Distance: 11.8 miles (although I missed the last 0.8 as a friend picked me up for a coffee...)
Type: Urban to rural
Terrain: Riverside path, fields, some roads and some muddy bits
I am lucky enough to live just outside the York City Walls. The downside about living in the city though, is that I typically have to get in my car to drive to some countryside for my walks. But I recently discovered that the Centenary Way starts right outside the York Minster, a mere five minutes walk from my house.
The Centenary Way was created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the York County Council and was opened in 1989. It runs from York to Filey on the North Yorkshire coast, spanning 83 miles. Besides the Minster and Sheriff Hutton Castle, both of which are in this first part of the walk, it also includes the Howardian Hills and Yorkshire Wolds, letting you see Castle Howard and the abandoned medieval village of Wharram Percy. It links up the Foss Way, Yorkshire Wolds Way and Cleveland Way.
I confess that I was unsure of what to expect. Some of York's residential areas aren't exactly uplifting for the soul. I didn't really fancy an urban walk, but I headed out from the Minster after being pelted by a snow storm. The forecast was strong winds and they weren't wrong. The walk around the Minster is one I know well, starting from the Southern transept, heading down Chapter House Street and the haunted Treasurers House, before going along Ogleforth (so named as Vikings found owls living along a river there - I've been told - ogle meaning owl.) You pass beneath Monk Bar, one of the ancient city gates, cross busy Lord Mayor's Walk and then head down a little lane past a not very attractive car park. This is what I feared.
But that experience was short lived. I quickly found myself walking through the Groves, a residential area with a pretty snickelway running through it. Before long I popped out on Huntingdon road and got to walk along the Foss River.
I am amazed at how quickly you felt as though you weren't in a city anymore. Yes there were houses lining each side of the path, the Foss can be a bit grotty in places and the Nestle Factory is hardly a rural idyll (although the chocolate fragrance wafting overhead was lovely), but it was a peaceful, tree-lined river walk.
All the way from New Earswick to the outer ring road, the river was lined with houses that were lucky enough to have gardens with water frontage. Again, I wasn't aware that all these properties existed. There was so much green space and I was still in the city!
After walking along the river for a good distance, I finally ducked under the outer ring road where it immediately felt more rural despite walking past Earswick, another suburban village. The wild weather kept coming - intense sun one minute, rain, sleet and bitter winds the next. I eventually diverted from the river briefly to head through Haxby and along Towthorpe Road. This was probably the least fun bit as it meant walking on the grass verge alongside the road, with cars rushing by.
But it didn't last long and I headed off across fields once again in the direction of Strensall. I picked up the river again until at last I reached Strensall bridge. This would be a good place to stop if you didn't want too long a walk (about 8 or 9 miles). And there is a pub - The Ship Inn - in Strensall should you need some lunch. And there is a bus that runs back into York right past the pub.
However, I kept on going, following the river for another good long stretch. It's here you can tell that it used to be a canal and according to the guide, also has some Roman remains somewhere along the way. I was too busy dodging the mud to notice, as the path had suddenly turned into a bog.
As I reached an old metal footbridge, I had to veer away from the river, through a wood, across and field and past a farm. By now my feet were starting to hurt. I headed into the pretty village of West Illing and saw that there was just 3/4 of a mile left to Sheriff Hutton. However, I'd arranged for a friend to meet me for a coffee so she scooped me up and we drove that last bit. When a latte and chocolate brownie call, walks end abruptly!
There is a lovely coffee shop in Sheriff Hutton, so it's worth walking there for a spot of lunch or afternoon tea. There is a bus that runs from the village back to York, but it's infrequent so you may need to get a friend to pick you up or call a taxi.
All in all it was a lovely, a very surprising walk that took me from a busy city centre to peaceful, rural countryside, right from my doorstep. If you haven't explored it yet, give it a try.
You can download the entire Centenary Way route for free here