Please step this way

TAKING STEPS: Three's a crowd at the visitors' favourite, Malham Cove. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

TAKING STEPS: Three's a crowd at the visitors' favourite, Malham Cove. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

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WALKING country: Terry Fletcher reports on a scheme to lure visitors out of the honeypots and into the Borderlands

Most walkers passing through Skipton in search of prime landscape consider only one serious option – to head northwards into the Yorkshire Dales National Park. With stunning landmarks like the 300ft high limestone curtain of Malham Cove, the gloomy cleft of Gordale Scar and the vast sweep of Wharfedale virtually on the doorstep that is hardly surprising.

The result is that on sunny afternoons Malham can appear ready to burst at the seams. Official car parks overflow and vehicles litter the verges around the village while visitors queue to squeeze through gates and stiles, which have had to be built two by two in a sometimes vain attempt to cope with the crowds

So now ramblers and other visitors are being urged to turn their back on the national park honey pots and head south and westwards instead into the lonely country to be found sandwiched between the Dales, Brontë Country and the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

A free booklet extolling the fine walking and easy public transport access to the “Borderlands” of Yorkshire and Lancashire has been launched to tempt visitors into these often overlooked moors and valleys between Skipton, Keighley, Clitheroe and Burnley, that take in the catchments of the Ribble, the Aire and the Lancashire Calder.

The surprising advocate behind the new booklet is Colin Speakman, one of the founders of the Yorkshire Dales Society and creator of the popular Dales Way long distance path, which runs 80 miles from Windermere in the Lake District to Ilkley. He said: “This area that we have christened the Borderlands is glorious countryside that is usually ignored because more popular and better known places like the Dales and the Forest of Bowland are just up the road. But it has some gorgeous areas and a lot of the time there is no one else around, something you can no longer say for much of the Dales. Often, you can have these wonderful walks all to yourself when parts of the Dales are busy. The bus routes pass through an astonishing contrast in scenery from the busy towns through rich pasture and parkland to heather moorland and high summits,” he said.

The booklet has been produced by Colin and his son, Dorian, in partnership with the local bus company, Mainline, and is modelled on a successful collaboration in lower Nidderdale last year.

That featured a series of walks and visitor attractions that could be reached using the Harrogate to Pateley Bridge bus route and has been credited with increasing passenger numbers by almost 10 per cent, helping to safeguard a vital service for locals and visitors alike.

Mainline’s Marketing Director, Nigel Eggleton, said: “That was a really worthwhile increase. Rural routes like lower Nidderdale are not the most profitable to run so they need all the passengers they can get. The walks booklet has proved a way of almost guaranteeing future of the Nidderdale service.

“The circumstances in the Borderlands area are a bit different in that the routes there are already quite healthy but getting more passengers on board and bringing more visitors into the area can only help everyone, not only us but also other businesses such as accommodation providers, cafés and pubs who in the current economic circumstances might not be doing as well as they hoped.

“The leaflet points out excellent ways to enjoy our buses. You can not only relax and let the bus do the work but because the seating is higher up than in a car you enjoy uninterrupted views across walls and hedges. And it has a much smaller carbon footprint than car travel so it’s better for the environment too.”

Colin, a zealous campaigner for improved public transport, added: “It will help the area financially because it has been shown that even day walkers spend quite a bit of money in pubs and cafés. We hope it will also feed into the current trend for ‘staycations’ where people are stopping at home for their holidays because many of them do not have a lot of spare money at the moment and it has become so expensive to go abroad. Everybody wins.

“Once people start using buses they realise how just how comfortable modern vehicles have become. It’s a long way from the old crates they may remember from years ago. With cuts in public spending and transport subsidies the only way to ensure services survive is by making sure as many people use them as possible, even if as only an occasional change from their cars.” he said.

The booklet includes five walks, each of about five miles taking in local villages such as Thornton-in-Craven, Earby, Wycoller and Trawden as well as making use of bits of the Pennine Way, Leeds-Liverpool canal and the Ribble Way.

All are linear outings starting from one bus stop and ending at a different one, making a welcome change from the usual circular walks, which motorists have to do to get back to their cars.

The booklet also takes in local place of interest and attraction such as the free Cliffe Castle Museum in Keighley and the Worth Valley steam railway as well as historic castles and abbeys such as Skipton, Clitheroe and Sawley.

Other hidden gems include Earby’s Yorkshire Dales Mining Museum and Nelson’s little-known British in India Museum which has artefacts from the long association of the two countries, including items which belonged to Mahatma Gandhi and the writers Rudyard Kipling and EM Forster.

Copies of the free Borderlands booklet are available from Transdev, local libraries and tourist information centres. Details of services at www.traveline.infowww.traveline.info or on 0871 200 22 23

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