Like R Barker (Gazette, 21 December), our family is very disappointed to learn that the North York Moors National Park are proposing to close the Skelder Bank Top Car Park, having used it for decades to walk our dogs on the (nearly) all-weather bridleway through Hutton Mulgrave Wood.
However, correspondence with the National Park shows that there’s more than one aspect to this, and they’re not directly related.
First, the gate (now locked) directly opposite the car park was never a right of way.
It looked to be a continuation of the bridleway from the wood out to the road, but legally the correct line continues towards the south east to meet the road just alongside the ‘Steam Trains at Grosmont’ sign - there is a fingerpost here, but it’s easy to miss.
So the paths have not been ‘re-routed’ as such, and the official right of way will remain open.
Secondly, the land between the A171 and the wood has been cleared of its gorse bushes and other undergrowth as part of a general reorganisation of the land-management activities of the Mulgrave Estate, and is nothing to do with the National Park or the car park.
I have heard that there are plans to put sturdy non-milking cattle on this area in order to complete the grubbing-out of the scrub - walkers and riders would probably prefer to use the correct bridleway line, which is being fenced.
However, this access to the bridleway is not somewhere where cars can safely be parked, which is not helpful.
Thirdly, and why is it proposed to close the car park?
It would seem that in these straitened times the National Park can’t afford it.
They are having to concentrate on their core remits (ie ‘Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, and ‘Promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of national parks by the public), and the constant litter-picking etc required at Skelder Top is a financial luxury that can’t be afforded.
It’s also claimed that, unlike, say, Sutton Bank or Clay Bank, there is little attraction in Skelder as a leisure stop.
But a large number of dog walkers (like us and R Barker) use the car park to access Hutton Mulgrave Wood and the even larger number of truck drivers who take their statutory breaks there.
Admitted, the turn onto and off the A171 isn’t ideal, but it is a very popular and well-used spot.
I understand informally that a welcome solution might be for the county council (as the highways authority) to take over responsibility for the facility from the National Park - to the layman that might seem to be just a juggling of local authority responsibility and budget, but if it preserves our valuable car park, then I don’t care who ‘owns’ it.
But if this important car park is to remain for us to enjoy, may I make a plea?
How about (to show good faith) the National Park creates an all-weather footpath through the bushes on the Whitby side to give safe access to the end of the bridleway by the ‘Steam Trains’ sign?
In that way truck drivers and dog walkers don’t lose out.