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Topographical areas of Yorkshire

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A simplified geology of Yorkshire
A simplified geology of Yorkshire

In Yorkshire there is a very close relationship between the major topographical areas and the geological period in which they were formed. The Pennine chain of Hills in the west is of Carboniferous origin. The central vale is Permo-Triassic. The North York Moors in the north-east of the county are Jurassic in age while the Yorkshire Wolds to the south east are Cretaceous chalk uplands. The plain of Holderness and the Humberhead levels both owe their present form to the Quaternary ice ages.

Much of Yorkshire presents heavily glaciated scenery as few places escaped the great ice sheets as they advanced during the last ice age.

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  • What Counts as a Mountain?
  • Kayaking at Howsham Weir, River Derwent, Yorkshire
  • Topo combat


I'm at the summit of Mount Evans in Colorado, USA. It is one of the Colorado Fourteeners, meaning I'm more than 14,000 feet above sea level. As Americans measure it. For the rest of the world, that is 4.3 kilometres above sea level, or about half way to an airplane's cruising altitude. And the air up here is thin: I'm only getting about 60% of the oxygen that I normally do each time I breathe in. And let me tell you, this was a difficult climb. At least, the last bit of it was. Because this is also the most American mountain, becacuse there is a road to the top of it. The highest paved road in North America. And this summit here counts as the 41st highest mountain in North America. But how do we count that? Just over there, the wonderfully named Meyer-Womble Observatory is on another, slightly lower summit. But it's surrounded by lower ground: why doesn't that count as the 42nd highest? And you might say, well, the answer's obvious, it's part of the same mountain. But where does that end? This summit, Mount Evans, is just a smaller part of a big mountain range, so you could try and make the case that this is just a bump on the way to the tallest peak in the Rockies, Mount Elbert. Or you could take it to the extreme and say that there's only one mountain on each land mass, that every other peak in North America is just a small bump on the way to the enormous continent-sized mountain called Denali. Now that's ridiculous, most people would say. It's obvious. That's a mountain. And that isn't. But in formal terms, we solve it by measuring prominence. Prominence works like this: imagine if you could raise sea level up to where I'm sitting now. How many meters would it have to drop before you could connect this mountain to another, taller one and walk there without getting your feet wet? For Mount Evans, that is 839m down, or about one-fifth of its height above sea level. That observatory summit? It's not prominent. Sure, you have to walk downhill from it, but after a few meters you're going uphill again. So where do you draw the line? Well, there are several different lines, because of course there are. The International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation defines a mountain as needing 300m of prominence, which is actually only the height of the Eiffel Tower, which... doesn't seem like much to me? Other folks disagree, and say it should be 500m, or that prominence should change with altitude... it's a mess. I'll be honest, even after researching this, I'm not sure about it. Even the folks I asked to check my script went, "eh, well, I guess, basically, but technically..." This is one of those times that the human need to categorise and catalogue everything runs up against messy reality. There are always edge cases, and pretty much every mountain is an edge case. I'm going to go back down now before I get altitude sickness(!)



The main Rivers of Yorkshire
The main Rivers of Yorkshire

Western and central Yorkshire are largely drained by rivers which empty their waters into the River Ouse which reaches the North Sea via the Humber Estuary. The most northerly of the rivers in the Ouse system is the Swale, which drains Swaledale before passing through Richmond and meandering across the Vale of Mowbray. Next, draining Wensleydale, is the River Ure, which joins the Swale east of Boroughbridge. The River Nidd rises on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and flows along Nidderdale before reaching the Vale of York. The Ouse is the name given to the river after its confluence with the Ure at Ouse Gill Beck. The River Wharfe, which drains Wharfedale, joins the Ouse upstream of Cawood. The Rivers Aire and Calder are more southerly contributors to the River Ouse and the most southerly Yorkshire tributary is the River Don, which flows northwards to join the main river at Goole.

In the far north of the county the River Tees flows easteards through Teesdale and empties its waters into the North Sea downstream of Middlesbrough. The smaller River Esk flows from west to east at the northern foot of the North York Moors to reach the sea at Whitby.

The River Derwent rises on the North York Moors, flows south then westwards through the Vale of Pickering then turns south again to drain the eastern part of the Vale of York. It empties into the River Ouse at Barmby on the Marsh. To the east of the Yorkshire Wolds the River Hull flows southwards to join the Humber Estuary at Kingston upon Hull. The western Pennines are served by the River Ribble which drains westwards into the Irish Sea close to Lytham St Anne’s.[1]

Topographical Areas

Natural Areas

The natural sub-regions of Yorkshire
The natural sub-regions of Yorkshire

Natural England, the name given to the body responsible to the UK government for natural affairs has defined 14 distinctive Natural Areas in Yorkshire. These are:

Figures in brackets refer to the equivalent Joint Character Areas outlined in the next section and illustrated on the map.

Natural Areas are defined as "biogeographic zones which reflect the geographic foundation, the natural systems and processes, and the wildlife in different parts of England, and provide a framework for setting objectives for nature conservation."[2]

Joint Character Areas

Location of Yorkshire Joint Character Areas[3] 1. Vale of Mowbray 2. Vale of Pickering 3. Howardian Hills 4. Yorkshire Wolds 5. Holderness 6. Humber Estuary 7. Humberhead Levels 8. Vale of York 9. Southern Magnesian Limestone 10. Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire Coalfield 11. Yorkshire Southern Pennine Fringe 12. Southern Pennines 13. North York Moors and Cleveland Hills 14. Tees Lowlands 15. Pennine Dales Fringe 16. Yorkshire Dales 17. North Pennines 18. Bowland Fells
Location of Yorkshire Joint Character Areas[3]
1. Vale of Mowbray
2. Vale of Pickering
3. Howardian Hills
4. Yorkshire Wolds
5. Holderness
6. Humber Estuary
7. Humberhead Levels
8. Vale of York
9. Southern Magnesian Limestone
10. Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire Coalfield
11. Yorkshire Southern Pennine Fringe
12. Southern Pennines
13. North York Moors and Cleveland Hills
14. Tees Lowlands
15. Pennine Dales Fringe
16. Yorkshire Dales
17. North Pennines
18. Bowland Fells

The Natural Areas concept was further refined by the Joint Nature Conservancy Council in their definition of Joint Character Areas. These used Natural Areas for their basis but added other defining characteristics such as historical associations to produce a list of characteristic areas within the county.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

National Parks

Sites of Special Scientific Interest

Nature Reserves


  1. ^ Philips Motoring Atlas:Britain. Philips, London 2005
  2. ^ Biodiversity: The UK Steering Group Report, HMSO, 1995
  3. ^ Archived 2006-09-25 at the Wayback Machine. accessed 23 June 2007
  4. ^ Natural England – Humber Estuary SSSI citation
This page was last edited on 6 July 2018, at 00:32
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