Whether your saddle is on a horse or a bike there are some new scenic routes to try in the northern Yorkshire Dales. A series of new guides has been unveiled to encourage locals and visitors from across the UK to saddle up for a trip in North Yorkshire.

The online guides promote a network of eight circular rides using North Yorkshire’s extensive rights of way network. The rides have been selected to take advantage of the outstanding scenery and history of the area. The area covered stretches from Arkengarthdale and Swaledale in the north to Lower Wensleydale and Coverdale in the south.

The bespoke guides have been created by local British Horse Society volunteer John Presgrave who has spent the last 12 months developing them. The circular trails range from five to twelve miles, with options to suit most abilities. All the rides have been test ridden by the local Richmondshire and Bedale Bridleway Group and endurance riding groups.

John said,  “As with a similar project in Devon, I hope the bespoke, colourful and concise nature of the guides and maps will create an enjoyable riding experience for locals and visitors alike.  This project gives local businesses an opportunity to tap into a potentially lucrative market and unlock the beauty of Yorkshire Dales for a whole new audience.”

On the beautifully sunny morning of 20 April three horse riders and two cyclists followed the route of the Marske circular to mark the launch of the scheme with an inaugural celebratory ride. This six mile easy going route takes riders through the glades of Clints Wood in the Marske valley, and on to the typical heather covered terrain of Skelton Moor with views towards Teesdale in the north and into Swaledale just to the south. There was an opportunity for a short canter in the fields above Telfit Farm, and despite the recent melting snow on the moor, the going was reasonably firm. The morning ride was a delightful event to mark the launch of the Northern Dales Rides scheme, and was enjoyed equally by riders and horses.

Riders approach the start in Marske

Riders approach the start in Marske

Support for the project has been provided by The British Horse Society.  Heather Clatworthy, Senior Executive, said: “There are more than 17,500 horses in Yorkshire, and with the increasing volume of traffic on roads, the need for safe off-road riding is higher than ever. It is estimated that the British equestrian industry contributes more than £2.8 billion to the economy.  These routes are an amazing way of encouraging participation and boosting local tourism.”

North Yorkshire County Council’s Public Rights of Way team and Yorkshire Dales National Park rangers have been working to upgrade and maintain the new routes to ensure they are safe.  Ian Fielding, assistant director of waste and countryside for North Yorkshire County Council, said, “North Yorkshire has more than 3,000 miles (6,000 Km) of public rights of way which we maintain and we welcome projects like this which encourage people to explore the countryside and enjoy the beautiful scenery.”

David Shields, Welcome to Yorkshire’s area director for North Yorkshire, said, “These new guides promise to be a fantastic aide for local riders and a draw to potential riders form across Yorkshire and beyond.”

The routes range from pastoral gentle riding in lower Wensleydale to the wilder and more rugged hilly terrain following old lead mining tracks in Swaledale and Arkengarthdale. Most routes are designed to be ridden at a leisurely pace to take in the magnificent vistas.  Suggestions are made for parking with trailers and horse boxes, and some rides have pubs which offer refreshment and accommodation.

With both local riders and those from further afield using the guides, it should increase economic benefits for local businesses, including food outlets, accommodation providers, saddleries and blacksmiths. Furthermore, as most of the routes are off road, this can only be good news regarding horse rider road accident prevention.

The project has come to fruition thanks to the support from North Yorkshire County Council Public Rights of Way team, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, the British Horse Society and the Richmondshire and Bedale Bridleway Group

The individual guides and maps are available as downloadable PDFs from the North Yorkshire County Council website – www.northyorks.gov.uk/rides.

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