David Hockney’s association with the Yorkshire Wolds stretches back to the early 1950s when as a young man he spent two summers stooking corn on farmland in the area. In the late 1990s he returned to Yorkshire to be with his aging mother and to visit the ailing art gallery proprietor, Jonathan Silver. His childhood friend, it seems, encouraged Hockney to paint the East Yorkshire landscape and The Road to York Through Sledmere (1997) and Garrowby Hill (1998) were the result. After both his mother and friend died Hockney settled in the area, moving in to the home he had bought his mother in Bridlington. He began to sketch, paint and capture on iPad his favourite locations, revisiting them many times throughout the seasons; ‘Bigger Trees near Warter‘ needed to be completed during the winter before the trees came in to leaf and other places, most notably along Woldgate, were painted during ‘Action Week’ when covered in Hawthorn blossom.
Even before a well-received exhibition of ‘A Bigger Picture’ at the Royal Academy in 2012, Visit Hull & East Yorkshire tried to raise the profile of ‘Hockney Country’ and bring tourists in to this relatively overlooked part of the county. At some point those responsible for tourism in East Yorkshire and the Wolds, with the help of Rupert Douglas, set about creating eight (later nine) ‘Big Skies Bike Rides’, borrowing a phrase Hockney used to describe the skies over the American West. The Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route includes a number of Hockney locations; however, despite most of those short, circular Big Skies Bike Rides covering the roads travelled by Hockney, there doesn’t seem to have been any attempt made to combine all of the locations chosen by the man himself and link them all together. This post aims to do just that. ‘Hockney Trail: A Cyclist’s Route’ is a little over 100 miles and (with the exception of the busy A166 at Garrowby Hill) takes in virtually all of the places studied by ‘Britain’s favourite living artist’.
In trying to avoid main roads as much as possible – and to limit going over the same ground – the route falls naturally in to two distinct parts. The eastern section goes out to the coast through Kilham via Thwing and then Rudston and the standing stone there before returning again through Kilham after the shallow climb of Woldgate. The western section sits entirely within the “candidate area” currently being assessed by Natural England for Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status. (It seems fair to suggest that the epithet ‘Hockney Country’ has given some renewed impetus for this long overdue designation.) The western section is less spread out and is a loop taking in a number of Wolds favourites.