Walking is rather Moorish

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Some people confuse the North York Moors with the Yorkshire Dales
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I had to correct Rev Richard Coles when he suggested my roots lay in the Dales

In his column from 17th January 1981, my dad discusses the fact that we often have to explain to those not familiar with Yorkshire that we are blessed with two separate national parks in our great county, and that the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors are not one and the same. I came across this confusion myself when I was invited to speak about taking over my dad’s columns on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live programme in 2017.

In the minutes just before going on air, the host, the Reverend Richard Coles, was clarifying his introduction. He had written a sentence about how I was a descendent of the Dales. I had to politely explain that my roots were in fact in the Moors and that the Dales lay west of the A1 motorway adjoining the Lake District, while the Moors lay east of the A1 adjoining the coast.

“Descended from distinguished Moor persons, Sarah Walker discusses her Yorkshire heritage,” was how I was finally introduced, my correction no doubt spoiling the alliterative flow of his original version.

The North York Moors National Park was established in 1952 with Yorkshire  Dales following in 1964. The aim was to protect and celebrate the landscape, wildlife and cultural and industrial heritage. Visitors would be encouraged, bringing with them much-needed income to fund the important work of the authorities. 

In 1981 when Dad was writing his column, the North York Moors National Park Committee was looking at ways to increase its revenue to support its upkeep, and he says: ‘Whether a professional marketing approach could ‘sell’ the National Park is a matter for long discussion.’

Little did he know then that 11 years later, his own literary endeavours would result in a marketing triumph for his beloved Moors when Heartbeat became an instant TV hit. 

In 2009 the Yorkshire Tourist Board was rebranded as ‘Welcome to Yorkshire’ and a far more commercial approach towards promoting tourism was adopted. It has recently launched its new initiative, ‘Welcome to Walkshire’, to encourage people to make the most of the hundreds of public footpaths in our fabulous county. Obviously, during lockdown, we do have to stay very close to our own homes, but once it is over, no doubt we will be keen to explore further afield. 

If we are out and about though, we do have to share our footways responsibly and considerately, which sadly does not always happen. Following my column a couple of weeks ago where I talked about my small side business of dog care, I was contacted by a reader who expressed disappointment at the behaviour of some dog owners who had allowed their pet to run towards him and nearly trip him over, then expressed astonishment at him for his lack of delight at this unwanted greeting.

I have encountered this kind of behaviour myself in dog owners who think that anyone who does not willingly submit to the wayward behaviour of their canine companions must be a some kind of cold-blooded animal hater. But people should not have to tolerate being accosted by a smelly, slobbering hound if they don’t want to. My own policy is that if I spot someone coming towards me without a dog, and I know my dog will want to greet them, I will place it back on the lead until I have ascertained whether the stranger will welcome the uninvited displays of canine affection. 

One of my regular routes is an old railway line that is shared by pedestrians, dogs and bikes. And the key word here is ‘shared’. There are plenty of people, in each category, who seem to think they have a god-given right to conduct themselves however they wish, and that the rest of us have to adapt to them. I’ve lost count of the amount of times bike, pedestrian and dog have nearly come a cropper because of the stubborn refusal to share the route sensibly.

Cyclists, if you are approaching people with dogs, please slow down and sound your bell. Dog walkers, please stand aside and make sure you have control of your dog while the cyclists go past.

And lastly if, like me, you love walking dogs, and even if they are the sweetest dogs on earth, please make sure they are not also the sources of pain in other people’s necks.

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 22nd January and the Gazette & Herald on 20th January 2021

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