Yorkshire Dales roads can't cope with influx of staycationers - Roger Ratcliffe

Staycationers continue to head for the Dales more than they’ve done for years.

I haven’t actually conducted a survey of businesses. I haven’t stood at the B6265 Grassington turn-off near Skipton clicking a digital counter, and don’t have a jot of data collected by tread-mats in pubs, cafes and information centres.

My evidence is simply this: when the weather’s good, I am seeing two or three cars squeezed onto roadside verges in remote places where I was accustomed to finding none.

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As for cars in the more frequented honeypots, it now seems you have to get out early to find a space, not just at weekends but also on fine days midweek. Leave it to lunchtime and you may have to abandon your plans. Which is what I did last weekend.

The Yorkshire Dales

Having set off intending to walk over Barden Moor from the eponymous bridge, I found the car park rammed, and some vehicles chancing their luck on yellow lines.

So I drove further up Wharfedale to find a walk, but even there, I was surprised to find more cars than usual.

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I can understand why the Lake District National Park is considering the introduction of strict traffic controls – even the banning of cars – in the busiest areas.

The surge in demand from domestic visitors has shown that the centuries-old network of narrow dry stone walled roads is unable to cope with the volume of cars and campervans. Vehicle bans, congestion charges, park-and-ride and shuttle buses might well be the future for national parks.

The losses felt this year by Lanzarote and the Costa Blanca due to lingering unease about Covid and uncertainty about travel restrictions seem to have been to the gain of places like Leyburn and Burnsall, which has to be good after suffering long periods of lockdown pain.

In Grassington, I noticed that overspill parking is sometimes provided in a farm field, the village’s popularity no doubt boosted by being the filming location for the new TV adaptation of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small. It is not all good news, though. Since the influx to the Dales this summer, positive Covid tests locally reportedly trebled to eight per 100,000 at one point.

This prompted the Welcome to Yorkshire tourism board to remind visitors to follow government guidelines to minimise risks.

Walking across a Dales fellside, people seem to be less assiduous in following the rules of social distancing.

My memory of summer 2020 is of walkers stepping off footpaths to create a two-metre sanitary zone between themselves and others.

That mostly doesn’t happen now.

However, when a confined space presents itself, as it did for me during a recent walk through the narrow ravine of Trollers Gill on the north side of the Wharfe near the village of Appletreewick, it felt just like old times.

As if they were in a supermarket aisle, walkers pressed close to the limestone walls to let others pass at a safe distance.