Heading for the Hills

Northern England

DRAWING THIS 3D impression of northern England makes me realise how much hill country there is in my new extended study area, which now includes the whole of Yorkshire; Dales, North Yorks Moors, South Pennines and the Wolds. And I don’t intend to ignore the Lake District beyond the north west borders of the county and that for me still slightly mysterious area, the North Pennines, described by Professor Bellamy as ‘England’s Last Wilderness’.

We live a little below the centre of this map so unless we head due east towards the Humber estuary, we’re going to be heading for the hills after an hour or so’s driving in whatever direction we set out.

My current initial research reading is The Naturalists’ Yorkshire compiled by members of the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union, published in 1971. This is the second time that I’ve read it, as it was background reading when I worked on my Sketchbook of the Natural History of Wakefield as a student.

It starts with a succinct summary of the geology and structure of Yorkshire which at the time, introducing places and rock formations that I’d never seen, was difficult to grasp. Having spent seven years writing and researching Yorkshire Rock, a journey through time, it now makes sense to me.

The details that I still find a little difficult to visualise are features like the Market Weighton Upwarp, one of the major structural features of east Yorkshire which huge influence on the surrounding geology, and has done since the Jurassic period but which is invisible, except by inference, from the surface.

xplane screenshot
Somewhere near Staithes, screenshot of the VFR Photo Scenery for north east England on Xplane 10.

I’m soon going to get the opportunity to pilot a small Cessna around the county, not in reality you’ll be pleased to hear, but in the virtual environment of the flight simulator Xplane 10. As I write this my computer is halfway through loading VFR Photo Scenery for north east England. This includes detailed aerial photography from Getmapping, who ten or fifteen years ago sent four aircraft off to compile a photographic atlas of Britain.

I’ve got a copy of the atlas which comes in its own attaché case but I’ve never used it as much as I thought I would. Having a three dimensional, interactive version of the same, or rather updated, imagery seems a much better way of getting to know the lie of the land.

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  1. Dear Richard,

    I have recently purchased a copy of your ‘Richard Bell’s England’, which I very accidentally stumbled upon in an amazing olde worldy bookshop in London whilst waiting for our train back to the West Country. I was so hooked, I could not put it down, and flicked through it by the time we arrived home. I since discovered your website and will be a returning reader for sure. Thank you for sharing your talent with the rest of us.

    Best regards

    1. That was a dream of a book to work on. I tried to get Collins interested in a sequel, revisiting all the locations in as near as possible the same months 30 years later and Barbara and I even got as far as looking at camper vans but wildlife sketchbooks don’t have the same attraction to publishers as they did following the phenomenal success of Edith Holden’s ‘Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady’ in the 1970s, but I’m still keen somehow to retrace my route. Perhaps for the 40th anniversary!

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