Tales from the Trail - a Top Secret

24th March 2016

When the Yorkshire Wolds Way opened for business on 2 October 1982, it came with its own user’s manual. ‘The Wolds Way’ was published by ‘Her Majesty's Stationary Office’. As an instruction book it was thorough and comprehensive.

Unfortunately the term ‘user friendly trail guide’ does not seem to have been foremost in the mind of the editor as he worked on this publication. I suspect that he was probably a Whitehall Mandarin, more at home in the city under a bowler hat and umbrella, rather than walking through the countryside in walking boots and waterproofs. He was clearly following government memorandums that gave instructions on how to present top secret classified information to an audience restricted to those who had signed the official secrets act.

The result at first glance, is a compact and rather stiff little tome, full to bursting with pages of tightly packed print. Instructions and information are formal and serious, and surrounded by many slightly out of focus black and white photographs which could easily be of distant military installations, radar stations and secret airfields.  Unwittingly, I’m sure, this guide probably set the tone the Yorkshire Wolds Way has had to live with ever since.

The route is indeed ‘a top secret’. A top trail, as good as any of the other national trails, but one that seems hidden in the shadows. It is without doubt one of the best ‘least known about’ walking routes in England.  Those who already know the Yorkshire Wolds Way, and have made the effort to discover it are probably happy to keep it that way.

So, go ahead this summer and uncover it’s secrets. You will discover a trail, just like its first guide book, that is full of magic and surprise. Black and White photography will never do justice to the vibrant and varied landscapes of the Wolds.  Massive blue skies over glinting chalk. Rich green dales running like rivers, winding between fields full of golden harvests.

The marvellous words of the writer of this first guidebook to the Yorkshire Wolds Way, Roger Ratcliffe, shine through despite the best efforts of the man from the ministry to cloud them in secrecy. He wrote perhaps the best ever description of this landscape which is the back drop to a great walking adventure:

 ‘The Yorkshire Wolds surface unspectacularly from the Humber’s gritty brown waters and adhesive mud-banks. As the sinuous waves of chalk roll gently north-wards they form an increasingly beautiful and individual landscape, ending with a masterstroke of scenic grandeur - the gleaming cliffs at Flamborough and Bempton and the wide bay dominated by the dramatic rocky promontory of Filey Brigg’.

Yes, the Yorkshire Wolds is a secret landscape. The trail through it will feed your soul, lift your heart and inspire your imagination. Go and discover this Top Secret for yourselves. 

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