New Bradford bus service is attracting greater diversity to the Yorkshire Dales

We are lucky in Yorkshire to have three of England’s ten national parks spreading their beautiful acres across large swathes of the landscape.

The Dales Bus is run as a not-for-profit network. Picture by Roger Ratcliffe.

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Each Saturday a new bus service is wending its way round the drystone-walled roads of the Yorkshire Dales carrying passengers who boarded in Bradford. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Having them on our doorstep is certainly not taken for granted by many who live here, as is obvious in summer when the busiest parts of the Yorkshire Dales, the Peak District and North York Moors can be as crowded as Trafalgar Square.

But there is concern that some people are not making use of national parks or protected landscapes known as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Natural England recently revealed details of a study which found that black and minority ethnic communities account for just one per cent of visitors despite making up 14 per cent of the population.

To help address this problem, each Saturday a new bus service is wending its way round the drystone-walled roads of the Yorkshire Dales carrying passengers who boarded in Bradford. It is part of a new initiative to encourage people from ethnic communities to visit national parks.

The bus is sponsored by DalesBus, a not-for-profit network which connects towns and cities with the Yorkshire Dales at weekends and bank holidays to provide access for walking and other recreation in areas where public transport is almost non-existent.

A view along north side of Wensleydale near Hawes, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Picture by James Hardisty.

What makes this service different is that it is partly funded by Bradford’s Sikh community. All six of the city’s Gurdwaras (temples) combined to make a donation of £1,800 towards the cost of running the bus, which might otherwise operate at a loss and face the axe. Other communities in Bradford, including Muslims and Hindus, are also making use of the new bus.

I joined the inaugural service which brought around 30 passengers for a day out in Wharfedale, and as we walked along the Dales Way to look at the flowers in Grass Wood the president of Bradford Ramgarhia Gurdwaras Dr Kuldip Kaur Bharj told me she found it frustrating that beyond the main visitor honeypots of Bolton Abbey and Malham people from her faith were not making much use of the Yorkshire Dales.

“In fact, we don’t see many people from diverse communities here, so the key is to make them aware of this natural environment,” she said.

“We recognise the growing body of evidence suggesting that those who enjoy the peace here improve their physical and mental health.”

A Gurdwaras board member, Sukhdev Singh, said he hoped those who were taking the bus would make new friends on their days out and reap all the health benefits of the Dales while having little adverse effect on the landscape.

One of the bus’s organisers, Colin Speakman, told me: “We want to get people away from the idea that these buses are just a load of white middle-class people going for a walk in the countryside.

"The Yorkshire Dales National Park is right on the doorstep of Bradford and, as we see today, if the opportunity to visit is provided then people will come out to enjoy the landscape.”