Hundreds of people from minority groups in Keighley have enjoyed the Yorkshire Dales for the first time thanks to a lottery-funded project.
People and the Dales (PAD) was launched in 2009 with the goal of introducing ethnic minorities, refugees and other groups – who would not normally visit – to the Dales national park.
Originally started as a three-year project, its funding has been extended for a fourth year. More than 4,000 people have already gone on trips through the organisation, many of those from the most deprived areas of Yorkshire.
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.
PAD also targets people with disabilities and mental health problems, as well as those recovering from drug and alcohol dependencies.
While on the visits, the groups enjoy the sights and get to take part in activities like lambing and dry stone walling.
Run by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, it receives support from organisations including Natural England and Bradford Council.
Judy Rogers, a PAD community worker, said: “A lot of the people have been from urban deprived areas. The Dales are very close to Keighley and Bradford, but a lot of people have never experienced them.
“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 is the Sangat Centre in Keighley.
Centre manager, Ghulam Rabani, 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 lives 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 had since returned there, and 88 per cent said members had visited other green spaces since as a result of these trips.