YORKSHIRE is fortunate to be blessed by three National Parks of unrivalled beauty – and it did not require an academic study by University of York researchers to confirm the recuperative benefits of an invigorating day out in the countryside or a trip to the coast to take in the sea air and views.
Yet, while the latest research focuses on the positive contribution that the North York Moors makes to the health and wellbeing of visitors, this report has wider policy ramifications ahead of the Cleveland Way’s 50th anniversary next year.
The seven-fold return in health benefits for visitors and volunteers does, in fact, strengthen the case for the Government to make further funds available for the upkeep of these iconic locations at a time when Ministers have been cutting investment in one of their more short-sighted moves.
If these parks are to remain the envy of the world, and continue to make a significant contribution to the vitality of the nation, then they do need to be properly maintained in order to retain their special status.
And then there’s the issue of accessibility. For, while the Moors, Yorkshire Dales and Peak District, can be easily reached by motorists, days out are more difficult to plan for those at the mercy of public transport. Buses have not been exempt from spending cuts and it is services in rural areas that have been hit most badly.
Yet, regrettably, this situation is unlikely to change until Ministers begin to acknowledge the countryside’s existence – this week’s Budget once again ignored the rural economy – and the Government views spending in the North York Moors, and other parks, as an investment in the nation’s future health. If leaders did so, even more people will enjoy the benefits of a day out in the fresh air and, in doing so, ease the burden on the NHS because of their improved health, fitness and wellbeing.