffield Big Skies Bike Ride with another cyclist earlier in the year. That loop goes out along the same route that Steve and I took on our return from Bridlington, but I would prefer Kilham, Nafferton Wold, then crossing the railway line once only before heading towards Wansford and Skerne. Having said that, there isn’t the same density of quiet roads here that are found in the north west of the Wolds, so options are limited, I suppose. The threatened headwind had dropped as we made our way along the twisting course towards Driffield.

Driffield to Beverley

Some cars already had their headlights on when we arrived in Driffield. We wanted a quick stop, but I had been finicky about where to meet up with Marian, and it was my fault that we were kept from our sandwiches and hot drinks. On with the fluorescent tops and Steve’s powerful front light ready for making our way to Hutton Cranswick, with just enough light to see the road surface safely. It wasn’t long before it was too dark for me to see the road with my little LED lights, so Steve took the lead and floodlit the way with his Hope lamp. Unfortunately, we had already taken a wrong turn in the dark and somehow drifted off towards Watton. I was annoyed with myself, but Steve pointed out that we just needed to take two sides of the same square and we would be back on track. It meant that we missed one of my favourite parts of NCN route 1 – the Bracken road – with strips of grass that sprout from the centre of the track for much of its length. I consoled myself by thinking that the grass at night time would cast a dangerous shadow as we rode side by side, so didn’t dwell too long on our poor sense of direction.

Now on the familiar approach to South Dalton, Steve noticed that the batteries in this SatMap had given up, so when the new set went in it appeared that we had cycled through a ploughed field as the GPS device drew a straight line between the last point it had a signal and our current position. Etton, Cherry Burton, Bishop Burton and Walkington were all that remained between us and the finish at Beverley Minster. The clock finished striking 10 as we leant our bikes against the railings of the Minster walls.

We parted at Dunswell (between Beverley and Hull) and Steve would eventually clock up 165 miles for the day; I reckon my mileage was around 170. Although the distance is part of the challenge of doing this route in one ride, a considerable appeal was to spend a full day cycling the Yorkshire Wolds and finding a few roads new to me along the way. Our moving speed wasn’t bad, but we need to avoid getting quite so comfortable at the stops, and to take fewer photographs on our journeys (over 140 between us on the day). My favourite sections were from Kilnwick Percy to Huggate; the entire route between Thixendale and Settrington; and the road north east from Sledmere and on to Fordon. Leaving aside my minor quibble about the way through Driffield I think this is a very well planned route that showcases much of the best cycling in the Yorkshire Wolds, whilst avoiding the very steepest climbs, such as Acklam, Hanging Grimston, Sherburn Grits and Uncleby.

More images from the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route

All the photographs above were taken during our ride on Sunday 10th April 2011.

Below is a slideshow of images taken at various times, ordered as though riding the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route in a clockwise direction from Beverley Minster to Beverley Minster (including the route of our detour on road bikes). Occasionally, the bicycles shown are facing the ‘wrong’ way, but the photographs presented are of locations in sequential order along the route. Buildings that are not strictly on the route, but are in the towns or villages that are passed through, are included anyway. The Yorkshire Wolds might not have the same dramatic views that can be found, say, in the Yorkshire Dales, but as a place to cycle along quiet country lanes and over an undulating landscape, with the occasional steep hill, it is hard to beat.

Click on the arrow to start the slide show. More images to follow…

* We completed our ride with only minor deviations from the proposed route as it is still (July 16th 2011) shown on the ‘Visit Hull & East Yorkshire’ web site. However, it appears that the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Challenge has a different version of the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route on its web site. In that version the changes seem to be that a different route is taken between Leavening and Westow; Hunmanby is included after all (crossing the A165 three times instead of once before Buckton) at the expense of Burton Fleming; and Bishop Burton is bypassed by taking (the cycle lane along?) a busier road to Beverley from Cherry Burton.

Related posts (Big Skies Bike Rides):

North Newbald and back from Beverley

Millington Dale and Warter from Pocklington

South Dalton, Lockington and Lund from Market Weighton

Burton Agnes and Kilham from Driffield

Great Wold Valley from Hunmanby

Sledmere Country from Sledmere

Thixendale from Malton or Norton on Derwent

Bempton Cliffs and Rudston from Bridlington

Related external links:

Visit Hull and East Yorkshire Big Skies Bike Rides & Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route

Countryfile Magazine Discover the Yorkshire Wolds

Guardian Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route: 146 miles of back roads and huge skies

Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Challenge