Category Archives: Shorter loops

Hockney Trail: A Cyclist’s Route

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.

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Thixendale Hills: A Taster Ride

Thixendale is a picturesque, remote North Yorkshire village just over the border with the East Riding of Yorkshire. Almost all sportives I’ve ridden (and all challenge rides I’ve organised) pass through the village, many along Warter Dale which ramps up out of Thixendale heading north west. However, all six of its notable hills are well worth taking. Some, such as the road to Fridaythorpe, are arguably more suited to descending, albeit with particular caution. That climb is rather narrow and goes upwards for what feels like several hundred metres; I don’t like going slowly up busy or narrow roads. All ways in and out of the village offer wonderful views and recently I thought I’d put together a short route taking in each of them. Unsurprisingly, others have come up with their own take on the same theme (more on that later), but on the day I did this ride I had a specific need make the route less than fifty miles.

In 2022 a free car park opened just outside the eastern edge of nearby Huggate, that would make an ideal start point. This isn’t a long ride, but you would be forgiven for taking refreshments in the newly refurbished Wolds Inn afterwards. So here is a suggested route. What’s yours…?

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A Yorkshire Wolds 200km Audax (ride report from 2016)

(On this day in 2016 I organised a series of Challenge Rides. Here is Graeme Holdsworth’s ride report on the 200km event. His report was originally published an a now deleted web site.)


Ignorance is bliss – but perhaps the warning signs were there on the start line. There was a 75% DNS (Did Not Start) rate on the longest of the four CTC Challenge Rides which meant I’d be doing this 200km route alone.

The East Yorkshire CTC run a series of Challenge Rides: 70km, 130km and 170km. This year, however, the organiser (Chris) had added a 200km route which could be ridden as an entry level Randonneur event. New rules from Audax UK allow for routes which can be both planned and validated by GPS devices. Traditionally, Randonneur events [Audax in the UK], are ‘allure libre’; meaning you can take any route you like between control points. I like this approach but if you want a more convoluted route it can be difficult finding appropriate controls. The “Mandatory DIY by GPS” rule meant that I could take Chris’ route and submit it as my DIY 200km Audax.

My ride had actually started by leaving Welton and climbing Welton Wold to reach Cottingham, it was promising to be a beautiful day for this 210km route. In Cottingham I met other riders who’d travelled from as far as Harrogate to take part, and everyone turning up early in the morning was given a warm welcome by Chris and treated to some delicious coffee he’d prepared for us the evening before.

Although I was the only 200km rider on the start line, there was a good turnout for the 170km route and Chris set us off together at 8am. In the enthusiasm of group riding we did set off at a cracking speed, keeping the pressure on over the first early climbs through Little Weighton to High Hunsley. There was great communication in the group, pointing out surface hazards and calling out junctions. We took a sharp right on a steep downhill into North Newbald and stretched out a little on the climb of Newbald Wold. The views opened out before us and we had a brief respite rolling along fast together towards Etton and into South Dalton.

I was beginning to think about dropping off the back of the group now as I had an extra 40km to ride and some locally infamous hills to experience. These riders were all strong, but when *the fairy who shall not be named* deflated Richard’s rear tyre we all pulled up to wait. I made my apologies – they were on a different ride to me – and I just carried on. I had a feeling they’d be passing me before long anyway.

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Sykes Churches Trail – A Cyclist’s Route

Visitors to the high wolds – the countryside around Sledmere on the Yorkshire Wolds – can’t fail to notice the links to the Sykes family. The impressive Sledmere House, the memorials and the Sykes estate properties with their distinctive red paintwork are very visible reminders of the family’s association with the area. However, almost entirely hidden behind a stand of trees is another remarkable feature: St Mary’s church. Built between 1893 and 1898 at a cost of at least £60,000 – equivalent to more than £5,000,000 in 2022 – it is the grandest place of worship on the Sykes Churches Trail.

From a display board in St Mary, Sledmere:

Between 1856 and 1913 Sir Tatton Sykes, 4th baronet (1772-1863) and Sir Tatton Sykes, 5th baronet (1826-1913) of Sledmere built, rebuilt or restored 18 rural churches in East Yorkshire, chiefly on the Wolds. It was the aim of Sir Tatton Sykes II, ‘perhaps the greatest English church builder of the 19th century’, to create centres of ‘Christian Art and Worship’ and he spent a fortune to produce some of the finest village churches in Britain. Three of the greatest Gothic Revival architects were employed: John L. Pearson, later architect of Truro Cathedral, George Edmund Street, best known for the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, and Temple L. Moore, whose career began in the East Riding.

The glory of the impressive architecture of the Sykes churches is equalled by the splendour of their Victorian and Edwardian furnishings by leading craftsmen and artists of the age. On sunny days the churches are flooded with colour from stained glass by the firms of Clayton & Bell, Burlison & Grylls, Kempe & Co., and H.V. Milner. The roofs are painted, the floors covered with decorative tiles, and the ornate wooden or wrought iron and brass screens divide nave from chancel.

The Sykes Churches Trail appears to have come about in 2013 to mark the hundredth anniversary of the death of Tatton Sykes II. It is separated in to a southern circuit and a smaller northern circuit, with Sledmere appearing on both. Over the summer of 2022 I completed several shorter rides in order to devise a single manageable, but challenging, Sykes Churches Trail suitable for road and touring cyclists. It covers a little over 100 miles.

Not all of the Sykes churches are included in the resultant route. I originally visited North Frodingham and Wansford but discounted them as, well, this is a web site celebrating cycling on the Yorkshire Wolds and these two villages are on the Holderness plain. (Similarly, the church of St Margaret, Hilston sits on the North Sea coast and was in any case destroyed by a bomb and rebuilt in the 1950s.) St Peter, Langtoft and St Andrew, East Heslerton failed to make the cut because of their proximity to unsuitable main roads. None of these roads is free from risk but, ultimately, safety won out over completeness.

This, entirely unofficial, cyclist-friendly Sykes Churches Trail incorporates both northern and southern circuits and fourteen of the Sykes churches. A photograph and description of each church is given below. The cyclist’s cardinal sin of going back over the same roads is kept to a minimum, but necessarily includes spurs at Weaverthorpe (I’m a little squeamish about the direct route from there to Sherburn so backtrack to Helperthorpe) and Bishop Wilton. However, like the rest of the church villages, these two places could equally form the start point of this century ride. A desire to avoid uphill sections on the busier roads, and to miss out less scenic views, led to some slightly extended loops and route-making decisions. (For instance, as a risk averse cyclist I never ride uphill from Fimber to Sledmere, or from Sledmere to the Cowlam crossroads, and I avoid the featureless drag from Wetwang to Huggate.) Ultimately, the choice of route – and the decision to drop some Sykes churches from the list – was determined by a mixture of safety concerns, a need for quiet roads and a wish to take in the varied and pleasant scenery of the Yorkshire Wolds.

A suggested cyclist’s route for the Yorkshire Wolds Sykes Church Trail as a Garmin Connect course. (Note that East Heslerton and Langtoft are omitted because of their proximity to unsuitable roads.)

You can also view the Sykes Churches Trail – A Cyclist’s Route as a Strava segment and as a Garmin Connect activity.
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Shorter Loops: Thixendale Big Skies Bike Ride

In 2010 a series of eight Big Skies Bike Rides was launched with the aim of encouraging cyclists to discover the varied and interesting terrain of the Yorkshire Wolds. ‘Thixendale from Malton or Norton on Derwent’ is an at times challenging ride of just over twenty miles. It includes the stiff climb out of Birsdall; the wonderful Water Dale descent in to Thixendale; Burdale, with the short but punchy Fairy Dale climb up to Wharram Percy Wold; the reward of an enjoyable descent of Grimston Brow, and the final downhill stretch over Langton Wold as the route is retraced back to the start.

The only criticisms of this route – levelled by one of the group of cyclists who rode with me one day way back in 2012 – concerns the same road: the route over Langton Wold to and from Malton. It’s a fast descent but, unsurprisingly, a correspondingly slow ascent, which isn’t a problem with the other, quieter uphill stretches on this ride. It’s just that this can be a busy road and, for me at least, there is a greater sense of vulnerability as I puff and pant uphill with motor vehicles whizzing past. The other objection on the day was Langton Wold is effectively and ‘out-and-back’; a circular route is generally preferred by the majority of my ride buddies. Still, the same climb forms part of the Pock Pedal, following refreshments in a community centre or similar in Malton/Norton. Perhaps it’s an age thing.

Once over Langton Wold from the start in Malton there is a descent towards Birdsall and pretty views to be had through the estate of Birdsall House, one of an increasing number of Yorkshire country houses now offering its services as a film set.

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Field House Campsite, Tibthorpe

This page is for Field House Campsite, Tibthorpe. See also the main accommodation page.


Field House near Tibthorpe is an ‘off-grid’ campsite east of Huggate on the Way of the Roses cycle route and three miles from the course of the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route. It opened in July 2021 as a ‘pop-up’ site (and after a successful trial has been developed further with the addition of purpose built ‘eco’ toilets for 2022 and ‘coffee barn in 2023).

Here’s what Dixe Wills, travel writer for the Guardian, wrote about the countryside in which Field House Campsite is set, between Huggate and Tibthorpe, after completing the Way of the Roses for the first time:

And furthermore, I was ready for the question every cyclist gets asked about a long-distance ride: What’s your favourite bit? My answer? The four miles on the way to the village of Tibthorpe, about 20 miles from the east coast: huge skies, an empty road beneath my wheels and the sylvan countryside below melting away in the summer haze. I’m ashamed to say I threw my arms out wide and, coming over all Leonardo DiCaprio, shouted out, “I’m the king of the wold”. Which just goes to show that country air may not be so good for you after all.

Field House Farm Campsite Yorkshire Wolds Cyclist Friendly

As well as being a potential overnight stop for those riding the Way of the Roses the campsite is in a prime location for cyclists looking for a base in the Yorkshire Wolds from which to complete a range of day rides. Many Yorkshire Wolds accommodation providers rightly state that visitors can enjoy excellent cycling nearby, but for those from outside the area it is not always obvious where to start. This post is the first in the category ‘Ride Base Loops‘ that aims to give visiting cyclists at least five different loop options starting and ending at the same fixed base.

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Shorter Loops: Sledmere Big Skies Bike Ride

In 2010 a series of eight Big Skies Bike Rides was launched that were designed to encourage cyclists to discover the varied and interesting terrain of the Yorkshire Wolds. ‘Sledmere Country from Sledmere’ on the High Wolds is a ride that starts in East Yorkshire and passes over the border in to North Yorkshire. If you’re not already cycling through the village you can pull up in the car park near the memorials, grab your bike and set off down the hill. This is my favourite way out of Sledmere (at the Triton Inn turn left at the sign marked “Luttons Weaverthorpe”) and enjoy the rolling road towards the junction at a dip in the road between West Lutton and Cowlam.

Straight over the crossroads on towards Helperthorpe. This is a stretch of the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route, but once in Helperthorpe you’ll be looking out for a left turn signposted “E Heslerton Wold” – there’s also a brown Byways sign on the post – that will take you off the long distance route and on to a road with a heavily shrouded tree-lined summit. It’s almost a relief that you’re not on this road for long – the way ahead at first appears ominously steep – before turning left and passing Haverdale House along a very broken road surface that makes for a quiet route – unless you’re on bike that rattles. This road will find any lurking noise.

Sledmere_Big_Skies_Bike_Ride_Helperthorpe
The road out of Helperthorpe. If you have time there is a longer ride straight ahead, but on the Sledmere Big Skies Bike Ride it’s a left turn at the bottom of this hill

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Shorter Loops: Pocklington Big Skies Bike Ride

In 2010 a series of eight Big Skies Bike Rides was launched with the aim of encouraging cyclists to discover the varied and interesting terrain of the Yorkshire Wolds. ‘Millington Dale and Warter from Pocklington’ is a ride of less than twenty miles that includes the delightful Millington Dale; Huggate, with the highest pub on the Yorkshire Wolds; and an enjoyable descent in to Warter before the quiet and scenic Back Lane to Nunburnholme.

The B1246 east out of Pocklington is not the most pleasant way to start a bike ride, but the sightlines are good until the bend just before the turn off to Kilnwick Percy. (I’ll get this bit out of the way now: there is only one downside to this ride – but don’t let it put you off – as the road surface later between Burnby and Pocklington – at the time of writing – is not great.) [edit: the road surface between Burnby and Pocklington was resurfaced summer 2023] With the KP golf course to your left and the Kilnwick Percy Hall meditation centre to your right there is a steady incline before dropping down and then climbing gently to the pretty village of Millington. In normal times the Gait Inn and Ramblers’ Rest are recommended stops, and shared with the Western Wolds from Stamford Bridge Big Skies Bike Ride, a later addition to the series of rides, at this overlapping point.

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A Yorkshire Wolds Red Kite Bike Ride

I was a member of the Young Ornithologists’ Club before I joined the Cyclists’ Touring Club as a schoolboy and for me the experience of appreciating Yorkshire Wolds wildlife has been a vital part of cycling in and around the area. Back then I collected the full Orbis publication ‘The Encyclopedia Of Birds’. Week by week the collection would build up in to a pile of magazines that went in a cardboard box to be stored in the loft for the next three decades. Yes, you can find all the up-to-date information you need – and more – on the Internet these days, but when I wanted to carry out some research about the UK distribution of Red Kite I was interested to read a contemporary account from the time when I was a child. A map confirmed that areas where Red Kite could be found all year round were limited to Wales.

Red Kite distribution 1980s

Compare that to the map on the Yorkshire Red Kites web site that also details the reintroduction programme of 1999 at Harewood Estate in West Yorkshire.

Over the past few years I have noticed these magnificent birds more frequently whilst cycling around particular parts of the Yorkshire Wolds. So I thought I’d put together a ride that takes in most of the places where I’ve spotted Red Kite. The route is a little under forty miles long.

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Shorter loops: Market Weighton Big Skies Bike Ride

In 2010 a series of eight Big Skies Bike Rides was launched with the aim of encouraging cyclists to discover the varied and interesting terrain of the Yorkshire Wolds. The first time I rode “South Dalton, Lockington & Lund from Market Weighton” I had already been to Pocklington with ride buddies and stopped at Market Weighton to see the wooden statue to local legend William ‘Giant’ Bradley. (In the olden days when I would breezily cycle from Beverley to York along the length of the A1079 the road went through the centre of Market Weighton. Since then the town has been bypassed by the main road: Giant Bradley Way.)

On subsequent undertakings of this route I have parked in Goodmanham and ridden from there. Crossing the busy B1248 – twice – and having to spring open the Dalton Park gate at the Pipe and Glass means that the route is not exactly suited to being a time trial course, but when time is short – or fitness levels low – I have used the gently undulating road to test my fitness – or confirm the lack of it. But the main purpose of this and the other Big Skies Bike Rides is to explore the wonderful Yorkshire Wolds by bike – and for the Market Weighton ride there is something of a pub theme going on…

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