Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Celebrating North Yorkshire's Open Access walks (30/8/11)

There are parts of the Yorkshire Wolds which were largely inaccessible to walks until the right to roam.

One such is Fairy Dale, a small dry chalkland valley near Burdale. It's a Site of Special Scientific Interest and features typical chalk grassland plants; and it's also the home of the closed-up mouth of the Burdale Tunnel, through which the old Malton-Driffield Railway used to pass before it closed in the 1950s. It's an area rich in human history dating back thousands of years; and also has a rare outcrop of breccia - angular fragments of flint and hard chalk cemented with calcite - known locally as the 'Fairy Stones'.

Today I visited the peaceful Fairy Dale to help launch a booklet describing this and nine other open access walks in North Yorkshire. The booklet, a collaboration between the local council and the local Ramblers Area, has apparently been as popular as hot cakes in local tourist centres (the landlord at our pub lunch-stop commented on how well it goes down with visitors - which means it's good for local trade).

Also at the launch was Lord Middleton, the landowner, who has helped by giving permission for two new paths and entry points for the months February to June, until 2013, for this walk; Cllr Stephen Shaw from North Yorks County Council; and Ramblers volunteer Tom Halstead, who wrote the guidebook and did much of the work to assemble the walks.

It was good to see how the greater access rights which we now enjoy are opening up previously secret parts of the countryside. It's also good to see the council, the Ramblers, and the landowner working together to make these new walks a success.

Thanks to all who took part in the launch today, including Peter Leese, Peter Ayling, and Chris Bush.

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