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Busy – and secure – Easter in the Yorkshire Dales

Friday 10 April 2009

HOTELIERS, restaurateurs and publicans are looking forward to a boom Easter in the Yorkshire Dales as millions of Britons who normally go abroad stay at home, worried by the credit crunch and the plunging pound. It should be a good time for children and wildlife – but our countryside commentator John Sheard says heed the warnings and be on the look out for criminals.

This is an important time for the tourist industry, which suffered terribly last year when the earliest Easter for a century coincided with foul weather, and so far (touch wood) the Yorkshire Dales are experiencing the best spring for some years. And the signs for a busy Easter are so far are good.

The Caravan Club this week reported that advanced bookings in Britain were up 40% on last year with the “staycation” – the holiday at home – showing signs of returning to its once traditional place in the English calendar. And various authorities are going to extra lengths of encourage that trend.

Malham Cove
Easter in the Dales: Enjoy the break

The Yorkshire Dales National Park has once again set up its popular viewing platform for the peregrine falcons – the fastest creature in the animal kingdom – which are again nesting at picturesque Malham Cove.

On a wider front, Natural England, the Government quango charged with caring for the countryside and its wildlife, has just launched a major new scheme to encourage parents to allow their children to get out and about in the wide open spaces.

This follows a gloomy survey about our so-called “cotton wool kids” which showed that less than 10 per cent of modern children are allowed to play out in woodland, parks or open countryside – a statistic of growing concern to medical professionals who are fearful of a huge obesity crisis overwhelming future adult generations.

As a result, Natural England has launched its “One million kids outdoors” programme which aims to encourage more children to visit places such as nature reserves and environmentally friendly farms.

For surprisingly, the survey also revealed that the youngsters thoroughly enjoyed such trips when their parents allowed them to go – a direct contradiction of the commonly held stereotype that modern children are only really happy playing alone in front of a computer or a games console.

Poul Christensen, acting Chair for Natural England said: “Children are being denied the fundamental sense of independence and freedom in nature that their parents enjoyed. Our research shows that contact with nature has halved in a generation, and that the overwhelming majority of children now want more opportunities to play outdoors.”

Natural England is hoping that this message is now beginning to sink in with over-protective parents – and that Easter will be the first holiday when they encourage their children to go venture into the great outdoors.

Unfortunately, the agency also felt it necessary to launch another initiative here in the Yorkshire Dales to warn visitors and locals alike that their might also be some unwanted people about this Easter – mainly town-based criminals.

Rural crime has been growing for a decade or more because measures like Neighbourhood Watch schemes are driving thieves out of the towns and suburbs into the countryside. One of their favourite targets tends to be cars left parked in lonely spots for hours on end by ramblers going off on long walks.

Thieves patrol popular walking spots, often spotting likely victims as they prepare for their walk, and returning when the walkers are safely out of sight. This, and the lack of witnesses in such spots, allows the thieves plenty of time to dismantle even the most complex security devices and escape with often valuable items like cameras, binoculars and satellite navigation systems – if not the car itself!

visitors will be welcome in the Yorkshire Dales this weekend. Bring the kids and let them run free for a

To combat a potential crime wave this Easter, Natural England, North Yorkshire police and the Yorkshire Dales National Park have introduced a new joint initiative called “Operation Moorwatch” – and they are asking for the public’s co-operation in making sure it succeeds.

Rural crime also covers a wide range of illegal activities like fly tipping, poaching, wildlife crime, quad bike theft, off-roading and bird of prey persecution. Each year many such incidents are reported, especially during the holiday season when visitors flock to rural areas.

During the Easter period Moorwatch posters and leaflets will be circulated around village halls, tourist information offices, B and B’s and visitor attractions. Natural England officials hope that by simply raising people’s awareness of the issue and reminding them to be vigilant the number of incidents will reduce.

Anyone seeing anything suspicious should phone North Yorkshire Police on 0845 6060 247 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 and quote ‘Operation Moorwatch’.

So, with that warning in mind, visitors will be welcome in the Yorkshire Dales this weekend. Bring the kids and let them run free for a while. Enjoy the scenery, the wildlife, and perhaps a meal or a beer in one of scores of traditional English pubs. We all deserve a break from the national doom and gloom – and what better place to spend it?

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