The Yorkshire Dales prepares for the Tour de France
- Credit: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com
Is the Yorkshire Dales ready for the expected invasion by thousands of cycle race fans? Terry Fletcher reports
The Yorkshire Dales is preparing for the biggest invasion in its history. During an average year some five million people visit the national park over the whole 12 months but this summer more than 400,000 – almost a tenth of the annual figure - are expected to turn up on just one day. And to make things even more complicated many of the major access routes to key valleys will be blocked off for up to 26 hours as the huge travelling circus of the Tour de France takes to the narrow roads and winding hills.
Planning for the event has been going on ever since it was announced in 2012 that the world’s greatest cycle race was coming to Yorkshire with everyone involved determined that the opening stage through the Dales on Saturday July 5th will be much more than a one-day wonder.
Le Grand Depart may take place in Leeds and the sprint finish happen in Harrogate but much of the 190km (118 miles) stage sweeps through the Yorkshire countryside and the eyes of the world will be watching. Visitor numbers have been falling in recent years and an expected global television audience of 40m for the race is seen as an unrivalled opportunity to boost tourism for years to come.
The riders will head into Wharfedale and climb over Kidstones into Wensleydale before heading through Hawes. From there they tackle the biggest obstacle of the day, the formidable Buttertubs Pass, 4.5km (2.8 miles) long with gradients of up to 1 in 5. Then it is a twisting high speed dash down into Swaledale before racing on through Leyburn, Masham and Ripon to the finish line in Harrogate.
But as well as being a once in a lifetime chance to showcase the region it is also a logistical nightmare and to cope the national park authority has virtually torn up its rule book for Tour week. The race route will be closed for most of the day, or even longer, because although the riders may blur past in a matter of moments there are hundreds of sponsors’ cars that precede them and a caravan of support cars, vans, media trucks and even mechanics on motorcycles streaming along behind.
Spectators will need to be in place early and even residents have been warned their cars will be towed away if they obstruct the route. To help cope with the influx, camper van owners will be allowed to stay overnight in park authority car parks (usually strictly forbidden) and planning rules have been relaxed to allow fields to be used as temporary campsites and car parks.
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Kathryn Beardmore, director of park services, said: ‘Our advice to visitors is to make a weekend of it because they will simply not be able to get here on the day itself. If people can only spare a day to watch the Tour they would be better off going to more accessible areas along the route like Leeds or Harrogate. This is a unique occasion and we want everyone to have a great time and not to miss it because they were stuck in a traffic jam.
‘Some of the roads will be closed from midnight the night before so visitors need to plan their trip to make sure they are in position in good time. There are plenty of places for them to stay overnight with the usual accommodation plus extra campsites and we do urge spectators to make use of those. There is a lot for people to do in the Dales before and after the actual race goes by,’ she said.
Once the riders have flashed past drivers will not be able to move their cars for at least a couple of hours and probably much longer so special spectator hubs with giant television screens are being set up at Grassington, Aysgarth Falls, Hawes and Leyburn to allow them to watch the rest of the stage unfold. Similar hubs will be for of places for them to stay overnight with the usual accommodation plus extra campsites and we do urge spectators to make use of those. There is a lot for people to do in the Dales before and after the actual race goes by,’ she said.
Once the riders have flashed past, drivers will not be able to move their cars for at least a couple of hours and probably much longer so special spectator hubs with giant television screens are being set up at Grassington, Aysgarth Falls, Hawes and Leyburn to allow them to watch the rest of the stage unfold. Similar hubs will be created at Haworth, Holmfirth, Huddersfield, Ilkley, Otley and Skipton on the next day’s stage from York to Sheffield. Many local businesses are also setting up their own informal hubs and villages along the route are organising special events to mark the Tour and to keep visitors entertained while cafés and food shops are laying in extra supplies for the influx.
One of those setting up its own hub is the Dales Bike Centre at Fremington in Swaledale, which is organising a special festival weekend.
The centre is at the foot of Grinton Moor, a section renamed Cote de Grinton for the Tour, and the peleton will sweep right past their door.
The owners, Stuart and Brenda Price, are advising people to arrive by Thursday or even Wednesday to beat the traffic.
Stuart said: ‘It is going to be huge. It’s a tremendous coup for the Dales, it’s like the World Cup coming to Yorkshire. We are expecting 2,000 or more people here so we are organising special showings on the big screen to keep them entertained.
There’s already a huge buzz about cycling in Yorkshire and more people have been out riding the stage ahead of the Tour but I think the real benefits will come later after people have seen just how much Yorkshire has to offer.’
Details of the Tour: letour.yorkshire.com
What’s happening in the Dales: yorkshiredales.org.uk has special pages
Road closures: northyorks.gov.uk/article/28730
Official spectator hubs
Leyburn Market Square: 10,000 people are expected. There will be a large screen to watch the race plus organised activities for all the family.
Aysgarth Falls National Park Visitor Centre: space is limited to 1,500 visitors. There will be a big screen plus viewing areas, food and drink will be available and there is easy access to the wonderful Aysgarth Falls.
Grassington National Park Visitor Centre: 2,000 visitors will be greeted. It is a short distance off the route but there will be a large screen to watch the race. The village itself, within a few minutes walk, has numerous places to eat, drink and relax.
Hawes National Park Visitor Centre: it’s close to Buttertubs Pass, one of the major climbs and 3,000 fans are expected to watch the race from here with the help of a big screen and viewing areas. The market town of Hawes is nearby to enjoy food and drink.
Skipton High Street: the race passes through the market town on the first day. There will be two spectator sites each with a big screen plus music and entertainment. Films will be shown on the screens in the evening
FRANCE Magazine writer and Yorkshire native Ray Kershaw gives his guide to the county’s French Connections
Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince, a pioneer photographer from Burgundy, opened his Leeds studio in 1866. By 1886, he’d single-handedly invented the cinema. His films Roundhay Park and Traffic on Leeds Bridge (which you can watch by following this link: http://bit.ly/1gRKfEQ) still shown in Leeds are considered the world’s first moving pictures. In 1890, packing camera and projector, he kissed his family at Leeds station and headed for New York to dazzle America. He’d arranged to see his brother in Dijon en route but the two-metre-tall man, his blueprints and machines were never seen again. Did jealous Edison, to whom the Americans the invention, waylay him or - an even darker scenario - were there dirty deeds in his pays natal? Dijon is near Lyon where, five years later, the frères Lumière duo showed their first camera. No one will ever know. Only Leeds honours the brilliant Frenchmen today.
Ray’s full guide to Yorkshire’s French connections will appear in the July issue of FRANCE Magazine. Try three issues of FRANCE Magazine for just £3 today. Visit subscriptionsave.co.uk/yfr or call us on 0844 848 8044 quoting LFRYORK1.