Since the government’s coronavirus lockdown was lifted in May, traffic-free trails in the Peak District National Park have seen a significant increase on previous years in the numbers of people using them.
The National Park Authority reports that, this summer, the Monsal, Tissington and High Peak Trails have experienced an uplift of almost a third more visitors on some of their busiest days compared to 2019.
On the Monsal Trail, the busiest July day this year attracted almost 4,000 visits, compared just over 3,000 during July in 2019. Overall, visits to the Monsal Trail across July doubled from 1,100 each day on average last year, to over 2,000 per day this summer.
The National Park’s most well-known traffic-free trails are mainly former railway lines. They offer accessible, family-friendly recreational routes for walking, cycling and horse riding and vary in length, upto 10 miles.
The trails are popular with wheelchair-users because of the flat surfaces and gentle gradients and there is the added benefit of an accessible range of bikes to hire from the National Park bike hire centre at Parsley Hay, for use on the High Peak and Tissington trails.
Disability users also contacted the National Park during the lockdown to request use of the trails with their own equipment when facilities such as gyms and physiotherapy centres remain closed.
Andrew McCloy, chair of the Peak District National Park Authority, said: “As green arteries twisting and turning through some of the most stunning Peak District landscapes, it is no surprise that our multi-user trails have also helped to breathe life into our recovery from the effects of Covid-19.
“Alongside the obvious health and wellbeing benefits of these routes, their appeal to visitors of all ages also helps to support our local tourism businesses as they get back on their feet after an unprecedented summer.
“As many of us continue to embrace the outdoors and places like our trails as we step through our lives alongside the coronavirus, I would ask that everyone continues to ‘share with care’ along these valued routes and respect the hard work of National Park rangers and others taking care of them.”
Post-lockdown, the UK has seen a surge in people taking to two wheels. The popularity of getting out on a bike has seen the National Park Authority’s sale stock of ex-hire bikes virtually sold out, with less than one in 20 bikes from original supplies now left, and sales thought to be higher than the previous two years combined. Teams from the Authority’s four hire centres across the Peak District also reported over 1,200 bike hires taking place each week during early August.
Traffic-free trails are ideal for cycling. Government survey data before lockdown revealed that three in five people thought cycling on the road was too dangerous.
Meanwhile, a Cycling UK report found that 91% of people surveyed rated off-road cycling as fairly or very important for their mental health and 90% for their physical health.