Sir Thomas Ingilby backs new Nidderdale Greenway plan and seeks to reassure landowners
The owner of Ripley Castle has issued a message of reassurance to landowners over £4.5 million plans to extend the Bilton-Ripley bridleway all the way from Harrogate to Pateley Bridge.
Sir Thomas Ingilby, who was a major backer of the original four-mile walking and cycling route, said he could understand the situation facing landowners on the route of the proposed 13-mile extension.
But, he added, he was confident creating a longer new traffic-free Nidderdale Greenway would bring a wide range of benefits to all concerned, rather than encroachment on to adjoining countryside or creating extra car traffic, as some have claimed.
Sir Thomas Ingilby said: “I can understand the initial reluctance of some landowners who have had no experience of how a greenway works.
“People had similar fears before the Bilton-Ripley bridleway was opened. But our experience has been nothing but favourable.
“The vast majority of people who use the route are extremely well behaved and the bridleway.
“When something is an unknown it is easy to become concerned but it is possible to make minor route changes to accommodate landowners and farmers’ fears.
"I have seen no destruction of wildlife as a result of it and the bridleway has certainly brought a lot of visitors and extra trade.
“I am sure, if built, the extension will be of benefit to other villages on the route.
"I think most landowners will welcome the new plan."
Since it was first built by charity Sustrans after a successful National Lottery Bid, the four-mile Bilton-Ripley route has become one of the most popular and safe routes of its kind in the region for families and more and is enjoyed by walkers, runners and, even, horse riders.
The path through stunning scenery on the converted stretch of former railway line over the Nidd Viaduct is now used by an estimated 200,000 people every year.
As well as Sustrans, the creation of the four-mile tarmaced path starting in Bilton was also supported by Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council.
Sir Thomas Ingilby, whose family home has been Ripley Castle for 700 years, made available an additional section of land through his estate to ensure the bridleway linked up properly.
Sir Thomas Ingilby said the notion that a longer greenway would create extra car traffic or cause environmental damage flew in the face of the facts.
Sir Thomas Ingilby said: “People don’t appreciate the enormous range of people in terms of ages and abilities who use the existing path.
"I see families walking all the way to Ripley, having lunch or a coffee, then walking back.
"A club for people with visual conditions cycles on the existing bridleway regularly and it far safer to cycle on the bridleway for them that than on the roads.
"The roads in the Ripley area towards Pateley Bridge are B roads.
"I use them myself and see how narrow they are and how bad the visibility is for drivers on the hilly and winding roads through the villages.
"People who use the greenway come here on two wheels and two feet, not by car.
“The path cuts down on car pollution and traffic, improves people’s health and supports the local economy.
"The idea to extend the Nidderdale Greenway would help businesses a lot and create a healthier district."
Progress towards the ultimate prize of establishing a 27-mile long Nidderdale Greenway was boosted by the formation of a new steering group including Sustrans and members of Harrogate District Cycle Action.
The steering group will oversee the next stages of the project, including route planning and further talks with landowners.
HDCA member Malcolm Margolis BEM and retired Regional Director of Sustrans David Hall have been working for two years on a Sustrans project to extend the Nidderdale Greenway from Ripley to Pateley Bridge and on to Scarhouse Reservoir at the top of the Dale.
This would create a Nidderdale Greenway 27 miles long.
Welcoming the formation of a Nidderdale Greenway steering group as a ‘major step forward’ Harrogate District Cycle Action (HDCA) said that the existing path from Harrogate through the Ripley estate to Clint had proved to be a tremendous success, attracting many thousands of walkers, cyclists and others each year, including residents and visitors of all ages and abilities.
The proposed extension would add another 13 miles, and ultimately the plan was for it to continue to the top of Nidderdale, a total of some 27 miles, making it one of the UK’s longest and most attractive traffic-free routes.
HDCA added: "These Greenways would help to transform Yorkshire as a destination for sustainable travel, boosting local businesses and providing a safe environment for healthy exercise.
"Greenways are an important part of the solution to the environmental crisis which our society has created, encouraging people to enjoy the countryside in a sustainable way instead of driving through it.
"They are not only ideal for recreation but also provide many with a car-free way to get to school, to go shopping and to work."
The Nidderdale Greenway project is one of several in Yorkshire which would make use of former railway lines.
Others are the Wharfedale Greenway from Pool to Bolton Abbey, the Elmet Greenway from Leeds to Wetherby and a Greenway from Bradford to Halifax going through the 1.4 mile Queensbury Tunnel between Bradford and Calderdale. Campaigners are fighting Highways England plans to block up the tunnel and put it permanently out of use.