The name ‘wold’ is thought to have its origins in Old English, meaning “wooded upland”, but nowadays it usually refers to a piece of high open land or moor. This simple description doesn’t portray the quiet natural beauty of the Yorkshire Wolds – a hidden gem which has only recently received widespread attention through the work of internationally-acclaimed artist David Hockney, who lives in Bridlington.
The landscape of the Yorkshire Wolds is unusual in that it consists of high flat plateaus punctuated by deep dry grassy valleys and woodlands. The combination of excellent natural drainage – provided by the chalk hills – and the mild climate has meant that agriculture has dominated the area for generations.
The towns and villages of the Wolds are welcoming places, and are rich in history. Nafferton boasts a pretty mill pond fed by springs, Wansford lies on the Driffield canal and has a church built by Sir Tatton Sykes (of Sledmere) in 1868. Many of the villages are on the sites of ancient settlements and have archaeological significance, including Ruston Parva and Little Driffield. Kilham was a prosperous market town in the Medieval period, and Sledmere is the picturesque estate village of Sledmere House.
One of the quirkily-named Wolds villages – Wetwang – is said to have been the inspiration for J.R.R.Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Tolkien spent time in East Yorkshire during the first world war when he was stationed at an outpost of the Humber Garrison.