In the late 1970s, a younger, better-looking version of myself set about the task of compiling a fifty-mile walking route between the Minsters of Beverley and York.
Such routes were becoming popular then, and people were travelling from East Yorkshire to the Dales or North York Moors to enjoy the ones already established there. The Wolds Way had been planned for many years, but had not yet come to fruition, and I decided that the time had come for East Yorkshire to have a Long Distance Path of its own. Many hours were spent in the Hull Local History Library, and in discussion with the East Yorkshire and Derwent Ramblers' Association, (of which I already was, and still am, an enthusiastic member) to identify the existing public rights of way which would eventually be joined together to form the Minster Way.
Armed with the relevant maps, a group of friends and I set off to explore the paths and bridleways. The first of these explorations was a somewhat chastening experience. The paths between Beverley and Scorborough proved a lot more difficult to traverse than anticipated, being overgrown, un-signposted, and having a surfeit of barbed wire and a distinct lack of stiles. The journey took twice as long as it should have done, and, just to add to our difficulties, it rained! I almost gave up the project after this initial foray, but being of a stubborn nature, as my friends would have confirmed at the time, stuck to the task.
Many letters to and consultations with, the Highways Authorities responsible for the maintenance of public rights of ways ensued. The trouble was that people were not using the paths because of their poor condition, and the paths were in poor condition because people were not using them, a destructive and common problem in this and other areas. My hope then was that the Minster Way would help to improve the situation by encouraging greater use, and this has proved to be the case over the years.
The route is now fully signposted and much more pleasant to walk. The improvement has been achieved not only by increased use, but also by co-operation between the former Humberside, the present East Riding and North Yorkshire Councils and our Ramblers' Association Area.
The rest of the way had its own share of difficulties, if not as many as the initial few miles, but after two years, the route was ready for use, and the guidebook I had written was on the shelves of local bookshops.
In order to publicise the book and the walk, four local ramblers offered to walk the whole of the fifty miles in a single day, and on June 14th, 1980 three of them, Glen Hood, Roy Hughes and Alan Killick, accomplished this arduous feat, in truly appalling weather. Many people have followed in their footsteps, but most have taken considerably longer to complete their task, some of them over several years, others possibly in half-mile bits. The many letters I have received show that the vast majority thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Visitors from many parts of the British Isles, and further afield, have been introduced to our East Yorkshire countryside by the Minster Way, and having been pleasantly surprised by its beauty and tranquillity, often express their intention of making further trips to the area.
The fine town of Beverley, the flat, mainly arable parts to its north and the crossing of the Yorkshire Wolds, with their many beautiful villages, churches (and a few pubs!), followed by the banks of the Rivers Derwent and Ouse, provide a good introduction to this distinctive part of England. York, of course, provides a grand finale.
When compiling the route so long ago, I probably did not expect to be following the Minster Way in the twenty-first century but I am, having trodden its paths each year in four sections, as part of the Ramblers' local programme usually with fifteen or twenty walkers. 2005 saw the twenty-fifth such ramble, the 2001 event having been wiped out by that year's tragic Foot and Mouth epidemic.
I didn't suspect either in those far-off days that the walk would have its own website: I don't think they had been invented then. Now you can log on at http://Minsterway.btck.co.uk.
Recent adjustments to the trail have been made. At Sylvan Dale the challenging steep ascent/descent is now a zig zag path and the numerous stiles along the River Derwent between Stamford Bridge and Kexby have been replaced with metal kissing gates. Let us hope that no such disasters as Foot and Mouth re-occur and that the Minster Way will delight future generations of walkers for another 35 years at least!
The latest edition of the Minster Way Guide, written by Ray Wallis and published by the East Yorkshire and Derwent Ramblers can be obtained from local tourist offices and a few bookshops, price £5 or, from Ray at 75 Ancaster Ave., Hull. HU5 4QR. [Please include an extra £1.17p for postage and packing]. A Badge is available on completion at present priced at £1.70 + S.A.E.
All profits from sales go to the East Yorkshire and Derwent Area of The Ramblers' Association.
Ray Wallis, September 2015