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My Britain: North York Moors

BY Alice Gawthrop

10th Jan 2024 My Britain

6 min read

My Britain: North York Moors
With heather moorland, woodlands, green pasture and a rugged coastline, the North York Moors is a stunning, atmospheric place to live that's inspired multiple authors
Moody and atmospheric, the North York Moors are best during summer and early autumn, when the landscape is transformed with dazzling pink and purple hues as the heather blooms. The striking heather moorland is interspersed with green pasture land and woodland, complete with a rugged coastline.
"Book lovers can see the inspiration for Brontë's 'Wuthering Heights' and Stoker’s 'Dracula' "
The North York Moors contain 12,000 archaeological sites and features, from prehistoric hillforts to the slightly more recent Rievaulx Abbey. If you prefer something a little more up-to-date, there is a wealth of charming villages to explore, including the market town of Helmsley and the seaside village of Staithes.
Literature lovers will delight in recreating their favourite scenes from Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights as they wander the moors, or venturing to Whitby to see the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Who knows, maybe a trip to the North York Moors will make a writer out of you, too!

Rebecca Denniff

Rebecca Denniff is a composer and musician based on the edge of the North York Moors National Park
Cyclists in the North York Moors
I have lived within the North York Moors National Park for the last 26 years but my love affair with the moors began when I was a small child. We always holidayed in Whitby, but the journey across the moors was the thing I always most looked forward to. We would visit at the end of the summer, and travelling through the magnificent moorland valleys, with the heather fading from vivid purple to a delicious rusty red had such an impact on me that I never forgot how much I loved it. As soon as the opportunity arose, I moved to a cottage in the middle of nowhere, with my first child. I have lived in various moorland locations, and I don’t think that I could imagine moving away. The moors are my constant companion—they inspire me and fill me with wonder.
I love the drama of the moors. The sweeping hills and plunging valleys are so beautiful. I love the colours, the shifting light and shade—and the keening of the buzzards as they sweep through the sky in lonely moorland places. I love the fact that there are valleys and hills that I haven’t yet discovered, and each season brings new delights for the senses. The moors really do provide a rich sensory environment, which inspires my music and my painting. 
There’s a shared passion among people who live within the North York Moors National Park, and although different villages have their own identity, there are shared experiences that bind us all together—even if it’s just knowing which roads are the worst in bad weather. But to live here, and to stay here, you have to really love the wildness and the splendour of the land itself. And that’s the true spirit of the moorland communities: love for the land itself, and the rhythm of the seasons.
"I love the drama and colours of the moors—the sweeping hills and plunging valleys are so beautiful"
I work with sound recordings collected at various locations within the park and use them to create soundscapes and songs inspired by the places that I love. My current projects are Subphotic and Bonfire Hill. My debut Subphotic album, Wardle Rigg, was released on Castles in Space. It is a collection of tracks that are geolocated by using What Three Words—you can go to the exact spots that inspired the tracks and listen to them in situ.
I lead several choirs, including Whitby Community Choir, and Equivox—a small ensemble that co-creates songs about trees and hills and then performs outdoors. I am also one of the directors of Flash Company Arts, a community interest company based in Whitby that works with communities to create art projects, share food and fight loneliness and isolation.
My favourite spot on the North York Moors is on the old corpse road between Fryup Dale and Danby Dale. At the Danby end of the path, at the edge of the hill, there is a little Rowan tree. It’s small but it must be ancient—it’s weathered and strong. I love to walk up the hill, along the Rigg past stones and tumuli, and say hello to this little tree. You can see so far from that point—to the sea, to Danby Beacon, to Roseberry Topping—and it’s magnificent. A 360 degree view of paradise. God’s own country.

Martin Hopkinson

Martin Hopkinson is the skipper of Three Sisters, a boat charter business running wildlife, sightseeing and fishing trips out to sea from his home village of Staithes in the North York Moors National Park
Staithes in the North York Moors
My family moved to Staithes from Bradford when I was around 11 years old. We’d previously been to the fishing village on holiday and at that young age I thought it was a brilliant place to be.
I was always involved with fishing and by the time I was 18 I was working on a commercial boat with my brother. Like many other Staithes fishermen, I also became a member of the RNLI inshore lifeboat team which operates from the village. For the majority of the 30 years I was a crew member and helmsman on-board the lifeboat. Then in the last few years I’ve become part of the shore-based team while also running our Three Sisters boat trips. 
For me, while Staithes is now much more reliant on visitors, the village still retains a great sense of community and there’s always somebody working down in the harbour.
"Between Runswick Bay and Kettleness, the coastline is fantastic and even after all these years I still never grow tired of it"
The coastline is fantastic particularly the stretch between Runswick Bay and Kettleness, and even after all these years I still never grow tired of it. Being out on the sea gives you a totally different perspective of the coast. Once you know a bit of the history you can see how the cliff faces were shaped by the mining of shale centuries ago for the production of alum which was used in the textile industry to fix dyes.
Nowadays there’s also more sea life, above and below water, particularly dolphins and minke whales which we wouldn’t have seen ten years’ ago. It’s part of the reason why we invested in some underwater cameras so that people can enjoy spotting what’s under the boat from the deck while we’re out at sea.
One of my favourite spots on land is on the Cleveland Way at Quarry Banks, midway between Staithes and Port Mulgrave. From the headland here you have great views in each direction and there’s something special about seeing the contrast between the industrial landscape of Teesside in the distance with the natural wildness of the coastline nearby.

Ian Berry

Ian Berry is the owner of the Long Barn, a luxury large self-catering holiday home at Town End Farm, Appleton le Moors in the North York Moors
The Long Barn in Apple le Moors in the North York Moors
I moved into Town End Farm with my wife Jackie on “D Day” in 2013. Our solicitor chose that date given the momentous occasion it was for us in selling up all we had and then setting up our own business in our fifties. The Grade 2 listed barns and house needed significant renovations and we needed planning permission as well as the blessing of the conservation officers.
Our initial search area was huge as we wanted to find the right property in the best location. We knew straight away that Town End Farm was “the one”. It was only afterwards that we realised, almost by accident, we had stumbled upon such a beautiful area, perfect for our fledging business.
We love the North York Moors for its big skies and the spectacularly varied countryside from the moorlands and dales through to the coast. However, it’s the people that make it truly special. From the start we were welcomed with open arms by our village community, even if some thought we were bonkers to take on such a huge renovation project. Many helped us out personally during the build. Like the time the biomass boiler was delivered early with no tail lift, and our neighbour helped us manoeuvre it onto site! A decade on, our business is thriving and we feel completely part of the local community.
We love running the Long Barn. We’ve set it up as a luxury self-catering holiday barn with seven ensuite bedrooms for groups of up to 14. The barn has hosted many family gatherings, big birthday celebrations and reunions of friends. Our guests have spanned all ages—from nine weeks to 90 years old—and it is lovely to be able to recommend so many local places and businesses whether it’s a chef cooking a special meal or a café selling the best cakes.
Our favourite spot has to be our village, Appleton le Moors, with its medieval layout making it an intriguing spot. The village has real heart and with the Moors Inn pub providing a warm welcome, a Reading Room holding talks and exhibitions, and, of course, the wonderful walks from our front door, we feel very much at home here.
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