The Yorkshire Dales are actually a collection of different valleys each with their own distinct features. Richmondshire forms part of the Northern Dales which also contains Swaledale, Arkengarthdale, Wensleydale, Coverdale and Bishopdale.
Richmondshire itself has a large number of valleys each with its own personality and style. In fact, the word “dale” is Norse for valley. Norse is not the only language to give names to places in and around Richmondshire, with Saxons and Angles providing Askrigg (the ash ridge) and Birkdale (the birch valley).
Picturesque meadows are hemmed in by iconic drystone dykes, secluded waterfalls cascade into wooded glens and small villages and market towns cling to the hillsides.
A Beautiful Natural Habitat
All around you will find valleys and verges brimming with wild flowers, including Sweet Cicely in the spring, Meadow Cranesbill, Dog Daisies and Meadowsweet in the summer. You can also find hay meadows with up to 50 different types of wildflowers. Local farmers and landowners are working with conservation bodies to ensure these rare meadows continue to survive in the Yorkshire Dales.
The edges of the moors are a great breeding ground for curlew and you can also find dippers and gray wagtails in the rivers. You can also hear the unique call of the red grouse and lapwings can be found through Richmondshire.
The Formation of the Landscape
Man has long drawn to the area and early settlers made forest clearings for their animals. Even today evidence of cultivation terraces can be seen on the steep hillsides near Reeth in Swaledale. There are also remains of fortifications and defences with some good examples at Maiden Castle and Stanwick.
Monks established farms in the area around the 12th century when the Abbeys of Easby and Jaervaulx were founded. They were responsible for clearing forests and draining the marshes. It is thought that the Jervaulx monks introduced sheep to the area and produced the first Wensleydale cheese.
The land passed into private owners' hands after the monasteries were dissolved. It was around this period that many of the farmhouses and drystone walls that give the area its personality were built.
The land has also been used by industry, with lead mining particularly precalent in the Yorkshire Dales in the 19th century. Scars from this period can still be seen today although they have been softened by vegetation over the last 100 years. However you can still see derelict smelt mills and peat stores throughout Richmondshire.
A Stunning View that Inspires Artists, Writers and TV
Turner and Girtin traveled to the area on painting trips to capture the natural beauty of the area. From waterfalls to riversides, they traveled on horseback making sketches that best known watercolours. Today you can find a series of Turner seats at the viewpoints used by the great artist.
The area was the inspiration for Alf Wright to create his world famous vet, James Herriot. He actually spent his honeymoon in the Yorkshire Dales and this claimed in a lifetime of love affair with the area.
TV and film are now attracted by the beauty of Richmondshire. With its timeless scenery and historical villas, it makes an ideal location for period dramas. The TV set of James Herriot's clinic has been preserved and you can visit it in Richmond Museum.