Flood of visitors expected at Yorkshire Dales National Park

National park leaders are holding talks to ensure they can cope with a predicted flood of visitors as one chief executive admitted they face a difficult balancing act to re-open the countryside while protecting rural communities.

A wide-ranging strategy has been put in place ahead of the easing of lockdown restrictions with a dramatic rise in the number of visitors predicted to England’s 10 National Parks.

The chance to re-open the countryside to the nation will provide a boom for the rural economy, while providing a welcome respite for millions of people who have remained confined to their homes.

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The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s chief executive, David Butterworth, said: “There has been huge pressure on people in recent weeks during what is the third national lockdown for England.

Stone barns near Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

“We are prepared for people coming to the Dales as the weather gets better, but the message is still the same – we are in a lockdown and we only want visitors to come when the time is right.

“We want people to enjoy the Dales, and that is our primary objective as the National Park authority. But it has to be done in a way that is safe, both for the visitors as well as the people who live here.”

Mr Butterworth confirmed talks are being held with officials at England’s nine other National Parks after research was undertaken during the past year to analyse habits of visitors.

Data seen by The Yorkshire Post has shown that 23 per cent of all visitors had never been to the Dales before, up from 14 per cent in 2017.

However, it has been difficult to predict where and when visitors will arrive in the Yorkshire Dales, as more than a third do not use information to plan their trip.

Mr Butterworth said efforts will be made to ensure popular destinations such as Reeth, Aysgarth, Grassington and Malham are not flooded with visitors.

More than 100 rangers and volunteers will greet visitors, and North Yorkshire Police patrols will be stepped up to ensure social distancing is adhered to.

Discussions are also underway with landowners and farmers to use their fields as temporary car parks.