Beauty of Wales no longer off-limits for walkers

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The Independent Online

Its inaccessible remoteness harbours some of Britain's most beautiful wildlife and habitat. Home to nesting peregrines, golden plovers and purple saxifrage, an arctic plant rarely found so far south, many believe the Brecon Beacons beat all national parks for variety.

Its inaccessible remoteness harbours some of Britain's most beautiful wildlife and habitat. Home to nesting peregrines, golden plovers and purple saxifrage, an arctic plant rarely found so far south, many believe the Brecon Beacons beat all national parks for variety.

And from today, the Brecon Beacons will be available to all - as the right of open access is launched throughout Wales and northern England, in the third and most dramatic wave of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (Crow).

At a stroke, 22 per cent of Welsh land will become available and the Yorkshire Dales national park will see its accessible areas increase from 4 per cent to 62 per cent (27.2 sq miles to 421 sq miles). Massive areas of the Dales' mountain, moor, heath, down and registered common land previously off limits to walkers, will be declared open during a ceremony at Ribblehead valley.

Ribblehead, which is famous for its viaduct on the Settle-Carlisle line, sits amid three famous peaks, Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-Gent - much of which is classified as new, open-access land.

Ramblers will also be able to find new delights in other Dales areas including Upper Nidderdale, Malham, Cotterdale (north of Hawes) and Swaledale, particu- larly Gunnerside, Thwaite and Keld.

Some national parks are more exuberant about the new access than others. For the North York Moors, the Crow act has arrived in the nesting season for merlin, lapwing and curlew, so officers are encouraging walkers to keep the designated routes to protect the birds.

But Northumberland believes that new routes up to the Scottish Border ridge will provide the kind of physical challenge that many will appreciate, in the heart of the Cheviots. Likely new visitors will include relic hunters searching for aircraft downed near the border during the Second World War.

The Brecon Beacons, meanwhile, will today launch a new Beacons Way - the first route to traverse the length of the National Park. The 100-mile route, from Abergavenny to the village of Bethlehem in Carmarthenshire, is not for the faint-hearted.

The route guide breaks the walk into eight days, there is an 18,570ft total ascent and the path is not marked across open hills and commons because the national park opposes intrusive signposting.

Instead, walkers must navigate by map and compass. But the rewards include Iron Age hill forts, standing stones and Victorian reservoirs. Landscapes range from windswept uplands, to reservoirs, ancient woodlands and waterfalls.

Nick Barrett, chief executive of the Ramblers Association, said: "For many the joy of walking is getting off the beaten track; everyone now has a right to do that and I hope people will take the opportunity to discover these beautiful areas."

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