Cars are destroying Britain’s national parks – it’s time we embrace sustainable transport

What’s worse: a big gray tarmac car park, or vehicles lining every road as far as the eye can see? That’s the question I asked myself as I stood on the hillside of Winnats Head, overlooking the honeypot village of Castleton. It’s a great sight, even though the roads are full of cars. A car park might make all the difference, but the landscape would also be native.

I spent the night before my trip into the Peak District at Mosborough Hall, a charming little hotel just south of Sheffield, most of whose guests are en route to the Peak District “for beauty-focused stays natural area. ”, explains general manager Richard Beck. “In recent years, we have seen much younger guests. Walkers, climbers and cyclists, for example.” The car park was bulging by the time I checked in.

From there it was on to Bakewell, the Peak District’s most famous honey town, famous for its medieval bridge, sweet treat and proximity to Chatsworth House, which featured prominently in the 2005 adaptation of Pride and prejudice. After a small scrum to get into the main car park, I found the beautiful town packed to the gills. Water Street, home to various cafes and gift shops, was thronged by visitors to the lane, huge queues spilling out of every shop.

“It’s busy, but it’s not unusual for a bank holiday, it’s always like this,” said my waiter, as I tucked into the local specialty dish at The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop. “It keeps us in business. Anyone trying to reduce the number of tourists would be out of work by the end of the month, even if they don’t admit it.”

However, for residents the picture is not so clear. Tourism in Bakewell is a “double-edged sword” says Judith Crosse, who lives locally and often visits Bakewell. She admits she feels ambivalent about the way visitors affect the area. “The local economy is very dependent on visitors, but I bought three books from the shop on Saturday and was the best customer of the day. Tourism can be haphazard like that. Bakewell ‘suffers’ in particular because it is accessible from Manchester, Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby, and has the great attraction of Chatsworth House on its doorstep.”

Traffic congestion in the town of Bakewell has become so bad that locals are turning around and driving home

Traffic congestion in the town of Bakewell has become so bad that locals are turning around and driving home – Andrew Fox

The biggest problem, according to Crosse, is cars. “In general, people who live within the Peak District think twice about going out on bank holidays because of the traffic,” she says. “I’ve turned around and gone home because of traffic more times than I can count. Even the secret rat becomes known to the locals.”

I am warned to avoid Kildeaghlan, a village to the south, at all costs, and Crosse says I am lucky there are no major events at Chatsworth this weekend as these would make life hell for drivers.

Things came to an embarrassing end for the Peak District over the Easter Weekend, when cyclists posted a video of the A6 grinding to a halt. A trip to Matlock? More like a trip to a traffic jam. As expected, the viral video sparked a wider conversation about how “the tourism industry has destroyed every national park in the country”, according to one Facebook commenter.

After visiting a few national parks in recent months, following stories of over-tourism, I think that idea is overblown. To my eyes, the Peak District looked very civilized. There may be clickable stories of piles of rubbish at Dovedale, packets of crisps banging around Kinder Scout’s peak, and used nappies littered with litter paths around Ladybower Reservoir, but I found nothing of the sort.

Yes, many people were out exploring on a pleasant and pleasant Saturday afternoon. Yes, I got busy paths from time to time. But why not? Everyone I saw enjoyed the landscape safely and respectfully. I was impressed to see plenty of guidance on how to do that around the park, and there was no shortage of bins. Only with a stick in the mud would he be able to resent their fellow man for going out to enjoy the outdoors.

The only issue I faced in the beautiful Peak District was the cars.

Research from car brand Dacia and parking website JustPark found that 21 million Britons – just over 40 per cent of drivers – were planning a road trip over the bank holiday weekend, with one in 10 saying the their only big road trip in town. year. National parks like the Peak District face problems around bank holidays for a reason. Interestingly, however, 69 percent of those surveyed cited the inability to find a parking space as one of their biggest concerns about making the trip.

In the Peak District, they should be concerned. Everywhere I drove, there were vehicles lined up on the streets, grassy verges and roadsides full of vehicles. It made driving around the park fiddly and sometimes dangerous (the only bus I saw during my adventure was swerving wildly around a sharp corner to avoid cars parked on the side of the road).

“Make sure you write about the car parks,” said Sam, a student climber I met at Stanage Edge, a popular bouldering spot, when I told him I was with him. The Telegraph. “The car park was free when we started coming up here a few years ago, but now they charge so you have cars parked all over the roads.”

Tourists at Stanage Edge in the Peak District, popular with climbersTourists at Stanage Edge in the Peak District, popular with climbers

Tourists at Stanage Edge in the Peak District, popular with climbers – Andrew Fox

I was told that parking policies are “inconsistent” throughout the national park. Some car parks require cash payment while others require app payment (phone signals in rural areas can make this difficult at the best of times.) “The park could definitely do more to advertise where the car parks, their capacity and how to pay in advance, ” suggests Allie, Sam’s partner.

Could parking be better? Maybe. But here is the Gordian knot that all national parks must untangle: people come here to find an unspoiled natural landscape, but their presence is what destroys it. Which brings us back to that question: car-lined roads or more car parks? Is there a lesser of two evils?

Simple analysis would suggest fewer cars altogether, but when 13.25 million people (and rising) visit the Peak District each year, and according to the National Park authority’s own statistics, 85 percent of them travel by car, it is a fantasy.

The park is already served by five different railway lines and dozens of buses per hour; You would find it difficult to argue that there is a lack of public transport links, especially compared to the likes of the Lake District or the Yorkshire Dales, which are not as well served by rail. The truth is that driving is more convenient for most.

It’s not like the national park is shirking its responsibilities here either. Following a regional symposium with private and public sector stakeholders, he appointed a sustainable travel officer tasked with advising the five local authorities whose public transport serves the park on matching visitor needs with the services provided. The role also includes a commitment to promoting sustainable travel.

“We recognize that many visitors still choose to travel to the Peak District by car, which is why our own car park network continues to offer very competitive rates, enabling people to park safely and thoughtfully away from the side of the road,” Peak District National Park. the authority’s spokesperson told the telegraph. “We continue to work closely with local transport authorities and private operators to understand the wider picture of travel to and within the Peak District, so that policies and services can meet expectations and push relief in the most affected areas.”

What to do then? The answers are the same clear recommendations that every national park has been making in recent years: we should all use public transportation, we should keep an eye on the less frequented areas, and we should use our plan parking more carefully. And if you’re stuck in traffic, try not to get angry – after all, you’re part of the problem.

Jack Rear was a guest at Mosborough Hall Hotel, which offers double rooms from £89.95 per night. Dacia organized a rental car.

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