The Vale of Pickering is a low-lying plain, orientated in an east-west direction. It is well defined by the Yorkshire Wolds escarpment to the south, the Corallian limestone foothills of the North York Moors to the north, the North Sea coast to the east and the Howardian Hills to the west.
The earliest known evidence of human presence in the area dates back to the Mesolithic period, around 7000 BC. The most important remaining settlement of this period is that at Star Carr near Scarborough, where, due to waterlogged conditions, a considerable quantity of organic remains as well as flint tools, have survived. This is Britain’s best-known Mesolithic site. The site, on the eastern shores of glacial Lake Pickering, was surrounded by birch trees, some of which had been cleared and used to construct a rough platform of branches and brushwood. Lumps of turf and stones had been thrown on top of this construction to make a village site. The site was probably visited from time to time by about four or five families who were engaged in hunting, fishing and gathering wild plants as well as manufacturing tools and weapons and working skins for clothes.On the southern edge of the vale lies West Heslerton, where recent excavation has revealed continuous habitation since the Late Mesolithic Age, about 5000 BC. This site has revealed a great deal of dwelling and occupation evidence from the Neolithic period to the present day.