Paul Rose walks the Yorkshire Wolds Way: “It’s like a 79-mile long park”

The polar explorer and ocean diver takes it easy for a BBC2 documentary exploring England's quietest national trail

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Paul Rose has spent his life exploring Antartica’s ice caps and the world’s most remote islands, so his new BBC2 series is quite a change of scene. He walks one of the UK’s least-known national trails: the Yorkshire Wolds Way, which stretches from the iconic Humber Bridge in East Yorkshire to the seaside resort of Filey in North Yorkshire, via gently rolling chalk hills and lush valleys. 

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He tells us why he loved it…


Why the Wolds?

I’m a big fan of Hull and I go to that coast regularly, but I really didn’t know much about the Wolds. I do big journeys to remote and challenging regions all over the world. When the BBC called, I did some research and realised this was a totally different opportunity. It was an opportunity to slow down and smell the roses as they say, and to just enjoy a very easy, beautiful walk. And I’m so pleased I said yes. 

Why do you think it’s not as popular as the Pennine Way or other national trails?

I think it’s because these days people tend to want to go for challenges. On TV and online we see people having these extraordinary, almost super-human adventures and that filters down to us: if we go outside, we need big adventures. I wonder if we haven’t forgotten how to enjoy an easy walk, so somehow it’s got left behind.

I’m in two minds. I’m very much hoping that my programme encourages people to do it themselves, but I’m wondering if the locals and people who know that walk well won’t be happy because it will have given away the secret!

It looks very sunny – when did you film it?

Last summer and it was glorious. We were lucky with the weather but you’re talking to a man who lives in the Lake District and that’s a pretty wet place. So for me the Wolds did seem dry. The soil is underlaid with chalk so it drains quickly and dries quickly after a bit of rain.

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How easy is the walking?

Very. It’s like a 79-mile long park. You don’t need to be a great navigator, and you don’t need to spend a fortune on boots or hi-tech rainwear. The people you meet are very friendly but by and large it’s very quiet. A few times I found myself lying down in a meadow of wildflowers and just enjoying the moment, and I’ve never done that anywhere. It really is a great place. 

How many days does it take?

I know people that have done it in less than a week, people that have run it in a couple of days, people that have done it over a series of weekends. There are great b&bs and hotels along the way and fantastic pubs and cafes. It’s a very achievable walk. 

Did you have a favourite stretch?

I was lucky enough to row a traditional humber gig across the Humber and I met one of the engineers who built the Humber Bridge – for many years it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. When I got on top of the bridge, it felt alive – like a living, breathing, beautiful thing. To look north from on top of the bridge was really something and that was the start of the walk. 

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Did you enjoy your first go on a penny-farthing?

It was brilliant when I finally got going! I’m not a very big person, so when I stood behind the bike, the seat was level with my eyes and my hands were stretched way forward to reach the handle bars. So it was a big commitment to leave the ground and sit on top of this big wheel. But Tony and his family were marvellous and I did get the hang of it. I went off the next week and bought a modern version. They’re just as beautiful but they’re made out of modern materials. And then a few weeks ago, Tony called me: he’d come across an original bike from the 1880s that was up for sale and I bought that too, so I’ve now got two!

What do you always pack in your rucksack?

Made-to-measure earplugs. I bought them for my motorcycle riding and for when I’m in noisy camps in the polar regions because you’ve got helicopters and people working all night. But I find them absolutely invaluable when you pull up to a B&B and realise your room is over the top of the public bar, or if you’re sharing a field with a couple of hundred sheep. And I always, always carry a small half-litre thermos because I love tea. 

Where next?

I’m currently planning an expedition to Ascension Island, a UK overseas territory in the middle of the Atlantic, almost on the equator. I lead the Pristine Seas expeditions for National Geographic. We go to the last wild places in the ocean, do scientific surveys and communicate the value of these pristine places to get them protected. 

Yorkshire Wolds Ways is on Saturday 13 May on BBC2 at 7.30pm


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