My late wife and I set up our first home just on the Lancashire side of the boundary with the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Being born and bred in the Red Rose County where the loyal toast is not to Her Majesty the Queen, but to her regional title as the Duke of Lancaster, we first thought we might need passports whenever we ventured over to Skipton and all points north. But eventually due to the closeness of the land of our cricketing White Rose rivals we developed a love and affection for the Dales as they call it up there, an affection that never went away.
I am sometimes asked ‘where are the Yorkshire Dales?’ Certainly there is an area of land which fits this description within the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, but surely the dales do not stop just there within the National Park boundary, for they continue both north and south. To the north lies some of the wildest and least inhabited countryside in England, now honoured by the title of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – a kind of almost, but not quite national park. South of the Dales, the land becomes more rugged with rough moorland that no-one except grouse shooters seem to want, all the way to the Peak District National Park.
The dales within the National Park are a series of deep-cut river valleys, six flowing gradually south and then east and two that turn their backs on Yorkshire and flow west into the Irish Sea. All are individuals with a character of their own – some like Swaledale and Wensleydale begin life amongst the Pennine peat bogs where before the footpath was improved, Pennine Wayfarers frequently got themselves well and truly in the mire. Despite their rough beginning, and by the way Wensleydale has changed its name away from rugged River Ure, both dales become gentle sparkling rills, then major rivers as they flow into maturity.
A couple of walks sprang to mind when I just mentioned Swaledale and Wensleydale. The walk from Muker to Keld along the Corpse Way (walk 4 in this guide) is almost along the middle section of Swaledale. Muker was home to the Kearton brothers Richard and Cherry, who were early wildlife photographers. Long before the advantages of 20th century luxuries they frequently had to resort to ingenious disguises such as hiding inside a stuffed cow. Middleham, a mile or two south of Wensleydale (walk 15 in this guide) is home to bloodstock stables and where magnificent race horses exercise on the local common every day. King Richard III would have admired the modern use of Middleham. Maybe not the castle where he lived for a time, even though it is now a tranquil ruin since the Parliamentarians partly demolished it during the English Civil War.
Another North Sea flowing river, the Wharfe after increasing itself with water from slightly lesser dales, flows through countryside where monasteries flourished until King Henry VIII’s edict led to their destruction, although by then it was the king’s men who disguised it with the gentler-sounding word, ‘Dissolution’.
The Lune and Ribble both start as true mountain rivers, but soon become Lancashire’s major salmon and trout streams, readily attracting these game fish back upstream from their Atlantic home by way of the Irish Sea .
As a past appointed member of the Peak District National Park Authority, I have a lasting agreement with the whole principle of the National Parks in Britain. I see them as places where people can live and work, while at the same time, retaining their special interest and beauty for everyone to appreciate and enjoy.
Discover more with this brilliant walking guide to the Yorkshire Dales National Park, with 20 best routes chosen by the park rangers here