To the south of the North York Moors National Park are the Howardian Hills. Designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1987, it covers 79 sq miles between the National Park, the Yorkshire Wolds and the Vale of York.
A key area of Jurassic limestone landscape, its deep-cut Kirkham Gorge is a unique deep winding valley, formed as an overflow channel from glacial Lake Pickering.
The AONB is also rich in archaeological and historical features such as Iron Age earthworks and medieval castles and monasteries,
Wooded, rolling countryside meets a tapestry of arable and pasture fields, attractive villages and country houses with parkland landscapes such as Castle Howard, Hovingham Hall, Newburgh Priory, Nunnington Hall and Gilling Castle. The river Derwent flows through the AONB’s eastern edge.
This sparsely settled area feels like a world apart, a secret space full of delights and unexpected pleasures.
Distinctive features of the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
These are the reasons why the 70 square miles of the Howardian Hills area were designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty:
An unusual landform: The Howardian Hills is the only area of Jurassic limestone landscape in the north of England to be designated as an AONB. The deeply incised Kirkham Gorge is a unique glacial overflow channel of great scientific importance.
A richly varied landscape: The landform consists of a complex system of ridges, hills and valleys. These are clothed with a mosaic of woodland, rolling arable fields, small-scale pasture, fens, hedges and walls, formal parkland and scattered settlements.
A landscape of high visual quality: The variety of landform and land use produces a contrast in scale, colour, texture and form. The settings of the historic houses, the extensive woodlands, the broad sweeping views and the unspoilt farming landscapes and traditional building styles have a special aesthetic appeal.
A remarkable heritage: The Howardian Hills has a concentration of archaeological and historic features, ranging from Iron Age earthworks on prominent hilltops to the castles and monasteries of the medieval period. The numerous grand houses and designed landscapes, such as Castle Howard, Newburgh Priory, Hovingham Hall, Gilling Castle and Nunnington Hall, have a dramatic effect upon the landscape.
An important wildlife resource: The AONB contains a section of the unique river Derwent, with its outstanding wild plants and animals. Other habitats of national importance include fens and relatively extensive remnants of ancient semi-natural woodland.