Sequestered deep in North Yorkshire, and serving as a gateway to the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Harrogate is in an almost contradictory position, geographically. The town is near two large urban centres, York and Leeds, yet it remains close enough to the countryside to seem isolated. Of course, Harrogate’s proximity to places like Nidderdale provides locals with some unique opportunities for tourism.
The A658 Road
The idea of electronic tourism might sound like yet another contradiction but the use of technology to help people experience distant places isn’t a new one. The primary tool here is the webcam, something that has forced a shift in how people communicate and monitor things (like pets and property) at a distance.
Entertainment is arguably the biggest benefactor of the webcam’s invention. A MakeUseOf article lists motion games, stop-motion movies, GIFs, and time-lapse sequences as just a few of the things that can be made or played with an ordinary webcam. Streaming platform giants, which use civilian hosts covering all sorts of activities, have become the $2.8bn ‘face’ of this particular entertainment niche.
Other industries have been quick to embrace the benefits of live streaming too, with the online blackjack at Paddy Power making frequent use of live streams to provide players with a more authentic experience. ‘Live’ casino games take the basic idea of a card game like blackjack (for instance) and add a human croupier into the mix. These presenters deal cards, announce round outcomes, and interact with the players via a chat system. Overall, live casino is designed to unite the increasingly disparate worlds of on and offline gaming.
North Yorkshire Council has done something rather more mundane with webcams, providing a 24hr stream of the A658 road. Updated every ten minutes for the last 2,058 days, the A658 webcam is actually designed to monitor weather conditions, although, it’s available to the public. The Council has also set up cameras near Masham (at Low Burton), Thirsk (Carlton Miniott), Easingwold (Stillington), and Pateley Bridge (Greenhow Hill).
Perhaps due to the popularity of shows like Planet Earth (2006), which based much of their content around quietly ‘spying’ on the secret lives of animals and bugs, webcams have become synonymous with the living world. Since at least 2009, webcams have been recording life and nature in and around Harrogate. For instance, the BBC used to have a camera pointed at the RHS Garden Harlow Carr, specifically so that viewers can see the borders change colour with the seasons. It seems to have been short-lived, stopping in 2010.
In the wider North Yorkshire area, local charity Open Country incorporated wildlife webcams into its outreach booklets in 2020. These aim to make the North Yorkshire countryside more accessible to those with mobility problems. The website White Spider, which is dedicated to hill walking, also offers streams of Yorkshire Dales sites like Pen-y-Ghent, Ingleborough, and Swaledale, to the northwest of Harrogate.
North Yorkshire’s webcam culture is dominated by activity to the east, beyond York to Thixendale. Artist Robert E Fuller achieved worldwide fame in the summer of 2022 when his wildlife views went viral. Fuller’s YouTube channel has 646k subscribers as of mid-2023 and is currently streaming barn owls, stoats, and kestrels in Fotherdale, as well as tawny owls and badgers in Ash Wood.
As for Harrogate itself, despite the fact that the town has multiple tall buildings where birds can roost, it’s curiously low on wildlife cams. Still, as mentioned earlier, plenty of opportunities do exist.