Yorkshire is one of England’s largest counties that spans from Leeds (a vibrant city in West Yorkshire) through the Yorkshire Dales and Moors (via the elegant city of York and the floral city of Harrogate) right over to the wild Eastern Coast, home to England’s first seaside resort of Scarborough, and the tiny village of Robin Hood’s Bay (where you paddle your toes to finish Wainwright’s Coast-to-Coast Walk, which starts in the village of St Bees in Cumbria).
This is a wild land of dark skies and windy days – don’t come here for sunshine! But in return you get views of incredible birds of prey swooping overhead, dramatic scenery and wild walks (even in urban cities like Sheffield).
Famed for its literary heritage, former poet Ted Hughes hails from here. And his American wife Sylvia Plath is buried near the Transition Town of Hebden Bridge, home to a thriving arts scene and the setting for BBC series Happy Valley.
Food here is no-nonsense (just like Yorkshire people!) Local physiotherapy student Katy Beskow learned to cook on a budget whilst studying in London. She returned home and started a blog that led to a cookbook deal, and now she’s one of the best-selling vegan chefs in England, with lots of cookbooks focused on easy affordable meals with ingredients that you can find in any store.
the haunting (very cold) North Sea
The North Sea is the coldest in the world, with northern areas (like Northumberland) being on the same latitude as Scandinavia (the North Sea also houses several islands on the Scottish and Danish coast including Sylt, known as The Hamptons of Germany, first made popular in the 60s by playboy Gunter Sachs and his then-wife Brigitte Bardot). It’s still expensive to visit today, known for its 40km of beautiful seaside walks alongside ‘kniepsand’ dunes’. The North Sea is also majorly over-fished, so native seabirds are at risk of starvation (a Bill is presently going through to hopefully ban fishing of sandeels (those silvery fish you see in photos of puffins) so they have food to eat.
Never take pebbles from beaches (illegal in Italy) as it disturbs ecosystems. Keep dogs away from seaweed (they like to play with fronds) as it expands in the stomach as it dries. If exploring rock pools, leave creatures alone (crabs etc) as many are injured, once returned to sea. Wear wellies (not flops) as wet rocks and seaweed are slippery.
Ghost-fishing waste (discarded fishing nets etc) is a major issue in the North Sea, as is pollution from oil, which affects seabirds and marine creatures. In 2023, Anglian Water was fined £2.65 million for letting untreated sewage overflow into the North Sea due to decommissioning equipment, and failed to act on data due to no alarm system (this is the largest ever environmental fine). Report sewage overflow to Surfers Against Sewage. This is usually brown foamy water that laps at the shore. They say ‘if it smells funky – it’s probably shit’.
Recently the government approved a controversial oil and gas field in the North Sea, saying it will lower people’s bills. But climate lawyer Tessa Khan says that the oil field (to be located near the Shetland Isles) will keep us locked into fossil fuels for decades, and do nothing to reduce bills, as oil will be shipped abroad, then sold back at high profit. Greenpeace says that the Prime Minister has proved that he puts profits of oil companies above everyday people.
a beautiful ode to a Yorkshire river
Walking the Wharfe is a beautiful ode to a Yorkshire river. Author Johno Ellison (who grew up in these parts and once circled the globe in a London black cab), returns home to walk the entire length of the waterway beside which he grew up. Retrading the steps of Victorian writer Edmund Bogg to see how the riverscape and communities have evolved over the last 120 years, he wild camps to meet modern-day Vikings, wartime ghosts and the fearless ‘Dales Dippers’, as well as learning how not to deal with a herd of over-inquisitive cows.
Starting in the Vale of York, he walks upstream to explore the region’s Viking and Roman heritage and more modern developments (like Tadcaster’s disastrous bridge collapse in 2015). He examines Victorian spa towns, the impact of the Industrial Revolution and enjoys rare wildlife like red kites and otters that have returned to the area, following successful conservation iniatitives. He also is seduced into wild swimming in a chilly river (not the section notorious for reportedly drowning everyone has ever tumbled into it – before seeking refuge in a candlelit pub during a storm that caused a power blackout). This enchanting travelogue is a must-read for anyone interested in nature, and confirms that lesser-known parts of our small island, can hold their own against renowned tourist sites the world over.
Johno Ellison grew up in a village on the River Wharfe in Yorkshire and developed a fascination with waterways, spending his childhood exploring the riverbanks of Wharfedale, plus the hills and valleys upstream. After training as a helicopter pilot, he travelled the world in a vintage London black cab and currently lives in Malaysia with his wife, who he met in a small village beside the River Wharfe.
a complete history of Northerners
Northerners is a highly-reviewed history of the north of England, from the ice age to the present day. This history of place and people lays out dramatic events that created the north (waves of migration, invasions and battles) and shows how the people of the north have shaped our world in unexpected ways.
At least six Roman emperors ruled from York. Northumbria was Europe’s leading cultural and intellectual centre. And northern writers, activists, artists and comedians are celebrated the world over, from Wordsworth to Peter Kay.
Yet the book also looks at how the North was affected by the factory and pit closures in the 1980s and looks at the political north-sout divide and the rivalry between Lancashire and Yorkshire. But overall, this book explores what it means to be be northern, a landmark and timely book.
A rich and kaleidoscopic history of a region, its landscape, industries, people and culture. Always entertaining and enlightening, as full of good things as the North itself. Stuart Maconie
Brian Groom is a journalist who mostly worked for the Financial Times, and is an expert on regional affairs. He lives in the South Pennines.
spiced rum from two Yorkshire lasses!
Two Lasses Spirits is a brand of artisan rum, founded by two women passionate about their home county of Yorkshire, who wish to give an alternative to rums founded on the cliches of pirates and sailors! Unlike most brands that are bottled abroad, this rum is made and bottled in Yorkshire (the molasses is imported but fermented here, and triple-distilled to make it smooth and warming). Proud and made of northern spirit, just like its founders!
The Yorkshire spice rum combines the flavours of rum and the two girls’ favourite ginger/parkin cake. The chocolate orange flavour is not like eating a Terry’s chocolate orange, more like a nutty citrus rum, with a chocolate afternote. The newest flavour is Summer Vibes, a blend of vanilla, coconut & charred pineapple. These ‘two lasses who love molasses’ also use profits to help sponsor women’s rugby tours!
recycled tin jewellery from Yorkshire
Hammered in Yarkshire offers fun colourful jewellery, restored from old rare vintage tins! Like wearing a piece of history, this is made in someone’s spare room!
Jewellery is worn by millions of people in England and beyond. Mining for gold and silver obviously has impacts on the environment and wildlife (whether ‘ethical’ or not) and although blood diamonds (profits funding civil war) are not common these days, there is enough already-mined gold and silver on earth to last for eternity. Go for vegan-friendly jewellery (that is, free from bone, shell, feathers, pearls, leather).
If you have broken necklaces or odd earrings, donate them to Recycling for Good Causes (just list your local animal shelter and they’ll sell the metal and pass on the funds).