An easy-going mountain bike trail is to be created along the length of Swaledale, between Reeth and Keld.
The Swale Trail ill be aimed at aspiring young mountain bikers and families who want to ride together.
It will be a unique facility in the Yorkshire Dales National Park – a valley bottom route 20km (12 miles) in length, of which 75% will be on traffic free tracks.
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Access rights for the trail already exist, as it brings together sections of bridleway and what are known as ‘unsurfaced, unclassified roads’.
Turning it into the Swale Trail will include upgrading the surfaces, improving drainage and protecting sections which have suffered from river bank erosion and flooding.
This work will take place in stages through the rest of 2017, with the official opening planned for Easter 2018.
The project, to be managed by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA), will cost £221,000. Funding has come from The Yorkshire Dales LEADER programme (£98,000); Richmondshire District Council’s Economic Growth Fund (£50,000); the YDNPA (£60,000); and the Pennine Trails National Trails Partnership (£13,000).
People will be able to complete as much or as little as they want of the Swale Trail, as it divides into three sections with various options to visit villages, pubs, cafes, accommodation and other tourism businesses.
It will be a ‘multi-user trail’, meaning that it can be used by all, including walkers and horse riders.
It will be promoted to people with mobility difficulties and families with buggies.
YDNPA Area Ranger for Swaledale, Michael Briggs, who will be responsible for working with local contractors to carry out the construction works, said: “We have been preparing for this project for the last year and it is something that the local people and businesses I have talked to are keen to see.
“I am really looking forward to getting on with the work so that the Swale Trail is available for the 2018 season.”
Nick Cotton, YDNPA Member Champion for Recreation Management, said: “We have great cycling in the Yorkshire Dales for experienced cyclists, but it has long been recognised that we lack easy cycle routes for families and those new to cycling.
“The Swale Trail will play a major part in addressing this. It will be a wonderful new asset in Swaledale for visitors and residents alike.
“It was really helpful that Richmondshire District Council supported the project at an early stage.
“Without their £50,000 financial contribution we couldn’t have put the funding package in place.”