Ask a cross section of people what the word Yorkshire evokes for them and it would be a pretty safe bet the answers would include the scenic splendours of the North Yorks Moors and the Dales.
Perhaps the metropolitan delights of Leeds and Harrogate would also come to mind, or the more bucolic charms of Holmfirth, famous from Last of the Summer Wine.
East coast seaside destinations like Scarborough and Bridlington might also figure.
But it’s also highly likely the East Riding wouldn’t.
And yet some of Yorkshire’s most beautiful landscape lies in this hidden corner of the county.
The Yorkshire Wolds, a series of billowing chalk hills and valleys, arc from Hull to the north east coast between Bridlington and Scarborough, with their western edge a sharply delineated escarpment dropping off towards the Vale of York.
Crisscrossed by green lanes and the 79-mile Wolds Way, the Yorkshire Wolds offer the chance to access the countryside and its many treasures on foot, by bike and by horse.
It is the latter method which figures prominently for a social enterprise called Ride Yorkshire.
This was set up last year by enthusiasts to encourage horse-based tourism.
As well as raising Yorkshire’s profile as a tourist destination, it aims to bring visitor spending power into rural areas to support B&Bs, riding centres, livery yards and other country businesses, as well as raising money for charitable purposes.
This year has seen three successful fun rides organised in Yorkshire. One, around the Swinton Park estate near Masham and another from Huggate, near Pocklington, attracted 90 riders.
Some of them had been prepared to come a long way to take part.
“It’s interesting to see just how far people are prepared to travel in order to be able to ride their horses in quiet, beautiful surroundings,” says Janet Cochrane, one of the co-founders of Ride Yorkshire and a lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University.
“Lots of owners keep their horses in quite urban areas and simply don’t have the opportunity to ride off-road.”
The positive feedback from the Huggate ride has prompted them to organise one final ride for this year.
Called the Wolds Winter Warmer it’s being held next weekend from Paul and Liz Temple’s Wold Farm, just north of Driffield, and already places are filling fast.
“Some of those coming are from outside the region, but others are local riders – some are hacking to the farm, for example.
“While you would think locals are already familiar with the fantastic off-road riding the Wolds has to offer, we’ve actually found that’s not the case.
“It would seem East Yorkshire’s charms are a little-known secret, even to its residents,” adds Janet who admits she could easily make a case for focusing efforts solely in the East Riding, such are the many attractions of the area and the outstanding horse riding country on offer.
Research conducted among horse owners and riders around the UK has revealed that those who have their own horse would be prepared to travel up to 200 miles with their animal on holiday.
The figure rises to 300 miles for those who are looking to hire a horse locally when they go on their trip.
“Most wanted to come for a week, rather than just a long weekend,” says Kate Dashper, another founder member of Ride Yorkshire and leader on the research.
“They were interested in activities for non-horsey partners and children to do while they rode their horse.
“The beauty of the Wolds is that there’s also the seaside, plus cities like Hull and York close to hand, as well as outdoor activity centres and even things like the Yorkshire Wolds cookery school.
“That’s enough to keep a family entertained for a proper holiday.
“Our research showed there’s real potential for bringing tourist money into Yorkshire for a wide range of local businesses.”
Kate adds they are encouraging cross promotion between these businesses.
“For example, we’re encouraging riding centres to link up with farmhouse B&B providers to offer a package of accommodation and riding for visitors.
“It’s no secret some of the smaller riding centres are struggling economically.
“So finding new ways to bring in business is a sensible move.”
Evidence from the Huggate ride showed the potential for boosting the local economy.
Riders were offered a special meal deal by a local pub whose food takings rose by £600 as a result.
Local B&Bs also benefited from riders staying with them, says Janet.
“The Temples’farm is in the environmental Higher Level Scheme and Paul and Liz are keen for people to access the countryside and enjoy the wildlife it has to offer, as well as learning about food and farming in the process.
“Horse-based tourism is a fantastic way of doing that, particularly if you’re staying at a farmhouse B&B.”
The focus on East Yorkshire looks set to continue into the New Year. There are plans to organise a marketing and PR seminar in January for local businesses looking to capitalise on the opportunities from equine tourism.
“We’ve had valuable support from the LEADER programme in helping set up and develop rides in the Wolds and initiatives like the marketing seminar also receive funding help from the programme, which looks to support rural communities, businesses and organisations.
“Our aims are very similar – we are very keen to see money go back into the local economy. The Winter Warmer ride will do just that. All the food will be sourced locally – including turkey from the Sunderlandwick farmshop three miles away and bread and mince pies from a bakery in Driffield.
“Every rider completing will get a commemorative rosette, and these have been sourced from Bows 4 Shows near Bridlington.
“Plus we will have a prize draw sponsored by the local Farmway store.
“Of course, what it’s really about is people coming and having a wonderful time with their horses.
“But if we can raise some money for charity and boost the local economy at the same time, it’s a win all round,” says Janet.
Wolds big riding day out
The Wolds Winter Warmer takes place on Sunday, December 4 at Wold Farm, Driffield, North Humberside, YO25 3BB.
The farm has equestrian facilities and there’s the chance for riders to jump a course on the all-weather surface in the afternoon, after a festive lunch at the farm.
The event will raise funds for a Christmas pony party for disadvantaged children in the Hull area.
More information from www.rideyorkshire.org or [email protected]