Low lying flat or gently undulating vale with land
rising gently in the north to the foothills of the
North York Moors and Cleveland Hills, and the steep
scarp of the Yorkshire Wolds and the Howardian Hills
to the south.
Enclosed high ground on all sides except
the east where the Vale opens to the coast between
Scarborough and Filey.
Pastoral floodplains of the rivers Rye and
Derwent and their predominantly northern tributaries.
Landscape contrast between east and western
parts of the Vale. Predominantly flat, arable farmland
in medium to large size rectangular fields enclosed
by low hedges, and drainage ditches and dykes on
the peat soils in the east, colonised by reeds and
willows. The clay areas in the west characterised
by more grassland and tree cover.
Relatively sparse tree cover and few woodlands
overall, with those which do occur being mainly
mixed or coniferous in character and located more
to the north and west of the Vale.
Settlement concentrated along main transport
routes on higher ground around the fringes, with
small nucleated settlements on lower ground in the
Vale, especially in the western clay area.
Varied building materials, including hard
sandstone, brought in from surrounding uplands,
Some parkland and historic landscapes concentrated
Vale of Pickering is a flat, or gently undulating
low lying plain, at the foot of the surrounding
uplands of the North York Moors and Cleveland Hills
to the north, the Howardian Hills to the west, and
the scarp of the Yorkshire Wolds to the south. It
provides a complete contrast to these surrounding
areas and is characterised by flat-lying glacialacustrine
clay and sand deposited in the former Lake Pickering
which occupied much of the area during, and subsequent
to, the last glaciation. As a relatively small area
it is often the surrounding hills which dominate
the landscape rather than the vale itself.
Following the last glaciation, Lake Pickering gradually
drained away leaving a complex of rivers and marshes.
Names in the area bear testimony to this, with frequent
mention of carrs, ings, moors and marshes. The Vale
is drained by the River Rye in the west, with its
tributaries the Riccal, Dove and Seven, and by the
Rivers Derwent and Hertford in the north and east,
with the Rivers Rye, joining the Derwent just north
of Malton. The carrs, marshes, moors and wet meadows
have now all been drained by man, and as well as
the rivers the landscape is now crossed by a network
of canalised water courses, cuts and drainage dykes
which regulate the water table.
Drainage has created reasonably fertile soils, which
are used for arable cultivation and for pasture.
There are flat, open pastures, area of intensive
arable production, and more varied undulating, enclosed,
landscapes which creates diversity within the Vale
as a whole. Woodland is relatively sparse overall,
but here too there is variation, with woods and
shelterbelts being particularly prominent in certain
areas, for example towards West Ayton, Wykeham and
the River Derwent and west of the B1258.
There are subtle but discernible differences between
the eastern and western halves of the Vale. In the
east there are more peaty soils, with black peat
fields in the carr areas south of Eastfield. The
fields are large and geometric in shape, predominantly
in arable cultivation but also with many areas of
grass. Views are long and the landscape generally
open. This is a planned enclosure landscape with
long, relatively straight roads with wide verges,
well managed, predominantly thorn hedges, and relatively
few, scattered, but large farmsteads. Rivers and
water courses, with associated crossing points,
are visible but not prominent in the landscape and
the overall sense is of an undisturbed, rural landscape.
Further west the vale has more varied topography
being more tightly enclosed by the surrounding hills.
There is more grassland on the clay soils and a
tendency to greater tree cover with more hedgerow
trees and small woodlands.
The coastal belt has a rather different landscape.
Here the landscape was not inundated by Lake Pickering
and deposits of glacial till have created a more
hummocky, undulating landscape. Inland from Filey
the landscape is still relatively rural and is a
mixture of arable fields and pasture enclosed by
hedges. North and south of Filey the influence of
coastal tourism and recreation becomes much more
apparent. Urban development holiday villages, golf
courses, caravan and chalet sites combine with the
presence of the sea, beaches, cliffs and short coastal
stream valleys to create a distinctive coastal character
quite different from the rest of the vale.
Vale of Pickering is underlain by the youngest of
the Jurassic rocks of the region, the Kimmeridge
Clay, much of which is concealed by layers of glacial
and glacialacustrine deposits comprising clay, sand,
gravel and peat beds. Soils are dark and have been
improved by marling and ploughing to create reasonably
fertile and productive arable land.
The existing landform of the vale has been strongly
influenced by the last glaciation which ended about
12,000 years ago. The North Sea Ice Sheet advanced
along the Yorkshire coast and prevented the natural
drainage of the ice-free country inland. The drainage
of the River Derwent and streams flowing into the
vale was impeded by the ice sheet and its deposits,
and thus glacial Lake Pickering was formed. The
glacialacustrine deposits remaining, after the waters
of the lake had gradually drained away, now create
the landscape of the Vale of Pickering. The glacial
effects account for the bizarre course of the River
Derwent which, after being blocked from a sea outlet
in Filey Bay by glacial till, turns west across
the vale and then south to cut through the Howardian
Hills below Malton before eventually running into
the Ouse below Selby.
After the retreat of the glaciers and drainage of
the lake, the vale was left in a marshy state until
the rivers Rye and Derwent gradually formed channels
for themselves. Later on, drainage channels were
cut and streams embanked by drainage engineers to
aid the cultivation of the land, so that dykes and
canalised water courses are now characteristic of
the vale landscape, acting as field boundaries in
places. The hamlets of High and Low Marishes provide
a reminder of the watery origins of the landscape.
and Cultural Influences
the marshy and lightly forested nature of the vale,
it was attractive to early settlers and the earliest
known evidence of human presence in the area dates
back to the Mesolithic Period, around 7,500 BC.
The most important remaining settlement of this
period is that at Star Carr, Seamer, near Scarborough
where, due to waterlogged conditions, a considerable
quantity of organic remains as well as flint axes,
blades and tools have survived. The development
of farming during the succeeding Neolithic Period
(around 3,000 BC) is evident in the distribution
of earthen long barrows throughout the area, including
a site at Ebberston, and archaeological finds in
King Alfred's Cave. Bronze and Iron Age remains
have been found on the fringes of the Vale of Pickering,
in Scarborough and surrounding villages.
The impact of Roman life in the vale was less marked
than in other areas of Yorkshire although there
are small sections of Roman Road and sites of Roman
villas, such as that east of Helmsley, indicate
that some of the native aristocracy may have abandoned
their stock-raising activities and adopted Roman
values and economic organisation.
Remnants of the Medieval Period, between the 11th
and 16th centuries, are evident across the Vale
in the form of castles, fortified manor houses and
churches. Pickering castle and motte, for example,
dates back to 1220. There are also notable examples
of Medieval strip fields at Middleton.
Wealthy landowners during the 17th and 18th centuries
have had an influence on the landscape by creating
fine buildings and estates such as Wykeham Abbey
estate, Nunnington Hall and Ebberston Hall.
The flat vale has always provided a convenient route
for infrastructure. The main roads (A64, A169, A170)
run along the higher fringes of the Vale while the
Scarborough to York railway traverses the Vale.
The overhead electricity supply is a more recent
settlements of the Vale of Pickering form a striking
group relating to the physical structure of the
vale and surrounding landform. On the northern side
of the vale, villages and towns appear in close
proximity to each other just above the old lake
margin and at the foot of the Corallian Group limestone
dip-slope. This is now approximately the course
of the A170 from Helmsley to Scarborough. In this
location water was obtainable from springs and shallow
wells and the villages stood above flood level at
the meeting place of contrasting soils. Strip parishes
are conspicuous features here, some extending far
to the north and taking in sections of the adjacent
moorlands. Such linear settlements have a characteristic
pattern of long burgage plots stretching between
the main street and a back lane. A similar distribution
of fringe villages appears on the southern boundary
of the vale.
Most other areas of the vale show an entirely different
settlement pattern with smaller villages, more widely
spaced and associated with relatively more dispersed
settlement in the form of cottage groups, small
hamlets and isolated farmsteads in areas of rising
ground. This results from relatively late enclosure
of the carr lands following their drainage. Settlements
are linked by long narrow lanes and tracks with
wide grass verges and edged by solid well-managed
hedges. This dispersed pattern gives much of the
vale a strongly rural almost remote and inaccessible
feeling, despite the presence of the Scarborough
to York railway and the A169 which crosses the area.
While the current roofing material is pantiles,
there is clear evidence in the steep roof slopes
of buildings in this area that thatch was used historically.
A number of villages still retain thatched cottages].
Building materials vary between soft limestones
and sandstones to harder grit stones, which tend
to occur closer to the edge of the Tabular Hills
to the north west within the North Yorkshire Moors
and Cleveland Hills joint Character Area.
land-use pattern is dominated by arable land. There
are also large stretches of floodplain pasture along
the rivers which would once have provided hay for
winter feed for livestock but are now mainly grazed.
The heavier clay soils to the west support a more
mixed agricultural system, with beef production
being important, and more grassland being present.
The vale is notable for the high proportion of arable
land present, in relation to grassland, and for
the large size and geometric nature of the arable
fields, both of which reflect the good agricultural
quality of the land.
Dispersed tree groups and plantations, both coniferous
and broadleaved, break up the monotony of the gently
undulating vale with tree cover increasing significantly
from east to west. Hedgerows act as the main form
of field and road boundary and range from tall,
thick hedges to low cut gappy fragments. The lower
hedges are mainly hawthorn with a variable level
of mature hedgerow trees, such as oak, ash, willow
Intensification of agriculture has led to a breakdown
of field boundaries, with a consequent loss of hedgerow
trees in some areas As a result the landscape is
becoming more open and changing in structure. Trees
and wildlife habitats have been lost along river
banks as a result of over engineering and river
management, and drainage is also causing shrinkage
of the peat in places, resulting in exposure of
tree roots. Drainage and deep ploughing may also
be causing some damage to archaeological sites.
Development pressures from future road building
and housing are a potential source of visual intrusion
in the open landscape. The possible re-routing of
the A64 trunk road may have a significant visual
impact from surrounding higher ground, and may affect
archaeological sites scattered across the vale.
There are pressures for extraction of sand and gravel
and for further tourism development at the coast.
This could lead to increased traffic, especially
caravans, on the A64 and A165, bringing further
pressures for road improvements and potential consequences
for the landscape.
Other forms of development which could affect
this landscape are those related to the development
of the inland gas field which has been discovered
in the area. This may be developed further and there
are plans for a gas treatment plant and possibly
a gas fired power station in the vicinity. Pylons
have already made an impact on the landscape and
any additional lines would add to their intrusive
appearance in this flat landscape. Pressures for
housing development are not at present a major concern
but infill in some rural villages is having an effect
in changing their character.
River and coastal management practices are important
influences on this landscape. There is scope for
continued landscape enhancement by means of management
plans for both the Rye and the Derwent, and the
Filey coast. As far as the rivers are concerned
there may be scope both to alter management practices
so that they are more sympathetic to landscape and
wildlife, and to recreate features such as river
Opportunities also exist to enhance the landscape
through hedgerow restoration, new woodland planting
and re-creation of wetland habitats.
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Harwood Long, W (1969), A Survey of the Agriculture
of Yorkshire, County of Agricultural Series, Royal
Agricultural Society of England, London
Home, G (1905), The Evolution of an English Town
- Pickering, JM Dent & Co, London
Kent, P. 1980. British Regional Geology: Eastern
England from the Tees to the Wash, Second Edition.
(HMSO for Institute of Geological Sciences; London).
North Yorkshire County Council (1991), North Yorkshire
Conservation Strategy, North Yorkshire County 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.
Speakman, C (1986), Portrait of North Yorkshire,
Robert Hale, London
Scarborough Borough Council, (1994) Landscape Appraisal
of Scarborough Borough, Scarborough Borough Council.