In the Yorkshire Dales National Park, on the eastern side of the Pennines lies Wensleydale. Wensleydale is one of the few valleys in the Yorkshire Dales not to bear the name of its principal river, which in Wensleydales case is the river Ure. The name 'Wensley' itself has origins in paganism and is believed to have derived from Woden's ley, or meadow of the pagan god Woden.
Wenselydale is a wonderful mix of quaint, distinctive North Yorkshire market towns, including Hawes, the site of the main commercial production of the valleys famous cheese. Wensleydale cheese has been made here for hundreds of years. It was first made by French Cistercian monks from the Roquefort region of France. They experimented with various production methods, different types of milk and different techniques. During the 14th century they settled on cow’s milk and the cheeses development progressed and began to develop. In the run up to the English reformation and the subsequent dissolution of the monasteries in the 1540's local farmers took up the task of making the cheese. This continued right up until the second world war. Wensleydale cheese production struggled to recover in the wake of rationing but has seen an increase in sales in recent times, partly due the popularity of Nick Park's animated Wallace and Gromit.
Wensleydales open fields, lush gardens, working farms and idyllic scenery, coupled with its history and traditions ensure its popularity as a rural retreat. Its central location between Wharfedale and the quieter Swaledale enhances its popularity. It is a common destination for visitors who enjoy activities like walking on mountains, dale-sides, valley bottoms and moorland.
The market towns of Hawes and Leyburn are popular because of their age, history, location and facilities. The area offers a number of comfortable B&B's, hotels and holiday homes while winding streets lined with quaint shops that offer a range of local wares allowing tourists to take a wander as well as sample the local delicacies.
Article written by Jessica Thompson