In some cases, key workers have been prevented from getting to their jobs because landowners have blocked access to rights of way in Yorkshire’s National Parks, it has emerged.
A new climate of “real fear” among country residents has stoked a rise in hostility towards visitors that will take “some time” to heal, one chief executive has told The Yorkshire Post.
Messages posted on social media and at physical locations in the Dales, North York Moors and the Peak District have singled out walkers and second home owners but have also ensnared some local workers, another senior official said.
The trend has emerged despite the “overwhelming” adherence to government advice on social distancing by the “vast majority” of people, they said.
David Butterworth, chief executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, said there was a “psychological and cultural issue” that had made residents of the Dales “very frightened of a mass exodus to the National Park from urban environments that might have been more readily affected by Covid-19.”
He said: “You’ve seen some of that in social media messages about second homeowners, in some of the abusive signs that have gone up in the area, and in the illegal closures of footpaths by landowners. There is a real fear amongst the community in the Dales and that’s going to take some time to dissipate.”
Sarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District National Park, said the hostility had also affected some workers within the rural communities.
“We’ve seen a couple of examples where signs have been put out and comments made about footpaths being closed, which haven’t necessarily been helpful. We have had reports of key workers who use those footpaths to get to work and finding that they have been closed by members of the public,” she said.
“Other key workers have had signs put on their vehicles while they’ve been doing key work.”
She said that while it had happened only in a minority of cases, it was a “symptom of the fear and anxiety” in country communities.
The last week has seen a ramping-up of arguments on both sides, with the Cave Rescue Organisation in North Yorkshire saying the clarification of how police would interpret the rules on social distancing was “not an open invitation” to the hills and that the increase in walkers was “disappointing” and “frustrating”.
The National Rural Crime Network, National Farmers’ Union and the Country Land and Business Association called for restrictions to be tightened, saying the guidance would make managing Covid-19 more difficult.
They said they were receiving “hundreds of messages every day” from residents complaining of people flouting the law.
Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.
Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.
And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.
Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected]. Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.
If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.
Sincerely. Thank you.
James Mitchinson, Editor