Walking was visitors top activity

Walking was visitors' top activity

More effort must be made to encourage walkers to leave their cars at home when they visit the Yorkshire Dales.

A recent survey by the national park authority found that walking is the most popular reason for visiting the Dales, but the bad news for the environment is that most came to the area by car. 513 people were questioned, in the Bolton Abbey, Grassington and Horton in Ribblesdale areas.

Most visitors – 59 per cent – were on a day visit, with a quarter staying for four nights or fewer, and just 16 per cent on a longer break. 60 per cent of the Dales’ visitors had been before.

Wilf Fenten, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s member champion for promoting understanding, said: “It is always good to have some hard facts, rather than just rely on anecdotal evidence.

“Whilst the national park authority has been doing excellent work, we are still not achieving a high enough number of people who leave their car behind.

“In view of the damage cars do to the environment and our efforts to reduce all carbon footprints, we must find ways of persuading people to switch from car to train or bus.

“Together with service and accommodation providers, we must also find ways of encouraging visitors to stay longer. But, all in all, it is looking good.”

The survey was conducted to get some hard facts about people coming to the park.

The countryside and the scenery were the main draws for visitors, while others said it was the fact it was peaceful, tranquil or unpopulated.

Catherine Kemp, the YDNPA’s outreach officer, said: “Many areas have shown marked improvement since the first survey in 2004 but this new survey will help us direct our promotion more effectively to encourage wider range of visitors.

“For example, the low use of public transport means there are still opportunities for us to improve provision and to encourage people to leave their cars at home or, if they haven’t got one, to help them realise it is quite easy to get to the national park by bus or train.

“The survey showed that walking appeared to be more popular with those from higher income groups and was the main reason people came to the national park – so there are opportunities to encourage lower income groups to go for walks and to try to develop a broader range of other activities that may interest current non-visitors.

“The survey also showed that the vast majority of those questioned were repeat visitors, so we the need to investigate ways to encourage more first-time visitors.”

Three-quarters of those surveyed said they would like to visit the Dales more often.

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