Rangers from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) have joined forces with North Yorkshire Police to try to reduce the damage to the sensitive landscape caused by illegal off-roading.
A series of joint patrols has been organised aimed at educating trail riders and 4x4 users about where they can and can not legally go – as well as taking action against illegal off-roaders and people using vehicles that are not roadworthy.
The vast majority of trail riders and 4x4 users who come to the National Park drive legally and responsibly. However, a small number of irresponsible users cause considerable problems and damage the reputation of all motor vehicle users.
In the latest incident on Sunday, February 20, two drivers of Land Rovers smashed through drystone walls to escape after they were found by police illegally driving on a bridleway above Banks Lane near Settle.
PC Harry Carpenter of North Yorkshire Police said: “I was told by members of the public that there were a number of four-wheel drive vehicles in Banks Lane so I went up there on foot.
“I saw five vehicles there but, unfortunately, when I got to with a couple of hundred metres of them, two of them left the scene, smashing their way through the drystone walls to escape. They went onto Langcliffe High Road and rejoined the main road there.
“The drivers of the other three vehicles have been spoken to.”
National Park Area Ranger Matt Neale said the patrols had been organised because of concern about the illegal use of trail bikes and 4x4s in a number of locations. Motorcycles have been seen leaving public rights of way and causing damage to surrounding land and disturbing stock in Upper Wenselydale.
And a number of complaints have also been received from members of the public in Coverdale and Malhamdale about the activity.
“The use of off-road vehicles in the countryside is one of the most contentious recreational issues facing the National Park,” he said.
“We receive more correspondence on this matter than any other recreational activity.
“The majority of visitors come to the National Park to experience the special qualities of the area and to get away from the hustle and bustle of every day life. Illegal motor vehicular use can impinge on this.
“There can also be environmental damage caused by vehicles leaving legal routes and attempting to traverse sensitive habitats such as peat moorland – this can cause severe, long-term damage.”
So far this year, these joint patrols have stopped and checked more than 50 trail riders and 4x4s. Police also issued warnings to the owners of several off-road motorcycles that were being used irresponsibly near Semer Water.
Sgt Stuart Grainger from the Leyburn and Dales police team said: “We are not opposed to the lawful and responsible use of off-road vehicles and motorbikes and the National Park or the Trail Riders Fellowship are able to advise off-roaders about the acceptable routes to use.
“But due to the volume of complaints I have received regarding environmental damage and nuisance in the National Park, we are now regularly working alongside our National Park colleagues to take action against those who use or ride their vehicles in an antisocial manner, or in places where vehicles are not permitted.
“This includes bridleways and footpaths, routes closed by Traffic Regulation Orders, common land, and private land where the express permission of the landowner has not been obtained.
“Offenders risk substantial fines and having their vehicles confiscated.”