Sikh and they find

Bradford’s Sikh community is part-funding a bus service so more of its members can enjoy the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales

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Each Saturday a new bus service wends its way round drystone-walled roads in the Yorkshire Dales. Most of the passengers get aboard in Bradford as part of a unique initiative that encourages people from ethnic communities to visit national parks.

The bus is sponsored by DalesBus, a not-for-profit network that connects towns and cities with the Yorkshire Dales at weekends and bank holidays to provide access for walking and other recreation in areas where public transport is almost non-existent.

But what makes this service different is that it is partly funded by Bradford’s Sikh community. All six of the city’s gurdwaras (temples) combined to make a donation of £1,800 towards the cost of running the bus, which might otherwise operate at a loss and face the axe. Other communities in Bradford, including Muslims and Hindus, are also making use of the new bus.

Last month, after the inaugural service arrived in the small town of Grassington, bringing around 30 passengers for a day out in Wharfedale, the president of Bradford Ramgarhia Gurdwara, Dr Kuldip Kaur Bharj, admitted that beyond the main visitor honeypots of Bolton Abbey and Malham people from her faith were not making much use of the Yorkshire Dales.

“In fact, we don’t see many people from diverse communities here,” she said. “So the key is to make them aware of this natural environment. We recognise the growing body of evidence suggesting that those who enjoy the peace here improve their physical and mental health.”

Earlier this year a study commissioned by the Campaign to Protect Rural England found that lack of transport made it hard for people living in socially deprived areas to access England’s protected landscapes, including national parks like the Yorkshire Dales, the North York Moors, the Peak District and Lake District, and 46 designated areas of outstanding natural beauty like Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland and North Yorkshire’s Nidderdale.

It echoed a report by the government’s outdoors agency Natural England that people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds accounted for just 1 per cent of visitors to these landscapes, despite making up 14 per cent of the population. A key factor, it said, was low or non-existent provision of public transport.

After stepping off the new bus from Bradford to Grassington one of the gurdwara’s board members, Sukhdev Singh, said they had all come to share the beauty of the Dales. He hoped they would make friends, reap all the health benefits and “do so with little adverse effect on the landscape”.

Passengers divided into two groups: one for a three-mile circular walk to see bluebells in Grass Wood, the largest ancient ash woodland in the Yorkshire Dales, and the other for a short history tour of Grassington led by Colin Speakman, one of DalesBus’s creators and author of over 50 local walking guides.

“We have high hopes for this new connection with Bradford,” he said. “We want to get people away from the idea that these buses are just a load of white middle-class people going for a walk in the countryside. The Yorkshire Dales National Park is right on the doorstep of Bradford. In fact, the borders meet near Bolton Abbey.”

One problem that buses into the national park face, said Speakman, is that many people see travelling by bus as a sign of failure. “If you are successful in life you have a car and with that comes status. So why go on a bus? We have to change this attitude. Taking a bus gives you freedom and helps you to meet people. It is a social experience.”

For more information on the Bradford and other DalesBus services visit dalesbus.org 

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