Yorkshire is the biggest county in England, with just about every type of landscape on offer. Towns and cities aside, the best places to experience ‘real’ Yorkshire are the more rural areas, where the small villages and hamlets can be found dotted amongst the undulating green landscape. In terms of scenery, Yorkshire is particularly special due to a wide range of habitats throughout the county - this in turn provides different niches for birds and animals to flourish. In the Yorkshire Dales, the varying contours and rolling hills provide wonderful valleys with separates dales - each named after its river. Wharfedale, Malhamdale and Wensleydale are just three of the many dales - all worthy of a visit. Valleys can differ markedly in their length and breadth, and also in the topography that affects the winding river. A dale itself can be remarkedly varied, with water passing gently through the many graceful arched bridges, and flowing powerfully past steep limestone scars.
Common to many of the rivers is the characteristic dipper, a bird of fast moving water with an attractive chestnut-red chest and white belly. These rounded looking birds can often be seen bobbing up and down on boulders amidst the bubbling water. Kingfishers also breed in some areas, often seen as a flash along the river. . . calling in flight as they go. Some of the more secluded spots are particularly inspiring, such as the winding wooded ghyll at Janets Foss. Accompanied by wild garlic in the spring, this high sided gulley is also home to a resident rookery, with flycatchers and redstart flitting amongst the trees. The limestone landscape of the dales also means there are a range of colourful flowers to see during summer. Cranesbills, harebells, meadowsweet and much, much more, provide a mixture of colour and scent along almost every leafy lane, with wildflower meadows adding bright swathes behind the limestone walls.
To really appreciate how vast the Yorkshire land can be, a trip to North York Moors gives some incredibly wide views. Home to one of the largest expanses of heather moorland in the country, these moors are at their peak during August and September when the flowering heather turns the moors into a spectacular carpet of deep purple. Part of the moorland has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for the heathland habitat and its breeding birds. Birds of prey such as the diminutive merlin can be spotted here along with reptiles including adder. Close to the moors, Farndale is famous for its early spring appeal. The dale contains huge numbers of wild daffodils - also known as ‘lent-lilies’ which are only found in a few selected part of the country. Here they grow in mass, as they line the river and fringe the fields. Further east, the edge of East Yorkshire boasts some fascinating coastal scenes, with the white chalk cliffs around Flamborough disappearing vertically down into the lapping waves. On the tops, a mixture of cow parsley and campion flowers add vibrant colour to the open sea backdrop. The cliffs around here are home to thousands of seabirds, including gannets, puffins, razorbills and guillemots, all flying to and from their cliff-based nests in an aerial frenzy. Bempton Cliffs is the largest mainland gannet colony in Britain, creating a raucous show during the busy breeding season.
Yorkshire is not only a destination but a potential experience - a place to stimulate the senses, whilst appreciating the calm serenity and majestic power of the landscape. You can take in the sights, sounds - and smells, of a rich and varied county as you walk over open hills, explore wooded valleys and revel in the open green spaces that make this land truly unique.
Paul Miguel is a professional landscape and wildlife photographer based in West Yorkshire. His work is regularly used by a number of magazines and publishers. He also runs a range of photography workshops.