Meet the mum of three who wrote the Wild Guide to Yorkshire and the North-East
Sarah Banks admits writing her Wild Guide to the North-East was an 18-month labour of love – not just for her but for her entire family, including her three teenage sons, as she visited all 600 places listed. “I did worry that the boys might get fed up with it, but not at all, they were really up for it,” says the former regional newspaper journalist who lives near Malton.
“I did worry that the boys might get fed up with it, but not at all, they were really up for it,” says the former regional newspaper journalist who lives near Malton.
The book came about after Sarah, who had worked on papers in the south and in Newcastle before moving to Yorkshire and starting a family, decided to take a photography course.
"It was about five years ago I decided to do a diploma in photography. I’d always enjoyed photography and I thought it would add to my writing.” It took two years to complete and then the country went into lockdown. “Like the rest of the country we went for lots of walks around our home and I would take lots of photographs of nature. Exploring the beautiful areas around us and discovering things we didn’t know were there, gave me the idea for the book and so in 2021 I pitched it to the people behind the Wild Guides. I am a fan of the Wild Guides and there are books for quite a lot of the country but I was surprised when there wasn’t one for Yorkshire."
The idea of Wild Guides is to create inspiring books (and apps) that get people out, experiencing and enjoying nature highlighting lesser known spots for being on the water, climbing, walking and being at one with nature as well as useful tips on place to stay for all budgets including camp sites, youth hostels, shepherd’s huts and cottages. “Whether it’s soaring peaks and cliffs, dramatic valleys and magnificent waterfalls or tranquil rivers, lakes and beaches, we have it all and I wanted to find places that woul dmake people want to get out there and explore,” says Sarah. "So when I pitched the idea they went for it but they wanted me to include Northumbria and the North Pennines. Before I lived in Yorkshire I lived in Northumbria and so know it well and so that wasn’t a problem and I was happy to visit the North Pennines – and that was that.” For the next few months, armed with maps and websites Sarah set about researching her chosen areas searching for hidden gems. “The whole idea is that most of the places are out of sight so it did take a lot of time and effort to identify them then cross-refing with the maps. I ended up with a massive spreadsheet of places and then set about visiting every single one of them.”
From Holy Wells in North Yorkshire to hidden coves along the North East coast, Sarah, often accompanied by her three sons, husband and her trusty camera, would visit them all some nearer ones as day trippers then other further afield locations for short breaks taking photographs as she went. “I’d either get up early and do some of the places on my own and the we;d do other’s when the boys surfaced. A lot of the photographs have my family on just having a great time.
“I thought I might struggle to keep getting the boys out away from their gadgets but every where we went we have a purpose, to locate a particular place or thing and I think they enjoyed the challenge and seemed quite sad when the adventures were over.”
The result is a detailed guide to many of the North East’s hidden gems when it comes to getting out in the great out doors. From the border of Scotland to Spurn Point Sarah’s guide highlights places to wild swimming in remote waterfalls, lakes and coves, easy scrambles up peaks and routes to hidden valleys, sunset hill forts, castles, lost ruins and smugglers’ caves, ancient forests, veteran trees and wildlife-rich meadows and sacred sites, holy wells and standing stones
She also highlights the best farm shops, micro-breweries and gastropubs as well as places to wild camp, star-gaze and campfire campsites, secluded hideaways, treehouses, cottages and cabins.
Sarah says even though she knew some of the areas well she was still surprised by the diversity of what the North East and Yorkshire has to offer.
“The beauty of this region is the astonishing variety of its landscape interwoven with a fascinating history, ranging from sacred Neolithic sites to post-industrial and wartime ruins. Moors, meadows and ancient forests are all laid out, ready for you to explore this wonderful and diverse landscape. It is a celebration of the most beautiful, lesser-visited places, where you will find secret locations for wild swimming, walking and exploring, along with unique places to eat and stay.”
She was particularly surprised by the North York Moors, running from the steep slopes of the Cleveland Hills in the north-west to the towering cliffs of the Yorkshire coast. "I think they sometimes get overshadowed by the popular Yorkshire Dales, but i really loved them – they seemed quieter and had such interesting history and you forget how remote some parts are.” The guide details how long it takes to walk to the particular points of interest Sarah has highlighted from five minutes to an hour. "I particularly enjoyed locating lesser known coves along the coast, Flamborough is very well known but there are still hidden coves to explore. The plain of Holderness may not be everyone’s cup of tea as it is very flat – but there is something other worldly about it. There is a church which inspired one of Tolkein’s short stories.
“I did come across people begging us not to include their favourite hidden gem, but I don’t think they will be over run with people turning up all at the same time due to my book. But you do have one eye on parking and any problems it may cause to locals who live there. It has been 18 months of hard work but I love every minute – it has been a true labour of love.”
Wild Guide North East – Northumberland, N Yorkshire & Pennines by Sarah Banks is published by Wild Things Publishing, priced £18.99.