Better than the Lakes; why the Yorkshire Wolds are so outstanding – GP Taylor

IN these strange times, I have found a place where I can go to relax and safely enjoy the great outdoors. On any day of the week, you can find me in the gardens of Burton Agnes Hall.

Columnist GP Taylor is a fan of Burton Agnes Hall and its gardens.

The beautiful walled garden is a wonderful and tranquil place. From the end of the long path that leads from the house into the countryside, you get an amazing view of the Yorkshire Wolds It is both sublime and serene, and well worth experiencing.

The undulating Wolds countryside is cut through with steep valleys and the occasional deserted village. For me, it is one of the most beautiful areas of the country. I am surprised that it is still a secret to many people and doesn’t have the volume of visitors as the North York Moors.

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The Wolds is already an ‘area of outstanding natural beauty’ – regardless of what any government body might think and now decree. It is easily as beautiful as the Lake District and is packed with many delights. Because of this, it has to be protected and sensitively developed to promote greater access for everyone within our society.

The Yorkshire Wolds is in line to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

As a regular visitor to the Wolds, I do find parts of it hard to access. There is always a thought in my mind that some of the landowners have a reluctance to let the public onto their land.

This is understandable, but such a thrilling landscape has to be experienced at first hand and there is no better way than walking through it. Sadly, I often feel as if I am a trespasser unless I have paid for the experience at one of the many great estates in the area.

Sledmere House, Burton Agnes Hall and Scampston Hall give the visitor much needed access to the Wolds. Each of these estates is well worth a visit as they provide not only a great day out but an insight into the history of the Wolds and the people who helped form the landscape.

After all, the Wolds have been inhabited for thousands of years and each generation has left its mark. Yet, more is needed. Other landowners and groups should follow their example and open up the Wolds to visitors and locals alike.

The Yorkshire Wolds is in line to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

One of the major problems with the Wolds is that public transport is lacking in the area. I found it very annoying that the reopening of the York to Beverly railway got such short shrift. This would have provided a much-needed link between the two towns and could have become a visitor hub. A railway would take cars off the road as well as being a scenic link that would easily rival the North York Moors Railway in popularity.

Having the Wolds officially designated as an AONB would mean it would be better protected from unwanted development. In Flamborough, a huge piece of cliff top land is being sold off for potential housing that will probably go to second home owners who provide nothing for the local economy. Developments like this have to be stopped and the land bought for community use and enjoyment.

A high priority of any AONB should be a schedule of rewilding. Farmers and landowners have to be financially rewarded for their hard work and effort to keep the land beautiful and for our enjoyment. This cannot just be a one-off payment for a particular project, but has to be ongoing and financially beneficial.

Farmers would also be expected to support nature recovery, such as increasing habitats to improve biodiversity. I was disheartened this week to see a Wolds farmer wrapping hay bales in single use plastic. I know that it helps to keep the grass sweet, but there must be another more environmentally friendly way of doing this. It is neither nature friendly or a sustainable way of farming and fields covered in black plastic balls are an incongruous blot on the landscape.

Personally, I would like Wolds farmers to open up to more visitors and help us understand the problems they face as well as enjoying access to their land. New footpaths are always needed and a well-stocked farm shop and café is always welcome at the end of a long walk.

Having the Yorkshire Wolds designated as an AONB would be a great thing for the area. It would be a confirmation of all the hard work that has taken place over the years. More has to be done to open up the area to the public and hidden gems such as the installation artwork on the Wolds Way known as Enclosure Rights given more prominence. I only found out about this exciting project by accident.

There is a very fine line when we try to balance public access and the preservation of wildlife and nature, but the Wolds are too beautiful a place to keep for the few who know of its wonders.

GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster. He lives in East Yorkshire.

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