The Yorkshire Dales and Lake District national parks to be extended
PUBLISHED: 00:00 20 November 2015 | UPDATED: 17:11 19 January 2016
Campaigners welcome the long-awaited decision to extend the Dales and Lakes national parks but there is work still to be done. Words and photographs by Terry Fletcher
It’s a fight that has been going on for more than 60 years but the Yorkshire Dales is finally the national park its supporters always wanted it to be. After decades of campaigning the government has at last conceded that another 160 square miles of some of Britain’s finest landscape should be included in a drastically enlarged national park.
The newly expanded park will now stretch westwards to take in the Barbon and Casterton Fells overlooking the Lune Valley, lonely Wild Boar Fell and Mallerstang as well as a huge sweep of limestone country in the Orton Fells while the Northern Howgill Fells will finally enjoy the same protection as their identical southern sisters, which have been in the national park since it was created in 1954. The decision, which comes into force in August, will see the Dales park grow by almost a quarter while the Lake District National Park will also grow slightly so the two almost meet at the M6 motorway, leaving just a narrow corridor for the motorway, the main West Coast railway line and a line of electricity pylons.
Campaigners have regarded the extension as ‘unfinished business’ ever since the national park boundaries were drawn up in the aftermath of the Second World War and have pushed for it tirelessly. They argued that the original boundaries were cobbled together in a shabby compromise dictated by local government boundaries that were themselves swept away in the 1970s and by landscape features such as the A6, which was then the main western traffic artery to Scotland but were no longer relevant.
Fiona Howie, chief executive of the Campaign for National Parks welcomed the news, saying: ‘This is absolutely fantastic. Very simply these are beautiful, inspiring and important areas of the countryside that always deserved to be part of the national parks. They were originally excluded but now, after years of hard work by a lot of people, this is going to be put right.’
The Yorkshire Dales National Park chief executive, David Butterworth, will have the job of absorbing the new areas, some of whose residents opposed the plan. He said: ‘Now the hard work starts. We will be listening to and learning from the local communities, farmers, landowners and businesses to enable us to develop productive, long-term relationships with all these parties. Working together with others, the authority is determined to play a leading part in making the most of the wonderful opportunities this decision offers for both the landscape and local economy.’
Dorothy Fairburn, north regional director of the 34,000-strong Country Land and Business Association (CLA) accused ministers of ignoring the views of her members who own and work more than 100,000 acres of the extended park. She feared stricter planning regulations will shackle farmers and local businesses, including some in tourism. Others worry that new-found national park status will produce an influx of second home owners, pushing up property prices and making it harder for local families to stay in the area, as has already happened in the Dales and Lakes
Supporters of the extension, however, insist that the designation will boost tourism, bringing more money into the area, and create extra jobs as visitor numbers grow.
Another worry is that the announcement did not come with a firm commitment on how much extra money would be provided to administer the new areas. That still has to be agreed but no one doubts that bringing the new areas into the national park will inevitably need extra staff and incur additional costs at a time when park budgets have been cut by 40 per cent in the last few years.
Try this delightful walk which showcases everything the beautiful new area of the Yorkshire Dales has to offer
It begins even before you pull on your boots. Turn off the A65 at Devil’s Bridge, near Kirkby Lonsdale, and enjoy the short drive to Barbon up the pastoral valley with the fells stretching out ahead and park by the village hall.
From here turn left into the village, go right at the war memorial and then left up a lane immediately after the church. Follow it uphill round a bend with black and white painted barriers. At the next bend 100 yards further on take a signed bridle path rightwards into the woods. Stay on the main path as it follows the line of the beck, ignoring all paths and bridges to left and right. Eventually it escapes the trees to come into a more open area of typical Dales countryside of rolling fells and cropped green turf before reaching a road at a ford popular with picnickers and occasional campers.
Cross the footbridge and turn right up the lane over the small Blindbeck Bridge. A hundred yards further on take a bridleway on the left signed to Bullpot. The stony track climbs up onto the open moor with the magnificent sweep of Barbondale and flank of Middleton Fell behind you. The track becomes enclosed as a green lane until it reaches a junction by Bullpot Farm. Turn right up the metalled road. After a little less than half a mile at a bend on the brow of a hill the buildings of Gale Garth Farm appear down to the left. Here take a sign-posted path through the left hand of a pair of gates and follow the track as it climbs the fellside and then turns left to cross the shoulder of the hill. Go through a gat on the crest of the hill where the sweep of Morecambe Bay comes into view ahead. Carry on down the track and the Lakeland fells appear away to the North West. The track drops steadily before taking a sharp left turn through a gate to arrow downhill to rejoin the road.
At the road carry on downhill for about half a mile until at the bottom, after passing through small woods, it meets a cross lane, the unsurfaced Fellfoot Road. Turn right along this signed to Bents Lane for a beautiful mile or so, hemmed in by drystone walls and trees with the green valley stretching away to one side and the fells climbing above. Over the wall to the left is a series of small drystone pens, each enclosing a boulder, the work of internationally-renowned sculptor Andy Goldsworthy who created them almost 20 years ago as part of his Sheepfolds project.
The track ends at a lane. Rightwards leads to Barbon, however, to avoid walking all the way on tarmac, instead turn left away from the village and walk down the road for a quarter of a mile passing a couple of cottages almost to Fell Garth Farm. Just before the farm buildings take a gate on the right signed to Barbon and pass through a succession of fields before crossing an avenue of trees by the Victorian mansion of Whelprigg. Cross the drive and go over a stile and head away half right following a line of trees to leave the meadow by a gate in the far right hand corner. From here follow the track round to the right of Low Bank House to pass through a stile and across the field to a gate in the left corner and along a short enclosed path to a lane. Turn right up this and follow it past the house and immediately left on a public footpath along the drive of a cottage to a gate on the right. Cross the bottom of the field and when the path emerges on a narrow lane turn left to reach the car park or, if you prefer the pub first, after a few yards cross a stile on the right heading for the church.
Distance: 8 miles/13km
Height gain: 810ft/250m
Time: 3-4 hours
Terrain: Moorland paths, farm tracks and quiet lanes
Parking: Village hall
Refreshments: Café and pub in Barbon, others in Kirkby Lonsdale
Map: OS OL2 Yorkshire Dales Southern and Western