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Column: Downside to being popular with tourists
THE fuss over last week’s national newspaper comments by Pendle’s tourism officer is quite hard to understand.
As his borough gears up for August’s 400th anniversary of the Pendle Witch trials Mike Williams described the Lake District as ‘a supermarket for walking.’ This description seems to have upset many in Cumbria but it’s difficult to understand why.
Anyone who makes the hour or so’s drive to the Lakes (or places like Malham in the Dales) when schools are off or on a bank holiday weekend will know exactly what he means.
To quote our American cousins you have to ‘wait in line’ to get into the main centres of the national park – just as you have to at weekends for a lot of supermarket car parks.
Then when you’ve sat on the back bumper of the car to put your boots on and waited your turn to use the public loos you quite often have to keep altering pace on popular treks to overtake or maintain a comfortable distance from all the other hikers.
Also half way round a typical well-worn 12 mile circular trail you’ll want to stop to have the packed lunch but will often find the best resting spots already occupied.
And at the end of the day getting out of car parks in places like Ambleside is often pretty similar to queuing at a supermarket checkout!
There are reasons, of course, why the area is so popular – there are some supremely beautiful walks to be had.
There’s also a massive tourism infrastructure which means that if it’s misty and wet you can spend all day looking round shops selling clothing and all kinds of accessories for walking!
The best time to go walking in the Lake District is early spring or autumn – or one of those cold, crisp blue-sky winter days.
East Lancashire by contrast offers lots of great walking routes with rolling hills, forests, reservoirs, rivers and moorland all easily accessible and uncluttered for the big majority of the year.
There is a problem of course.
People like Mr Williams are tasked to change that – by getting more and more visitors to come and explore boroughs like Pendle and the Ribble Valley.
In the past six months I’ve read half a dozen national newspaper features telling southerners for example that the Forest of Bowland is a ‘little-known gem’ for hikers and mountain bikers.
The trouble is each one of them puts us on the path to becoming as crowded as south Cumbria!
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