Side slopes of Dales uplands, predominately sloping
down to east, but with locally varied topography
formed by several significant river valleys running
from west to east, including the Washburn, Nidd,
Ure, Swale and the broad vale of the Tees.
Transitional landscape lying between the
upland, predominantly grassland landscape to the
west and arable land to the east.
Variation in enclosure patterns arising from
different historic periods - small scale irregular
field patterns, often of medieval origins, close
to villages, elsewhere larger scale enclosures,
sometimes creating very strong patterns.
Transitions in type of field enclosure, from
drystone walls in the west to hedges at lower elevations
to the east.
Moderate density of small villages and large
farmsteads, linked by a network of minor roads.
Millstone Grit predominantly used for buildings
and walling, giving strong visual unity to villages,
but mingling with Magnesian Limestone as a building
material to the east.
Well-wooded character, with wooded valley
slopes, small woodlands, plantations and hedgerow
Generally tranquil and undeveloped, though
with several notable historic market towns and with
development pressures occurring in the south and
east, around Harrogate and the northern fringes
area of the Pennine Dales Fringe is distinguished
by its transitional character, forming a long narrow
zone marking the change from the upland landscape
of the Yorkshire Dales to the west, and the low-lying
fertile landscape of the Vale of York to the east.
This is a varied, diverse landscape but unified
by a strongly rural character throughout. It is
dominated by the influence of the topography which
drops from higher altitudes in the west to the low-lying
vales to the east, and is cut by a number of major
and minor river valleys. Physically and psychologically
this landscape looks out to the east, with the Pennine
hills forming a physical and perceptual barrier
to the west.
This is a typically transitional landscape, being
generally both hilly and grassy, and with a particularly
ancient character in some parts, notably in the
north and west. There is considerable variation
in the landscape, especially between the open, exposed
plateaux and shoulders of the hills, the small and
enclosed valleys and the broad river valleys. Local
variation in the landscape is closely related to
the landform. Thus the glacial deposits on the wide-floored
valleys of the main rivers - the Tees, Ure and Wharfe
- create an open and gently undulating landscape
with arable crops grown on the lighter, more fertile
land. The rivers themselves are often important
features in these landscapes. Elsewhere, the landscape
is generally small in scale, with becks in narrow
valleys, varied topography, small pastures, and
a network of narrow, twisting rural roads. These
valleys of the smaller tributaries have steeper
sides, and are distinguished by small hedged or
walled grasslands and pastures, and belts of trees
following streams. Some areas, for example in the
vicinity of Kirkby Malzeard, are more densely wooded,
whilst the Washburn valley is more dramatic, with
steep valley sides, a string of reservoirs and extensive
mixed and coniferous plantations.
By contrast the exposed hills and plateaux on the
ridges between the valleys are largely treeless
with extensive rough grazing and strong rectilinear
patterns of drystone walls. Some of these plateaux
are particularly open and distinctive, for example
Forest Moor, a flat topped plateau west of Harrogate.
This is a high, bleak area of pasture, divided into
large, very regular rectilinear enclosures, dating
from the period of Parliamentary enclosure. The
fields are defined by walls or fences, and crossed
by a few long straight roads. Farms are few and
scattered and there is little tree cover which is
generally limited to a few conifer plantations and
linear shelterbelts. From this open plateau there
are extensive views out to the east.
Hamlets, villages and small market towns built in
local stone contribute greatly to the character
of the landscape. Although generally undisturbed
and rural in character there are nevertheless some
significant and distinctive areas of recent development
in this landscape. Menwith Hill, a military installation
west of Harrogate, forms a dramatic skyline feature
with its cluster of golfballs; at Catterick
Garrison the barracks, stores and training areas
have expanded outwards on to the surrounding moorlands
in an unplanned way and can be highly visible in
this relatively open area of landscape.
transitional area is underlain by Carboniferous
strata, the resistant Millstone Grit which dips
gently to the east forming the flank of the Pennines.
The rock comprises alternating sequences of hard
resistant sandstone and softer shales. These have
been subjected to glaciation and weathering resulting
in wide steep-sided valleys with sandstone steps
along their sides. Resistant sandstones cap the
hills and form wide open areas commonly with a covering
of glacial boulder clay (till). Where the rocks
are bare erosion of the sandstone has resulted in
sculptured forms such as Plumpton Rocks near Knaresborough.
Landslips in the soft shales form hummocky ground
along the Wharfe Valley east of Otley.
Since most of this area was marginal to the ice
of the last glaciation, the glacial influence on
the landscape is large. Glacial till covers much
of the land and increases in thickness and extent
of cover towards the north and east of the area.
The River Ure was blocked by ice and diverted into
a more southerly course through Masham. Several
other smaller rivers in deep steep-sided valleys,
such as the Burn, Laver, Kex Beck and the Skell,
follow courses cut out and deepened by glacial meltwwater.
Erosive action by valley glaciers and their meltwater
also widened the valleys of the Tees, Ure, Nidd
and Wharfe. The Washburn Valley that joins the Wharfe
near Otley cuts deeply into the sandstone plateaux
and forms an ideal host for the numerous reservoirs
that have been built along it.
and Cultural Influences
foothills of the Pennine Dales Fringe have largely
escaped the industrial influences which have shaped
the comparable transition landscapes further to
the north and south. This is mainly because of the
lack of accessible coal reserves. Agriculture therefore
has remained the predominant landuse creating a
quiet, rural landscape with farms and parkland that
is neither truly upland nor lowland vale. Farming
has traditionally been dominated by livestock rearing,
but with a gentler climate than the nearby Yorkshire
Dales, arable cropping has also been possible and
some of the land is quite productive, especially
in the larger valleys. The large number of historic
market towns, some with charters dating back to
the 12th or 13th centuries, indicates the long-standing
importance of agriculture to the local economy.
At that time, hunting forests, such as the Forest
of Knaresborough, covered much of lower Nidderdale
and the upper Washburn valley and the Chase of Nidderdale
covered much of the upper dale and Kirkby Malzeard
area. Much of the land outside these forests was
under the control of the abbeys of Fountains and
The 17th century saw an expansion of the small scale
home based industry of linen and wool weaving combined
with small-scale dairy farming, which led to the
enclosure of small plots immediately adjacent to
villages for a simple level of subsistence farming.
In the 18th century there was extensive planned
enclosure of open land with hillside pastures divided
up into allotments for the local farmers. This period
created the strong pattern of rectilinear enclosures
on the high plateaux, with associated roadways.
Only the highest land was left open for common sheep
Ironstone and lead mining did occur in the area
but on a quite modest scale. This industrial activity
came to an end in the 19th century and had a lasting
effect on the fringe area. The textile industry
was important in the gritstone valleys of the Tees,
Nidd and Washburn, developing from the small scale
home industry in the 18th and 19th centuries. It
was, however, never able to compete with other areas
of the industrial Pennines further south and declined
rapidly in the early 20th century, leaving a small
scale legacy of mills and related structures.
Reservoirs were built in the Nidd and Washburn valleys
in the late 19th century, and at Thruscross in the
1950s and 1960s, to supply the expanding
towns and cities of Harrogate, Leeds and Bradford.
These took advantage of the narrow valleys, impervious
bedrock and the greater rainfall at higher altitudes.
Later still in the century came the military influence
with construction of Catterick Camp and Menwith
Much of this landscape is relatively little known,
although it has its beauty spots known to local
people and visitors from nearby towns. One of the
best known visitors in the past was the artist J
M Turner who often stayed at Farnley Hall in Wharfedale.
The River Greta was a favourite location for him
farms and larger settlements are all built in local
stone which adds considerably to the character of
the landscape, particularly where stone walls are
also present as field boundaries. Most of the buildings
are built of Millstone Grit but Magnesian Limestone
also occurs especially in the eastern part which
abuts the Southern Magnesian Limestone character
area. There are a number of small, attractive historic
market towns throughout the area, such as Kirkby
Malzeard, Middleham, Masham, Richmond and Barnard
Castle, which help to provide a strong sense of
historical continuity and local identity. Most have
a central market place and the buildings are built
predominantly of Millstone Grit or local sandstones,
although Masham is remarkable for its range of styles
and inclusion of limestone as a building material.
The towns have a strong visual unity about them,
and have in the main managed to retain many of the
older historic buildings in the town centres, giving
each a strong character and high visual quality.
The spa town of Harrogate is the most significant
settlement in the area with its fine hotels, arcades
and parks. The health giving properties of the spring
waters were discovered in the 16th century, but
it was not until the 19th century that it became
a popular resort. It is now a buoyant shopping and
conference centre, but retains an air of gentility
that is in keeping with its role as health spa and
resort. The major buildings are of sandstone, which
creates a link with the surrounding landscape.
predominantly pastoral, the land cover nevertheless
varies from grassland with some arable on the broader
valley floors, to the small scale pastures on the
hillsides to large rectilinear enclosures of rough
grazing on the higher land. The fields are often
small around the villages, dating from medieval
enclosure of open fields or common grazing, and
also reflecting the later influence of the continuation
of the small scale dairy farming with textile weaving.
On the hills and plateaux the fields are larger
and more regular in shape, dating from later parliamentary
Boundaries tend to be of stone on the higher land
to the west gradually changing to hedgerows on the
lower land. Hedgerows are often allowed to grow
thick and tall and are valuable for wildlife. Similarly
the rural character of the roads means that many
of the road verges are important for plants and
wildlife, as well as for their contribution to the
Trees and woodlands are a locally important component
of the landscape. Hedgerow trees in places give
an impression of a wooded landscape but many are
over mature and likely to disappear over time. In
some areas there are many broadleaved woodlands
especially on the sides of valleys, as well as coniferous
and mixed plantation woodlands. These usually occur
on estates and are generally under positive management
for timber production and shooting interests.
Agricultural intensification, resulting in improvement
of marginal pastures and a move from grassland to
arable in some areas.
Inadequate or inappropriate management of
hedgerows, and drystone walls some of which are
Loss of hedgerow trees through ageing and
disease, which is especially apparent in ash trees.
Lack of management of forestry plantations
Pressures for residential development, within
villages, especially as the area is attractive to
commuters as a place to live, and around the fringes
of major towns.
Pressures for recreational developments,
such as caravan sites, riding establishments, golf
courses, holiday complexes, dry ski slopes.
Separate sale of farmland and farm houses,
with the latter often sold for residential use and
subject to inappropriate conversion.
Varied development pressures, including extension
of military complexes, roads (both major new schemes,
such as the planned relief road to the North and
west of Harrogate and minor improvements such as
the widening and kerbing of rural lanes) windfarms
and telecommunications masts. Building materials
are changing from stone to brick.
The main consideration in this fringe area is the
maintenance of the diverse transitional character
of the landscape. This means retaining the distinction
between the pastoral areas and the arable valleys
and the pattern of walls in the west giving way
to hedgerows in the east. Retention and appropriate
management of field boundaries is therefore important.
The importance of woodlands in the landscape needs
to be recognised by encouraging appropriate management.
Increases in the amount of woodland could
be accommodated particularly by reinforcing the
existing pattern of valley side woods. There is
a unity to the buildings and settlements in the
area which is due to the use of Millstone Grit and,
sometimes, Magnesian Limestone. New development
should address this strong vernacular character.
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Countryside Commission (1991), The Nidderdale Landscape,
CCP 330, Countryside Commission, Cheltenham.
Hill, D (1984), In Turners footsteps, John
EAU Woolerton Truscott, (undated) Hambleton District
Countryside Design Summary, Unpublished Paper for
Hambleton District Council.
Pevsner, N (1966), The Buildings of England: Yorkshire
- The North Riding, Penguin
Pevsner, N (1985), The Buildings of England: Yorkshire
- The North Riding, Penguin Books.
Raistrick, A (1973), The Pennine Walls, Dalesman
Speakman, C (1986), Portrait of North Yorkshire,
Robert Hale, London
Woolerton Truscott (1992), Hambleton District Council
Landscape Assessment. Unpublished report to Hambleton
Woolerton Truscott (1993), Landscape Appraisal of
Harrogate District. Unpublished report to Harrogate