Thursday, 26 July 2012

A good spot for sport

While many people throughout the world are excitedly awaiting London 2012, at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority we’re excitedly awaiting National Parks Week.

Kicking off on 30 July – only three days after the Olympic Games’ opening ceremony – National Parks Week will run to 5 August and is a time for the nation to celebrate and enjoy the best of British countryside.

Team GB, in this case, is made up of the 15 national parks across England, Scotland and Wales, and each will run a series of special events and activities throughout the week so that people can experience the uniqueness of these protected areas.

In 2012 we will be holding up a torch to national parks as Britain’s ‘winning landscapes’, exploring their long connection with recreational pursuits and competitive spirit. Our beautiful winning landscapes have inspired mountaineers, sailors, cyclists, runners and Olympic athletes to aim higher and train harder – sometimes to record-breaking effect.

A quick count in and around the Yorkshire Dales uncovers upwards of 35 high-performing sports people – retired, active or stars of the future – who have a connection with the area.  From horse riders to wind surfers, footballers to skiers, many undoubtedly have taken to the hills, roads and water of the National Park to improve their fitness and hone their skills.

Known as ‘green gyms’, national parks provide considerably more interest than the four walls of your local fitness centre or professional training facilities. Both may improve physical fitness, but research shows that exercising in the natural environment could also improve mental fitness. Those that choose the outdoors may experience greater feelings of revitalisation, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. With winning being as much about mental attitude as physical ability, it is little wonder so many sports people are training outdoors in national parks. 

Maurice Collett on relay day (20 June 2012)
Exercising outdoors is not a modern trend. For generations the competitive spirit in the Yorkshire Dales has come to the fore at the many annual shows, festivals, sports and events. This year’s summer exhibition at Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes explores the subject further and will be looking at the people and communities who have used the rugged outdoors to challenge and inspire themselves.

Also on display at the ‘Sporting Spirit’ exhibition, which runs from July 7 to September 4, is the Olympic Torch that carried the flame through Aysgarth and down to the iconic falls. It was kindly lent to us by Maurice Collett, the 89-year-old Kendal man who carried it in the Yorkshire Dales National Park stage of the torch relay.

You may also wish to join us on during National Parks Week where we will be hosting a live chat with climber extraordinaire John Dunne, who learnt his craft and blazed new trails up many of the limestone and gritstone rock faces of the Dales. Thursday 2 August 2pm to 4pm, mark your posts #yorkshiredales

More information, including a list of National Parks Week events, can be found at

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

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