Hundreds of people from minority groups in Keighley and Bradford have enjoyed the Yorkshire Dales for the first time thanks to a lottery-funded project.
People and the Dales was set up in 2009 with the goal of introducing ethnic minorities, refugees and other groups that would not normally visit the Dales national park.
Originally started as a three-year project, its funding has been extended for a fourth year. In the three years, more than 4,000 people have gone on trips through the organisation.
The manager of a Keighley community group said it had really opened up the “beautiful” countryside to people who did not realise just what they had on their doorstep.
People and the Dales also targets people with disabilities and mental health problems and those recovering from drug and alcohol dependencies..
While on the visits, the groups enjoy the sights and get to take part in crafts like lambing and drystone walling.
Run by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, it receives support from organisations including Natural England and Bradford Council.
Judy Rogers, a community worker at People and the Dales, said: “The Dales are very close to Keighley and Bradford, but a lot of people have never experienced them. A lot of the minority groups have come from rural areas, so they are surprised how similar the Dales can be to where they come from.”
The group had researched why many ethnic groups did not visit the countryside, and Mrs Rogers explained: “For a lot of them it is the fear of the unknown, they don’t know if they will be welcome. I hope people feel comfortable enough to go back after these visits.”
One of the groups to have benefited from the group’s work is the Sangat Centre in Keighley. Ghulam Rabani, manager of the centre, said the group that went to the Dales would encourage others in their community to visit. He said: “Most of us had never visited those beautiful places before. We all want to go again and again.
“I think people are so busy in their working life they don’t think to visit. And a lot of people in the community don’t know about all the beautiful places on their doorstep. Those that went have been telling their children and grandchildren about it. All this would only have happened through this project.”
Of the groups who visited the parks, 65 per cent said members have since returned there, and 88 per cent said members have visited other green spaces since.