My current favourite walk is an 8 mile ‘figure of eight’ walk from Thixendale to the deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy. The route passes through typical Wolds scenery including parts of the Wolds Way and the Centenary Way (see www.walkingenglishman.com for the route.)
The most famous of Britain’s 3,000 or so deserted medieval villages, Wharram Percy is now an English Heritage site. A ruined church, a fishpond and the outlines of many lost houses can be seen. First settled in prehistoric times, the village flourished between the 12th and 14th centuries.
It was once thought that these villages became deserted due to the Black Death of 1349. Research has now shown that they were depopulated due to economic forces in the 15th and 16th centuries. Wharram Percy was finally abandoned in the early 16th century when the lord of the manor turned out the villagers and knocked down their homes to make room for extra sheep pasturage. This callous disregard for the human inhabitants belies this seemingly idyllic pastoral way of life.
The land was ploughed again in the 18th century – you can still see the workers’ cottages which were occupied until the 1970’s when the dig began. Excavations were carried out every summer until 1991 and became as famous as the village itself. Only around 5% of the site has been excavated.