Hi guys - many thanks for all the advice, it's much appreciated, and some great points of view. I think the general consensus is that I should be good with whatever I decide on, i.e. despite the research, most decent up to date entry level cameras will do what I need for now, I think I will take a trip to a shop and give them all a go before buying to see what I feel most comfortable with, and decide that way. As I mention, I'm still new to the digital world, so I think I will be hard pressed to make a wrong choice with what's available for what I need it to do.
Once the cash is in hand, I will likely be going for one of the following - Nikon D3200 (24MP), Nikon D5100 (swivel screen), Canon 100D (small and light), or Pentax K-50 (a little more expensive due to weatherproofing, depending on how saucy I feel when it comes to buying!) - all seem to have good reviews, positive and negatives for each one, but essentially all good entry level cameras. Then allowing budget for a polariser, a good a tripod as I can afford, bag, possibly some ND filters, and lightroom. I've investigated the mirrorless scene, but feel I will be spending just as much money on kit as I would do with the above SLRs. If I really take to it, then I can start saving for lenses in the future.
I plan to do most around the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District in the UK - I'm sure I can find plenty of enthusiasts / fellow photographers to help get me going around there. I've also seen some pros in the area do workshops, which I think would be invaluable before venturing out on my own.