First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
Daffodils were out along the zigzag road through North Grimston. From the cellar of the Middleton Arms, a hollow clanging announced the racking of a fresh consignment of good Yorkshire ale – a nice promise to myself for the end of the walk. Just now I was for the wolds, those deep valleys seamed into the chalky landscape of East Yorkshire that you never suspect are there at all until you suddenly come on them.
The farm track of the Centenary Way carried me away from North Grimston, up a green cleft whose curves and sinuations held unemphatic colours on this early spring morning – milky greens and greys against the dark stripes of leafless woodland. The slopes around Wood House Farm and High Bellmanear called for the bold palette of David Hockney, who cut his landscape teeth among the geometric shapes and quarter-tones of the Yorkshire Wolds.
Curlew cries came up from the sedgy meadows below, along with cock crows and the pop! pop! of shotguns from the woods. The white chalk and flint track led north through fields of spring wheat to Settrington Beacon where the Romans once maintained a signal station, one in a line of warning flares between their harbour at Filey Brigg and the garrison town of Eboracum/York.
A hare leaped up and pelted away as I trudged the ridge road towards Settrington. Folded fields and old orchards, a plopping frog pond, and then the steep lane that separates Settrington House from its lake. A final wriggle of road, and I was walking south beside the extravagantly snaking Settrington Beck in sodden fields where a flock of greylag geese waddled away from the stranger, piping hoarsely in their anxiety.
Watching the wold ridges sliding by, listening to the trumpeting of the geese and the quiet gurgle of the beck, I almost forgot to peep into St Nicholas’s Church when I got back to North Grimston. I’d have kicked myself if I hadn’t, because the church contains a rare treasure, a massive Norman tub font carved with tableaux in a remarkable naïve style.
In the most striking scene a wide-eyed Christ with a broad grin presides over the Last Supper. There are fish and hot-cross buns on the table. The disciples bless themselves and smile out at the world. Some nameless carver made this work of art and faith, perhaps in the 12th century AD, or maybe earlier still.
Start: Middleton Arms, North Grimston, Nr Malton, E. Yorks YO17 8AX (OS ref SE 844677)
Getting there: Bus 190 (Foxholes-Malton)
Road – From A64 (York-Malton) follow Kirkham Abbey, Langton, North Grimston.
Walk (7½ miles, easy, OS Explorer 300): Left along road; on first right bend, left across cattle grid and follow farm track (soon marked ‘Centenary Way’) for 2¾ miles to road at Settrington Beacon (867706). Left; in ¾ of a mile, left (856709, ‘Wold House’). Just before house, right over stile (yellow arrow/YA). Ahead down field; through gate (855705, YA); down to go through gate (YA). Left by pond; follow fence by trees (YA) to stile (YA), then Wardale drive (850702). Ahead to road (846703); left downhill past lake. At T-junction, left (838700, ‘North Grimston’); in a ¼ of a mile, left (‘Kirkhill’). Right at Kirk Hill farm (841697, YA) and follow YAs south across Settrington Beck and on for 1¼ miles to North Grimston.
Lunch: Middleton Arms, North Grimston (01944-768255)
Accommodation: Talbot Hotel, Yorkersgate, Malton YO17 7AJ (01653-639096, talbotmalton.co.uk) – very comfortable, stylish hotel.
Yorkshire Wolds Walking Festival: 9-17 September (the yorkshirewolds.com)
The January Man – A Year of Walking Britain by Christopher Somerville (Doubleday, £14.99).