ICV: Environmental – Yorkshire Dales Assessment

What we chose to do and why?

Earlier in the year after we had decided what we were doing for our first ICV task we were unsure of what to do for our second. Then when we were planning our Silver DofE Expedition route and aim, we realised that one of these would count towards our Chief Scout’s Diamond Award. As a team, we decided to do this as it would count towards both things.

Our team of four (Matthew, Scott, Chris and Crispin) Silver DofE Expedition took place in the Yorkshire Dales from the 26th August to the 28th August 2017. Over the bank holiday weekend, we covered a distance of 57km from Sleightholme Farm, staying at Gunnerside Gill the first night, before heading on staying at Grinton Lodge YHA for the second night, before making our way to the finish at the Mill Bank Arms in Barningham.

The aim was to:

Investigate the impact of Tourism (Especially Expeditions) on the Dales Environment & Community. Complete an impact assessment on your expedition.”

Our Impact Assessment

Sticking to Footpaths

The Yorkshire Dales has approximately 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of rights of way, anywhere we walked we should have followed either footpaths/bridleways/ tracks or small sections of roads. But if we weren’t to keep to these we would increase footpaths erosion and destroy habitats and spoil the appearance of the area for the local community.  By keeping to them we did the following:

  • Minimised footpaths erosion.
  • Helped to maintain distinct footpaths and bridleways.

But as we found out this isn’t always possible especially in the less popular areas as the paths aren’t walked much meaning they get overgrown and disappear resulting in them being very hard to find or not possible to define at all.  The impact of this is that wildlife habitats can be destroyed and money has to be spent putting things right again.

Closing Gates

One of the most common things that we saw over the course of our expedition on gates was asking people to shut them once they have gone through. We, of course, did this unless it was already open as specified in the country code. There are many reasons for this including:

  • Keeping wildlife and farm animals in/ out.
  • Preventing unauthorised access of people (Rights of Way).

There are many impacts on the wildlife and community if we don’ t shut gates such as farm animals escaping onto a major road and being knocked over and killed reducing the farmers’ profits and affecting the rest of the farm as well. Besides this, tourists can inadvertently step onto private property if they don’t use gates creating tension and conflict costing the locals money in repairs to fences and crops.

Picking up litter

In more urban areas such as towns and cities, the amount of litter dotted around is much greater than in the countryside where most people take it with them and pick up any that they spot, including us. There are a lot of reasons why people do this which include:

  • Helps to keep the area clean and tidy.
  • Prevents damaging the environment and animals within it.

Despite people’s best efforts to keep the countryside litter free there are still some people who think that it’s ok to litter! As a result of this, it can be harmful to the environment and to wildlife causing them injury if they consume a piece of litter or cut themselves on a can. As well as this on warm summers days glass bottles can easily ignite causing wildfires which can devastate the local area. The 130 national park workers work hard along with other volunteers to keep the area looking tidy and free of litter meaning that tourists continue coming back bringing more money into the local economy for the community.

Keeping Dogs on a Lead

In line with the country code and as shown on multiple signs and gates you should keep your dog(s) on a lead. There are many reasons for this which include things like:

  • Preventing livestock and dog from getting attacked.
  • Stops your dog going missing, getting into a problem and having an extended walk.
  • Protects farmer’s crops and wildlife in general.

If you let your dog off its lead especially in a field of cows it can be attacked as it will intimidate them. There have been many cases across the country where dog owners have also been attacked by livestock as their dogs intimidated the animals. Finally, it stops farmer’s crops from being destroyed reducing farms income, which in turn doesn’t help the local community and also scaring the likes of grouse and rabbits.

Grouse Shooting

The popular sport of grouse shooting has remained in the Yorkshire Dales ever since Grinton Lodge housed Victorian Shooting parties who would shoot up on Grinton Moor nearby. Different people have different reasons for grouse shooting such as:

  • Pursuing a love of hunting.
  • Socialising with other people with similar interests.
  • Experiencing the countryside in a different way, seeing different things happen as the day goes by.

However, the thrill of shooting for some comes at a price for the environment as it is controversial and causes arguments across the 2179 square kilometres of National park first established in 1954. On the other hand, it brings a lot of tourism into the area from gatherings, secures investment in conservation, preserves wildlife species and reduces the risk of wildfires as moorland is burnt under control by experienced people. Finally, it provides walkers as well as hunters with a place to rest and stay if the weather turns bad in one of the many hunting lodges dotted around the Yorkshire Dales.

Tan Hill Inn

Tan Hill Inn is the highest Pub in the British Isles, standing at 1,732 ft (528 m) above sea level. The building dates back to the 17th century when it was built and used as a place for coal pit workers to shelter in during the 18th century. The last mine closed in 1929, however, the pub stayed open due to the custom of local farmers. Now it provides:

  • A local pub to tourists and local residents.
  • A starting point for walks in the surrounding area.

This provides income for the pub which helps the local area by bringing money in, but may also have an impact on the wildlife if people walking don’t stick to footpaths, close gates, stick to the countryside code and so on.

Gunnerside Gill

In the 19th century, the valley of Gunnerside Gill used to house several lead mines where hundreds of workers would trek up each day to work there. The lead ore from the valley was crushed in the buildings nearby and then transported for smelting in the nearby area. Peat was harvested for burning in the kilns and reservoirs built and blasted to help reveal the lead ore. Nowadays it’s a popular tourist destination in the Yorkshire Dales providing:

  • A place for wild campers to stay.
  • Somewhere for walkers to rest from bad weather in the buildings within.
  • Provides an income from tourist starting in the village below taking in the views of the area’s industrial past.

However, all of this doesn’t come without impacting the environment and wildlife. The landscape remains very hard and tricky to cross in some places with loose rocks and steep-sided valleys meaning that we have to be careful where we stepped. As usual when walking and wild camping picking up litter to protect the environment and wildlife is very important. It’s also important that we pitch our tents in an appropriate place for shelter from the elements and as daft as it may sound leaving somewhere to go to the toilet away from water sources to prevent contaminating them which we would drink (with purification tablets), cook and wash with. As well as cooking in a safe area where we reduce the chance of damaging the environment/ causing a fire.

Grinton

The small village of Grinton close to Reeth and Fremington has changed over the years due to the tourism in the local area. In the 18th century, the stone bridge across the River Swale was widened. The church of St Andrews was for centuries the main church for the whole of Swaledale, with burial’s coming from miles away. Just outside the village is Grinton Lodge Youth Hostel which was refurbished to a high specification in 2012. It provides the local community with:

  • A popular stopping off point for the coast to coast.
  • Some local job opportunities.

Villages like Grinton have mostly positive impacts on the local community as it’s a place that they can go and meet up with others. As well as this, tourists like us spend money, staying in the youth hostel meaning that the area benefits as it provides people with all sorts of job opportunities and boosts the local economy.

Farming and Reeth Agricultural Show

The Dales have been famed for thousands of years and without farming the moors would be mostly covered in forests. There are 1,090 farms in the Yorkshire Dales. When on an expedition we must be aware of them and not destroy them by:

  • Not sticking to paths and destroying crops.
  • Intimidating animals.

By not sticking to paths there is a high chance we could destroy crops and intimidate animals which reduces the amount of money the farmer gets and then affects how the community evolves too. It also damages wildlife habitats as previously mentioned.

On the third and final day of our expedition (Monday bank holiday), we saw and heard Reeth Agricultural Show. This is where farmers come and show off their livestock, produce as well as trade them. This brings in money for Reeth and the local area helping to improve the area further benefitting the local community.

Conclusion

Overall expeditions like ours do have an impact on the environment, but as long as you obey the countryside code, respect the area and are sensible you can dramatically reduce your impact on the local community and wildlife. These are generally simple things that take seconds such as shutting gates and staying on a footpath.

A selection of photos from our expedition are below:

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~ Matthew & Scott Connett


Click for more information on completing your Chief Scout Diamond Award

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