Drive & Stroll, with Ron Freethy - KILNSEY PARK

IN my opinion there are far too few attractions which are open all the year round.

One which is open throughout the year from 9am to 5.30pm is Kilnsey Park.

Situated near Skipton on the B6160 between Threshfield and Kettlewell, you could easily spend a whole day at Kilnsey Park. But it is also set amid some of the most spectacular scenery in Britain.

From East Lancashire the area is quickly reached via the A59.

Kilnsey's list of amenities means that there is something for everyone. There is a trout farm with a viewing area but tickets are available for you to try your hand at fly fishing. In one of the indoor areas there is an exhibition of the history of fly fishing and there is an aquarium featuring British freshwater fish.

There are exhibitions of Dales life through the centuries, displays of stone walling and the life of a shepherd and his dog. There is a farm shop, a pony trekking centre, a children's adventure playground and refreshments.

There is plenty of free parking in and around the centre and so here is an ideal base from which to explore the Dales.

I once read a book which described the Dales as a "natural unspoiled area." Actually this is not true. Very little of the Dales can be described as natural because at one time the limestone hills were clothed in a blanket of trees dominated by ash and oak. Many trees were felled to provide pasture for sheep.

Wool was the main source of income for the abbeys and priories which dominated Britain from the 11th to the mid 16th centuries. Whalley, Sawley, Fountains, Bolton Priory near Skipton and Kirkstall near Leeds are all worth walking through and around.

Long after the monks had gone, the area near Kilnsey was one of the most industrialised in England. Limestone deposits are often associated with seams of lead and mining was a vital industry in the Grassington and other Dales areas for centuries. The remains of these mines and associated smelting works can still be seen and this touch of industrial archaeology adds interest to the walks.

Limestone regions are always well-drained and this makes walking in wet weather much easier. Because fuel was essential during smelting, many of the woods hereabouts were devastated but some remnants remain and here wonderful displays of flowers can be seen in late spring and early summer.

Here you will find wood anemones which are common everywhere, but also globe flower, birds eye primrose, herb paris, milkwort and mountain pansy.

There is a good museum in Grassington run by local volunteers and from here there are splendid walks leading along the River Wharf.

What the area has lacked is other all the year round amenities and Kilnsey has provided this in full measure.

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