I have said this before, but I’m not going to apologise for repeating that here in North Yorkshire we are blessed to have outstanding countryside on our doorstep. When we hear visitors from more urbanised areas eulogising about it, it does make you grateful to be able to experience it every day.

What is so special is that within our border, we have two national parks in the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors, as well as two areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) in the Howardian Hills and Nidderdale.

But what I want to know is why do the Yorkshire Wolds seem to play bridesmaid to the two brides of the Moors and Dales? I’ve recently been spending a bit more time exploring this part of the world and in my opinion, it is equally as stunning, and yet very different, to other parts of North Yorkshire.

Famously, artist David Hockney has a studio in Bridlington where he has worked on some enormous pieces of Wolds-themed art. He describes painting in the winter near Warter, a village between Pocklington and Driffield: “There was far more colour than I expected. Occasionally a farmer would come and talk to me. They didn’t think I exaggerated the colour. They thought my paintings were very accurate, and talking to them I noticed that they knew just how beautiful it is here.”

Of course, North Yorkshire cannot lay claim to all of the Wolds, much of which do lie in the East Riding, but the part I was visiting recently was around the gorgeous village of Thixendale and the abandoned mediaeval settlement of Wharram Percy, all of which falls within the border of our county.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The deep, smooth-sided dry valleys of the Yorkshire Wolds look almost man-

The landscape is markedly different to the areas with which I am familiar, with no heather or ferns cloaking the gently undulating hills and dales, but rather crops and grazing meadows, which give you a clue to the type of agriculture that prevails.

The word "wold" derives form the old German word "wald", and originally referred to forested land, later coming to mean "upland forest" then, once the forest had disappeared, grew simply to refer to upland areas in general.

The Yorkshire Wolds are the most northerly chalk hills in the UK, and stretch from the bank of the River Humber near Hessle, curving north and east in a wide boomerang shape, ending up at the stretch of coast between Filey and Bridlington. The characteristics of the geology can clearly be seen in the sheer white cliffs at places like Flamborough Head and Bempton.

The chalky nature of the ground is evident as you trek among the rolling hills, with white pebbles scattered across the earth like never-melting hailstones. What truly sets this apart from other areas of North Yorkshire is the appearance of the dales. The steep-sided green valleys slice acutely into the landscape, barely visible from the tops of the hills.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The deep, smooth-sided dry valleys of the Yorkshire Wolds look almost man-

The sides are so smooth and neat that they look almost man-made, as if they’ve been cut by a giant cake slice. Unusually, the valleys have no rivers or streams running through them. The chalk was formed from marine limestone and deposited during the Upper Cretaceous period between 80 – 100 million years ago, with the dales being formed at the end of the ice age, around 18,000 years ago, when melting glaciers led to fast-flowing streams coursing across frozen ground, ultimately creating deep channels in the surface of the land. The chalky ground meant water easily drained away, and so the resulting valleys that we see today remain dry.

In contrast to the Moors and Dales, the way the land is farmed is topsy-turvy, with crops like oil-seed rape, wheat and barley being grown across the tops of the hills, while sheep and cattle graze the valleys.

There is plenty of evidence that the land has been occupied since prehistoric times, and perhaps one of the most famous and impressive locations is that of Wharram Percy, a settlement that at its peak in the 14th Century was home to around 200 people spread across 40 or so dwellings, including a number of Viking-style longhouses, the footprints of which can still be seen on the ground.

There is an application ongoing for the Yorkshire Wolds to be declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and I do hope they achieve it. Having walked there a few times now, they surely deserve that accolade.

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