THE Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has heralded its 'Tracks in Time' festival, which came to a close last week, as a huge success having drawn in thousands of early season visitors.
The 'Tracks in Time' festival started in February with an exhibition at the Dales Countryside Museum before going into full swing over the Easter holiday period. Festival highlights included a visit by the Roman soldiers of the Ermine Street Guard, walks, cycle and horse rides, before closing last week with "Ian McMillan's Muddy Boots Family Show" - an evening of poetry with the well-known 'Barnsley Bard'.
The festival's aim was to celebrate the fact that over 99.6 percent of the park's footpaths and bridleways are now open and ready to be enjoyed by all.
Communications officer Cassandra Tebb commented: "The public response to the festival was great. The Roman occupation in Malham prompted record visitor figures, out-doing visitor numbers on the years before the foot and mouth outbreak.
"The message that the countryside is open is clearly getting through to the public and they are returning in droves after a disastrous year last year."
Despite the end of the 'Tracks in Time' festival, the authority is offering a full events programme that will run throughout the year. It will feature guided walks, craft demonstrations and a range of activities to appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds.
"The public missed out last year, yet thankfully this year is already proving to be different. With foot and mouth disease banished and the reopening of the footpaths and bridleways we are optimistic the public will continue to return and rediscover what they missed out on last year", said Miss Tebb.
The visitor numbers through the National Park Authority's National Park Centres confirmed that visitors were on the up. Figure for this year's Easter weekend totalled across all seven national park centres was 21,685, up from last year's total of 8,936 and 2000's figures of 17,521.