VISITORS who provide a lifeline to many family-owned businesses in rural North Yorkshire could be turned into eco-tourists to help boost the region’s economy.

Tourism chiefs in Ryedale have created a series of new initiatives that help holidaymakers protect the countryside while enjoying it, and supporting rural businesses.

Each project is designed to help visitors find low-impact and sustainable ways to enjoy the countryside, without compromising on luxury and self-indulgence.

Ryedale District Council’s destination development project supports the growth of responsible tourism in the district, and helps to attract seven million visitors annually, and a £281 million total visitor spend.

“As a nation, we’ve fallen in love with nature this year. It’s not only made us happier, spending time with nature is proven to be good for our mental health and wellbeing,” said Phillip Spurr, programme director for economic development at the council.

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“Many of us are seeking to turn our daydreams of rural idyll into reality, by planning day trips and holidays to the great outdoors.

“We welcome over seven million visitors to Ryedale each year, and they make a vital contribution to the region’s life and economy – a real lifeline for our market towns and rural businesses, many of them family owned.

“At the same time, we’re all too aware of the cost to the countryside: Ryedale is a tiny corner of Yorkshire, smaller than the Cotswolds, and it would be all too easy for its extraordinary landscapes - including the North York Moors National Park, the Yorkshire Wolds and the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – to be overwhelmed.

“We’re striving for natural harmony: finding sustainable ways to safeguard the beauty and tranquillity that Ryedale is famous for, whilst helping visitors get more out of the countryside than ever before.

“We think that this is something that people will welcome. Having rediscovered our connection with the natural world, we want it to carry on and we only do that by doing our bit to nurture nature.”

To achieve this, and support the rural economy, initiatives include investment in cycling routes through the countryside connecting all four corners of Ryedale. The new Malton and Pickering link route will open autumn 2021, and the North York Moors Cycleway opened this year.

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Free Wi-Fi is available throughout Helmsley, Malton, Pickering and Kirkbymoorside, making it easy to catch the next bus; locate a walk or bike ride; or pre-book space at attractions, meals or a last-minute sleepover.

For electric car drivers, EV charging points have been installed in each of the market towns.

A number of ethical producers have made Ryedale their home, including Malton Brewery, the UK’s smallest nano-brewery, with specialities like Yorkshire Pudding Beer, made with 100 per cent real Yorkshire Puddings.

New eco-experiences include England’s only Fairy Sanctuary, Northwood, which fosters a connection with nature with its woodland trails, fairy museum, woodland kitchen, and eco-glamping. The sanctuary is ‘off grid’ with its own electricity and water, and an active biodiversity programme.

Yorkshire Arboretum is building the UK’s first Tree Health Centre, where visitors will be able to see pioneering work to secure the future of our trees, including ways of combating pests and diseases.

Day-trippers are encouraged to swap their cars for a luxury coach or steam train through the region’s moorland, while a network of public transport acts as a low-cost service to Ryedale’s footpaths, eateries and attractions.

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Attractions like the National Bird of Prey Centre and Flamingo Land Zoo are taking an active role in conservation breeding programmes, while Castle Howard, Helmsley Walled Garden, Nunnington Hall and Wolds Way Lavender have transformed how they manage outdoors to encourage wildlife.