Come Walking in our Winter Wonderland

Top tips for getting the whole family out into the National Park this Christmas season

The Yorkshire Dales National Park is beautiful all year round, but when nature adds that extra frost-kissed sparkle there really is no better place to get outdoors and close to nature, and enjoy time together as a family.

We’ve picked some of our favourite walks and outdoor activities which are suitable for the whole family over the Christmas period – wrap up warm and enjoy!

Church bells ring… are you listening?

Looking over a suspension bridge over a river
The suspension bridge at Hebden

The whole family can have a go at our ‘Miles without Stiles’ routes – 17 specially developed trails to enable mixed ability parties to explore the National Park.

One of our favourites is a walk from the village of Burnsall along the River Wharfe. Listen out for the bells of St Wilfred’s Parish Church as you stroll this popular section of the Dales Way between Burnsall and Hebden Suspension Bridge.

More information can be found at www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/miles-without-stiles

Down the lane… our waterfalls are glistening

Another of our ‘Miles without Stiles’ routes takes you to the bottom of Gordale Scar, one of the jewels in the crown of the National Park. This awesome hidden gorge has wowed visitors for hundreds of years and inspired famous artists and writers.

Carey Davies of BMC and TGO at Gordale Scar (Photo: Chris Davies)
Carey Davies of BMC and TGO at Gordale Scar (Photo: Chris Davies)

Part of the Middle Craven Fault, Gordale Scar was created as torrents of glacial meltwater flowed over it, cutting down through faults in the rock. Successive Ice Ages carved it deeper and deeper over thousands of years to create the deep gorge we see today. The water that flows over the waterfall at the heart of the ravine is rich in dissolved limestone, and earlier this year it transformed into a ‘Frozen’-esque 20ft sheet of ice!

Wensleydale, known as the ‘the valley of the waterfalls’, is home to both the world-famous eponymous cheese (which goes well with a slice of Christmas cake) and Cotter Force. This lovely secluded waterfall, west of Hawes, is in a wooded setting, and part of a series of around six falls with the largest single drop being about 1.5m.

The accessible routes to Gordale Scar and Cotter Force can also be found at www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/miles-without-stiles. For a longer route at Malham, the gorge is part of our popular ‘Malham Landscape Trail’ and trail leaflets can be bought at Malham National Park Centre.

To find out more about the geology of the National Park, take a look at this great new website dalesrocks.org.uk

A beautiful sight… we’re stargazing tonight

A stunning night sky over Ribblehead Viaduct
A stunning night sky over Ribblehead Viaduct

The superb dark skies of the Yorkshire Dales National Park are one of the things that make it such a special place. Our winter skies are a stargazer’s paradise and it is most certainly an activity the whole family can enjoy together. On a clear night you could see as many as 2,000 stars, the Milky Way, planets, the northern lights and shooting stars – and not forgetting our Moon.

Wrap up very warm, bring a flask, a pair of binoculars (if you have them) and something to sit on, and head out to the National Park. All you have to do is look up and enjoy nature’s Christmas sparkle.

There are four Dark Sky Discovery Sites around the National Park, which are a great place to start your stargazing adventure. These locations are open to the public, provide parking and other facilities, and are accessible to people of all abilities: Malham National Park Centre (BD23 4DA), Buckden National Park Car Park (BD23 5JA), Hawes

National Park Centre (DL8 3NT) and Tan Hill Inn (DL11 6ED).

Download our stargazers’ leaflet for more information

Walking in a Winter… Woodland

Woodland covers only about 5% of the National Park, but what we have is very special for maintaining our diverse mix of plants, animals and habitats.

Two children holding branches and smiling
Enjoying the forest in Freeholders Wood (Photo: Stephen Garnett Photography) 

Grass Woods (near Grassington), Bolton Abbey, and Freeholders’ Wood (near Aysgarth Falls) are all great locations for a family woodland walk – pull on your wellies and go explore along the paths.

As the trees have lost their leaves now, winter is all about the twig. Just like leaves each tree has a different twig – see how many you can spot.

There are so many things to do in the wood – Grandad certainly won’t be bored! Take a matchbox and collect 10 tiny treasures (not insects, though), do some contrasting bark rubbings, make twig art, or just sit quietly for a while and see what you can hear.

We challenge you to find the biggest tree in the wood by measuring how many family members you need to join together to give it a big warm hug. If you want to learn more about winter trees, we really love The Woodland Trust’s Winter Tree ID kit .

Gone away, has the blue bird; here to stay, is…

Well, lots of our feathered friends, actually. Bird spotting is a great winter activity and, with the leaves on the trees gone, you’ve got even more chance of finding them. Can you spot any of our winter thrushes on your walk (fieldfare, redwing, blackbird and song thrush)? They might be seen feeding on berries along hedgerows or woodland edges and/or in the fields.

Who do you think made these footprints?

The accessible footpath through the nature reserve at Killington New Bridge runs alongside a traditionally managed native hedgerow, grassland and shrub, all offering a perfect habitat and food for wildlife. Keep your eyes and ears out and, as well as winter thrushes, you could see mammals such as squirrels and stoats (or their tracks in the snow). You’ll have to look carefully, though, as the hair on a stoat can turn pure white in winter to camouflage it against the snow. The tip of the tail always remains black, which is the way to tell a stoat from a weasel.

He sings a love song, as we go along…

A closeup photo of a Robin
A very friendly robin posing for the camera

Most of our song birds quieten down for winter – they are too busy finding food and keeping warm – but listen out for the robin who is one of the few birds in the National Park who sings all year long. Robins always make us smile, so, if you spot one this winter, please share your picture with us.

Have fun… Walking in our Winter Wonderland!

Cheese Festival – a second bite

Cheese Festival Street Food

A month has passed since our second, incredible Yorkshire Dales Cheese Festival. We believe we managed to achieve an ever bigger and better event this year, and we hope you think so, too!

We had not one, but two hub events, including the first ever Beer and Beef Festival in the region.

The Cheese Festival @ Wensleydale Creamery opened the week-long festivities, with 35 local food and drink producers ‘wedged’ into the bustling marquee. There were cheese tastings, pairings and talks, cookery demonstrations, street food stalls, and excellent live entertainment from some very talented bands.

The Beer and Beef Festival, at Springhill Farm, Jervaulx, ended the celebrations with a bang – twelve hours of (unsurprisingly) beer, beef, fun and music!

Throughout the week some truly brilliant businesses got on board the cheese train, creating cheese-themed menus, farm walks, and demos, and helping people discover the fabulous dairying heritage of the Yorkshire Dales.


We’re going to let the pictures do most of the talking, but before we do we’d like to say a massive THANK YOU to all the fantastic producers, suppliers and businesses that took part – it wouldn’t be what it is without you.

Visit www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/cheese-festival to see the full star line-up for 2018 and find out more about them, as well as keeping an eye out for what’s coming in 2019. When it comes to our amazing local produce we have so much to celebrate.

Here’s to #CheeseFest19.

Dog enjoying cheese
“Yes, that’s fine. I’ll take half a pound, please.”
Cheese sniffing
“Boy, that’s a smelly cheese!”
Having a good laugh at the cheese tasting
“What does cheese say to itself in the mirror?” “Halloumi”
Band playing at the Cheese Festival
“Sweet dreams are made of cheese, who am I to diss a brie, I Cheddar the world and the Feta cheese, everybodys looking for Stilton.”
Cheese cake tower
No if’s, no buts, this will be my wedding cake!
Cheese tasting at the Festival
Give me that cheeeese!
Cheese selfie with some cheese
Say cheese… eat cheese… sleep cheese! Good advice from John Natlacen of The Churchmouse, Barbon.
This cheese comes with matching sunglasses.
We even have invisible cheese! The lovely Razan Alsous of Yorkshire Dama demonstrates.
A cheese explosion! Was that supposed to happen?
“Can we go home now? You two have had enough cheese!”
“Please sir, have some Baa Bon cheese?”
Cheese Hay Bales
…and we have some extra large packs for the serious cheese eater!

Dairy Days Project Open Day

Matt Heseltine and donkey with backcans. Courtesy of Eileen Cockburn

Tuesday 18 September 2018  10.30am-3.00pm

Askrigg Village Hall

Join us for tea and cake and the chance to find out how the Dairy Days project is progressing.

  • Listen to oral history recordings of people who lived and farmed in Wensleydale. Tell us if you have dairying memories that you’d like recorded
  • Hear about our research discovering Wensleydale’s dairying heritage – did you know that both Bainbridge and Thoralby had cheese factories?
  • Displays of old photographs donated to the project. Bring your old photos along for us to scan
  • Handle dairying artefacts from the collections at the Dales Countryside Museum. Tell us about cheese or butter-making items that you own
  • Find out about our archaeological excavation and book a tour of the site later in the week
  • Try traditional farmhouse cheeses from The Courtyard Dairy
  • 10.30am-12.30pm Dairying demonstration by Jane Sammells
  • 2.00pm Kefir-making demonstration

For further information contact Karen Griffiths (Dairy Days Project Officer) on 01756 751619 email: Karen.griffiths@yorkshiredales.org.uk

Part of the Yorkshire Dales Cheese Festival

So quick? The unstoppable spread of ash dieback disease

It started with a chance conversation with a workmate who commutes to our offices in Bainbridge from Sedbergh.   Had I seen the young ash trees dying on the Garsdale road verges?  I confessed I hadn’t.

A week or so later I was driving that way and my eyes were opened.  It was true. All along the Garsdale road there were young ash trees in a bad state.  It was mid-summer, but their branches were bare.  Continue reading “So quick? The unstoppable spread of ash dieback disease”

Yorkshire’s highest mountain needs your help!

Have you ever walked to the top of Yorkshire’s highest hill?

One of Yorkshire's famous Three Peaks, Whernside is suffering from its popularity - and needs your help.
One of Yorkshire’s famous Three Peaks, Whernside is suffering from its popularity – and needs your help.

At 736 metres and offering great views, Whernside is a fantastic walk, and it’s estimated that 80,000 people climb to the summit every year.

Whether you are walking it to enjoy the view, as part of a challenge, or simply to get away from it all, it’s certainly worth the effort.

But popularity comes at a price and the pressure from the boots of vast numbers of walkers is taking its toll on the mountain’s network of paths. The resulting erosion is damaging fragile habitats and creating ever-widening scars on our most iconic landscape. Continue reading “Yorkshire’s highest mountain needs your help!”

Get on the Trail! New family cycle route launched

The final touches have gone in to finish the Swale Trail – our new 12 mile (20km) cycle route along the length of Swaledale – in preparation for its official launch yesterday (Sunday 29 April).

Around 50 invited guests helped us cut the ribbon, including Reeth and Gunnerside School staff and pupils, local businesses, contractors, and the volunteers who worked on it – as well as a group of children who cycled part of the Trail to get there.

Continue reading “Get on the Trail! New family cycle route launched”

Why you should take part in this year’s Cheese Festival

Shepherds Purse Cheese Stall

We are already very excited about the prospect of our 2018 Yorkshire Dales Cheese Festival and this year we want it to be even bigger and better!

There are so many ways to get involved, whether you are local, a visitor or a Yorkshire Dales business.

From Saturday 15 to Sunday 23 September 2018, all across the Yorkshire Dales, we are asking restaurants, cafes, farms and attractions to come together to champion the fantastic range of food that is produced right here on our doorstep. Continue reading “Why you should take part in this year’s Cheese Festival”

Project launch preparation

We are getting closer to our launch event at the Dales Countryside Museum on 24 April and preparations are now in full swing. We always like to organise cake and a cuppa for people who drop by to our project open days and we are lucky enough to have the wonderful Stage 1 Cycles’ Firebox Cafe on the premises. We’ve asked them to provide home-made curd tarts and Wensleydale cheese scones (using up the whey from the curd making). We can’t wait to have a taste!

Continue reading “Project launch preparation”

The most unusual listed building in the Yorkshire Dales?

The rock garden at Aysgarth is one of the most unusual listed buildings in the Yorkshire Dales. Aysgarth Rockery is a picturesque alpine rockery that was built at the beginning of the 20th Century using blocks of limestone to create a rockscape and water feature. In May 2018 the Yorkshire Dales will be the inspiration for one of the show-gardens at RHS Chelsea. Continue reading “The most unusual listed building in the Yorkshire Dales?”

‘Much More Than Meets The Eye’ – James’ Art Exhibition is a Scratch Card Winner

Wensleydale Barn

My name is James Owen Thomas and I am 16 years old. ‘Much More Than Meets The Eye’ is my exhibition and this is my story.

James Owen Thomas with his collage artwork
James Owen Thomas with his collage artwork

You’ve got to be strong to be different and the way I keep myself strong is through my collage art.

Four years ago a discarded scratch card floating in a puddle of water by the road caught my attention as the sunlight seemed to make its colours glisten.

Continue reading “‘Much More Than Meets The Eye’ – James’ Art Exhibition is a Scratch Card Winner”

Malham – one of the best places to walk in Britain? The public think so, and I agree.

Family walking across Malham Cove

Malham has been voted one of the best places to walk in the UK and I know exactly why. On ITV’s Britains Favourite Walks, which listed the top 100 trails as voted for by you, the walk around Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove, came a glorious 3rd. Only losing out to two of Britain’s highest mountains. I think that’s a fair reflection of just how special the area is. Continue reading “Malham – one of the best places to walk in Britain? The public think so, and I agree.”

Hear the ‘Voices From The Land’

Cows in a Dales pasture

In my opinion the very essence of the Dales is a field of cows chewing on the August fog. Cows are such peaceful, steady creatures. My fondness for them started in childhood, with my granddad and uncle keeping a herd of thirty on the farm in Upper Wensleydale.

Few mornings would be so cut through with seriousness as those when the farmyard would be sealed off so that the great bull could come out to serve the cows. Few sounds would be so pleasing as the pulsating of the overhead pipes in the shippon at milking time. Few tastes would be so good as the fresh milk. Continue reading “Hear the ‘Voices From The Land’”

The Dales with a Tolkien twist

Hand drawn map of the Yorkshire Dales

A local artist has taken inspiration from Tolkien to produce a “Middle Earth” style map of the Yorkshire Dales.

Dan Bell, of Crook, has been taking maps of places, including the Peak District and the Lake District, and recreating them in the style of J.R.R. Tolkien’s hand-drawn maps published in The Lord of the Rings series. He’s on a mission to draw one for each of our national parks, and he’s already done ours. Continue reading “The Dales with a Tolkien twist”

Down on the Farm

Charcoal burning in the woods

Each year, special ‘Authority Days’ give staff the chance to get involved in practical tasks that help care for the National Park, and to gain a better understanding of other departments’ work at the same time.

This year, the range of important conservation and education jobs included flag laying, path repairs, creating native woodland and a wildlife pond, archaeology test pitting, scrub management and vegetation clearance.

Last Tuesday, I took part in my first Authority Day, so I would love to tell you about what we got up to…

Continue reading “Down on the Farm”

Final Finds Processing and Identification Workshop

We are holding our final Finds Processing and Identification Workshop as we only have a few finds left to process now. The workshop will be on the 28th September, from 10am till 5pm at Bainbridge Temperance Hall. (You do not have to stay for the whole session.) Everybody is welcome and no experience is required. However, spaces are limited so if you would like to attend please contact Hannah Kingsbury at Hannah.Kingsbury@yorkshiredales.org.uk or 01969 652343.

 

 

Finds Processing and Identification Workshop Take Two

Last weekends Finds Workshop was really successful and we got lots of finds processed and sorted! Our collection of identified finds is getting bigger and includes coins, clay pipes, Romano-British pottery, late medieval pottery, a bone domino and a WWII bullet.

We still have lots of finds that need washing, sorting and identifying so we are holding another Finds Processing and Identification Workshop. This workshop will be held on Thursday 14th September from 10am till 5pm at Bainbridge Temperance Hall. (You do not have to stay for the whole session.) Everybody is welcome and no experience is required. However, spaces are limited so if you would like to attend please contact Rebecca Cadbury-Simmons at Rebecca.Cadbury-Simmons@yorkshiredales.org.uk or 01969 652353.

Finds Processing and Identification Workshops

We Dig Community is running several Finds Processing and Identification Workshops now that the test pits in Bainbridge are all complete. Come along to find out about some of the post-excavation work required with the finds, as well as the opportunity to help uncover the history of Bainbridge.

The workshops will be held at the Temperance Hall in Bainbridge, on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd September, 9am till 12:30pm and 1pm till 4:30pm.

Everybody is welcome, however spaces available for each timeslot are limited so booking is essential. To book a place please contact Hannah Kingsbury at Hannah.Kingsbury@yorkshiredales.org.uk or 01969 652343

National Parks Week 2017: here’s what you can do in the Dales!

Guided Walk - Threshfield

It’s that time of year again, when we celebrate everything wonderful and unique about our UK family of 15 National Parks.

The theme this year is ‘Bringing People Together’ and we’ve got lots going on here in the Dales. Come and see for yourself why the public voted us National Park of the Year (BBC Countryfile Magazine)!

We’ve got six super guided walks to choose from, all led by our knowledgeable and enthusiastic Dales Volunteers:

Continue reading “National Parks Week 2017: here’s what you can do in the Dales!”

We have reached Test Pit 24!

We have now reached Test Pit 24! We have also nearly finished the We Dig Community project in Bainbridge, as we will finish at the end of July.

The test pits have been placed in a variety of locations around Bainbridge, including the Village Green, resident’s gardens, and local fields. Test pit 24 was dug at Sycamore Hall, and residents were able to come out and see us in action and ask us questions.

Photo credit: John Buglass

These test pits have varied in their abundance of finds. However, we have found a range of artefacts. This has included late medieval pottery, parts of a possible rotary quern, and a whole host of post-medieval finds like fragments of pottery, clay pipes, building material. One of the most interesting finds to date has been a small bone domino.

Many children have descended on Bainbridge during this project to find out about archaeology and have a go at digging. The Young Archaeologists Club have come back and done another day digging. Test pits have been dug at Bainbridge Primary School by the Key Stage 2 pupils of the Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton Federation of Schools. Unfortunately it was too wet on the days Hawes primary school were going to come and dig, and we were very sad to have to cancel their outing.

Don’t forget that this Sunday we are having an Open Day. This is in celebration of the We Dig project so far as well as the Festival of Archaeology.

We Dig Community celebrates Festival of Archaeology!

We Dig Community is celebrating the Festival of Archaeology 2017. The Festival of Archaeology is a fortnight of nationwide events celebrating local archaeology that is co-ordinated by the Council for British Archaeology. Find out more about the festival at http://www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk/about.

On the 23rd July, 10am till 4pm there are a variety of free activities taking place in Bainbridge. A guided walk of the archaeology of Bainbridge will leave at 10am, 12pm and 2pm, from the stocks on Bainbridge Green. This will include a rare opportunity to see the site of the Roman fort. Come along and see a test pit in action on Bainbridge green, and have a go at digging whilst you’re here. Find out how the We Dig project has progressed, including seeing finds from the excavations, and why not stop by and get a picture in our replica Roman helmet.

If you can’t wait till then, we are looking for volunteers. If you would like to get involved with ‘We Dig Community!’ and help out with this exciting archaeological project then get in touch! Contact Rebecca, on rebecca.cadbury-simmons@yorkshiredales.org.uk or 01969 652353.

Keep your half term hordes happy

So, the weather’s a bit ‘plain’, as they say up here, and we’ve reached that tricky mid-way point of half term when ideas are starting to run thin (as are tempers).

What to do? – Maybe we can help.

Our access & recreation team have put together some great ideas on how to keep the kids happy.

Open farms are always a winner. You can feed the animals at Hesketh Farm Park near Bolton Abbey – which has plenty of activities for letting off steam inside and outside, including the giant sandpit and straw maze – and Kilnsey Park Estate has a children’s fishing pond and friendly alpacas to meet.

Continue reading “Keep your half term hordes happy”