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A vast expanse of open moorland which is used for everything from walking and cycling, to horse-riding and gliding

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The North York Moors is a National Park in North-East England. It was set up in 1952, and covers more than 500 square miles.

The Hole of Horcum
Photo tallpomlin
Most of the park is of course covered in moorland, which consists of low-growing heather, bracken and coarse grasses, across a range of hills, with very few trees. Britain contains 75% of the world's moorland, and a large portion of that is here in North Yorkshire. It is thought that thousands of years ago, this land used to be covered in forest - but after it was cleared and farmed by the primitive people in the Bronze Age, the trees never returned. Today, there are still some monuments and burial mounds remaining from this time. The area is also still used agriculturally, by over a thousand different farms.

Malo Cross, near Blakey Topping
Photo Thomas Tolkien
As well as the plants, it would be hard to imagine the North York Moors without its large population of sheep. There are many other species of animal here too, including deer, badgers, and otters. Grouse are abundant on the moorland, because they feed on the young heather shoots. Gamekeepers often conduct controlled burnings of the older plants, so the new ones can grow through and be used for food - this is important because grouse shooting is a major part of the economy here. There is also a large population of adders, so watch out when you're having a picnic!

Sheep on the North York Moors
Photo bravediggs
The park also features a section of coastline, with tall, dramatic cliffs that can reach up past 200 metres. There are many secluded beaches here, if you can find them. The shoreline also hosts several small towns, of which Whitby is the biggest, and most well-known. It houses around half of the people in the entire National Park, and is a popular fishing port and tourist destination. The town's history stretches way back - in fact, archaeologists have discovered entire pterodactyl skeletons here! One of the major sights in Whitby is its abbey, which stands in ruins on the cliffs to the east. Its cold, austere look is thought to have inspired the story of Dracula!
Whitby is also one end of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which has run steam and diesel trains since 1836. It only runs for 18 miles, but hundreds of thousands of people ride it every year. Many visitors come to see Goathland station in particular - a countryside platform which has barely changed since the 19th century. It has been used for filming in both TV and cinema, including the first Harry Potter film.

Goathland Station
Photo Keith Laverack
Other popular towns include Pickering, with its castle, and Robin Hood's Bay, with its maze of tiny streets that used to be frequented by smugglers. But of course, most of the North Yorkshire National Park isn't in an urban area, it is in a vast expanse of open land, which is used for everything from walking and cycling, to horse-riding and gliding. There are hundreds of paths and bridleways, stretching out all over the park, giving the public right-of-way over a 1400 mile network of trails. And with an average of 215 dry days per year, there's lots of time to enjoy it!

Pickering Castle
Photo TourNorfolk

The view over Robin Hoods Bay
Photo pjo18
Visitor Information
North Yorkshire Moors Railway is open weekdays throughout the year and Sundays during the summer. Ticket prices cost around £16 for adults, £8 for children (Rover Pickering-Grosmont) £21 for adults, £10.50 for children (Pickering-Whitby Day Rover). 12 Park Street, Pickering, North Yorkshire, YO18 7AJ. Tel: 01751 472508

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