ITS 554 square miles include one of Britain’s largest expanses of heather, and within the deep dales that intersect its moorland plateau nestle some of the country’s most spectacular locations.
The North York Moors has been a national park since 1952 but, it was conceded yesterday, legislation alone is no longer enough to guarantee its wellbeing.
The launch of a charitable trust which, it is hoped, will attract donations and bequests from individuals a well as corporate sponsors, was hailed as a big step in shoring up the financial health of the moors.
“Trusts like this can generate money in the millions, not just the hundreds of thousands,” said Andy Wilson, chief executive of the North York Moors National Park Authority, who will chair the Trust. Setting it up, he said, marked the realisation of “a long-held ambition to maximise efforts to conserve the landscape and wildlife of the area”.
It aims to grow into a major conservation force in the region but is beginning with baby steps across the moors, with a raft of projects that aim to increase knowledge, especially among young people, of nocturnal moth populations and to establishing a “Centenary Walk” in the village of Goathland, a tourist hotspot especially popular with viewers of the TV series, Heartbeat.
Mr Wilson said: “A huge part of the Trust’s work is focussed on ensuring the North York Moors can be enjoyed for generations to come. It’s therefore imperative that we engage the younger generation in what we do.”
Made up of nine trustees, the Trust will be independent of the statutory National Park Authority which administers the North York Moors, but the two will support each other, Mr Wilson said.
It isn’t a new idea. North Yorkshire is the only county with two national parks, and the larger one to the west has worked in partnership with the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust for two decades.
“This sort of arrangement happens very often in the US,” Mr Wilson said. “It’s a question of trying to trap funds that are not currently used.”
The launch, accompanied by the publication of a leaflet advising on how to bequeath money to the Trust, came three months after analysis showed that government funding for the 13 national parks in England and Wales would fall by two-fifths by the end of the decade,
Sharp cuts to the parks’ annual grants imposed by the coalition were followed by a pledge by the last Conservative government to protect funding up to 2020. But a report in July forecast that most parks would have suffered a fall in real terms fall of more than 40 per cent between 2010 and 2020.
Mr Wilson said that “having been through a period of great stress”, the Moors was in relatively good financial health.
Sir William Worsley, a trustee of the new charity, said at yesterday’s launch: “This is a very special area, one I have been lucky enough to enjoy all my life.
“The Trust has been set up to help secure the future of the North York Moors, to ensure that future generations can continue to fall in love with this place of awe-inspiring beauty.”