Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Clashes on the road to right to roam

Eighty years ago today perhaps the most significant – and certainly the most iconic - event in the story of UK National Parks played out on the moors of the Peak District.

Mass trespass on Kinder Scout, 1932
On 24 April 1932, ramblers took part in a mass trespass on Kinder Scout, the highest point in the area, publicly declaring their belief in their right to roam in open countryside.

Scuffles with the Duke of Devonshire’s gamekeepers broke out, several walkers were arrested and five were imprisoned on charges of incitement and riotous assembly.

The trespass had a far-reaching impact. It led not only to legislation giving walkers freedom to roam over open country and common land - finally achieved by the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act of 2000 - but also to the creation of our National Parks, the Peak District being the first in 1951.

The first national parks had been set up in America in the 1860s when the government saw the need to protect wilderness areas from exploitation and make them available for all to enjoy.

Although Britain at that time had no such wild areas - our moors and mountains were nearly all farmed or managed in some way - influential individuals recognised that increased industrialisation was a threat to the beauty of our more remote countryside.
They founded conservation organisations such as the National Trust and began to lobby for more formal protection from the government.

At the same time social reformers pressed that it should be the right of all to enjoy the clean air and spiritual refreshment offered by walking in open countryside. Movements such as the Co-operative Holidays’ Association brought young factory workers on outings, even opening their own guesthouses such as the one at Hebden in 1909.

By the 1930s more and more working class people were seeking an escape from towns and cities - tens of thousands used their Sundays to go walking - and there was growing conflict with landowners.

At Kinder Scout, the trespassers were motivated by the issue of access. The moor was used for game shooting for just a few weeks each year and deserted the rest of the time, with walkers not allowed. The protesters wanted a public path, allowing ramblers access when the land was not in use. At that time less than 1% of the Peak District had public access rights and if walkers strayed onto private land they would be chased off by gamekeepers with sticks and dogs.

The arrest of the trespassers unleashed a wave of public sympathy. A few weeks later 10,000 assembled for a rally at Winnats Pass, near Castleton – the largest number ever - and the pressure for greater access continued to grow.

At the end of World War II, the government set up committees to examine long term land use and ‘nature preservation’ became part of the post-war reconstruction effort. In 1949 the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act was passed and ten national parks were created over the following decade, the Yorkshire Dales National Park in 1954.

Thanks to the pre-war campaigns there was an emphasis on making countryside available for recreation for all, not just for nature conservation, and this principle remains at the heart of our National Parks.

John Dower
Malham Youth Hostel, opened in 1938, was designed by architect and rambler John Dower, and was the first purpose-built Youth Hostel in Yorkshire. Considered the founding father of National Parks, John – as Secretary of the Standing Committee on National Parks - was asked to prepare a report on how they could work in England and Wales. John believed passionately that the countryside should be there for all to enjoy, whatever their background, and the Youth Hostel movement was one of the ways that young working class people at that time could access these beautiful places. The hostel was dedicated to John’s memory in 1948.

For ideas on where to walk in the Yorkshire Dales National Park go to www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/walking

Friday, 20 April 2012

Lights, camera, dales

Nearly 10 years before being designated a national park, the unique beauty and charm of the Yorkshire Dales had been recognised by the film industry.

The earliest feature film we have found was produced in the Yorkshire Dales in 1945. The open spaces of the southern dales were used to contrast the soot and grit of industrial northern towns, like Halifax, in ‘We of the West Riding’ – a film portraying a West Riding textile family at work and play.

This unintentionally mimicked the national park movement of the time, where more and more people escaped towns and cities at weekends for clean air and spiritual refreshment, and ‘nature preservation’ was being considered as part of the post-war reconstruction effort.  The Dower Report was published in the same year – laying a path for the legislation that created national parks in England and Wales.

Families in industrial towns surrounding the Yorkshire Dales escaped on bicycle to the countryside each weekend, and this is a common theme for many early movies. Cycling is still one of the most popular activities in the National Park, from road to mountain biking.

‘A Boy, a Girl and a Bike’ (1948) featured beauty spots, again in Wharfedale, as the Yorkshire cycling club whizzed passed. The girl being pursued, in love and on two wheels, was Honor Blackman. 

Bolton Abbey in spring time
In 1972 Alan Bennett took us on ‘A Day Out’.  A beautiful, simple picture of a Halifax cycling club's outing to Bolton Abbey in the summer of 1911. Bolton Abbey remains a top destination for urbanites to escape for a day, particularly when the sun is out.

From the realistic to the mythical, the breathtaking landscape of the area often serves as a magical backdrop. Jim Henson’s puppets in ‘The Dark Crystal’ (1982) used the dramatic ravine of Gordale Scar as part of their distant planet, while Harvey Keitel and Peter O’Toole searched for fairies under the limestone cliff, Kilnsey Crag, in ‘Fairytale: A True Story’ (1996).

More recently the unique limestone pavement can be spotted in ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 1)’ (2010). The top of Malham Cove was filmed, with Daniel Radcliffe and the terrifying action added later using CGI.

Radcliffe visited in person later in 2010 to shoot thriller ‘The Woman in Black’. The remote – and seemingly unchanged – Littondale was used to propel the eerie tale of a scorned female ghost to maximum supernatural effect.

Standing in the foot steps of Harry
Potter at the top of Malham Cove
The legendary Bette Davis has also sampled the famous Dales hospitality. In 1951 she did away with her husband (twice!) in Malhamdale as Janet Frobisher in ‘Another Man’s Poison’.

Over the past 66 years there have been 25 movies (and counting) that have recognised the intrinsic beauty of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the intangible sense of being here that seems so often perfectly caught on celluloid. 

But no round up would be complete without mention of Wuthering Heights, which has seen three versions made in the Dales, nor the ‘Calendar Girls’, who not only raised millions for Leukaemia and Lymphoma research, but brought the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the personality of its residents to a worldwide audience.

More information about the National Park on screen can be found at  www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/movies.

Read articles like this in our monthly ‘National Park Notes’ column in the Darlington and Stockton Times.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Surveys! They can be a total pain in the – ahem – bottom.

By Kate Green, Communications Manager, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority
In the past year, I’ve been asked to complete countless surveys. Whether it’s companies trying to drum up business, or organisations streamlining services, it boils down to me wasting time ticking boxes. I could, to be honest, be doing something much more enjoyable – like walking in the National Park.

But recently I’ve been on the other side of the fence, thinking about how to create a five-year plan that will affect many thousands of people, including myself as a resident of the National Park, and I’ve come to realise that ticking these boxes does make a difference.

It’s YOUR National Park, have your say.
The National Park is a living, working environment with more than 20,000 residents and hundreds of businesses. There are over eight million visitor day trips each year to an area that spreads across 680 square miles of some of the most jaw-droppingly scenic and scientifically important areas of North Yorkshire and Cumbria. It is a national treasure of which the vast majority is in private ownership.

So, when it comes to creating this five-year plan – the National Park Management Plan – we want to put the thoughts and opinions of the public at the centre of it. The ‘Your Yorkshire Dales National Park’ campaign has been created to help achieve this.

We want to give as many people as possible the chance to participate quickly and easily, so – you guessed it – a survey has to be involved! We’ve managed to boil it down to three questions about the National Park.

Taking part in another survey could take up a few minutes of your time but it isn’t half as annoying as finding the things you value about the area disappearing and being lost – not only to you but to generations to come.

What's important to you?
The landscape? Jobs? Recreation? Wildlife? Farming? The consultation really is your chance to tell us what you think and what type of National Park you want to live in, work in or visit in the future.

During the consultation we hope to hear from anyone who is interested in the National Park – from people who have lived in the area for generations to people who have never visited but think the area should be protected.

So what happens when the consultation closes on 30 April? Well, the views of participants will continue to be represented by the steering and working groups that are putting the Management Plan together.

These groups are made up of representatives from a wide range of interest groups (the Dales Farmers Network through to Craven Council), as well as officers from the National Park Authority. 

Together we will examine the results of the consultation and create a vision for the future.

The Management Plan sets out how we will get there, and, likewise, it will involve all of us working together to implement it over the next five years.

You can find the survey, and more information, online at www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/your

We also have paper postcards for people to send their views to the Authority Chairman and child-friendly questionnaires, both available at our offices and National Park Centres. People can also participate via www.facebook.com/yorkshiredales.

Anyone who may have difficultly getting involved or who doesn’t have internet access can call us on 0300 456 0030 to discuss alternative formats.

Read articles like this in our monthly ‘National Park Notes’ column in the Darlington and Stockton Times.