The Yorkshire Wolds are often an overlooked treasure, it’s time they became a national park - Andrew Vine

Over the summer, I walked the Wolds Way again after a gap of many years and marvelled once more at the natural riches on the doorsteps of all of us lucky enough to live in Yorkshire.

Across the course of its 79 miles from Hessle, on the banks of the Humber, to Filey Brigg, one of the most stirringly dramatic parts of our coastline, the path reveals itself as one of the greatest of all England’s national trails.

Rolling hills, valleys cut tens of thousands of years ago by glaciers and places steeped in history, like Wharram Percy, South Cave and Staxton make the Wolds Way as beguiling as the two other great national trails that pass through Yorkshire, the Pennine Way and the Cleveland Way.

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This is an inspiring landscape, as Yorkshire’s greatest living artist, David Hockney, has demonstrated in a series of works in recent years that have portrayed the Wolds with brilliant vibrancy, packing out exhibitions at Salts Mill, in Saltaire, and the National Gallery in London.

Close to Wintringham on the Yorkshire Wolds Way. PIC: Tony JohnsonClose to Wintringham on the Yorkshire Wolds Way. PIC: Tony Johnson
Close to Wintringham on the Yorkshire Wolds Way. PIC: Tony Johnson

Yet the countryside of Hockney and the path from the Humber to Filey remains strangely overlooked, despite it being among Yorkshire’s great treasures.

Crowds who flock to the Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors barely think about the Wolds except perhaps when driving across them on the way to Bridlington.

The reason for that is the status of the Dales and Moors as national parks, which raises awareness of what they have to offer and officially badges them as places of breathtaking beauty. That prompts people to visit their towns and villages and get out into the countryside on foot or by bike.

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Now there is at least an outside chance for the Wolds to join them in becoming a national park, and Yorkshire should go all out to seize it.

Earlier this month, the Government asked Natural England to identify an area which will become the 11th national park.

Creating a new one was one of the less-noticed pledges of the 2019 Conservative manifesto, and even if there is a change of government the process is likely to continue, because the main parties agree on the need to widen access to the countryside and increase the amount enjoying a greater degree of protection from development.

Front-runners include the Chilterns, the Cotswolds and the east of Devon, where there have been long-standing campaigns for national park status, but nothing has yet been decided, so our county ought to be making the case for the Wolds.

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And it would be a strong case. The Wolds are a clearly defined area with a unique identity which would benefit from the protection that national parks enjoy.

They are easily accessible by public transport, and there is massive potential for developing new trails for walkers, cyclists and horse riders in addition to those that already exist.

For Yorkshire as a whole, having a third national park within its borders would be of immense benefit, both environmentally and economically, providing a substantial boost to our valuable and thriving tourism industry.

For Wolds towns such as Driffield and Market Weighton, a steady visitor trade could potentially be transformed into something much more lucrative.

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Bridlington and Filey would also benefit, just as their neighbours to the north, Scarborough and Whitby, get substantial numbers of tourists who take a detour to the seaside as part of their trip to the North Yorkshire Moors.

What a marvellous marketing opportunity it would present to point out to visitors thinking about a break in Yorkshire that over the course of a week they could enjoy three national parks, each with its own distinct character – the grandeur of the Dales, the ruggedness of the Moors and the gentler landscapes of the Wolds.

Nowhere else in England would have an offer to rival it, and the audience it taps into is huge. There are 110m visits to national parks every year, and a slice of the income they bring could create or sustain an awful lot of businesses and jobs in the east of our county.

Hull and East Yorkshire elect a mayor in 2025 in a devolution deal that promises a major injection of funding into the area. The economic upturn that will bring can only be enhanced by having part of it designated as a national park.

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A campaign for that to happen cannot wait until a mayor is elected, even though the process is likely to take several years, as it did before the last new national park, the South Downs, was created in 2010.

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