Almost 200 new square miles of England became national park today, with the extension of the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District. We look at some of the best places within the new areas to take a celebratory stroll.
Many outdoor campaigners will be raising a toast today to the extension of the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District national parks.
The extension wraps up what broadcaster Eric Robson described as "one of the great bits of unfinished business in the British countryside," bringing in areas which many feel should have been included in the original boundaries. It means a modest growth of the Lake District by 3%, but a whopping 24% for the Yorkshire Dales (much of it ironically into Cumbria - what a present for the county on Yorkshire Day!), a total of 188 square miles.
Not surprisingly, there are some wonderful walking areas which now enjoy national park protection for the first time. Let's hope the changes will bring them some long-deserved limelight. But even if they do, you can guarantee they will remain relatively uncrowded. These are quiet corners of England that only the dedicated seek out, and they will stay that way, rewarding fans of the sort of understated beauty and simple tranquility that can feel elusive in some of the more popular parts of our national parks today.
Here are some of our favourites.
Wild Boar Fell
Wild Boar Fell has sat just outside the northern boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park until now, but has rightfully been brought in from the cold.
With its eastern edge flanked by a plunging escarpment of Millstone Grit and its unusually angular shape from some perspectives, this is arguably a more interesting and ‘mountainous’ hill than the likes of whale-backed Whernside, but with only a fraction of the fame. On a clear day the panorama from the top over the Lake District, Howgills and North Pennines is spectacular, revealing the true expansiveness of England’s north.
The name of this Cumbrian hill testifies to a time when this landscape was roamed by wilder beasts than walkers and their pet pooches; a tusk purported to belong to the last wild boar killed on the fell in the 15th century is kept in Kirkby Stephen parish church. Climb the hill alone; join it up with the neighbouring Swarth Fell (also now fully incorporated into the park); or for a challenge, take part in the annual 23-mile Mallerstang and Nine Standards Yomp.
Walk: Wild Boar Fell and Swarth Fell (Where2Walk)
Great Asby Scar
As Steve Coogan’s character in The Trip learned, much to his annoyance, the limestone pavement of the Yorkshire Dales is famous. But Great Asby Scar in the Orton Fells, despite being one of the finest examples of it, is relatively poorly known.
Yorkshire Dales limestone is a legacy of the teeming tropical seas of the Carboniferous, of corals and other sea creatures living and dying in such quantities that their piled skeletal remains formed strata. Great Asby Scar, like other pavements, was formed by glaciers scouring the land down to its bedrock and weather eroding the exposed limestone into the joyful criss-cross patterned expanses we see today.
Limestone pavement fans should also check out the evocatively-named Fell End Clouds and Stennerskeugh Clouds, back near Wild Boar Fell, another wonder which has been gathered into the Yorkshire Dales National Park today.
Walk: Beacon Hill and Great Asby Scar (My Pennines)
The ‘Other’ Borrowdale
The Lake District now boasts two Borrowdales. Snaking between the A6 to the west and the M6 to the east, this lesser-known Borrowdale lacks the sublime drama of its famous counterpart near Keswick, but it possesses a quiet charm all of its own – and probably about 0.1% of the crowds.
Perhaps more akin in atmosphere to the neighbouring Howgills, the valley itself is a pleasant pastoral backwater in an acoustic shadow where the booming M6 nearby not as audible as you’d imagine. The hills above are modest but nice, with beautiful views of the Howgills and the overlooked Eastern Lakes, and you’ll probably have them to yourself.
Walk: Borrowdale Edge (Where2Walk)
The Northern Howgills
Alfred Wainwright described the Howgills as looking like “a herd of sleeping elephants.” Sandwiched between the popular walking areas of the Yorkshire Dales and the Jupiter-like pull of the Lake District, the slumber of these hills is rarely disturbed by crowds, despite the fact that they are seen by literally millions of people every year driving past on the M6.
The Howgills are one of the oddest oddities corrected by the extension of the parks, with the southern half of them originally included in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, but the northern half left out. The northern half of the Howgills is geographically almost identical to the south; a mellow counterpoint to the craggy limestone of much of the rest of the Yorkshire Dales and the volcanic rock of much of the Lake District, with long, trunk-like ridges of remarkable smoothness interrupted only by the giant waterfall of Cautley Spout and its accompanying crag. They promise hours of unfettered walking over mellifluously flowing hills, only with less visitors than even in other parts of the Howgills. For the true connoisseur of quiet country.
Walk: Bowderdale and The Calf (Walking Britain)
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