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The Yorkshire Dales: The Outdoor Enthusiast’s Paradise

If you have a love of the outdoors and are planing on a getaway to Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Dales should definitely be added to your don’t miss list. Often referred to as simply The Dales, the Yorkshire Dales is an area of approximately 1,762 kilometres located within the county boundaries of Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, and Cumbria. In 1954, a majority of this area was made into the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and therefore the rich local scenery and large variety of wildlife flourishes there, unencumbered by the modern threat of development.

A collection of river valleys, the various areas of The Dales are names after the particular river or stream that runs through the area. Amongst this hill country are the Three Peaks, each measuring-in at well over 700 metres. The northern area of the park is a particularly good example of the stepped rolling hills and valleys that are synonymous with the park’s name; dale, or dael, is an Old English word that means valley. Other areas of natural interest in the Yorkshire Dales include the south part of the park, which boasts impressive limestone formations, including several cave systems. The west part of the Yorkshire Dales is an area known as the Howgills, and provides a drastic contrast to the rest of the park with its tall, round, grassy hills and vast ravines.

Those visitors wishing to take in some of the park’s wildlife will not have to look far to find what they are looking for. The Yorkshire Dales has one of the largest areas of nationally or internationally
important wildlife habitats of any national park. In fact, the Dales is one of the last strongholds for more than a few endangered plant and animal species. The limestone nature of the Yorkshire Dales grasslands in particular has enabled some of the more rare lime-loving plant species to thrive; plants such as wild thyme, mountain everlasting, and rock rose have all been spotted in The Dales.

The valley bottoms of The Dales, the hay meadowlands, also offer a rich and varied cornucopia of offerings, especially during the summer months of June and July. The higher areas however, consists of heathered moorland, and areas are managed for grouse shooting. Those who are not into shooting however, can still enjoy these higher areas of the Yorkshire Dales and the wildlife they have to offer Birdwatchers may spot the curlew, lapling, and perhaps even one of the more unusual species such as the merlin or golden plover.

The Yorkshire Dales is an active place, and there is a constant stream of projects that are ongoing. Everything from community-led conservation efforts to habitat monitoring, restoration, and creation, you will find it going on in The Dales. Some of the current projects ongoing in The Dales include a bat-mapping project, the wading bird research project (which includes the aforementioned curlew), and the Upper Wharfe Restoration Project; an initiative established in 2011 as a part of a bid to bring all waterways within the EU to a certain ecological status.

For visitors with a taste for more adventurous offerings, The Dales deliver here as well. Walking, cycling, geocaching, orienteering, rock climbing, and more can all be found within the national park. In fact, within The Dales lie a host of activity centres that offer many different means of offerings, from guided day walks to more intense mountain biking, rock climbing, or cave exploring expeditions. Many of the centres hold the AALA accreditation (the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority), but bear in mind, this accreditation is only necessary for centres that will be working with young people doing adventurous outings in a commercial setting. There are plenty of non-accredited organisations as well that are amply qualified to lead an expedition comprised of adult learners.

It is important to know, especially if you are visiting with a group of varying abilities, that the Yorkshire Dales offer access and activities for people of all levels of skill and ability, even including a footpath access scheme called “miles without stiles.” Information on all accessible areas of the park can be found on the Yorkshire Dales National Park Website.

If you want to plan ahead a bit before you arrive in Yorkshire, in addition to a host of information on trails, activities, programmes, and accessibility, the Yorkshire Dales website also offers a sneak peek at their virtual visit programme. The national park offers such technology as 360-viewpoint technology, mp3 trail downloads, and printable leaflets with guided information on archaeological and/or historical information on the particular area. Visitors who like to tackle their holidays head-on with a plan will appreciate these features, and it may also help those with varying abilities form their itineraries before they set out.

Whatever you decide to do while visiting the Yorkshire Dales, there is one thing that is common to all visitors. All visitors to the Yorkshire Dales National Park are asked to try to make as little an impact as possible on the environment. Visitors are asked to please travel lightly with only the bare essentials they might need for the activity they are undertaking, thereby reducing the amount of packaging and waste material that they generate. There are also recycling facilities throughout the park, and visitors are asked to kindly remember to separate their recyclable material and use the bins provided. There is a full countryside code available on the Yorkshire Dales National Park Website.

In addition to physical waste, noise can have an impact on the natural ecosystem as well. All visitors the national park are encouraged to turn off their mobile phones and computers, and just enjoy the sound of nature, uninterrupted.


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