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The Yorkshire Wolds - A view from our expert author


There is a wildness here, but it hides away in the deep flood-cut valleys.

Puffin Flamborough Head, Yorkshire by Tom Marshall, Yorkshire Wildlife TrustA boat trip to Flamborough Head is one of the most spectacular wildlife experiences that Britain has to offer © Tom Marshall, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust 

‘Wold’ is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning wooded hill, which is odd because this is an area noticeably lacking in woods, especially on higher ground. The Yorkshire Downs would be a better name perhaps, as these rolling uplands bear a distinct similarity to the hills of Sussex, Hampshire and Berkshire.

Bedrock is the key. The Yorkshire Wolds are rooted on an extension of the same chalk that is found under the North and South Downs, the most northerly chalk in Britain, in fact. An arc of these chalk hills extends from the Humber estuary in the south to a precipitous terminus in the northeast where Flamborough Head meets the North Sea. To the east lies the plain of Holderness and to the west the Vale of York, with the River Derwent a handy boundary on that side.

These are not the hills that a hardened Dales fell walker would recognise. The summits, in fact, are where the least interest lies. The rich, limey soil here has been ploughed and planted for millennia, resulting in the tame, rolling landscape familiar from David Hockney’s paintings. There is a wildness here, but it hides away in the deep flood-cut valleys – land too steep to cultivate and left to harbour native woodland or rough grazing for sheep.

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