First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
The eccentricities embodied in the quiet villages of England are a constant source of revelation. Modest Goodmanham at the southern edge of the Yorkshire Wolds sees a welter of motley nags and jovial riders each March, taking part in a mad charge round the 4-mile course of the Kiplingcotes Derby. This muddy, foggy scramble of a race has been going on for 500 years; anyone can turn up on the day and have a go.
You learn this, and many more strange tidings, if you keep your ears open at the Goodmanham Arms, one of those Poppins-style pubs that are practically perfect in every way.
There’s definitely something magical in the air at Goodmanham, a village whose All Hallows Church stands on the site of a great temple to the chief of the Saxon gods, Woden. When local high priest Coifi decided to throw in his lot with Christianity rather than the old religion in 627AD, he signified the switch by hurling a war spear into the pagan temple, which his acolytes then burned to ashes.
A wild and whirling image to take with us into the placid, sunlit landscape of the East Riding. The Yorkshire Wolds Way led north from Goodmanham, a green lane edged with garlic mustard and white dead nettle. It ducked under the handsome brick bridge of a disused railway, then rose to run among cornfields and ploughlands of pale pink chalky soil.
There was an exhilarating sense of upland striding along the old lane, with skylarks singing their hearts out over the wheat and yellowhammers flirting their golden heads as they perched on the hedge tips.
Once across the roar and rattle of the Driffield road, we walked through the lush parkland of Londesborough Park among horse chestnuts in full candle. In their shade somnolent cattle watched us go by with supreme indifference. Forget-me-nots as blue as the sky and a mass of gold kingcups framed the ornamental lake, a little slice of man-made paradise.
The Wolds Way swung south again through barley fields to reach Market Weighton, busy and nondescript, the centre of a wide swathe of low-lying agricultural country. At a cross-roads stood a full-size statue of the town’s most famous son, William Bradley, (1787-1820) at 7 ft 9 inches the tallest Englishman in history. Born in an age when a small-town giant could expect merciless teasing and exploitation, by all accounts Bradley seems to have been a very pleasant and gentle giant indeed, and someone his home town still remembers with affection.
Start: Village car park, Goodmanham, Market Weighton, E. Yorks YO43 3JA (OS ref SE 888430)
Getting there: Bus X4, Hull-Market Weighton
Road: Goodmanham is signed off A614 (Market Weighton-Driffield) just north of Market Weighton.
Walk (8 miles, easy, OS Explorer 294): From car park, left along the road. Left beyond the church (890431, Yorkshire Wolds Way/YWW, ‘Londesborough’). Follow YWW for 2 miles, crossing A614 at 897440, into Londesborough Park. Below Londesborough Park house, YWW forks (871453); bear left and follow YWW to road at a lodge (869448). Turn left; in 100m, turn right and follow YWW south for 1¾ miles, crossing A614 at Towthorpe Grange, to York Road in Market Weighton (872421). Turn left to pass the statue of the Market Weighton Giant (877418); turn left up Londesborough Road. In 200m, turn right along Hall Road (877420); continue along the Hudson Way railway path. In 1 mile, turn left at a road (900426) back to Goodmanham.
Lunch: Goodmanham Arms (01430-873849, goodmanhamarms.co.uk) – a delightful, peaceful pub